Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Abbie: For me, being a fan of something means that you have enough interest in it and passion about it that it permeates into your everyday life. So even though I may not watch Doctor Who every day, when I was a big fan of DW, I would make sure that I was up to date with what was happening in the world. I don’t think, to be a fan, you have to have every piece of merchandise or love every single thing that happens in the universe, or if it’s a work of art, or every single song that a group comes out with. But it’s more about your overall feelings towards something. If you enjoy the content that is coming out of whatever this thing is, then I think it’s pretty safe to call yourself a fan of something.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
I’ve been a part of too many fan communities (laughs). From the ripe age of probably 11 or 10, I was really into the Jonas Brothers—who I’m seeing next week. I wasn’t a part of their online community per se, but I did definitely take part in reading fanfiction and doing fan quizzes online, and that was kind of my first exposure to fan community at large. I was young enough to not be dumb enough to talk to strangers online—that doesn’t even make sense, but I didn’t talk to strangers online, so I wasn’t a part of any community or anything. Also, it was 2007 or so, so it was really only chat rooms and things that were around at the time. But, in about 2013, that’s when I had my first real exposure to a “fan community.” I joined a Facebook group called BKF—Black K-Pop Fans—and it was a community of literally 1,000 to 2,000 people maybe. The uniting factor was supposed to be that we are all people of the same ethnicity that are really into this thing that is kind of a proponent of black culture in some way, so it was supposed to be a safe space of if someone is appropriating or if someone is literally doing blackface, at least you have this safe space to rant about things without having other people around you that don’t necessarily understand it. But of course that’s not how everything works because within any community, there are going to be people that don’t necessarily agree with everything. So, y’know, there are people within that fan community that didn’t care about blackface or didn’t care about saying the n word or didn’t care about appropriation or what have you. That’s gonna happen when you have 1,000 people on the same Facebook page. But yeah, that was 2013, and I made my first online friends in that fan community, which was very interesting. At the time, I was 17, so I felt that I was old enough to handle myself online and not give out all of my personal details, and everyone wouldn’t know my entire life. The people that I made friends with then, I’m still friends with online now. So it’s really cool seeing each other grow up and also seeing how our interests have changed or become more aligned as time has gone on.
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
So, I think that now, it’s a lot different than it would be back in the day when I first got into fan communities online. I spent way too much time in them—more time than I should have. It was like an all day event. I would be consistently on Facebook or consistently on—oh, God, back in the day it was “AsianFanFics.com,” (laughs) before everyone realized that, like, AO3 [Archive of Our Own] is the way to go. I would always be on these websites, but I think that’s because that was around the time that technology was really becoming a component of everyday life, so it was so easy to just overload on everything. Back when I was younger, I would have to physically go and sit at a computer to partake in fandom, and now it’s like, fandom is in my hand 24/7. I can just access it at any time. So now, in my current life, now that I’m a full working adult, I would say that I participate in fandom semi-regularly since the majority of my friends are in fandom and the Twitter that I’m usually using as my primary source of social media is a fandom Twitter. When I’m on my way home from or to work, that’s the timeline I’m scrolling through, so I’m consistently being bombarded with images of things in K-Pop culture or even music culture, anime, whatever it may be—things that I have interest in. Then, obviously, when I’m communicating with my friends, primarily it’s about fandom because that’s what we have in common. So, I would definitely say that a significant part of my everyday life is engaging with fandom culture in some aspect, but that’s kind of to be expected because now we are so—our phones are a part of us. I don’t think I know a single person, whether they’re old or not, who can really live without their phone if they’re still working. If they’re a working individual consistently out of the house, there’s not a person that can go the whole day without looking at their phone. So, when I’m looking at my phone, obviously those images are what’s going to be shoved in my face because those are the things that I’m following. I’m logged in 25/8. We’re in this for life (laughs). Suffering.
Please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces.
Ooh. So, I think now, what’s happened is there are very many negative experiences within these spaces if you’re in Twitter or so and that’s because K-Pop fandom as a whole has blown up within the past 2-3 years, and with that exponential increase, there’s going to come rivalries and people who think they’re better than everyone else or that their group deserves better or whatever whatever. So there are so many… kind of like fan wars happening everywhere, even if you’re not personally involved in them, you’ll see people (laughs) show up on your timeline dragging one of your faves to the ground. So it’s a pretty negative space, depending where you are. So if you’re on Twitter, it’s definitely gonna be more negative than anything because you see so much content on Twitter that is shared by people that you follow, whereas if you’re in a Facebook community, you have more control over who you’re interacting with. So, if I’m on my Facebook feed or in my Facebook groups that I’m not as active in anymore, it’s pretty curated—these are people that I’ve spoken to, at least. I’m not in any massive Facebook groups anymore of 1,000 or more people. I’m really in groups that are just a few hundred people, or I’ll just be on my Facebook page, which will just be my Facebook friends. So if anyone’s being ignorant, it’s someone that I’m friends with on Facebook, whereas if anyone’s being ignorant on Twitter, it’s literally some idiot I don’t know that someone I follow has ended up retweeting. It’s really hard to protect yourself on Twitter without blocking everyone that says something that you don’t like. And that’s how you get into an echo chamber, and that’s how some fandoms really have just lost their mind because they surround themselves with Yes people, and because all they’re hearing is these echos of them being perfect, they believe it to be true, and it just further perpetuates this vicious cycle of them having to be “the best,” or their group having to be the best of this, or them having to drag other people