A day before the Delhi show we got to sit down with AleXa at length. Having to give continuous press interviews since morning she did not one bit show anything but cheerfulness on her face. She answered all of my questions with a smile even describing the adversities she had gone through like it was no big deal.
How do i even begin to describe my impression of hers, she is super talented and yet very down to earth. To quote her “I can’t English right now.” So thank god i have the detailed interview below from when i could!
ETHNICITY – SCHOOL – HORROR
KHigh: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
AleXa: My name is AleXa – stage name, i am originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the United States and i was born to a Russian-American father and a Korean mother so i am half actually. I have lived my entire life speaking English up until 21 years of my life, only English because my mom was adopted from Seoul when she was 5 so she doesn’t remember the language… couldn’t teach me therefore, there’s that. Umm I’ve basically been singing, dancing and doing stuff on stage my entire life and then Zany Bros found me in 2017… and the rest is history!
KHigh: I did some research on you and found out that you started dancing from a very young age and it shows in your performances, when you dance you own the space and have fun doing it! But how and when did singing come into picture?
AleXa: Let’s see… like you said I’ve been dancing from an young age, i mean i was in my school choir and every thing but i really only started taking singing seriously in high school. Sophomore year of high school is i suppose 10th grade in India, i was accepted into my high school’s show choir and i along with two other sophomore girls, we made it in and for 15 years there had not been sophomores admitted into the choir until my year!
KHigh: So we can say that was your first achievement at singing?
AleXa: Yes! And up until i graduated i stayed in show choir and that gave me more confidence in singing on stage and more performing etc. Then i went to college and started studying musical theater, we did vocal classes and stuff but i never received vocal lessons until i came to South Korea for my training.
KHigh: Did you get to complete your college?
AleXa: I actually dropped out before i graduated because *laughs* Korea.
KHigh: I also heard you are interested in science!
AleXa: Very much so!
KHigh: I saw your video with Grazy Grace and you mentioned about being a mortician and i thought to myself “well that’s scary!”
*we both laugh, her more at ease and me with wonderment.*
KHigh: You were so specific on that so how come?
AleXa: Being a forensic pathologist is something i wanted to do from a very young age but also mortician do autopsies on bodies.
*she continued to answer as if its the most natural choice as a kid*
AleXa: My mother from young age said i should go to medical school because doctors, nurses make a lot of money but i just never like the idea of having someone else’s LIFE in my hand. So how about NO, how about i work with dead people so if anything goes wrong i can not be sued.
*she concludes chuckling*
KHigh: Woah very clever! I could have never thought of it like this, so you weren’t scared of it ever?
AleXa: Oh noooo, once there was an exhibit that came to my hometown called ‘Bodies’, it was donated bodies of prisoners some of them were completely skinned and you could see the veins, organs – some were dissected a certain way you could actually feel it! It was incredible!
KHigh: Is the thought of pursuing college still there?
AleXa: Maybe after debut, if i wanna continue my education, if i have time… i would like to go back to university, but i think more or less after my career is at its finished point then i’d like to go back to college, one little step at a time.
KOREA – TRAINEE – PRODUCE
KHigh: I’ve watched and cheered for you on Produce 48, but i’d also like to know your journey towards it, coming to Korea auditioning for entertainment agencies etc?
AleXa: So in 2016 was the first year that this online contest called ‘Rising Legends’ happened with Soompi and JYP, i won the dance category and the following one with Cube i also won the dance category but that year among the top 3 winners they chose one grand winner with the most overall votes and judges’ decision to go to Korea for originally 5 days and audition for cube in person. I won the grand prize and was given the opportunity but when they called me saying i won they also mentioned “hey we’re considering filming a TV reality show the week before would you fly out a week early and be part of this” and there was no way i was going to pass that up! So i went to Korea and that’s when i met the Zany Bros crew so i was introduced to my company that way and through that we shot my first single and music video “Strike it up” and during the editing process the Ceo of Zany bros saw and asked about me, and that’s when the idea of me being their first trainee and Zany bros starting an entertainment company was sparked!
KHigh: How did you make the choice of going ahead with ZB as you had not auditioned for any other companies other than ZB label and Cube Entertainment?
AleXa: I remember they (ZB Label) called me in December 2017 to talk about this i had my parents with me we did a Video conference, for the longest time my parents knew i loved doing creative things and they ofcourse supported me in high school but as i had mentioned my mom wanted me to go to medical school so gaining so it took me a long time to gain their full approval for me to go all into something creative with no second choices, when this opportunity arose they were like its about time go for it, there’s nothing for you to lose at this point you can only try and get further. So there was no way i was going to pass it away!
