“I Never Thought It Was a Dream I Could Grasp”: BLACKPINK’s ROSÉ Is Both a Lover and a Fighter
Here, the Blackpink star and K-pop soloist talks to Vogue about her drive to create, and the surprising way Baz Luhrmann inspired her career on stage.
Rosé delights even herself when she reverts to classic Australian slang. “G’day!” she exclaims, before beaming, “Oh my god, I haven’t said that in forever. I’m so happy that I’m able to do that.”
It’s a duality that has, over the years, become elemental to Rosé’s charm. She sits cross-legged, strawberry blonde hair pulled into an updo, wearing a ruffled, sequinned bodysuit you might expect in any performer’s fashion repertoire. Opposite her is auteur and rhapsodical maximalist Baz Luhrmann—the guest editor of Vogue’s June 2022 issue—with whom she’s in incandescent conversation. But Rosé, a former Vogue Australia cover star herself, speaks with a groundedness that makes you wonder if she’s even aware of her astronomic celebrity. Combine that with her unmistakably Melburnian lilt and you’re one step closer to understanding the singer’s hold on popular culture. You know what they say: you can take the K-pop star out of Australia, but you can’t take Australia out of the K-pop star. Or something to that effect.
On taking the K-pop star out of Australia, Rosé’s ascent to global superstardom has been well-documented. In Antipodean circles, her story has become a quasi-mythic tale of success. Born Roseanne Park in Auckland to South Korean parents, she moved to Melbourne at the age of seven and lived a peaceful childhood, attending primary school in Kew and high school in Canterbury. “I went to school thinking that I was going to be normal, like an art teacher or something,” Rosé—then a pianist and a member of various church choirs—tells us of her teenage ambitions.
I loved music, but I never thought it was a dream I could really grasp. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I just have to go and audition!’ I was not informed or educated, in any form or shape, [about] how to get to my dreams. It was all by chance.
Well, not entirely by chance, as Rosé later concedes. The perennial feeling of being an outsider due to her diasporic identity, initially an alienating force, also bore its fruits. It propelled her to observe and absorb: “I was always looking out,” she says, “looking for amazing things.” Eventually, aged 15, Rosé found herself at an audition for South Korean record label YG Entertainment at the suggestion of her father, where she placed first. Within two months, she had signed on as a trainee, and in August 2016, made her debut as one quarter of girl group Blackpink alongside members Jisoo, Jennie, and Lisa; Roseanne Park, emerging from the chrysalis as Rosé.
But Rosé’s journey in those four years of training between her audition and debut is also a story worth telling. The singer describes that particular period of her life as a constant fight-or-flight experience. “When I got [to Korea], I was like, ‘This is quite intense,’” Rosé recalls of her early months as a trainee. “I notice[d] that there [were] 12 other girls who had been training day and night for about five years. And I had just gotten there.”
Estrangement crept back into her periphery. “If I don’t catch up, I’m going to be cut and sent right back to Australia, where I’ve told all my friends that I’m dropping out of school and working on my music,” Rosé remembers of her internal monologue. And so, she settled on ‘fight’—in part because ‘flight’ caused her a great deal of anxiety. She wanted to stay, and she wanted to prove herself. In pursuing that desire, Rosé had no choice but to persist. “I [had] left and I didn’t want to fly back [to Australia] without having achieved anything,” she says.
I ended up fighting for my life, training for my life. Because I couldn’t accept the fact that I’d just be cut and sent back. So I had no time to slack off. I remember I took every minute and every second to work on my craft so that I [could] make it.
And I think it was a good drive. Just the fact that I had flown all the way from Australia gave me more strength [and] determination to strive.
Strive she did. Six years on, and the 25-year-old Rosé is in possession of as much visibility as you could imagine a person having. Blackpink has firmly established themselves as a musical phenomenon, enjoying success not only within Asia, but worldwide; over the last few years, the group has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa. The Album, released in 2020, remains the best-selling album of any Korean female act in history. Rosé’s career as a solo artist has been similarly meteoric. Her single On the Ground—one of two songs on her debut album, R—broke the long-standing record previously held by Psy’s Gentleman as the most-viewed Korean music video within 24 hours. As of the time of writing, On the Ground has accumulated over 281 million views on YouTube. Her second single, Gone, stands at a staggering 194 million.
Rosé chalks her triumphs down to a creative need. Fellow imagineers will empathise with the spear-headed focus that pushes the singer to interrogate the world and translate it into music. “I have a lot that I want to express on a day-to-day basis,” she shares. “I do that through art.” Rosé doesn’t see herself as an entertainer, or an icon, or a parvenu; if anything, she perceives herself as an artisan. “I need to work on my craft, so I have that tunnel to express [myself] in a form of art.” The end result, the one that comes to us polished, and perfect, and poppy and pink?
“It takes way more work than you would expect.”
Time has also offered Rosé the space for self-appreciation. Don’t mistake her mononym for something effacing or reductive.‘Rosé’ is bricolage—Rosé is an Auckland-born pianist, a Melbourne local, and an international megastar; Rosé is Korean and Australian; Rosé is Roseanne Park; “Sometimes, I [still] feel a bit out of place because most of the people here in Korea, even if they speak English, they usually have come from the States or elsewhere,” she muses. “To this day I feel a bit unique, and sometimes, a bit out of place.” The change has come from harnessing that singularity.
“But I also am very grateful that I get to have that, you know: a bit of a difference.”
Talking to Vogue and Luhrmann about this month’s issue also prompts Rosé to reflect on both the director’s latest project, Elvis. “I grew up watching Disney movies,” she recounts of her first encounter with the king of rock ‘n’ roll. “Lilo and Stitch had just come out. My sister and I were absolutely obsessed.”
We were living in New Zealand, and my family and I took a summer trip to Australia. I think we went to the Gold Coast, and my dad [had] rented a car. On our way from New Zealand to Australia, we bought a Lilo and Stitch CD. And the only song I remember on that CD [was] Hound Dog. [It] must have been my favourite one.
When Rosé’s mind flickers to Luhrmann’s broader filmography, one work shines above all others. “I absolutely loved Moulin Rouge!,” she gushes, before quieting into reflection. “I liked a bunch of other movies after that. [But] I noticed the reason that I like[d] those movies was because the protagonists reminded me so much of Nicole Kidman and Moulin Rouge!.” At the end of it all, Rosé realises, duality has always mattered to her.
“I think [the film] really inspired me to become the female artist that I am, and I still dream to be. That glamorous, fragile, but beautiful, performer.”
cr. Vogue Australia