because they feel threatened or whatever it may be. What was even the original question? Where were we going with this? … Typical interaction! Right. So a typical interaction could easily be, like, you see someone dragging your fave, and then you comment a meme because you think the person’s a meme or you comment to protect them—which has happened to me before, where I’ve literally been like, “Yo… Why are you commenting on this thread that’s full of fans of this group? If you hate this group, just keep steppin’, we don’t wanna see your negativity.” And that hasn’t gone over well, it’s been great. I’ve had to lock my Twitter account because people just kept bombarding my mentions, and that was very very annoying, to say the least. But there are also times when someone posts something happy or cute, and then you respond, and then they happily respond back, or you get very positive responses. So it really just depends. Twitter is a very volatile place. Everything is very polarized. They don’t allow room for a gray area. Everything either has to be amazing or terrible, there’s no way around it. Even with everything that’s happening with Wonho [formerly of Monsta X], it’s like, “[Monsta X’s company] Starship’s the devil!” or “Starship’s great.” Like, there’s no—Starship sucks as a company, yes, but… it is what it is. People are literally demonizing a company for taking out a member—who has left—from their Season’s Greetings [package]. Like, it doesn’t make sense, but the whole rhetoric going on in the international fandom is literally just, “Starship’s the devil! They’re so petty! They’re deleting Wonho from Monsta X’s existence!” and it’s kind of like… well, they have to. He’s not in the group anymore, and he literally has resigned from the company, so they can’t keep him in their Season’s Greetings… What else are they gonna do? Fandom is a very interesting space where, because the fans are consumers, a lot of the time… It’s weird, because you’ll see both sides—you’ll either see fans taking up for companies completely and saying that they have full reign, and we shouldn’t complain and we should just be happy with what we get. Or, on the flip side, it’s them crucifying companies, but not giving any constructive criticism. It’s really just [them] letting their emotions run away [from] them, and then other people take to that, and it just becomes like a mob. So, I think part of it is because a lot of fandom is quite young, so a lot of people aren’t necessarily business-minded, they don’t know how business works. Things such as “Wow, BigHit [Entertainment aka BTS’ company] should probably sub all their free content,” becomes “We should just be thankful that we’re getting free content.” Like, excuse me (laughs), this is a company that is profiting off us, of like, every breath we take. They can afford to hire a translator. They’ve shown us that they have the capacity, so they should just do it. If they’re trying to build a global fanbase, maybe that’s a good idea for them. But you’ll have people that take up for them with their dying breath because they don’t think it’s necessary. But on the other side, you have this issue now where [Monsta X fans aka] Monbebes are so upset that Wonho has left the group and that Starship is cutting him out of promos and things, that they’re demonizing Starship—I’m not saying Starship’s a good company, because they’ve always sucked (laughs)—but like, they’re demonizing Starship like, “Starship is the pettiest company ever. They’re absolute garbage. They should die—” for doing what is an industry standard when people leave a group. It’s pretty dumb. (laughs) Ugh, I’m old and jaded.
Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
Aww, okay. I guess I’ll do Monsta X, because as we have been talking about recently, I don’t even know if I’m [a BTS fan aka] an ARMY anymore. It’s been a long… a lot has happened. So, with Monsta X, I joined the fandom because I really liked their music—and this was, like, 2015—which was funny, because their first song came out and I lowkey clowned it. I was like, “I’m sick and tired of all these damn fraudulent hip hop groups,” (laughs) because it was around the same time that a lot of K-Pop groups were coming out with a hip hop concept. They would say “We’re a hip hop group!” and then immediately completely change their tune and I was pissed off. [So] I didn’t think it was that great, and then [my best friend] and I were brainwashed because we went to this event, and at the event, they kept playing a live version of “Trespass”—not on a loop, per se, but there were only like 4 ads they were showing for a whole 30 minutes, so every 2 minutes, I would hear the song, and it was live, so it’s infinitely better. Monsta X does so well in their live performances. And I was just like… “Maybe this song deserves some rights, okay…” So that happened, and it was around the same time that Monsta X had had their first comeback with “Hero” and “RUSH”—which was like October 2015. So… thought the songs were bops, they were super talented, one of my friends was already obsessed with them from before they even debuted. So, I knew of them, and I cared about them for her. I didn’t care about them for me until that album was out, and I really thought they were really good, and then it became [my and my best friend’s] tradition to just sing those songs every single time we went out for karaoke with our friends, and since, at the time, we were both in university, it was quite often. It was literally, like, once a month or so, we were out here, at noraebang [aka karaoke], blasting it and being really extra. And [the members of Monsta X were] also really good friends with Seventeen, and Seventeen, at the time, was one of my top groups. So, it was just like, everything worked out so well. So I’ve been stanning because of that, and then, immediately after, my first comeback with them was “All In,” which is, ugh, a masterpiece, a sheer masterpiece, like… ugh. There are so many undertones to that music video, I don’t even know what to say (laughs). So, we went from good to even better, and it just kept going. There was nothing that Monsta X did that would have pushed me away from them. They were always super caring about their fans, especially Wonho, to an extent that I haven’t experienced with other fandoms, other groups. The fandom as a whole was also very laid back, pretty sweet—there was really no drama, so to speak of, within the fandom, and it was all pretty much good vibes everywhere. There was nowhere for me to lose, because now I’m becoming a fan of the best friends of another group I’m a fan of. So I’m profiting even more from all of their interactions. Everything was really fun, and Monsta X is really refreshing—they’re never boring with their sound. At the time, they hadn’t released a song I didn’t like—(laughs), after I got into Trespass, but it took a while. But they weren’t releasing any music I didn’t like, so it was the easy thing to stay a fan of them. As time went on, my closest friends became fans of them. So it became something that could be a topic of conversation for us, stuff that we could bond over, that sort of thing. Starship was really good