Puma in Seoul: Day 2
Well, it's Tuesday morning and I've finally slept off the jet lag. Yesterday was probably one of the hardest days I've had in a really long time. It's difficult when your mind & heart is in the right place, but your body just isn't. Let me start from the beginning.... The flight from San Francisco to Seoul is about 12 hours. I have to say, it was much more comfortable than I thought it would be, being squeezed between 2 large men for that long. KoreanAir is a great airline. I was frantically downing cups of Airborne water, since I always manage to get sick on airplanes. After my arrival, I waited for at least a century to get my bags. Standing at baggage claim for so long, the reality of the situation really set in. I felt a twinge of panic at the thought of being in a country all by myself, a foreigner an ocean away from anyone who knows me. I managed to talk myself out of a meltdown and gathered my belongings. It was kinda cool walking through those sliding doors at Incheon Airport. It reminded me of all the dramas with a scene in that exact spot with someone waiting for a long lost love to return from studying abroad or something, haha. I was tempted to put on my big Nicole Richie-esque sunglasses and pretend to be Seo Hyun when she shows up in Boys Over Flowers. But alas, there was no Ji Hoo waiting for me. Instead, I met Ms. Kim from Star King....she's very nice and has worked really hard on arranging everything for me. I also met Mike, who is sorta my translator (and general "keep an eye on Natalie" guy) for the week...he's a really nice dude. We had to make a few stops before I finally made it to my hotel room. I didn't get very much sleep as I had to memorize the script that had just been given to me...in Korean, haha. I had to memorize what to say and when, as I obviously wouldn't be able to understand the questions very well... a lot to digest straight off the plane, you know? Welcome to showbiz, eh?

"Rent-A-Friend" Mike and Ms. "Momma" Kim

Anyway, Monday morning came and I was off to the studio. I wore a special outfit for the newspaper interviews I had to do before the taping. I totally wasn't prepared for the makeup and the interviews and all that. It was kinda wild. It's pretty difficult trying to find new ways to answer the same questions, lol. I'll never be able to tell that story about my Hello Kitty TV ever ever again. It's like repeating the word "penis" over and over again - eventually it loses all meaning and just sounds ridiculous. That's how I felt, haha. After that, it was finally time to eat. During lunch, the very adorable little boy impersonating Rain on the show came over to perform for me. He was SO CUTE. He didn't say a word...he just set a cell phone next to my tray with "Rainism" playing and he went to town... and he didn't stop dancing. It was hilarious. Then, it was awkward. I'm like "ummm...you mind if I keep eating while you go for the world record in nonstop "rain"-dancing?" He even had his own little magic stick, which he sorta just waved around frantically. I totally loved him. Check out his moves in the vid below!

After lunch it was time for rehearsal...at this point, I became unusually nervous. The reality of the situation slapped me in the face again...like, "holy crap, I'm on Korean national tv after 2 weeks of singing kpop on youtube as a fun hobby. This is really friggin' bizarre!" It occurred to me that I didn't know what to expect or what was expected of me...and I've never been a huge fan of the unknown. Then, like a brick....the lag hit. From that point forward, my body totally declared war against me. It was the kind of tired where your body AND your brain deactivates...which sucks, because my brain needed to store lots of extra Korean in it. After rehearsal, I kept trying to study the script and remember my new cues and the changes and the other Korean bits I had to say or sing.... but to be honest, I wasnt handling the pressure very well. (turns out it didn't even matter cuz we didn't really follow the script on stage)
They were a few demands that i just wasn't comfortable doing....either it was way too much to pull off at the last minute or it was a huge misrepresentation of myself. They wanted me to sing my "hello"...like "can you please sing something here and do like a big black gospel run like beyonce or something...heeeh-lloooo la la la laaa la LAAA!!"....I'm like "uhhh, no. A - that's hella cheesy. B - I don't do that. C - I'm not beyonce. Did you guys even READ my bio??"

