Life of a K-pop singer's mum

Natasha Low, 19, was among four Singaporeans picked from a mass audition searching for the next K-pop star held here in 2010.

S'porean has had many sleepless nights since her teenage daughter was picked for K-pop stardom

This Singaporean may soon be the proud mother of a K-pop star.

For Ms Lucy Wang, the journey has been a long and sometimes trying one, ever since the Singapore leg of the JYP & Alpha Asean Region Audition 2010 was held here by local entertainment company Alpha Entertainment (Alpha) two years ago.

Her daughter Natasha Low, 19, was selected by the casting directors to be one of Singapore's first K-pop girls.

She joins fellow Singaporean Ferlyn Wong, 20, and the Korean members of the group.

The group's name and size are shrouded in secrecy before its official debut in Korea next month.

Will the group soar to dizzy heights a la Girls' Generation, miss A, Kara, Wonder Girls and 2NE1?

Initially, Ms Wang had objected to her daughter signing the seven-year work contract.

But after months of persuasion, Low, who had just completed her studies at Fuhua Secondary School, finally convinced Ms Wang to allow her to pursue her passion.

Low packed her bags and left for Korea to begin her training last July.

Ms Wang will fly to Korea at the end of next month to witness her daughter's first step as K-pop star.

Ms Wang, a 46-year-old dance instructor, told The New Paper: "Of course I had my concerns about Natasha becoming a K-pop singer.

"I heard that the training is tough and there were those stories about indecent proposals from higher-ups in the industry (as part of the casting couch culture).

"I wanted Natasha to have a normal job in a local corporation, but what she told me was that if we forced her to do something she didn't want, she'd just do it for the sake of doing it and wouldn't be happy at all.

"That stubborn part of her, she definitely got from me. I do miss her, but she's so busy these days."

Low's parents divorced three years ago. She and her older brother Nicholas have since lived with their mum.

At Ms Wang's house, Low's room is now the family maid's room and all the posters she had on her wall have been taken down.

Ms Wang said they gave the room the "makeover" only after Low had been in Korea for a year and she was sure that her child was going to be staying there.

She added, with a laugh: "Since she has gone to Korea, I've been depositing $500 every month into her bank account so you can say that I'm still giving her anallowance.

"She has promised me that once she makes it, she will give me money. I think how successful they will be depends on how hardworking they are."

Worried

In the first month after Low had left for Korea, a worried Ms Wang found she couldn't sleep at night - she kept thinking about her daughter in a foreign land.

As the girls were not allowed to use their mobile phones in the day, she had contact with Low only close to midnight, and even then, it was often just exchanging SMSes.

In the beginning, when Low was still settling down in Korea, she would contact her mother almost every day. But Ms Wang admitted that of late, they haven't spoken in weeks.

However, according to her observation of her daughter the last few times that she has been back to Singapore, including at Christmas, Low has changed - and for the better.

Said Ms Wang: "In the past, she used to be a stubborn girl and sometimes lazy.

"Now, I find that she's very independent as she has learnt to take care of her group members as they all have to live together and spend all their time with each other.

"Initially, she had told me that training from 8am to 11pm was very tiring, but she has never once wanted to give up. This is so different from the Natasha last time who would give up easily whenever she undertook anything."

While trying to figure out her career path in the past, Low took lessons in singing, ballet and hip hop, but she didn't continue with them after a while.

Family of dancers

Low, whose grandfather is Mr Sunny Low, the owner of the renowned Sunny Low Dance Studio, comes from generations of dancers.

Her brother is in Thailand training to be a professional ballroom dancer. Ms Wang had no problem with that since he would be carrying on the family tradition.

Ms Wang also laughed affectionately when she recalled how her svelte daughter used to be so plump that she was a member of the TAF (Trim And Fit) club in primary school.

The 1.68m-tall Low, who used to weigh 55kg, has lost more then 10kg thanks to the vigorous dance training and healthy meals in Korea.

Ms Wang recalled her daughter's love for sweets and durians and how she could finish three bowls of rice at meal times and would finish her family members' leftover food as well.

The girls' new image will also only be revealed at the launch next month.

To comfort her mother, Low has told her to take her prolonged absence like she's "on holiday".

Said Ms Wang: "Some people might think that it's difficult for the girls as they will have no life over in Korea what with restrictions such as they all have to go out together at all times and strict curfews."

'Safer there'

She added: "But I prefer it this way as I know Natasha will be controlled and ironically I feel that it's safer for her than if she were here.

"Here, there would be less control.

"Natasha hasn't had a boyfriend, so I trust that will be the case for the next seven years (as the girls aren't allowed to date)."

Two years ago, Low had accompanied her friend to the Singapore leg of the JYP & Alpha Asean Region Audition 2010, which saw more than 3,000 wide-eyed hopefuls slug it out for a shot at K-pop stardom.

Ironically, since she was young, Low had aspired to be a star in Taiwan like her idol, Taiwanese actress Rainie Yang.

But she auditioned for fun anyway. As fate would have it, she impressed the socks off the local and Korean casting directors.

A few months after she sang and danced for them, they offered her, local blogger Elaine Yuki Wong, 23, and later, student Ferlyn, a full contract to be part of the new group.

Elaine dropped out of the group at the end of last year, after six months of training, citing that it was "too tough".

The girls are not allowed to do any interviews before their debut.

Alpha CEO Mr Alan Chan told The New Paper: "This is the way things are done in Korea and everything about the girls must be kept hush hush before the launch.

"There have been cases before where divulging the group's name earlier resulted in rival newbie groups stealing the name.

"All I'll say is the girls look amazing and next month, all will be revealed."

cchar@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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