The “Sexy Queen” HyunA, one of K-pop’s biggest and sexiest solo stars

Known as the ‘Sexy Queen’, HyunA’s solo career has played up her raunchy image, which she says is just another way of showing her self-confidence

HyunA is one of the few K-pop stars with true staying power, having worked in the industry for more than 13 years – almost a lifetime in this business.
The provocative K-pop veteran has been in multiple K-pop girl groups, including Wonder Girls and 4Minute, and is now one of South Korea’s biggest solo stars.
Her role as the female protagonist in Psy’s Gangnam Style video has also made her one of the most recognisable K-pop stars still active.

The "Sexy Queen" HyunA

 

Her early life
Born June 1992 in Seoul, Kim Hyun-ah was interested in performing from a young age. She started attending acting auditions when she was seven years old, but in South Korea, acting isn’t just about staying in character and delivering lines; you also have to sing, dance and act cute.

“I couldn’t do any of that then, so I failed 50 auditions,” she said on the South Korean talk show Beatles Code 2.
HyunA’s fortunes improved when she was inspired by breakdancers on Daehangno, a street in Seoul known for its cultural scene, and decided to take dancing lessons.
Finally, she successfully auditioned as a singer with JYP Entertainment, which at the time managed K-pop pioneer Rain and boy group G.O.D

Her roles in Wonder Girls and 4Minute
In 2007, she debuted as the main rapper and dancer of Wonder Girls, a K-pop group that would take the world by storm with their 2008 breakthrough single, Nobody. But HyunA’s parents convinced her to leave Wonder Girls after only a year with the group, as they believed her work was the cause of her frequent fainting spells.

The "Sexy Queen" HyunA

HyunA opened up last year on Instagram about suffering from depression, a panic disorder and vasovagal syncope – fainting due to a sudden drop in blood pressure – days after K-pop star Goo Hara killed herself and left a note complaining about internet bullying. While K-pop stars are increasingly showing more authenticity, discussing mental health remains a taboo in the industry.

She reappeared in 2009 as the main rapper, main dancer and vocalist of 4Minute. With their edgy performances, the five-piece dance-pop act went on to release seven EPs and two full-length albums. During her time with 4Minute, HyunA collaborated with Heo Young-saeng of K-pop boy band SS501 on Let It Go, the title track of Heo’s debut solo album.
In 2010, HyunA began her solo career with Change, a single that peaked at No 2 on the South Korean charts. She released her first solo EP, Bubble Pop! in 2011, and the following year was invited to appear in Psy’s Gangnam Style music video.
She was also part of two Cube Entertainment side projects – the duo Trouble Maker and the three-piece outfit Triple H. From then on, HyunA would release three more solo EPs until 4Minute disbanded in June 2016.

Her solo career
HyunA was the only 4Minute member to stay with Cube Entertainment, the group’s agency. Despite having released four solo albums during her time with 4Minute, the 2016 EP A’wesome marked the true start of her solo career. The EP peaked at No 2 on South Korea’s Gaon Music Chart and No 4 on the Billboard World Albums Chart.
In a departure from her previous look, HyunA released photos of herself on the sunny beaches of Bali to promote A’wesome. The EP features tracks that ran the gamut from pop to indie hip hop, many of which she co-wrote, including the title track, How’s This?

The "Sexy Queen" HyunA
The “Sexy Queen” HyunA

HyunA released another EP in 2017, called Following. The promotional images for the album were monochrome and featured HyunA without heavy make-up, another stylistic departure. But the album itself was not as unadulterated as its teaser images suggested. The title track, Babe, took inspiration from electronic dance music; HyunA sticking with her usual sexy image in the music video for the track.
Her time with Cube Entertainment came to an end in 2018 when she left the agency with her rapper boyfriend, Dawn, because it had issues with the couple dating.


They signed to P-Nation, a label run by Psy, in whose Gangnam Style video she had appeared six years earlier, and HyunA released the single Flower Shower, which she co-wrote and co-produced.

Her image
Hyuna is known as the “Sexy Queen”, but she said nobody had described her as sexy before she made her debut. “Everyone thinks it’s sexy when a young girl like me performs on stage and takes it seriously. That’s how I realised I am sexy. That’s why I work hard performing,” she said on Entertainment Weekly in 2012.


HyunA took off her crop top to reveal her bra while performing her signature track, Red, at the 2018 Midnight Picnic Festival in South Korea. And while performing Bubble Pop! at Korea Aerospace University, HyunA lifted her skirt to show the packed stadium her underwear.

The “Sexy Queen” HyunA

Some critics have accused HyunA of being too provocative, but HyunA couldn’t care less. “The event yesterday was a university event and there was a bar and drinks. It was a fun party for me and everyone. Relax and don’t worry about it,” she said on Instagram after the event.

The "Sexy Queen" HyunA
Still, several of her music videos have been banned by South Korean television networks for being too revealing. She told Entertainment Weekly it would take time for society to get used to some aspects of her performances and she would continue to try out new concepts despite the pressure.

In her words
Of her visual style, HyunA told Elle Korea in 2018: “To me, sexy beauty and self-respect are linked. If everyone around me says I have become more beautiful, I would think I had really become more beautiful. That would create self-confidence, and being sexy with confidence is the source of my energy.”

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