about having a lot of content, so there would always be stuff to watch, clips to watch, literal shows. From when they were on their actual show to create the band, they already were doing other shows on the side, so there was just unending content. And they’re really funny—they’re really sweet, down to earth guys. It never seemed like they were putting on appearances. In front of the fans or the cameras, they always seemed pretty straightforward, and so I just really appreciated them for that. And then they started coming regularly to the United States, and we were out here wasting all my money trying to get the best tickets. Did I succeed? Yes. Does my wallet hate me? Yes (laughs). My bank account is very angry at me. But it was worth it, the guys—except for Changkyun, he’s a mess—but the guys are all very sweet, love them. It’s brought me friends, as well. Like, I’ve gotten really close to [one of my friends] and I wouldn’t have met [another friend] without Monsta X. I literally have friends that I’m not super close to—they’re more like acquaintances, I guess, but every time we see each other, it’s fun, and we literally wouldn’t know each other if we didn’t meet through Monsta X. [Another friend] was one of my closest friends—we’re still chill, but we both have lives, so we don’t talk that often, anymore—we only became friends because we were both at the Monsta X concert. Like (laughs), if that hadn’t have happened, I don’t think that we would necessarily be—like, we would know each other because we had mutual friends—but I don’t think it would’ve set off the chain of events that caused us to become very good friends. So, I think, there was just so much positive that was the result of this fandom, and I’d been in so many other fandoms that there were a lot of negatives associated with it. When I was in [the boy group] VIXX’s fandom, I was being harassed because of the fan project that I was running, or when I was a BTS fan and—their fans have always been lowkey crazy, so they were just being annoying pretty much—but now they have legitimately lost their minds. But (laughs), back in the day, they were just annoying, always just loud and wrong, and BTS was always, like, lowkey doing problematic stuff, so I was just in the background with a thug tear rolling down my face like, (auto-tune sing-song) “That doesn’t hurt me at all… (laughs) Keep doing that blaccent, it doesn’t hurt me…” So, y’know, I’ve always had iffy times— There was literally one time I think Jooheon [of Monsta X] did a blaccent, and it was like… literally in the beginning of 2015, so they nipped that in the bud real quick. (sighs) It’s very exhausting being a black K-Pop fan a lot of the time. But yeah, I think it was very easy for me to—(laughs) go “All In”—with Monsta X. They just made it so easy, like, I have no regrets. Not a single regret! Okay? I’m not gonna cry! (starts crying) I don’t have any regrets, they’ve been a great decision. Some of these other groups have not been a great decision—[Monsta X has] been a great decision. Love that for me.
If you knew then what you know now as a fan in this community, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
I feel like, contextually, since now, you know, Wonho has been through so much, and we knew he was a martyr before, but he’s really martyred himself to the wildest extent in this situation. I think if I knew back then that things would pan out like this, I’d think I would still be a fan. Oh, this is gonna sound so corny. I don’t know that I would want to give up experiencing the love that you feel for Monsta X for anything. I’m getting emotional—this is so weird. So, contextually—because I don’t think I’ve told quite a lot of my friends this—there are two groups that I give credit for me being alive today, and one of them is Monsta X, because when I was going through outpatient therapy—because I was literally suicidal, was on suicide watch, lowkey—it was around the same time “Dramarama” came out. Literally my first day of therapy was when the music video came out. So, that album really got me through—WHEW—such a rough time in my life. And, you know, just [the members] existing and them being such down-to-earth people. It’s not even like they’re falsely positive all the time. They give such real advice to their fans. I never necessarily felt like I was just a fan with them. It’s… whether I know them or not is not the point, it’s the fact that they made sure to express that they care deeply for all of their fans, so things like Wonho literally doing 3 hour VLives [live streams] to the point where it’s 2 AM in Korea just because he wants to talk to Monbebe—things that you don’t have to do, they’re not in your contract as an idol. It’s not, “Oh boy, it’s Monday at 5 PM. I have to do this VLive.” Like, not for Wonho, not ever. And not for the other members, not ever. Changkyun would randomly drop on—all the boys would randomly pop in, but for Wonho especially, he was very much… like, someone you could rely on. Whenever they went on a world tour, he would make sure that international Monbebe, but that also the Korean Monbebe wouldn’t feel left out. So, every time they ended a show, he would hop on VLive, another member would come on with him. They would goof off, but also sometimes they would read fan concerns or answer questions. It very much felt like bonding with a friend. It didn’t feel like “This is someone I’m paying money to like me,” which is something I think K-Pop really succeeds at, because there is so much personalized content in K-Pop as opposed to western pop, where the only real interaction you have with your faves is when you see them in concert or if you a meet and greet for them one time. You don’t get variety shows, you don’t get reality shows. Now that IG [Instagram] live is a thing, yeah, some of them do it, but it’s not like VLive where now idols are literally in our pocket 24/7. Someone’s always on VLive. I stan so many groups that at any time of day I could just whip open my phone and I’m like, “Someone’s streaming!”—which is why I deleted that app (laughs), because it was dangerous. Someone’s always streaming. But yeah, even with how things turned out and how much it hurts, I don’t think I would give up having experienced what Monsta X has to offer because they’ve definitely changed my life for the better, they’ve definitely been a really positive force on my life, so like, between them and DAY6, we’re in this for life. I don’t think I could ever leave them, because they’ve just done way too much for me. Yeah, I would join again. I would be like, “You know, I know that you’re gonna basically be kicked out of your group for reasons that are not entirely your fault, but I want to feel your love. But I also know the journey I would’ve gone on. It wouldn’t just be, “Oh I know how this is gonna turn out”—I would also how they’ve impacted me and what a positive impact it’s been. So, I definitely would rejoin. BTS, though? (laughs) I dunno about that one. Honestly, I think that if I knew how the fandom would turn out, I would’ve got out of this a lot sooner, I’m not even gonna lie.
[For further commentary on K-Pop fandom drama, see Interview Extras & Bloopers.]
