Jo Kwon talks gender, ‘Jamie’, and pushing past stereotypes

Jo Kwon recently did an interview with Newsis, in which he opened up about a variety of topics, including his gender identity and the speculation on him.

Jo Kwon said, “‘Genderless’ has become my weapon. In the past, I was afraid of a neutral-gender image. If people said I looked like a woman, I would deny it. Now I don’t do that. If people say that I look like Choi Ji Woo or Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon, then that’s fine. I’m able to accept myself as I am. This is my long-lasting weapon in the future genderless age.”

Currently, he’s in the musical Jamie, which he also spoke on.

“There are drag queens and there are drag kings. There are girlish men and there are boyish women. Men can have a lot of interest in beauty products. As the times change, I think that more people will open their minds to people like Jamie.”

He also mentioned his time with Big Hit Entertainment and Bang Shi Hyuk.

Bang Si Hyuk asked me whether I wanted to go a completely commercial route for my promotions, or did I want to do a concept that I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to do what I want, like Lady Gaga. Bang Si Hyuk then said ‘Kwon-ah, listen to your hyung. If you try to throw a curveball [drag concept] into a still lake [cookie-cutter K-Pop image], there will still be an impact. But it will take a long time. But Bang Si Hyuk bought me my first pair of high heels.

Of course, I have benefited a lot from BTS. But I’m also glad “Animal” is getting recognized as this [concept]. I think our country’s views on this is getting more attention, and it’s I changing bit by bit.
I feel very proud when I hear comments like ‘I’m glad I live in the same era as Jo Kwon,’ or ‘I’m happy seeing Jo Kwon as Jamie.’

Jo Kwon continued, “I think that in our country, we have to keep doing things until people get used to them. Before ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ premiered here, I got a lot of negative comments. But as soon as it premiered, people liked my performance as Herod. I kept doing musicals and now ‘Jamie’ is my eighth project.”

I think a lot of people forgot by now, but BTS’s J-Hope featured on his single, “Animal”.

Fortunately, he has the support of his mother at least.

In “Jamie,” Jamie’s mother Margaret plays an important role. Jo Kwon said, “My mother is a quiet but steadfast supporter. She came to see my first performance as ‘Jamie’ and her eyes got red as she watched. The first scene is sad, and when Jamie was bullied by his classmates after his transformation into a drag queen, she said that her heart hurt a lot. She said that it was like seeing me going into battle. Choi Jung Won, who plays Margaret in the musical, said that my mother was like the Korean Margaret. I ended up tearing up as well.”

Jo Kwon also talked about the other actors playing Jamie in the musical. “I think that Jamie Campbell [the real person whom the musical ‘Jamie’ was based on] is an amazing person. In the musical, Jamie opens by saying, ‘That’s right, I’m gay.’ When I’m wearing heels, I get most nervous when I have to do a high kick. I think that gossip, which is a characteristic of my job, is karma in the end, but I feel a sense of injustice when people pretend that things that didn’t happen are real. Jamie’s confidence and cool attitude is similar to myself. But Jamie is more amazing because he did it all at the age of 17. I talk about this with NU’EST’s Ren and ASTRO’s MJ, who are making their musical debut in ‘Jamie.’”

Perhaps most importantly, he had a message to convey about treating people equally and breaking stereotypes.

When I was in my 20’s, I lived in the eyes of others. Whether it was with 2AM, or on variety shows, I lived to satisfy other people’s eyes, not mine. I entered the third chapter of my life when I entered my 30’s, and I was so thankful that I could now do what I wanted to, and tell my stories as Jo Kwon. There are so many different people in the world, from male and female to sexual minorities, people with disabilities, or multicultural people. Everyone’s appearance and how they walk is different, there’s no law saying that women have to have long hair or men can’t wear makeup. Women don’t have to only wear high heels, and men don’t have to only wear soccer cleats.

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