Recapping Netflix's BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky Documentary
On Oct 14, Netflix released the much anticipated documentary BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky. The documentary aimed to cover the beginning of their journey, from the moment they auditioned with YG Entertainment, to their days as a trainee, their official debut in 2016 and explosion in both the Kpop industry but internationally as well. They hoped to showcase not only their incredible rise to fame but all the struggles and hardships that you often don’t see happening behind the scenes. This documentary gives the four girls a voice in expressing their journeys throughout all this and how they came to be who they are today.
The first to tell her story was Jennie. Growing up shy, she was always one to avoid interviews, as she didn't like to talk about herself. Jessie Yao, a friend and instructor, would vouch for this saying that her personality was hard to get to know at first, but once she opens up you will find a very loyal, sweet and down-to-earth girl. Jennie was born in Seoul, Korea as an only child. At the early age of 10 years old, she and her mother moved to Australia and then New Zealand. Jennie talked about doing a homestay, where her friends contributed to helping her learn English. There was a lot of freedom and choices in her school, and being allowed to make all her own choices shaped her into who she is today. But that isn’t to say that the journey to get where she is now wasn’t a tough one. Growing up shy, she even had trouble just ordering food through the phone, a problem most of us introverts can relate to. Jennie mentioned that when she was 15, she had the choice to decide if she wanted to move to America. It was only after having fully packed that she suddenly realized that she didn’t want to do another study by herself--she wanted to be a singer. As a result, she did her first audition with YG and the rest was history.
We know Lisa as the rapper and lead dancer. She was born in Thailand in the Buriram Province in 1997 and moved to Bangkok when she was only 3 years old. Her aunt had a music group, which led to her first exposure to the music industry. Lisa reflected on the times she would play with the mic, lowering it to her height so that she could sing and dance to herself. From an early age, her mother could tell that Lisa loved dancing and signed her up for a course when she was only in kindergarten. This prompted a series of contests and dance competitions that she would, later on, enroll in as well. It wasn’t until she was 12 to 13 years old that she had a talent scout ask if she wanted to learn how to sing. Realizing that she loved dancing and singing, YG was the perfect opportunity as they were holding auditions at the time. Lisa mentioned waiting for her call back for two months until they got her to fly out to Korea. Being a Mama's girl, this would especially tough for her as this would be the first time she would go off on her own at the young age of only 14. She didn’t speak any Korean at the time but recalled that she was able to get close to Jennie being one of the only other ones that could speak English. This was how their friendship started.
Jisoo grew up in Gunpo city where she lived with her mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents. She was the only member in BLACKPINK to have never left Korea. She talked about her difficulties growing up and mentioned how she was treated as an outcast by her relatives from a young age because they thought she was ugly, even going as far as teasing her and called her a monkey on several occasions. Jisoo mentioned that the path she is on now was not something she ever imagined for herself as she originally wanted to be a writer or painter. It wasn’t until grade 11 that she joined the Drama club to get experience in acting. Since she wasn’t fully aware of what she wanted to do early on in her life like the other girls, she was able to spend more time in school and make memories with her high school friends - a luxury that the other members in BLACKPINK had mentioned they were envious of.
Rose was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia when she was only 8 years old. She loved music so much and expressed how you would often find her sleeping with her chin on her knee next to the piano. Rose dived into her childhood and talked about how she was raised growing up. Every Sunday she would be at church with her Korean friends and every other day of the week she would assimilated into the Australian way of life in school. She mentioned feeling a bit like Hannah Montana with her double life. How she got involved with YG was actually through her father, who saw that they were launching auditions in Australia and asked if she wanted to try it. It was in 2012 when she first auditioned at the age of 16, and within two months they had asked her to fly to Korea for training. Knowing this, she dropped out of school in Australia and left her family behind for the first time in her life. Rose talked about how she often now has difficulties falling asleep as there are so many thoughts that run through her head. With singing as a stress relief she finds herself staying up to play music and sing. These days, they work more than they sing and she has expressed having missed the trainee days when she was surrounded by music all the time.
The girls mentioned that it was highly competitive at YG because there were so many girls competing for the same spot one could only dream about. Every time a new girl came in, they would be on guard because they never knew who could be more qualified for the position than they were. They described trainee life as being similar to a boarding school as you're always studying, working and kept around the same people. Initially, there were 9 girls as YG had planned to create a bigger group, but it soon became apparent that a group of 4 would be more fitting. They were strict and needed them to be at their highest standard in every subject. With 2-3 teachers for their dance and vocal lessons, training would last 14 hours a day, 13 days in a row. The reason for this intensive training was because they believe repetition can be absorbed better at a young age, and all the tools and techniques they learned will be perfected in the next ten years.
At the end of every month, their boss and producers would come in and they would have to perform a solo, a group song and a group choreography for them. Lisa said this would occur every month for the next five years. The girls were graded every month and friends would constantly be eliminated if they didn’t meet the standards. The hardest part, they said, was the fear that they were always on the verge of being let go. The girls mentioned that being told they weren’t good enough to their faces while trying to keep everything together was harsh and difficult and it was truly not a happy time. They were limited in what they could do, and activities like drinking, smoking or getting a tattoo were strictly prohibited. Going home was a rare occasion and they often practiced deep into the weekends. This was a cause of concern for a lot of their parents who grew upset and worried.
During this time as a trainee, the CEO would put them in different groups every month to see how their chemistry worked with one another. There came a point where the four girls were placed together. They recorded demos together, did screen tests and evaluated. The girls mentioned that they got along really well because the four of them just knew their place and didn’t fight over their positions. With everyone being able to settle into their role, the synergy was born.
In August 2016, BLACKPINK had its debut. This was a big moment since YG’s last debut was 7 years earlier with the well known KPop group 2NE1. As soon as they debuted with their song Whistle, they reached number one in only fourteen days, the shortest time a girl group was able to hit number one.
There was pressure after the debut to come up with something new and fresh, and Rose mentioned when things got faster it became very overwhelming. She spoke about how the job had no regularity or certainty on how long this will all last. Lisa talked about how it was crazy to experience being no one, to a recognized figure overnight, especially back in her home country Thailand where she is so loved and praised by the people.
Their world tour started in Thailand. They mentioned that they would try to give their best on stage every day but it was a lot of pressure for them mentally and physically. After many plane rides and environmental changes, their bodies started to wear out. While it was fun and exciting at first, Rose expressed how she felt like she didn’t have a personal life and felt like she was just living for the next show. While the girls loved being on stage, they all felt like when they came back to the hotel, they felt very empty. A lot of them were homesick and it was important for them to take care of themselves so they can come together being healthy and happy as a group.
In April 2019, BLACKPINK flew to LA and became the first female Korean group to perform at Coachella. The girls were extremely nervous because they felt like Coachella fans would not be their fans specifically, but a general audience. However, they were proven wrong when the girls saw how massive their audience was. Jennie mentioned how it was in that moment at Coachella that she knew the audience realized what they were doing wasn’t just KPop but something new. She expressed her happiness to be in an era where people are just open to new culture and music and Lisa agreed saying she felt like she chosen the right path and did what she wanted to do in life
The Netflix documentary BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky was an informative look into the life of these girls to show that they are more dimensional than what we see on stage. They all lead very different lives and came from different places, but were able to come together through a shared love for music and dance. This story of how BLACKPINK grew to the success it did is nothing short of inspirational and a must-watch for die-hard fans.
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