Girls’ Generation Superstar Tiffany Young Reveals Which K-Pop Idols She’d Include in a Supergroup (INTERVIEW)
"It’s okay because I’m here to teach you... about ‘Teach You,'" pop artist Tiffany Young tells me over the phone, laughing when I mistakenly called her new single, “Teach You," “Teach Me” out of nervousness.
Despite this innocent mistake, the tone in Tiffany’s voice is bubbly and genuine during our interview, with strong hints of determination. But that’s Tiffany Young: For the past eleven years, she's spent her time as a member of one of K-pop’s most legendary girl groups. Perseverance is sort of her thing.
After making her debut as the Girls’ Generation member who shines “brighter than gems” more than a decade ago in 2007, Tiffany became one of the music and fashion industry's most well-loved K-pop idols. Since her departure from the band's label SM Entertainment in 2017, Tiffany continued to stay grounded in her deep K-pop roots, carrying the Girls’ Generation brand everywhere she goes. “GG forever!” she says.
After releasing her first U.S. solo single, “Over My Skin,” earlier this year, Tiffany returns today (September 28) with her second single, "Teach You," the video for which extends her persona as Professor T.
As the performer continues to break out on her own in this new chapter in her musical career, all the while pushing for more Asian representation stateside, the Korean-American singer took the time to share her humble beginnings and teach us some things about herself.
Watching you grow as a global pop sensation in South Korea, and now returning back home to the States, how does it feel now that all this representation is happening?
I’ve been doing what I love to do and have been very blessed along the way and just continuously focusing on what’s important—which is the craft. And what is humanly universal in terms of the feelings and emotions that are being created or portrayed in the things that I am creating or hope to hop on, because that’s definitely why I came back to the U.S. I'm creating my own music and also going back to school and trying to pursue film as well. Representation matters to me so much and I think we’re in such a wonderful time where there has just been so much love and support. And I am totally showing all of my love and support for all of those other Asian artists, Asian-American or Asian artists in general. Hopefully I can contribute in any way possible!
What can you teach us about “Teach You?”
“Teach You” was kind of dug up from my song before this, which was “Over My Skin.” And this song was definitely in the sense of “don’t let anybody mistreat you, especially the person you’re falling for.” The song’s very fun, sweet, but you can say it’s a little dark. The music video itself has this juxtaposition of all of these beautiful pastel colors but also like the edgier outfits. But the song itself in one simple phrase is me being able to teach the boy that’s mistreating me and telling him that he can’t get away with it. And I think that all girls and boys, ladies and gentlemen, can relate to that, the way they took from “Over My Skin” being like much more than the words itself.
So is this an extension of Professor T?
Absolutely. I think it is the extension of me as a performer now because I’m in this place where I get to really create and talk about my own stories in a way that I’ve never gotten to. It’s an extension of Professor T in the sense that I’m going to teach you to treat me right, or that if you don’t treat me right, things aren’t going to look very pretty. I think that for all the listeners and all the fans I am breaking down that when your instinct tells you it’s wrong, don’t take those wrong turns. And if you do, make sure you don’t let them treat you that way ever again.
I also see that Hyoyeon and Sooyoung are in the music video. Do they also carry alter egos as well?
No, this is just me and my girlfriends spilling the tea, them telling me, “You can’t let that get away, you gotta go fix these things." The music video itself is my very own K-drama where there’s a lot of fun, romance, and also a crazy little twist. I'm so glad I got to show my band mates off ‘cause our schedules are so crazy, but I mean, Girls' Generation comes through! I just hope everybody stays excited because we are always gonna be in each other’s lives, whether it’s for cool music videos or just vacationing.
It’s always heartwarming to see you guys together whether it’s on social media or whatnot. I mean, Girls’ Generation forever, right?
Exactly, GG forever! They are very, very happy with how things turned out. They were just chillin’ and then they were like, “You know what? You should just direct me. If you need me, let me know.”
It was actually you who directed them?
I was on board for the creative stuff and worked with a director called VM Project. He originally did my first solo video in Korea as well. He has some amazing videos like Red Velvet’s “Dumb Dumb” and BlackPink’s “Whistle” and a lot of amazing NCT and EXO videos, and some Seventeen videos as well.
And you say “Teach You” is an ode to your Korean-American roots, getting inspiration from dramas and K-pop of course, correct?
