Adjust font size:
AR: CNN's Anjali Rao
AR: Hi, I'm Anjali Rao in Tokyo. This is Talk Asia...
Today we're with Asia's answer to Britney Spears. She's got the songs, she's got the moves and she's got legions of adoring fans.
BA: I never imagined I would be this big, or that I would get so much out of this.
AR: At just 20 years old, South-Korean born-BoA is a pop veteran -- she's been doing this for almost 10 years, notching up the number one's and the celebrity endorsement deals.
BoA's all grown up now and hoping to make the transition countless other teen queens couldn't -- into the fickle world of mainstream international pop.
BA: I have not stopped growing up. And I'll continue to grow up even more. So I want to show people more than simply my youthful image.
AR: Talk Asia caught up with her in the middle of her nationwide tour.
AR: BoA thank you very much for joining us here on TALKASIA. Now this year has seen you release a new album, go on tour, sign up for a few more advertising deals and you reportedly even shot a movie. How's it all going, you must be exhausted?
BA: I am very busy these days. But it's OK. And I'm very glad to be here talking with you.
AR: Thank you; it's a pleasure speaking with you too. When you were a kid and just starting out in this business, when you pictured what you expected out of life, is this how you ever thought it would end up?
BA: I think all has been beyond my expectations.
I never imagined I would be this big, or that I would get so much out of this. And I never thought I would be performing on so many stages.
AR: Let's talk about those opportunities, so if we go back to where it all started nearly a decade ago, you accompanied your brother to a talent search he had entered but then you had ended up walking away with the big prize. Take us back to that day and just tell us what you remember about that audition process.
BA: It was just completely by chance that I followed my brother to his audition that day. Of course, even then, my dream was to someday become a singer. But I had no idea how to become one. I was only an elementary school student back then. But at the time, after seeing that such an incredible opportunity came to me, I thought that if you kept your dreams, even in your heart, then you find a way to realize them some day. And now that I think about it years later, I was so lucky to get such a great opportunity.
AR: Still though as you say, you're the one who got the opportunities. What about your brother? How does he feel that you're the one who ended up with the contract?
BA: At first, of course he was very disappointed. But he quickly found his own path. And now, today, he is a great supporter of mine.
AR: Your parents were not happy over the fact that would mean that you would have to leave school and they were very reluctant for you to do that and enter the working world so to speak. What convinced them in the end to let you do it?
BA: At first, they were very against my entering the music business. I was only a sixth grader in elementary school at the time of the audition. But my older brothers were a great help in convincing my parents why I should do this. And I really liked to dance and sing, ever since I was a little girl. So my parents eventually agreed with me and my brothers, and finally ended up being great supporters of mine.
AR: Still though you can't really deny the fact that your childhood as it existed just stopped right there even before you were a teenager. Do you ever think that you missed out on growing up the normal way?
BA: I guess I never really had what you could call a normal childhood. But at the same time, I did get to experience things that people who went through a normal childhood never would have the chance to do. So I think the world has been very fair to me. I find that if you lose out on something, you get something in return. So personally, I learned never to complain about such things. Of course, I sometimes miss having the normal life of a student.
AR: You know in the West child pop stars are never taken seriously. Everybody just thinks, Oh well you know -- this is a cute publicity stunt, they'll just fade away and never be heard from again. Was that ever an issue for you in this part of the world?
BA: Well, when I debuted in Korea, I was only 13 years old. So people were fascinated with me in those days. And when I made my debut in Japan, I was just a teenager, so many people talked about how young I was at the time. But they also said that even though I was a teenager, my performance was good, and my music was very strong. So I didn't know if all that the praise was because I looked cool since I was only teenager or something like that. But I really think this is a major challenge for me. Everyone grows up, and grows older. And so the issue is how much one grows and develops in step with one's age -- and how well this growth can be conveyed to the public. Isn't this a task for everyone? But I really think that since I started out at such a young age, it is very important for me to select a good time for each turning point in my career.
AR: You know genuine talent is one thing. You're known very much as well for your dancing but there are still those people out there who say that you're a manufactured pop star. You're been created and molded by your company SM and you sing the songs that they write for you. Do you think those people have a point?
BA: I think it all depends on what you mean by manufactured. I think SM Entertainment, for me, really laid a good path for my own career. And the staff at SM and I really were really able to cooperate closely on all of these matters. And a number of circumstances came together well to really make things work out even better. I think if one person were to force their own will on something, then things that should have gone right could easily go wrong. So all of the conditions really came together well to make me what I am today. So I am not all that unhappy with the expression that I am a manufactured star. In a way, that is true. Because SM Entertainment created the environment and all the surrounding conditions, I am able to be successful in the way I am now.
AR: Next up, BoA's grueling path to the top and why some fans in her native South Korea are calling on the pop princess not to forget her roots.
BA: In no way have I left Korea, I still perform there and I also want to perform in China and other parts of Asia.
AR: You trained extremely hard for your debut on the pop scene. Give us an idea on what that involved.
BA: First, it's vocal training and dancing. And it's also learning Japanese. But I think the training to sing and dance was the most difficult. It's very different to sing and dance for fun... from training to sing and dance in order to becoming a professional.
AR: You've referred to your time adjusting to Japan as one of the loneliest times in your life. Describe for us what you went through.
