JENNIE Interview With ELLE USA (December 2022)
The Many Faces of BLACKPINK’s Jennie Kim
The superstar, actress, and fashion idol answers burning questions straight from her fans, the BLINKs.
By the time I meet Jennie, she’s been working almost nine hours in front of the camera with the same intensity as when she first walked into the studio. Empowering songs by Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Cardi B have been playing throughout the shoot, which is fitting for a member of the biggest girl group in the world. Jennie and her Blackpink bandmates have redefined “girl power” in the K-pop industry with their dynamic lyrics, edgy music videos, and fierce attitudes. Jennie oozes intensity and assertiveness, striking power poses fervently—almost as if she’s staring down the camera. A part of me was a bit nervous to approach the K-pop idol, who is known to be a serious person.
Yet Jennie, who was born in South Korea but spent part of her childhood in New Zealand, is shy and soft-spoken when we meet, a persona that is very different from the “Blackpink Jennie” whom Blinks—the endearing name for Blackpink fans—have seen onstage and near the top of the U.S., U.K., Asian, and world charts. Jennie has been honest about the alter ego she’s created, who is more aggressive and forceful, but calls it more of a collaborative effort rather than turning a switch on and off in her head. Still, there is a change in the atmosphere watching Jennie in full glam in front of the flashing camera lights, full of confidence and ferocity, transform into the calming and sweet-natured person sitting beside me.
“So what you saw today [during the photo shoot], it’s a little bit of me from everywhere,” Jennie says, explaining the duality between Blackpink Jennie and Jennie Kim, her given name. “I am excited to create more personas, in terms of expressing myself. But they’re a good team, I would say.”
And a busy one. Blackpink’s second full-length studio album, Born Pink, hit number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart in its debut week; the single “Shut Down” from the new album has more than 300 million views on YouTube; tickets to the group’s world tour sold out so quickly that additional dates needed to be added; and The Idol, created and executive produced by singer, songwriter, and producer Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, and Reza Fahim, premieres on HBO next year.
The Idol will mark Jennie’s debut acting role, in which she is credited as Jennie Ruby Jane. Jennie couldn’t reveal much about the project, only that Levinson was the biggest draw for her to participate in the series. “I’ve been a fan of all his work,” she says. “We got to meet and talk about the possibilities [of] me being in the show, and it worked out magically.” For his part, Levinson calls Jennie “so professional and hardworking.” Her experience as a pop star, he says, lent a meta quality to her character: “Watching her learn a full dance routine in about an hour and then perform it flawlessly 10 times in a row was amazing, and of course that’s just a tiny piece of her talent and ability.”
With Jennie’s new role as an actor, fans expect yet another persona to emerge, but she just hopes her fans will enjoy the show: “It was my first time ever doing anything close to being an actor, so hopefully they like it.”
Thinking about her fans, Jennie wanted to answer questions directly from Blinks, so I attended Spotify’s Born Pink: The Pop-Up Experience in Los Angeles the weekend before we met, to gather as many of their burning questions as I could. Here, Jennie answers them for ELLE—opening up about Blackpink’s comeback, her growth as an artist, and what she sees for her future.
So many exciting things are happening—Blackpink’s new album, the world tour, and soon your acting debut. How are you feeling in general?
“Very overwhelmed; everything is happening at the exact same time! But I’m excited.”
With The Idol being your first acting role in the U.S., how does this experience differ from working on music videos or your beauty and fashion campaigns?
“I guess the people and the environment. I’ve never had to be in a place where I was surrounded by so many people that I’m not familiar with, and especially in a different language. But in terms of creativity, it felt just the same. Acting needed all the creative senses that I would use in a music video or any music or any other thing that I have already been doing. So surprisingly, it didn’t feel too much apart from what I’ve been doing so far, which was good. So I’m just so thankful.”
What made you choose debuting in an American series?
“The thing is, it was definitely not planned. I’ve had a dream of acting in the future, as I was doing so many different parts already as an artist, so I’ve always wondered what it would be like. But the opportunity just came to me so naturally one day. And I just knew that it was something that I would regret if I didn’t go for it.”
How did you prepare for the role and for acting in general?
“In my head, I thought I would have to revise all the script and get into character. But luckily, I had Sam there. What he said was to just be me. I didn’t try to prepare it perfectly, which I really would do. I had many conversations with Sam and Abel, and I think that helped me. And they just made sure that I didn’t have to be so nervous about things.”
Are you interested in more acting projects?
“Oh, I think definitely having this experience has opened my eyes into a new fun way of expressing myself. I’ve learned a lot from Lily[-Rose Depp] while I was shooting, too. So I’m going to say yes. I loved it. I loved my experience so far.”