Like, harassing a group you don’t even stan for (laughs) jokingly saying they’re the best rappers in K-Pop—isn’t necessarily worth your time and energy, but thousands of them did it anyway. It seems so overwhelmingly negative and I think it’s very telling that a group who decided to start a “no bullying” campaign has a fandom that’s… almost entirely made up of bullies, or at least the bullies are the loudest sect of them. That’s pretty disappointing, to say the least. And BTS have done so much for so many people. They’ve been really… for some things that I was going through, they were definitely there for me, but I can’t say that my experience with them has been all daisies, or that I’ve had the greatest experience with them, because I really haven’t. It was such a “tumultuous love affair.” I was very infatuated with BTS for sure, and so I think that’s why I went as hard as I did—especially going to 3 concerts in, like, a friggin’ month… crazy. But… big yikes (laughs), there were just so many things that are wholly negative that have marred my opinion of them as a whole, not just “them as people,” because I don’t know them as people, I’m never gonna know them as people. But yeah, them as artists, them as leaders of a fandom—because when you have a fandom, you may not be able to control all their actions, but they’re a reflection of you—[them] as business people… as a load of things. Definitely these past few years have been very telling how—not necessarily “how they’ll change you”—but how circumstances change. Let’s put it that way.
How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important?
I think that once you get to be so ingrained in fandom, it’s literally a part of who you are. I feel like it’s easy to introduce myself to people and not mention that, “Oh I’m a fan of these things,” but in order to have a real, deep relationship and connection with someone, they would have to know that I’m a fan of these things, because it’s such a part of me now. Especially like—I’ve mentioned how much groups like DAY6 or Monsta X mean to me. Those groups are a part of my everyday life. I legitimately listen to [DAY6’s album] Book of Us: Gravity on repeat at work. It’s literally just part of who I am and what I enjoy. Can I have fun without them being in the picture? Sure. But I can also have a great time with them being in the picture. I have, sometimes, a better time with them being in the picture. So, I definitely think that, while I’m my own person, they’ve made me a better person, a stronger person in some regards. I wouldn’t ever—wow, this is a strong word, but it’s the only word I can think of because my brain is much—I wouldn’t forsake them for anything. If someone was like, “Oh, do you like that K-Pop garbage?” I wouldn’t be like, “Pshh, ha, no! I hate it!” because there are groups that have done so much for me, and it’s something that I enjoy, so even if you judge me and think it’s whack, that’s fine, you don’t have to like it. So, primarily, when it comes to work, I normally don’t tell people these things, but, like my boss did today, if they ask, I’ll tell them it was a K-Pop concert… because it is… There’s not really anything to be ashamed about. I definitely think that these fandoms are a part of me, because even if I don’t talk about them all the time, I’m engaging with them all the time. Literally now, my closest friends are Monbebe, some of my closest friends are MYDAY [aka DAY6 fans]. I’ve dragged some of my fans into these fandoms, like you, I literally dragged you into K-Pop. Not kicking and screaming or anything, but… you in it for life, now (laughs). You’re in here now. So like, you know what it’s like. When it’s something that you’re so tied to, like—y’know, maybe in 20 years, I won’t be listening to K-Pop anymore or whatever. Maybe I’ll still be listening to these classics, but I won’t be caught up with the K-Pop stuff. But, I’m never gonna say I’m not a K-Pop fan, or I won’t deny that I was once a K-Pop fan.
Has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
Yeah, so I think that the way that I identify myself today—I would say that half of my personality is being a fangirl. It’s something that I’m consistently involved in, so I can’t really say, “Oh yeah, this is me and this is what I do,” without expressing that I love anime and K-Pop. These are things that I’m very passionate about. They’re always a part of some of my best experiences. So when I hang out with people, I don’t necessarily jump to [fandoms] as the first topic of conversations, but if the conversation leads there, I’m not really gonna shy away from it. Especially now that K-Pop is joining the mainstream, but then the perception of K-Pop fans is not necessarily good—I don’t always go like, “Hey! I love K-Pop!” because it’s not the best impression or the best way to start a conversation, but there are some people that are actually, genuinely curious, so I will talk to them about it. But I think, identity-wise, it’s not necessarily me [to be] like, “I have to rep that I’m part of this fandom, so I have to wear all the merch and do all the whatever”—it’s very much second-nature. I don’t have to put on an image or a facade because it’s just part of who I am and what I enjoy. So, it’s very naturally a part of me, like I don’t wake up thinking, “Ugh, gotta show people I’m a Monbebe, time to whip out the slogan, wrap it around my neck. They gotta know.” It’s more so, “Ugh, love me some Monsta X. Can’t wait to talk to my friends about them. If someone asks what we’re talking about, I’ll just be like, ‘My faves.’” That sort of thing. I don’t think that—(sigh)—I think that a lot of K-Pop fans can relate to having that one group that gets you through those really hard times. And the same thing can be said for pretty much any genre, but I see it more in K-Pop or pop punk—things where there is a solid sense of community, but also just like, music speaks to people. So, people generally have the band that’s like their home, that’s done so much for them or really gotten them through some really tough times. And so, for me, because I have these connections with these bands, even if I fall out of love with these bands, or I get detached from them like I have with BTS, I won’t regret the time that I spent enjoying them. I won’t regret how they’ve had an impact on my life, my personality-wise—not like physical life, because ARMY really just be gettin’ on my titties. But, internally, things like… showing me that I’m worth something (laughs), that I’m worthwhile, encouraging me. Those sort of things that are comforting and really do make a difference in who you become as a person and how you decide to perceive the world. They’ve definitely had a big impact on that. They’re very much an integral part of me.
The kind of closeness and community that you mentioned between you and the artist and other fans—is there a similar thing with fictional fandoms that don’t have that IRL element?
