Every September, Brazil holds the Yellow September campaign to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention. In this period, Revista KoreaIN decided to deepen the discussion by exploring the presence of such subjects online, fiction, and also in the professional and personal life of idols. To further understand the importance of being psychologically healthy when you are under the spotlights, we spoke to the incredible Ryu Sera, singer, composer, dancer, interviewer, and YouTuber, former NineMuses. About to make her comeback to TV programs, she will be part of Miss Back, a show created to give a second chance to former girl group members.
The rise to stardom and moments under the spotlight are strobe lights, flashes for future memories. Mental health is a recurrent subject widely tackled in songs. After all, compositions could represent poems, love letters, or political statements, and each verse has its importance or carry the will to make the world dance. The passion for each and any of those feelings is what makes so many people risk themselves trying to become singers, musicians, dancers, being managed, and aiming for success. It takes an enormous amount of practice to become a trainee, plus balancing rehearsals and singing lessons with personal life (some people even take the burden of training while attending middle and high school). All the effort it takes to achieve one main goal: debut.
Positive and negative experiences permeate every narrative, but the equation is not always fair. Celebrities, peers with personal lives exposed to the public, make everything seem cheerful, but they are still human and face complicated situations, even during the peak of stardom. After-idol life becomes a way of showing the reflex from the previous period of time, a few chose to vent about their memories and difficulties as the years pass by, I mean, as they grow confidence in themselves and the public.
9Muses and Friendships
Ryu Sera debuted in August 2010 on NineMuses’s MV No Playboy (also stylized as 9Muses), under the management of Star Empire Entertainment and along with Jaekyung, Rana, Bini, Lee Sem, Eunji, Euaerin, Minha, and Hyemi. She was part of the girl group throughout some of the phases and member changes, becoming the leader in 2011 after Rana left. In addition to her role as the main vocalist, she became what can be considered the band’s spokesperson, until the contract termination with the agency in 2014, following a bright solo career right after. As idol and muse Sera, she was in 7 EPs and one full-length album. The artist describes the period as chaotic but fun.
“Chaotic but fun. We were always running and bouncing. We never had enough time to sleep, but at least we had each other. Just fooling around making silly jokes in the car and on backstage. We had stressful schedules, but always ready to laugh.”
Ryu Sera told us.
The group had other formations, with members joining and leaving, and also integrated the lineup: Moon Hyuna, Gyeongree, Sungah, Sojin, and Keumjo. The company announced the official disband in 2019, with the last fansign and the release of the single Remember.
The singer made it clear that, despite the adversities of being observed by so many eyes, she has no regrets. Moreover, she feels grateful for her time and friendships. After 9Muses, the artist kept in touch with her colleagues, though they live distinct periods in life. Sera talks fondly about each member, as it is shown in her videos remembering the time when she was still in the group or reacting to old MVs.
“Yes, I still talk to most of them. But we are living very different lives. There are moms, which still shocks me. I don’t think I am ready to be that responsible.”
Sera referred to former 9Muses Moon Hyuna and Son Sungah. Both gave birth in 2020.
After her departure from the group, Ryu Sera continued enchanting everyone around with her angelic voice through covers and authorial compositions, published on YouTube, and also available on Spotify. The singer released singles and a solo EP, performed concerts for her loyal audience, formed by fans that keep on motivating the artist and YouTuber and her YouTube channel, Sera Ryu-류 세라. She admits that the only aspect she would change, if possible, she’d had planned better the trajectory on post-idol life. However, she thanks the fans for supporting and keeping her inspired in order to follow her main passion: the music.
“They [the fans] keep inspiring me and reminding me that I am a valuable person. And that keeps me going.”
She keeps in touch with her admirers and followers through social media, but always interacts with her subscribers during YouTube and Twitch livestreams, showing gratitude.
First and foremost, Sera is empathetic and shows a fun yet vulnerable human side through her videos, by offering help to those who – similar to herself – suffers from depression. She recommends seeking professional help and expresses that there is no problem in feeling that whirlwind of emotions, as long as they don’t go through it alone, mainly in unsure and sensitive moments, such as we are living now, with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Come to me or contact anyone who has the same experience, and ask for help. You can’t do it on your own.”
Sera offered a sympathetic ear to her followers and fans in need of someone to listen.