KHigh: How long have you been training? And what is the hardest part of being a trainee?
AleXa: To be really in the trainee system, i think it began more or less in November. We started going in we had everyday training, i started attending a Korean academy to improve my language, i have private training to better my rhythm and then am also taking a K-Pop class to get the basic lines and things down for girl group choreography. So i’d say its been a little over an half year.
Hardest part is probably keeping the mindset of like, It’s okay be at the level you’re at but you can do better. You need to know you have to do better, no matter how well you’re doing at the moment you think but you need to go above and beyond of what the standard is. That’s probably a very hard thing to keep in mind.
KHigh: You had to learn Korean language from scratch, what do you think helps you best learning the language?
AleXa: I think just constantly speaking it. I’ve learnt to use Korean more and though I’m not even close to fluent but to constantly speak gets my brain to work faster hence even if i make mistakes it’s corrected and i catch on quick. So the more you speak it, it gets more natural. I had the biggest fear of me not wanting to say anything in Korean constantly worried about speaking incorrectly, but not anymore i don’t care even if i have to corrected, good at-least i’ll learn.
KHigh: Tell us about the culture difference you might have experienced when you came to Korea for the first time? Has it settled in or you still feel it from time to time?
AleXa: The US is completely opposite of Asia, i mean India and Korea are very alike. In Korea you have different forms of speech formal-informal even in India, but not in English it’s more about the tone how you address someone. Definitely the language is the biggest culture shock like different addresses for different people etc. and I’m still getting use to it.
KHigh: During the airing of Produce 48 there was specifically one clip of you crying a lot, it quickly became the talk but we never found out what happened there exactly? You also suffered an injury too, right?
AleXa: During Produce my injury did happen but it’s all healed now, in school i did cheerleading and things and injured a lot so it may have been a pre-existing one that had not healed over the years possibly because I’ve been dancing my whole life, i don’t ever rest my knees! And yes the clip, everyone was like so sad but no one knew why haha. I did sustain a knee injury a ligament tear the doctor had suggested i take 2 months off from dancing because if worsened i would require reconstructive surgery on my knee but we had our group battle only a few days after and i was like I’m not going to give up because of my dang knee, so yeah i had to give my all!
Also the team i was in all of them were already known and they had fans in the audience, so there was this moment when we went out there i saw all these signs and not one for me, after the performance when the MC asked me “did you see your fans out there?” and as soon as the translator told me, i just snapped. I mean i didn’t expect going thinking that oh i’ll be famous but yes to see no one for me just kind of broke me at that moment.
*I then went on to assure her how much Indian fans adore her and that she won’t have to feel like this anymore. We sang Drake “Started from the bottom” and also taught her the “Apna time ayega” chant!*
INDIA – FANS – DEBUT
KHigh: You opened the show for IN2IT and might i add did so fabulously, how did this opportunity come about? When you heard the news what was your reaction?
*She begins to answer with a big smile clearly still in awe*
AleXa: If I’m being honest sometimes i don’t even know how exactly this happened either haha… i just remember one day my staff announced it to me that i’ll be opening for IN2IT on their tour and i was like what… hello… okay
*re-enacts her shocked expression, you had to be THERE*
AleXa: We have been working with them for things ahead but this came up and since PRODUCE it’s the first. Let alone abroad! Not a IN2IT concret in Korea but Delhi, Mumbai it’s a lot of responsibility to uphold and make sure to do a good job.
KHigh: Well you did a great job! After your Mumbai stage i can say you nailed it.
AleXa: Thank you!!
KHigh: How has your experience been working with IN2IT?
AleXa: They are really hard working, nice boys. I am guilty i did not watch Boys24 all the way through but i tuned in every now and then i saw the debuting group and their Snapshot era. One of my friends from back home is actually a big IN2IT fan and would always talk to me about them! I did my research before we started practicing, they’re very fun to be around, caring like good older brothers.
KHigh: As you mentioned this was a concert in India. Upon hearing that, what was your impression of India?
AleXa: I knew that Hallyu wave had come here but to what extent, i wasn’t aware… but when i walked on stage at the Korea fest i saw the crowd, all these people it was insane. I was like wow! That’s incredible! The response was wild in the best way, its amazing to see how K-Pop has come to India.
KHigh: After the show you met some fans i remember you mentioned it was your first time experiencing something like it, can you share us more on how you felt?
AleXa: It was the most heartfelt moments I’ve had in a long time, I’ve never really had the opportunity to meet my fans in this kind of way let alone meeting after a show, I’ve never done it before. To walk into a room and see people who are happy to see me… i never felt i’d be here in my life to the level of… minor success i am having at the moment so it was like a dream come true.