So, I’m still into anime and stuff. I think, with anime, what’s really cool—and the same thing is, I’m sure, with literature, though I’ve only had one or two friends that I’d really talk to about book series and things like that—those communities are really really artistic because they don’t have live human beings to work off of, but they have these universes that they turn into reality, that they’re able to transfigure into a living, breathing thing. These are universes that have resonance to people. There’s literally anime that moves people, books that move people, and have the same effect that these fandoms have had to me, and they also have a very strong fanart/fanfiction community. They have so many ideas… They have the source material that they work off of, and then it just explodes into its own being. I remember back when I was really into Harry Potter, there was literally HarryPotterFanFiction.com, and it was just full of so many amazing stories that people have made up in that universe, whether it has to do with the characters we know or their own characters. I think all layers of fandom are trying to relate. Everyone’s trying to relate on some level, so whether they express that through literal art or… people make AMVs… people make books… art books… merchandise… It’s really cool, and they always have forums to talk and connect with other people about what they felt during this thing, or how this character would act—whatever it may be. So that’s something that’s really interesting because you don’t have, necessarily, a living breathing creature who has their own world and does their own thing and can disappoint you (laughs)… can hurt your feelings. That’s a whole other thing. But because you don’t have people that can hurt your feelings, sometimes it’s a safer place, y’know? Like, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen? You’re gonna die in a book, like… you’re not gonna die in real life, sis. Like, that hURTS, BRO. It’s rough! Book deaths hurt, too, but in a different way. So I think, on some level, it’s not that their fandom is any less real, it’s just that the experience is slightly different. But it’s interesting to see the parallels between all of them because they all collect along the same creative path when it comes to content that fans make. Fans throughout all types of fandom make the same content. You’re gonna find wolf AUs in all of these (laughs), whether it’s K-Pop, SuperWhoLock, Harry Potter—like, you’re gonna find werewolf AUs in all of them. And that’s just one form of expression that’s just transcended all of these fandoms that have nothing to do with each other. I’m not a creative at all, but I like to soak in other people’s creativity, and then because of that, it leads to more conversations, which is really fun.
That kind of goes into the next question (laughs). Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
(laughs) So I used to create content as a fan, and then I stopped. I used to write fanfiction when I was younger—not like super young. Actually, that’s a lie. I started very young, at literally 11 or 12. No, I did not write [about] the Jonas Brothers dating each other. Apparently some people did that, and… that’s definitely not what I was writing. Very much self-insert fics before I knew what self-insert fics were. Which were great. Love that for me. Also, not necessarily roleplaying—you can ask [Miss A] about the roleplay community, because I don’t really know about that ((Note: I did))—but somewhat, because I would write part of a story, then my friend would write part of the same story. It becomes really collaborative, which is really fun. So that was the kind of content I dabbled in, and then when I got to high school/college age, I was writing stories on my own, and then that petered out, because if I’m not automatically good at something, I don’t wanna do it. And I was no longer automatically good at storylines, so I didn’t wanna do it, and that’s exactly what happened. I just stopped writing. I haven’t written in 3 years now … 4 years now (laughs). Love that 5 me. So, it’s hard out here in these streets, but I used to write fanfic. I’m not talented at drawing at all. Not even a little bit. Not in the slightest. I will never be talented at drawing. Don’t ask me. I can make a nice picture of a mountain in watercolors… I can watercolor a mountain and say it symbolizes my burning passion for DAY6 … That’s all we’re getting out of me. I can just do one type of watercolor. (laughs) That’s the only watercolor I’ve mastered. Mountains… and one single river. So yeah, that’s the only fan content that I make, but I know some really talented people who can draw and can write. They’re really good at stuff and that’s cool. I love supporting my friends’ art.
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your fandom experiences?
Lord have mercy. So, since I finessed my last minute foray into being a VIXX staff member, I’ve literally used it on my resume since and just said it was a month-long internship of me being concert social media staff. Because of that, I managed to get another social media internship, so (claps) we love an embellished truth. I didn’t say it was a month long, I just said it was November to November, which it was … It was one day. (laughs) It was one day with a lot of work and a lot of hashtags and actually handling social media. Social media marketing, sis! I was doing it! Was I getting paid? No. Was it stressful? Yes. Would I do it again? Not in the slightest. So yeah, that’s a professional opportunity that came of that, and because I had “two internships” on my resume, I guess it also made other things look good, because it’s still on my resume to this day. And also, because I did learn things while suffering during that one day period, it allowed me to speak about what I was doing a lot easier—I built skills like liasing with people as a result of doing fan projects and stuff like that. I’ve been able to slip them into my “portfolio,” if you will, of what I’m good at. So, we’re out here scamming. Also, [one of our friends], if you ever ask her, she literally started her own K-Pop company, because it was a Facebook page. I don’t know if she still has it on her resume, but she had it on there for a while because it had its own name and everything that no one else was using, and so she was able to say for 3 years that she was doing this thing as one of her passion projects. So that was literally built into her resume for ages.
Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
I feel like anyone would lie saying no, because you’re not necessarily always cognizant of it. Sometimes it just stumbles into your lap—you don’t necessarily think, “I’m only checking this out because this person listened to it.” One example I can tell you is Gallant. So I’m a really big fan of Gallant, and that wouldn’t have happened if, in 2016, Tae [aka V of BTS] wasn't out here running from the bathroom like, “I GOTTA SEE GALLANT PERFORM!” and then absolutely losing his hecking mind at Gallant’s performance at 2016 MAMA [aka Mnet Asian Music Awards]. So obviously I’ve seen [that] performance, and I was just like, “Oh, he can sing! He can sing, huh.” So I listened to his album, and here I am today, out here having more communication with him than BTS does, because they be dumping him all over the place. You didn’t hear that from me. But anyway, he’s one of my favorite artists, and that was just a result of me checking out one song that someone that I care about liked. I think it’s just the natural progression of things, especially because people who are in fandom, generally—I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily open-minded, but—opened to new things, generally. Like, the reason they got into this fandom is because they took a chance on something. Especially if it’s not necessarily your friends in fandom, but the people that you’re a fan of—whether it’s in a book series or people in real life. If they express an interest in something, generally it piques your curiosity and you want to know what this thing is and what’s going on with it. I think that most people naturally get into other things because of a certain fandom. I literally got into K-Pop because I was a bit old weeb—super into anime—and then K-Pop groups kept doing anime OSTs, and then heckin' CNBlue was out here with their whole J-Rock album, and I was like, “Me! I loves J-Rock.” And then, here we are today. Stuck in this life, suffering (laughs). It was literally because I was out here loving anime and then anime forayed into K-Pop, and a lot of my friends will tell you the same thing. I think it’s a natural progression of things. You’re like a fisherman just taking in whatever comes your way. So that’s me with fandom, pretty much. I’ll always try something once, and then when I hate it… it’s gone (laughs).