Park Sang-Cheol
Nichkun from 2pm aka Ultimo Cutie Patooty Man
They had this other shtick where I was supposed to flirt with the different male celebrities on stage. Okay...I'm gonna keep it VERY REAL with you guyz. This part was really friggin' awkward. I had to show the singers that I knew their songs and then try to hump them... First up was trot singer Park Sang-Cheol, who btw is very very funny. I couldn't stop looking at his incredible gold sparkly bowtie. I'd tried to learn a bit of his song but obviously it spilled out of my brain like jello as soon as we started... NEXT. I had to sing a little with Nickkun from 2pm. That was kool...no drama there. He's super cute in person, though...AND he's from California so it was nice to be able to communicate with him. Then I got to sing with Andy from Shinhwa...

Andy is the one NOT in this group photo...
Now, we all know that my love affair with kpop started with Shinhwa...so I was excited to meet Andy. I have to say, he was acting really strange...I dunno if it was some cultural thing that just went over my head, but it was uncomfortable and I couldn't figure it out. I felt bad for making him sing "eusha eusha" haha...but it was seriously the first song i'd ever heard from them. I also had a little part with singer/comedian Boom...I really like him. He's SO funny. He seems like he'd be a blast to hang out with...definitely a charmer.
*sigh* Pretty Hongki, so close...yet so far...
So anyway, in the script, I was supposed to be all affectionate and hug all the guys, but the energy was all so weird that I couldn't even consider going there. Oh, and no one told me Hongki was gonna be there...like THAT wasn't some vital information for a kpop fan to know! Why didn't we get a little duet, huh?! The funny part is my brain was so fried that I didn't even realize it was him until after I'd looked him dead in the eyes. I remember scanning the people on stage and thinking "Man, that dude in the back row is HOT!" Durp.

Then, I had to go and select my favorite boy (gag reflex...what, am I 12 years old?!)... They wanted me to ham it up and take a really long time thinking about it and (I quote) "touch their faces a lot" (!!) No freaking way, these guys looked like they would spontaneously combust if I breathed on them, so...whatever, dudes. I just walked along and picked the last guy in the row. You win, Nichkun. I wanted that part of the segment to be over, haha.

GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE GEE. It is all we know. There is no escape, save the sweet release of death. ARGHHHH!!!!
Also, my wardrobe became a bit of an issue. You see, I brought with me a few cute outfits to wear... I had some skinny jeans and cute tops a la SNSD to wear. I figured "if i suck on stage, at least i'll be hot!" haha... well, I had a nice outfit on and I was all ready to go and at the last minute, they made me change BACK into the boring outfit I'd worn for my newspaper interviews. I was like, "say what, say what?!" I looked like a freakin' school marm. SO BORING - grey jeans, grey shirt, grey vest, AND a scarf.
For you fetuses out there who don't know what Mr. Ed is...
Yuck. Anyway, I felt like the performances didn't go very well...I was way beyond pooped. My mouth got really dry, so the thick lip gloss I had on was making my lips stick to my gums, so I'm totally pulling a Mr. Ed the entire time...HAHA. Plus, my insane heels kept getting caught in the glass panels on the stage, so i stayed pretty stationary. I figured the LAST thing I needed was to actually eat it on stage, what a cherry on the crap sundae that would've been, eh?

Anyway, that's over and done with... I did enjoy meeting my supporters and taking photos and letting them practice english with me...even though Id better start practicing my Korean with them! The Korean "fans" are fantastic and I adore them...and it's for them that I will work extra hard to give a good performance on the show next week...and also for myself, because I expect 1000% more personally. But I have to learn to let myself be human...it was a bad set of circumstances and I did the best I could. If I'm gonna be in this biz, I guess I'd better get used to this sort of setup. I'm glad I have the chance to give it another shot in my top condition. I have learned a lot from this experience - the importance of saying "no" when you need to, staying true to who you are, and not giving up!

I have another full week here in Seoul, so I should make the most of it. There's a lot of pork out there that belongs in my tummy! But for now, it's time to go out and shop. My spirit won't be broken, but I can't say the same for my wallet!

