Before captivating the thirsty and drama-anticipating audience of South Korean reality dating show “Single’s Inferno,” freelance model Song Ji-a had been growing her following on YouTube. On videos for her channel FreeZia, she’s every bit the honest self-love icon who charmed fans like me who were rooting for her happy ending on the show. I found comfort in hearing her encourage me to live my best life. So there I was, happily binge-watching her vlogs, when a thought came to me: Was it really healthy for me to have this living Asian Barbie as my quasi-life coach?
I found it very refreshing to watch FreeZia exude the composure of a self-identified hottie. She’s hot and she invested a lot to look like that. Instead of skirting around that fact, she prefers to dole out hottie tips for fans that she affectionately calls Pringies. Stress-related hair fall advice? She says she’s always had thick hair but one or two injections helped her fill a bald spot. What’s her secret to being confident? Don’t let yourself get intimidated and be your own biggest fan. “I think I love myself more than my parents love me,” she says. How does she handle her finances? She admits that she doesn’t save much and prefers big purchases like Chanel jewelry over plenty of smaller ones. “I don’t plan on taking the money I make to my grave,” she says. Her assured tone makes you want to look up to her. In fact, even older fans have started calling her unnie.
Seeing her strut in her sexy, cute outfits makes me want to learn how to dress and groom myself better. There’s something about the way she phrases her sentences that makes me believe that looking like her and having her vibe isn’t beyond the realms of possibility for me. But then, there’s often that one moment in her videos that breaks that illusion for me. She’d say a line such as “Snacking is very bad for your health and you gain weight in an ugly way—like my arms would get thicker.” I’d remember just how different a lifestyle celebrities like her lead. It’s a lifestyle where FreeZia finds it necessary to endure emaciation in exchange for a side profile “fit” for extravagance.
In one of her older videos, she says that she was only eating once a day and that she was taking a diet product that completely removed her appetite. She warned her fans not to copy her because it had weakened her immune system. It was overkill… unless you have the same job she does, she said. If you’re not in the industry, eat two meals a day. But not three because “it will only make you fatter.” She has since changed her eating habit but she still regularly takes weight loss supplements on top of different aesthetic services.
Watching FreeZia in videos with K-pop idols like Loona’s Chuu and Pentagon’s Kino made me wonder how many celebrities continue to follow the tiis-ganda mentality. Is it foolish of me to think that the world is way past extreme diets like the infamous IU diet challenge? Just how much has the body neutrality movement really impacted the entertainment industry, if at all?
I don’t mean to put Song Ji-a on a pedestal. However, I’m a bit worried that some of her younger fans may have this same question in their minds: Would she ever truly consider me a fellow hottie even if I’m not skinny? If I plan to continue being her fan, I’ll have to face a constant reminder that I’m still living in a largely fatphobic world. Am I really OK with that?