You did talk about this earlier, but do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
Yes I do, but I don’t necessarily offer this information on its own. So I won’t meet someone and go, “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you. I’m a K-Pop fan.” But if we’re talking about music that we like, then I’ll say, “I listen to a lot of stuff. I listen to K-Pop, I listen to this, I listen to that.” So even when I had my first lunch with a few people on my team [for work] and we were talking about what our interests are and what we do for fun, and I was saying I go to concerts for fun. So of course I was asked what music [I] listen to. I was able to express [that] I listen to all types of music and I go to concerts for all types of music, whether it’s a pop punk band or a K-Pop group. I go to all of these things and I really enjoy them. I don’t necessarily think it’s something to be ashamed of at all, because it’s, as I said before, something that is part of me, at this point. It’s not “just a hobby,” okay, it’s a lifestyle. Like, it’s real serious, okay? We take this K-Pop business seriously (laughs). Some people take it way too seriously. But yeah, it’s weaseled its way into being part of my everyday life, so I’d be really fraudulent to be like, “I don’t even like K-Pop, it’s gross!” But there are some people that are definitely… probably new to this life and are just like, “HI. I LOVE K-Pop,” and you’re just like, “Okay, sweetie, I didn’t ask you. Who’s trying to find out?” It’s different telling people in a Korean Student Association or a K-Pop group on campus that you like K-Pop than telling your boss (laughs) or telling your friend’s friend that you’re meeting for the first time that you love K-Pop. There’s a time and a place for everything—as people like to say, as the adults like to say. I’m not an adult yet, I’m 12. The adults like to say there’s a time and a place for everything, and there really is. It’s not necessarily appropriate to just be like, “I LOVE K-Pop. I LOVE ANIME.” The time doesn’t always call for it, and you can also generally gauge how people will react. Sometimes I am really aware of how people could judge me or how it could affect my “relationship” with this person, so I’ll withdraw from things. For example, on Friday, I had my suitcase at work because I was going straight to a hotel for this weeb convention I was doing all weekend. So my coworkers were like, “Oh, Abbie! Are you going on vacation? Where are you going?” and I was just like, “Yeah, it’s more like a staycation. My friends and I are hanging out, we have a hotel for the weekend in New York, because…” First of all, I just started this job, and I don’t necessarily know how all of these normies are gonna take to me being like, “I’m going to an anime convention all weekend, and this is what I do for fun. I know we’ve only had two conversations, but this is what I love.” That’s pushing a boundary a little bit. When we get to know each other more, I probably won’t—I’m not ashamed to tell them. It’s just not really their business (laughs), especially when you know people are very judgmental about things like that. There are people that will infantilize you just because they’re like, “You’re like a kid because you watch these stupid cartoons,” and stuff like that. I don’t have the time for it, sis, I’m at work. I’m not dealing with your shenanigans. So I didn’t want to get into that, so I didn’t tell anyone that I was going to this anime—this weeb convention. But when my friends or family members ask, I’ll just be like, “Yeah, I was at an anime convention, whatever. Fight me.” It doesn’t matter to me, even if I know they’re not into it. I was talking on the phone to my aunt [and told her when she asked me]. It is what it is. But yeah, definitely, there’s a time and a place for everything. I think that sometimes new fans get so caught up in their new persona that they take it a little too far and shove it down everyone’s throat. And I’m not saying I’ve never done that, because I’m pretty sure I was probably annoying as hell when I first got into K-Pop and K-Pop fandom. Too grown for that now, don’t do that.
You brought up infantilizing in fandom. Could you expand on that stigma?
I think that especially girls who like K-Pop are well aware that women in general are not taken seriously, and women who like boy bands are taken even less seriously. So the less you express your love for these “pretty boys jumping around onstage and not doing anything worthwhile” the less people will treat you like garbage or lesser than, and not care about your opinion. Literally [one of my friends] is a whole lawyer. But do you think that her firm would have any respect for her if they knew she was out here running to a K-Pop concert after work? Probably not, and it sucks, and it’s literally just because… if it’s not for men it doesn’t have merit. And so boy bands have no merit. Even though [women] are literally leading the economy because we have the most buying power. This is proven. I just… y’all are so dumb. And it’s been proven time and time again that not only with women having the most buying power—the reason that girl groups are not as successful in general is because if they don’t have a female fanbase to back them up, then they’re going to fail, because men will literally abandon them for the next shiny new thing, whereas women tend to be more loyal. That’s why you see so many girl groups not succeeding, because the female fanbase is going to be a lot smaller than guy groups. Them’s just the facts. And all of these girls will be stuck catering to the same crusty old men who love them for two months and then go on to the next group. Some guys will actually be loyal to them. Some crusty old men are really in it for life—and that’s great, and I love them for that—but in general, girl groups are not as popular as boy groups because they don’t have female buying power behind them. It’s literally economics! But for some reason, men—because they rule the world or whatever—just don’t think that anything that women enjoy has merit, so they degrade women for enjoying these things. They think that they’re pathetic and stupid—(whispers) even though men are mainly the ones who create and benefit from boy bands… (normal voice) Anyway. Like, how are you gonna create boy bands and then be like, “Women are so dumb for falling for my evil plan.” Stupid. Like, why do you think Mamamoo’s so damn successful? Why do you think HyunA’s so successful? Bruh. Female fans will literally save your life. They will be your livelihood. Chungha? Female fans. She wasn’t doing that great, and then suddenly she was doing really good (laughs). Female fans. But yeah, the infantilizing and “not taking you seriously” thing is probably what I hate the most about the stigma on these things, because I don’t understand why my private life and what I enjoy in my free time has to do with my knowledge on literally anything or the merit to whatever topics or opinion I’m bringing to the table. You shouldn’t be thinking less of me because I have interest in these things, you know what I mean? So that’s really frustrating, and there’s a whole other layer on it because, in general, it’s a lot more acceptable to be a book nerd than it is to really like anime or K-Pop because they’re also… not American. So there are two layers to it, and that’s why I’m cool jerking around with my boss, because he’s not infantilizing me or being like, “Boy groups are dumb” or anything. He’s genuinely like, “Oh, did you have a good time?” Actually showing some interest, so I appreciate that, because there are so many people who [scoff and call it stupid], and would just mock you for what you’re into. I’ve lived too many years in fandom and I know it so well. I’ve experienced it so many times—it never gets any better (laughs). It just gets worse. They’ll be like, “Aren’t you too old for this now? Don’t you want to grow out of this?” and I’m like, “Do you want to pay my bills, too? Because clearly I’m your child, if you need to tell me what to do.” Stupid. Don’t tell me what to like. Ridiculous.
Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
That’s interesting… I feel like, with some fan communities, you just don’t need to. For example, with multifandom people, in general, we tell each other what fandoms we’re in because we like so many groups (laughs). There are some people I know who are really performative with their stan culture, so they’re always talking about the same group and always trying to be on the edge of what’s popular to say in that fandom, and that’s very performative. And so, in that notion, you’re performing that fandom so you don’t have to verbally express that fandom, whereas with multifans… We’re tweeting so many frickin’ groups all the time that we—like, I haven’t tweeted about Seventeen in like, pshh, a while. So there are people that “meet me” online who won’t know I’m a Carat [aka a Seventeen fan], so when we’re talking, you would list what groups you’re a fan of if you’re in a group chat together, because people genuinely don’t know. There are other times where it’ll be like, an ARMY is literally disagreeing with me in my mentions because I disagreed with something BigHit did, so that makes me not a fan—even though I’ve been supporting them with MONEY since 2014, but that’s fine. Which is another thing—you don’t have to support a group with money to be “a real fan” of the group. I very much agree with that notion. But don’t come for me when I’ve been lining their pockets with cash for more years than you’ve known they’ve existed. That’s so annoying. Take 10 seats, bro. Because, if us foundational fans weren’t there, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Because they wouldn’t have existed this long. There’s no longevity to a group if they don’t have a solid fanbase. That’s literally how things are. If you’re not turning a profit, you’re not gonna exist as a group. So if these initial fans weren’t there, you literally wouldn’t have the group we have today. So stop coming for my throat when you know nothing. Or it’ll also be like, if they’re talking crap about another group of mine and I’ve made a comment, then they’re attacking me about how great BTS is, and I will literally say, “I’ve been an ARMY for 4 years. I know how great BTS is. I also don’t think they would appreciate you coming for their literal close friends.” Leave them alone. I don’t know if you remember—you probably weren’t in the fandom at the time—but Yoongi [aka SUGA of BTS] and Kihyun [of Monsta X] literally link up every time they’re in the same vicinity because they miss each other and will spend hours in each others’ hotel rooms just bonding… because they’re friends. (sing-song) Stop attacking the fandoms of groups that your fave group is friends with. It’s really dumb. It’s really stupid. Oh my God. (normal voice) Frickin’ hate that. I don’t understand that at all. You guys know that at the end of the day, your faves are going back to their faves' houses and their faves are the people you don’t like. EXO and BTS—maybe not as close as they once used to be, but Jimin and Kai are still close as heck. Y’all really think you’re doing something, huh? I’m too old for this. People make me so tired, bro. It’s stressful. It is a stressor in my life, because I cannot go on Twitter without seeing some nonsense every day. There’s always some shenanigans afoot. I’m too old for this. I have a whole, full-time job. When I go on Twitter, I’m trying to just see puppies, memes, and cute boys singing and dancing and gyrating and stuff. I’m not here to see y’all curse each other out, that’s not what I signed up for, get out of here. I’m gonna have to start blocking everyone. You’re argumentative, bye—we’re not even friends anyway, you’re just showing up on my timeline.
Well, that’s all the questions that I have, but is there anything you want to circle back to—
Yes. I wanna say that K-Pop stan Twitter is such a toxic place right now. I’ve been a part of K-Pop stan Twitter for about 5 years now, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s a cesspit with a nice island in the middle of it, and you gotta wade through all the literal poop, the defecation, all of the garbage, to get to that nice little oasis in the middle of the cesspit. I’ll be nice and say there’s 10% joyous content, and then the rest is people fighting with each other, or putting a group over another group, blah blah blah, stupid. The fact that people were literally coming into Monbebes’—not only my DMs, but also commenting and saying that this is why my fave is jobless now, this is why he left the group, this is why nobody cared about him anyway. All of this stuff when you know someone means the world to other people. How mean do you have to be in your soul to on one hand say, “This person, this boy, I owe him my life, he’s my pride and joy, he’s perfect,” and then see that someone has lost their boy, their pride and joy, that they owe their life, and be like, “HA. And that’s why he lost his job!”? Just because you’re afraid that they’re trying to fight you for some stupid Social Media Award (laughs), which isn’t even an award. Who cares about the Top 50 Social Chart? Only y’all. No one was trying to trend tags to beat BTS. Your fave is not the center of the world. They’re the center of your world, and that’s fine. That’s good. Be happy. Be in your pleasant fan space. That’s why, back in the day, we would have our group-centric Facebook groups. I made a group for Block B fans, and there was a group for BTS fans, and a group for this one and that one, because you could really bond with people who like those groups, specifically, and talk about whatever’s going on in your fandom, and that’s awesome. But why get yourself involved in another fandom and cause drama? Why be involved in fandom drama, if there’s already drama? Especially if you’re not in the fandom, like, mind your business! (laughs) People in glass houses… should not throw stones. That’s all I’m saying. Listen, I don’t want anything bad to happen to BTS, I really don’t. They’re good boys, even though some of them are questionable—Jin—but they’re good boys, for the most part. They’ve been nothing but pleasant to us. They’ve been very positive. They’ve been good boys. I don’t want them—I don’t want any group to lose a member like we’ve lost Wonho—but also, your fans need to be knocked down a peg, and if something needs to happen to you for it to happen… it be like that sometimes. The