KHigh: Can we talk about you going viral with your performance on ‘Bole Chudiya’, how was your experience and how long did the prep take?
AleXa: Keiko (NAMAS-K) found the song and clip for us, Bollywood is so colorful i find it thoroughly entertaining. We learned our parts individually and then we practiced together, for myself it took me about 2 days to make it look good but 2 more full days of practice to perfect it even more.
KHigh: You exude confidence, there’s a certain charm you carry be it on stage or off stage, would you say you’ve naturally always been a confident person or you feel you need to work on it from time to time?
AleXa: Oh man if you were to talk to me 2 years ago, no.
I have not been like this, I’ve struggled with self confidence for so long. Thank you for seeing on stage and thinking i have it… it’s a relief to hear. But i still struggle with confidence now… a lot and i feel that’s a very human thing. I’ve never met any one in my life who’s completely confident all the time. I feel having doubts and worries is what makes us human. Over the years on stage i would say i have gained more confidence because in school and college i didn’t fell confidence in things as their was a lot of favoritism, i felt unwanted but ever since training in Korea, I’ve garnered a lot more confidence and the mindset that i am here to perform for my people and i’ll put the best show possible when I’m on stage!
KHigh: If there was one thing you had to say to all the young girls and women out there looking up to you, what would that be?
AleXa: I think it would be ‘Your voice matters’ because as women we get silenced at times, we feel unimportant, unwanted and invalidated at times but that’s not true! As Beyonce said who runs the world? GIRLS!
I would say don’t be afraid to be heard if someone’s not listening grab a Megaphone!
KHigh: You know about your YeeHaw Squad?
AleXa: That was literally the first thing i saw when the lights went up a big bright yellow sign that said “Can you be the Yee to my Haw?” And in my brain i was processing like oh no what have i done but also the fact that not only K-Pop has come over here but my dumb little southern colloquialisms have made it here. I felt so good, these girls are awesome. It made me feel a lot more comfortable because it’s something i say and i saw it in the middle of the crowd and felt now i can breath now. A representation of my hometown had taken off so well i felt comfortable and more welcomed! I felt being accepted for all my quirks and weirdness.
KHigh: What kind of music you want to pursue and who are the artists you look upto?
I mean sound wise i love the music of the 70s-80s and the Wonder Girls really carried that and even right now Sunmi has an 80s synth going on, so for pop music i’d say that way but if i ever branch out into RnB i definitely want to go in the direction of Heize, her sound is something i really follow. And then, music inspirations in general … Like i mentioned the 70s-80s even upto the 50s, i love David Bowie, Queen yeah I love all these old like soft rock, glam rock bands Twisted Sister, KISS, ACDC, Rolling Stones like i love all these things so those have been really big influences on me creatively.
KHigh: Apart from singing and dancing, are you also interested in song writing, composing or production?
AleXa: Yeah Singing and dancing part aside of being an Idol I’m slowly learning how to compose with my vocal teacher back in Korea, which is awesome ’cause i wanted to pursue it for so long and my teacher is also teaching me to play Piano. I’ve been writing poetry/lyrics for the longest time, i have notebooks filled! As my label is ZB so I’ve always been interested in production and would love to get behind that!
KHigh: Wow! Apart from conquering the world is there any other hidden talent we should know about?
AleXa: Umm, i can fly *does the airplane*
I really don’t know if it’s a talent but i can eat spicy food!
KHigh: I’ll give you that!
KHigh: You put covers regularly, you’re opening shows now, the Pre-debut hype is in the air, every one wants to know how close is your debut?
AleXa: Whenever i’m asked this question i just like to say i know as much as you do, that’s the thing my staff of-course knows how its going to be possibly when its going to be, I’m hoping and praying that with more hard work it can be this year. Hoping and praying!
KHigh: Trust me your fans are ready and hoping it’s this year. I feel it’s the right time you are creating waves as you’ve been so well received and Indian fans love you dearly! Everyone is buzzing about your debut.
AleXa: I’m so grateful for the response i had because i never imagined being here but all in all my debut depends on me and how much i can achieve within the time frame, so really hoping that it’s gonna be soon with more hard work.
KHigh: I’d like to ask you some quick one word answer-questions!
If you had to sum up your journey in produce?
KHigh: One word for the Mumbai (Kfest & Concert) Experience?
KHigh: Describe your trainee life in just a word?
Khigh: One word for your future self?
There’s so much i want to say but i feel my brain isn’t functioning I’m so overwhelmed, to all the fans taht have been supporting me since day 1 I’m so grateful for your love and support. I hope that you continue to look after me, thank you! – ALEXA