BA: I actually lived in Japan for only a month the first time. Before that, I studied Japanese for two years. During my first month living in Japan, it was very difficult, especially because I was living alone without my family. But after we decided on my debut in Japan, I came over to Japan and I lived here for about a year. But at that time, since I had my staff with me, it was not as lonely as before.
AR: Although you live in Japan you're obviously still a huge hit back home in your native South Korea but there are some fans though who say you've forgotten where you're from and that you're ignoring them. What do you say to those fans in South Korea who are watching this now?
BA: I really wish people would not make such a distinction. Because when it comes to performing here, and performing back home in South Korea, there is not that much difference between the two. But it seems many people think the two are quite different. I believe all of this is because there are that many people who love me and wish to see me. But I think many people are hurt that I am not performing in Korea. But in no way have I left Korea. I still perform there, and I also want to perform in China and other parts of Asia.
AR: You're a big part of what we in Asia know as the Korean wave which refers to the popularity of Korean culture throughout the whole region. What does it mean to you to have bee able to contribute to that in such a huge way?
BA: When I first came to Japan, there was no such expression as the "Korean Wave." And at the time, I was the only Korean pop singer who was performing in Japan. But after the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, many Korean songs, and dramas, spread over into Japan and China. And the expression "Korean Wave" was created and many Korean singers came over to perform in Japan. So I am really happy that all of this has happened. And I wish that these Korean performers keep doing well. And I really hope Korean culture can spread to more parts of Asia and even around the world. And this inspires me to keep trying very hard.
AR: So you mentioned getting into the Chinese market, you've also broached the inevitable topic which is cracking the US, but SM says you have no intention of doing that anytime soon. Set the record straight for us -- is America on your wish list or not?
BA: Entering the American market is probably the dream of all performing artists. And of course, I do want to stand on the American stage if the opportunity arises. But I don't want to rush things and ruin my chances. So I believe that if I continue to work very hard, then the opportunity will someday present itself. But from the point of view of my management at SM Entertainment, they are studying the possibilities very closely. Though in many ways, cracking the American market is probably not only a dream for me, but it's the dream of all performers.
AR: BoA stay with us. You know growing up is hard enough for anyone, but doing it under the watchful eyes of millions of fans must be positively terrifying. And as for boyfriends, well we'll discuss that right after the break.
AR: So singing, dancing and now acting. What's this I hear about you possibly being in a movie with Yao Ming?
BA: I think such things were reported in the media without my knowledge. But I can tell you that so far nothing has been set. I am certainly thinking about it. But since my image so far has been as a singer, many people are paying close attention to such things like this. But if I am to enter the acting business, I want to make sure I act well for all my fans, just as I want to show my fans good singing on stage. This is what I want to do as far as acting goes, but I just don't have enough time these days. So I can tell you that in terms of acting, nothing has been set.
AR: What about those rumors that you were slated to play Harry Potter's girlfriend in the last Harry Potter movie. Of course that would have been an absolutely enormous break but was it true?
BA: I wish. But it's not true. That rumor really caught me by surprise. I would have loved to do that -- what a great thing that would have been for me! But it was really groundless rumor. And I think people around me were even more surprised at this rumor that I was. They kept asking, "Is BoA really going to appear on Harry Potter?" Of course, I wanted to, but it was really a groundless rumor. Though, I was happy with the rumor.
AR: Still though playing someone's girlfriend and being someone's girlfriend are two incredibly different things how difficult is it for you to have a romantic relationship?
BA: I guess having a romantic relationship could be difficult under my circumstances. But in reality, I don't have time to have such a relationship. I am always touring in so many countries. And since I am a pop star, it is difficult for me to go places as a normal person.
AR: Is part of it about image as well? You've got this squeaky clean impression that everybody has of you. Do you worry about shattering that illusion?
BA: I like the clean image in fact. I am grateful that people would think of me in that way. But I think I have never really tried to be something that I am not on the stage. So if people think of me in such a way, with a clean image, then I am grateful for that and I'll try to maintain this image.
AR: So if you had any time is there anybody you're interested in now -- I might be able to put in a good word for you somewhere.
BA: Justin Timberlake
AR: Justin Timberlake, get in line.
BA: He has Cameron Diaz.
AR: Yes, he has Cameron Diaz.
AR: Your 2004 album 'My Name' showcased a more mature you, though some say that's where your popularity started to decline. Do you think the public is going to always see you as 'Little Baby BoA' like they still do with Britney Spears?
BA: It's impossible for me to stay young. I have not stopped growing up. And I will continue to grow up even more. So I want to show people more than simply my youthful image. And I really hope people can accept me as a more mature BoA, both when it comes to my outer appearance and also when it comes to my songs. So while I apologize to those people who still want the baby BoA, in fact, what can I do? I just keep growing up! I can't stop that from happening.
AR: You've undoubtedly achieved a lot in your young life so far, but one of the things that you've said that you also want to do is perform in Pyongyang. What are some of the other goals that you want to pack into your life?
BA: I have sometimes felt that since I was able to achieve so many things in my life, it's all meaningless. But then I came to realize and understand that the process of climbing the ladder to popularity was easy and fun, but the process of maintaining that stage once you become popular is many times more difficult. So my goal right now, today, is not necessarily to achieve something new for myself, but to maintain the position that I am in and to continue to improve personally. And that is really more difficult than anything else.
AR: BoA, thank you so much.
And that wraps up this edition of Talk Asia, the Korean pop sensation BoA, has been the star of the show, see you again soon.