Puma in Seoul: Day 3

Wow, wednesday was crazy. Once again, I was not prepared. The plan was to do some shopping (as we all agreed my outfit from the 1st Star King was SUPER LAME) and then do an interview. They took me to a special salon to have my makeup done, about which I was very excited.
What girl doesn’t love that?! My makeup artist was adorable...she put like 5 layers of lotion and creams on my face then slapped it in all over, I guess to get it to absorb and dry quickly...haha. At first, my Muay Thai reflexes kicked in like “Lady, why you slappin’ me, yo?!”...but then it started to feel good and relaxing. X-D I think she did a great job with the makeup...except (of course) I ended up a few shades too light... I don’t think they sell foundation for brown skin here, haha. So I was lookin’ a tad like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Compare my face to my neck! There’s a clear difference... but whatever. No big deal.

After the makeup, they gave me this tasty soup drink...I think it was some sort of red bean stuff. It’s like, when you get that purplish rice in the stone bowl, you scoop as much as you can out of the bowl, then you pour water in it to soak up the rest of the rice, then you eat that later...? It’s like they take it and puree it into a thick drink! Haha, I don’t know a better way to describe it...but it was SO good. Unfortunately, I could only take half a sip before we were floating out of the door.

"Apologies, cameramen. I see my silver space belt has shattered your lenses with it's mighty space glimmer!"
After that, we went shopping. FINALLY. I tried on lots of dresses and we agreed on this flashy orange dress. There were more accessories involved than I would have chosen, as in ALL of them, but whatever. I thought the dress was cute...certainly a little over the top. We left for SBS where I had a press conference. Yes, a freaking press conference. I couldn’t believe it! It was very surreal...like, “What are all these people doing here? What?! To talk to me?! Slow news day, eh?” Weird. RAD, but weird. I had a special pretty boy translator for the occasion whom I only know as “Handsome Guy”...the ladies at Star King wanted to hook me up with a cute local, I believe. Then they asked me if I found him attractive....in front of the poor guy. He kept hiding his face and blushing, which was pretty endearing. He sorta freaked me out though, because he seemed so serious...it’s like he thought this whole thing I’m doing is difficult and crazy. He kept telling me to “just relax” but the way he spoke only made me more tense...as if I was about to do my first open-heart surgery, not answer a few questions from the press.

After the press conference, I had my first dance rehearsal. Woo Hoo!! Now, I was really happy about this...I’m no professional dancer, but I love going to classes and learning routines and stuff. So I had a really good time at the studio. I learned “Rainism”, which I’ll be doing for next week’s show. I’m not quite sure why they chose this particular song, but I believe Kang Hodong had something to do with it. Anyway, I’m doing the first part of the dance routine, then a sexy freestyle... I think my wardrobe will be sexy, but I hope I don’t look too girly...that dance Rain does is really hard-hitting and tight....I may have to soften it up a bit if I’m in a dress... but I hope I’m NOT wearing a dress, because I feel like my legs look skinny and silly when I dance, haha. I’d much prefer some baggy pants or something...

Our next stop was Vocal Company where I met with the owner and my voice instructor for the week, Ju Hyun. It was really scary actually, because 7 people took me into this empty, quiet classroom, sat down with really cold stone faces (as Koreans do), and told me to start singing this list of songs. Haha - it felt like the final exam for my "Voice for Non-Majors" course in college. I was pretty nervous. They gave me a few opinions and tips here and there and then agreed on the 4-song medley I would sing for next week's show. My voice coach is fantastic - she's worked with all the top Korean singers and she has a crazy awesome voice herself! I'm excited to work with her.

I accept the challenge, mussels...
It's a shoe store, btw.
It was finally time for dinner. Ms. Kim took us to some place in Hongdae that had all-you-can eat mussels. It was incredible. We plowed through 3 big pots. Yum! I was stuffing my face Kobayashi-style when people in the restaurant started to recognize me. I took photos with some groups of girls...I hope I didn't have shellfish hanging from my gap.

After I was returned to the hotel, I decided to take a nice evening walk. I like walking in the rain! I didn't know where I was heading so I grabbed a waffle snack and just pressed forward. Then I saw this store:

I knew my journey was complete. I returned to the hotel.

Now, I’m gonna sign on to World of Warcraft to chat with my boyfriend (i miss him) and head to bed! Goodnight!

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