How does your upcoming Born Pink tour feel compared to the previous ones?
“Before I went into the last tour that we did, I was not prepared. I did not know what I was walking into, and it all just hit me. Now we are paying much more attention to even the minor details to make it better from our last tour, because we’ve learned a lot in terms of how we can interact with friends and how to showcase our new songs and how to make this tour an experience for people to remember, not just enjoy for a day and forget. We want to make sure everyone remembers that they were at a Blackpink show.”
With your latest single, “Shut Down,” it feels like the ultimate clapback to the haters and doubters of Blackpink. What emotions did you feel when you first heard the song?
“Just jammed. As soon as we heard Teddy [Park, the band’s producer] play the song to us, we knew that it was something that Blackpink would perform one day. And we just had so much fun because it has a fun factor to it. It has the classical music going in the background, which is also a hip-hop base. And as soon as the hook plays, it’s just like an easy groove song. So we loved it from the moment we heard it.”
Which song out of your discography means the most to you now, given your global success?
“I’m going to say ‘Whistle,’ because it’s the song that we debuted with. And I remember at that moment when we heard that song, we all knew that this was a definite core identity of what Blackpink was about to do. It had so many different sections. It showed the acoustic vocals and a little bit of our rap, and it had a very catchy hook. And I feel like it had different factors of the foundation of Blackpink—of what Blackpink was about to do in the future.”
Blackpink’s choreography has always been intricate. What is your favorite choreography, and which one was the most difficult to learn?
“Oh, I just feel like it gets harder every time a new song comes out. Or that might be because my body’s just getting heavier or…I don’t know. But like you said, every song that we’ve done, I cannot think of a song that I could be like, ‘Oh, that was an easy one.’ Every single song was very, very…it was a lot of work.”
Being an idol, and now being an actor, can be very stressful. Is there anything that you do in particular to de-stress from it all?
“Oh, de-stress. For the past few years, having my close friends, having my family around, and just trying to balance that work life and personal life was very important for me. Because once you get caught in one life, if that’s not balanced, I think that’s when everything starts collapsing. I don’t think one specific thing could de-stress me, because we’ve got something going on every single moment, but keeping a positive mind, just taking care of your mental health and your body, is definitely something that I do…. I meditate, stretch, read, sleep.”
You were born in South Korea, then you also spent time in New Zealand. How did your years as a child in New Zealand help you grow as an individual and as an artist?
“This is also something that I recently figured out about myself. Other than the cultural and the language difference that I felt, I didn’t realize how it had affected me, having spent five years living abroad. But recently when I’ve looked at myself, I feel like I was able to grow as a person so much because of what I learned in New Zealand. Because I was such a free child. I would just wake up one day, feel like doing something, and I would just go ahead and do it. I was able to have that life back then. So that has somewhat settled inside my core for me to be able to grow into who I am right now: just being able to express myself and understand other people in a better way, because I was put in an environment where I had no clue what they were thinking about. I had to learn to understand people in a different, deeper way.”
Your YouTube channel gives fans the opportunity to get to know you and your adventures. What do you want audiences to take from these videos?
“Just kill time. Just have fun. One of the reasons I started was for my friends to have a peek into my daily life, but it hasn’t been easy keeping up with all the vlogs, because as I got into YouTube, now I love doing it. Now I want to perfect it every time it comes out. But just as long as fans are enjoying watching a few different sides that they wouldn’t get to catch when I’m so busy at work, that’s all I want. Just joy for them.”
Some of your vlogs are in Korean and then English. How do you decide which to use in your vlogs?
“Oh, I don’t decide. It depends on who I’m with. Depends on where I am, what mood I am in. My language is just all over the place, as you can see.”
It has been six years since Blackpink’s debut. How do you feel that you’ve grown and changed as an individual throughout your journey?
“Thinking back, it’s easy to compare because we had the previous tour, and I remember when we were on tour back then, I didn’t have that space inside where I felt stable, where I felt like I knew where I was at. I was very lost. I didn’t know who I was when I was off work. I didn’t know who I was when I was at work. Everything was just coming at me. It was a surprise every day. So now I try to always take time to take care of myself, check in on me, and make sure I know where I’m at before I go into any big projects.”
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
“If anything, I could go back to 10-year-old Jennie and be like, ‘Work harder on your English. There’s a lifetime waiting for you in doing interviews and meeting people who speak that language.’ [But] it’s also a life lesson to learn. There’s a graph in your life for a reason, I like to think. It would be like changing me, if I could go back.”