fact that y’all had to make a tweet about Wonho driving about Jungkook… Your one brain cell that you collectively share is so dumb. Honestly, I can’t even say stan Twitter would be a better place without just ARMY, though, because there are so many people in K-Pop fandom that are doing this sort of performative fandom persona that turns into a hardened heart against everyone else. But [it also affects] how they really start to perceive other groups and other fans of those groups, and how they start to feel internally because they’re like, “I’ve been doing this for so long that now it’s just part of me.” I’ve been this spiteful for so long (laughs), my favorite rebuttal to anyone being like, “Yo, why are you here? We didn’t do anything. Blah blah blah,” is that “Other fandoms have always been mean to us.” … WhaaaaAAAAT?! People have bullied you so you’re bullying other people? (laughs) Also, I know damn well they didn’t bully you specifically, sis. You joined Twitter three months ago, shut up. They did not bully you. You just heard from some loud, big account that BTS was hated on from debut—which they weren’t—and since all the other fandoms hated BTS—which they didn’t—“We gotta hate them back!” … Um? Has no one ever heard of fighting fire with fire? You’re just making a bigger fire. It’s really stupid. If it hurt you so much that you’re still talking about these supposed people that you can’t name, then maybe you shouldn’t do it to others. Food for thought. Maybe we all need to be in a little timeout, maybe we need to sing some Kumbaya, hold some hands, make some s’mores, bond a little bit… Because it’s just so tiring. (referring to me:) Sis, I’m so sorry I dragged you into this, because back in 2016, it was not nearly this bad. Y’know, there were little spats and fan wars, but people weren’t this vicious, consistently. It’s like, there’s not even such a thing as a fan war anymore. This is just the state of things. It’s ongoing. It’s never gonna end. It’s how it is, forever, I guess (laughs). You just get used to it. People talk about how people can live in certain conditions, and it’s literally not because they choose to live in those conditions, it’s because they grow numb to it, become used to it. Even if it’s not conditions that anyone should have to live in or deal with. Stan Twitter’s kind of the same way—you didn’t sign up for this, things were really good, but now you’re too deep in and this is how things are from now on. You just suck it up or keep going, or you delete Twitter. That’s why, highkey, I was like, “Maybe I should just delete my Twitter (laughs) because [the environment’s] more poisonous than positive.” And even though I’m not super depressed right now, it’s November. We finna hit Depressed Season very shortly, so I don’t need that in my life. I really don’t. It’s very disheartening to see—being [a Monbebe and an ARMY]—your two hearts at war. It’s not a good feeling. I don’t think anyone would want to see that or be engaged in that in their spare time. So, that’s what we’re signing off on. Fandom is trash, it’s all Twitter’s fault (laughs). It’s also poisonous clickbait articles’ fault. Also, because of all these big accounts that have so much clout on Twitter—they run the rhetoric on Twitter and turn everything to garbage because if you don’t agree with them—“If you’re not for us, you’re against us!” And that’s even how Starlight [aka VIXX fandom] Twitter was at one point. All fandoms do this, but Starlight Twitter was not as poisonous because we were smaller, first of all, and second of all, no one was really attacking anyone else. There were arguments, but no one was like, “I hope your mom dies” (laughs). It’s gotten so negative and really dark and horrible. People would say that I was an attention seeker, but they would never literally wish harm on me. I’ve had people drag my name through the mud on social media because of things I was doing for fan support, but I’ve never had someone basically be like, “Kill yourself.” It’s just really gotten to a place that it never should’ve gone.
Do you think other [non-K-Pop] fandoms have similar experiences?
I’m sure they do. It’s interesting because you see Western fandoms fighting with K-Pop fandoms all the time. Up until the time that Jungkook [of BTS] went to Ariana Grande’s concert, Ariana stans hated BTS. They would always be fighting over stuff because they would always be up for Top Album or whatever crap. I don’t care. I think, among Western fandoms, there’ve been stuff like that because there are always gonna be competitors. Like Cardi B vs. Nicki Minaj. Their fans clearly hate each other. Beyoncé’s fans hate everyone (laughs). [I don’t know] who’s gonna fight who on anime Twitter. What are we fighting about? Boruto vs. Boku no Hero Academia? I’m confused. I don’t know. But yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think that I’m not ingrained enough in book Twitter to see them fighting each other. I feel like, lowkey, back in the day when all these fantasy series were coming out around each other, they probably had some fighting words. The Mortal Instruments vs. Vampire Academy or something. Book stans are so hardcore. You have to wait years, bro. A book comes out and then two years later the next book comes out. You really have to be in it to win it, whereas with K-Pop you can just change groups like you change clothes. Do whatever you want.
[For some tea, see Interview Extras & Bloopers.]
But yeah, [regarding performative fandom] it’s really sad how we have to be fake out here in these streets. I shouldn’t have to adapt my stan experience to fit someone else’s ideal of what it means to be a fan. That’s it. That’s the facts. That’s the tea. Whether I listened to BTS once this year or 1,000 times—still a fan of theirs… for now (laughs). But you can’t tell me I’m not because I’m not living up to your idea of a fan. Unless you’re certain people who don’t listen to a group and don’t talk about a group, but show up at their concert. Then you’re not a fan. You might be trying to become a fan, but you’re not a fan of that group. That don’t even make no sense. How can you say you’re a fan of something you don’t actually show an interest in? That doesn’t really make sense. But if after the show you become a fan because you like their music, good, that’s great. I’m proud of you. But don’t be performative. That shit don’t make no sense.