Visually for the music video, I realized the song has so much drama and I wanted it to be all the things that I love. I wanted it to be my own Korean drama in a sense. Some of my favorite directors are Park Chan Wook, who’s done Old Boy, and Bong Joon Ho, who’s done Okja. Their aesthetic is gorgeous and beautiful, but it has that juxtaposition of dark undertones. And I think that’s what I love about Korean films and Korean dramas—their amazing plot twists and just the amount of amazing entertainment it has. I wanted my video to be my very own little Korean drama especially since everybody knows I’m back here in the U.S. I’m always about going to the roots of what I love and what I am. Come on, Korean-Americans represent!
What about your music taste? Has it changed much? I know you’ve always had an eclectic taste in music.
Because I’m just such a music fan, my fans know that I love all types of genres and I’m always open to listening to new things. I think I listen to a lot of different things at the moment. Who doesn’t love Cardi B? Who doesn’t love K-pop? What I like most about being back home is being able to take in the collaborations between genres. I remember growing up there were some really cool alternative pop and hip-hop collaborations. I think we’re back in this place where there are so many amazing genres mixed into one and I’m having fun listening. I’m forever a music fan.
Who would you say that you would love to collaborate with now that you’re breaking into the U.S. music industry?
I love two upcoming artists right now. I’ve said it multiple times, but I’m a just fan of LAUV’s music, and Bryce Vine, who sings “Drew Barrymore.” Also, I love Kim Petras!
You're successful in fashion as well as music. From doing shows like Factory Girl and Fashion King Korea to being the face of H&M’s fall campaign, how would you describe the evolution of your style?
I have been blessed to grow up in America and then grow up in K-pop where I got to travel the world and go to every single fashion week. My personal style is definitely New Romantic, which is ‘80s-inspired. It’s feminine and sweet with a little twist of edgy. I always want to embrace where I am or how old I am because I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to wear certain pieces at a certain age.
I think K-pop is definitely playing a big role right now for me, especially since that’s another half of my life. I think it can be very very subtle, but there’s always something that stands out which definitely is where my fashion is at. I’ll wear all black but my shoes will be super fancy or there will be a pop of color in my accessories or my nails. There’s always some sort of “pizzazz” and I think I love that about where I come from, which is K-pop.
Who would you say your biggest fashion inspiration is?
I just watched A Simple Favor and Blake Lively is one of my favorite fashion influences. [She's] somebody who’s modern. I’m a huge fan of Kim Hee Sun and Ko So Young. They are fashion queens in Korea and I love every single thing they’ve worn from their 20s ‘til now, and they still look gorgeous.
Now that you’re considered a “sunbae” (senior) to the new generation of K-pop artists, you've become quite the role model. This year, we held a K-pop supergroup poll, so if you were to create your own personal super K-pop girl group, who would you put in it? Besides members of Girls’ Generation, of course!
I was going to say that if I have to make a group ever again, it would always be Girls’ Generation! Wow, this is so hard. I love Seulgi from Red Velvet. Her performance is just impeccable. I’ve watched her grow up before she got on stage and now that she’s on stage, and how much she’s grown, she’s definitely somebody to watch. I think MAMAMOO’s Hwasa is charismatic AF. We’ll need more of her. I love Lisa from BLACKPINK, like her performance. You know what? I think I’m choosing all of the girls with amazing stage presence. Those three are definitely ones that I’ve kept my eye on because I love charismatic girls and girls who love to try on different fashions. They’re daring! I love it.
What’s next for Tiffany Young after “Teach You”?
I want my EP out early next year. I’m always trying to find the opportunity to give my fans the best and see them when I can. That’s something that I’m always keeping in the front of my mind. I am shooting for an EP early next year.
One thing your career has taught you?
One thing my career has taught me, that I want to emphasize right now, is you always have to be ready to go that extra mile because nothing gets easier. You just get better, and you just get wiser, and you just get stronger. It’s about pushing through, it’s about finding that discipline inside you, which is rooted from love, to keep going. So for anybody reading or whatever it is they’re doing, I hope that sheds some light. Because we’re told that things get easier but nah. The truth is you’re just gonna get stronger, you’re gonna work harder, and I think you gotta love something enough to go that extra mile.
As for "Fanypacks," are we still going with that fanclub name?
Very funny! I love that everybody can still get a reaction out of me with that. No, I am committing to Young Ones! It really spoke to me as I was saying it out loud. Because we are gonna forever be each other’s wherever we are. I think it goes well with where it comes from and that is “forever,” being from what you love. I think it also connects to the word SONE as well, and when I’m back with the girls I get to use that. I don’t know, there’s just a great ring to it and I love that we get to spread the word Young Ones, or "yongyuan" in Chinese characters, which means “forever” in Asian culture.