YouTube and Sleepless Nights
Ryu Sera has an extensive YouTube platform, with an audience of over 125k subscribers, who attentively watch all the content published, besides streaming on Twitch, where they talk and interact in a relationship that seems as thick as thieves. One of her followers’ favorite series is Reactions, in which her honest and assertive opinions are turning her into an icon in that new entertainment niche. By being versatile, Sera started a new interview feature, where she talks to girl groups and other idols. The videos have a friendly atmosphere and cover different themes, such as career and dreams.
“I’m just trying to promote Kpop idols that are underrated or need more promotion.I can’t do much, but there are so many bands that need more recognition.”Sera not only interviews singers and girl groups but also records videos telling their stories, letting both audience and herself know about them.
The proximity between Sera and her fans is undeniable, and the willingness to show her daily routine made her creat Serarita세라리따, a channel with vlogs and laidback videos. Fans can follow her in discussions about menopause with her mother, or having fun watching cherry blossoms on Spring, trips to Aquariums, and even meeting her lifelong friends. She uploads videos in a personal tone, like Sleepless Nights, with precious moments in which it’s possible to hear Sera talking to the camera while cooking, playing with slime, reading books, and studying songs. Some of the content talks about Ryu Sera’s mental health. The artist opens up about medication, insomnia, and struggles in raw emotional monologues. Despite not complaining about her time as an idol, she understands the pain of those who worked with entertainment.
“I don’t think anyone can overcome it. You just have to endure it. You always have to remember that you are important and precious. When you lose that confidence, and self recognition, everything else will fall apart.”
The singer declared when asked about the best way to overcome the difficult times that comes working in the music industry or having a very public life.
As years go by and with the slow changes in the South Korean mentality, many idols are gaining permission and being encouraged to reach out for psychological treatments. A few of the big companies prefer allowing group members with anxiety, depression, or panic disorder to stay out of the spotlight, announcing for the media their absence on events. Measures like those avoid fatigue or burnout. Though such topics are still taboos, Sera believes that deeply knowing yourself is the best thing to do to avoid getting over-exhausted or lose self-confidence: Who am I? What do I seek?
“First of all, we need to identify who we are first, and there is no shortcut. We need to know who we are and what we want to do, and that is the first step. No one can help you with it. There is no shortcut. I wish there were more sunbaes that can give advice.”Ryu declared.
However, we all know that not everything is a bed of roses, and no one chooses to be the victim of any disturbance. Certain situations are capable of jolting, since, deep down, everyone is vulnerable, and this prerogative doesn’t exclude famous people. Money, fame, attention won’t buy good mental health, self-esteem, self-knowledge, and giving value to who you are. Many idols live complicated circumstances, getting exhausted, and not seeing themselves as human beings, but products. Sera thinks that the best way of demonstrating the importance of your favorite artist is mainly helping them see their humanity and individuality.
“Keep supporting and looking at them as individuals. I know it is tricky, but artists must see themselves as humans, not products.”
Supporting is priceless and brings unconditional benefits to both artist and fans. After all, it’s all a matter of empathy.
Ryu Sera and what comes with the future
In 2018, Sera announced the creation of OCTO, her entertainment agency, therefore independently managing her schedule and career. Indeed, she is doing well being her manager, since the artist will be busy in the months ahead.
In August, MDC announced the creation of Miss Back, a mix of variety show and a documentary following the trajectory and life of 8 ex-idols, wishing to become mainstream again, they will be performing to achieve this second chance. Singer Baek Ji Young will be the mentor. Besides Ryu Sera, the show also includes NaDa (former member of Wassup), Gayoung (former Stellar), Raina (former After School), Soyeon (former T-ARA), Soyul (former Crayon Pop), Subin (Dal Shabet), and Jung Yujin (former The Ark). The show starts in October.
Ryu Sera always showed her massive gratitude toward her followers, and for Revista KoreaIN, the singer sent a special message for the Brazillian fans.
“I love you Brazil. You have been supporting me since the very beginning. I will pay back the love and support you’ve shown me! One day I’ll visit you!!!!!!!!”
Wholeheartedly said Ryu Sera.
Never forget: Your mental health should always be your main priority and you’re not alone.
If you, or someone you know, is dealing with mental health issues, seek help as soon as possible by contacting agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention in your country.