Shreya Lenka, K-Pop's First Indian Idol, On Training & Her Inspirations

INTERVIEW


Those in tune with the K-pop world have probably come across Shreya Lenka by now. The 18-year-old singer is among just two finalists remaining in DR Music's global auditions for the fifth member of the idol group BLACKSWAN. So who is she? Born in Rourkela, a small town in the East Indian state of Odisha, she's been dancing since her childhood and started training seriously in her early teenage years, practicing Odissi, a classical form of Indian dance that originated in temples in Odisha, and transitioning into freestyle, hip-hop, and contemporary dance so that she could become a "jack of all trades dancer". We chat to Lenka on what it takes to be an idol and her inspirations leading up to her finals.


What made you want to become an idol?


I have been a dancer since I was 12. I always wanted to be a performer. A few years ago my friend introduced me to K-pop. The choreography in the music videos was very attractive but when I learned that the people performing were actually singers, I got even more hooked on it. What drew me in was their unique style of singing and dancing together. I learned that this genre means Korean Pop, in short K-pop, and the pop stars are called idols. I started learning their dances and learning to sing. It was unique.


shreya lenka k-pop idol interview

Being an icon is not an easy job; it requires a lot of training sessions, time and press meetings. How do

you balance work and personal life?


It is difficult to find a balance between my training sessions and personal life. I sometimes have to stay away from family and friends. I feel like I speak to them at any chance I get, but I also know that such kind of opportunity doesn’t come often. For now, my personal life can wait because I'm focusing and spending more time practicing. But we have weekends and I get some free time to focus on my personal life, but other days are full with training sessions and practice.




What was your first impression of Korea? Can you tell me about your first day in Seoul?


Everyone in Korea is so hardworking and focused on their work. Korea is full of surprises for me. Since it was my first time travelling out of India, I was scared. But as soon as I landed, I was greeted with a warm Namaste and my fears turned into happiness. I didn't know much about Korea but my first impression was how welcoming and helpful the people of Korea are. My flight landed in the evening and when I was being driven to the company quarters, I could see the sparkling lights on the road leading towards the first milestone on my journey to becoming a K-pop idol. My first day was spent indoors as I had to undergo quarantine but I can never forget the warm atmosphere, smiling faces and the huge feast for dinner arranged by our company CEO. As time passed I learned about the culture and the people who are kind and helpful – and the language which I'm still learning. I’m in love with the food here. It is extremely delicious!


shreya lenka k-pop idol interview

In the trainee interview, you said you would be a good idol in the future. In your opinion, what does it mean to be a ‘good idol’?


For me ' good idol ' refers to an artist who can not only dance and sing but is also able to share and deliver messages that can inspire the world and give hope to people when they are down. I want to become an idol that brings smiles to people’s faces. I want to spread happiness and joy through my music.



What do you most like about K-pop?


The best thing I like about K-pop is that everyone in the industry is very passionate and hardworking to achieve their dreams. Some K-pop songs hold such beautiful concepts so this inspires me a lot. Everyone tries to bring something different and unique in their songs and performances. K-pop holds a huge fandom where they teach to live together and care and support each other.


shreya lenka k-pop idol interview

Which idols do you look up to?


It's hard to choose one or two groups because I love and respect each and every group and solo artist in the industry but if I have to choose then some of my favourites are Exo, Big Bang, Stray Kids, Everglow, The Boyz, BTS and Ateez. I have been following them for four years now. The list, however, keeps on growing. Bang Chan of Stray Kids is also my role model and I admire him so much because his works inspire me.


Things may seem difficult unless or until you try doing it. You are going to fail more than 100 times but it doesn't mean it's not working, it means you are getting prepared for a bigger success. Just keep trying and working hard. Never stop yourself from doing what you love.


shreya lenka k-pop idol interview

What do you advise to other people that want to start their career in K-pop?


Things may seem difficult unless or until you try doing it. You are going to fail more than 100 times but it doesn't mean it's not working, it means you are getting prepared for a bigger success. Just keep trying and working hard. Never stop yourself from doing what you love.


shreya lenka k-pop idol interview

What was the reaction of your family when you made it to the finals?


My family's reaction was priceless because they never imagined I would come this far. After multiple failures in auditions, today I'm representing my own country on a global platform. When they learned of my selection in the final round, their eyes filled with tears of joy.


I'm from a really small city of Odisha where it's hard to find an opportunity like this. I had recently lost my grandfather who raised me and supported me with my work. He was the most important person to me. His dream was to see me on the big stage as he had seen me practice and fail multiple times for the past eight years but before I could make that happen, he passed away. My family is from a humble background so spending on good training available in bigger cities is difficult. But my family has always supported my dreams in any way possible. For them, my dream was a part of their dream, and going to the finals was like a dream come true for them.


shreya lenka k-pop idol interview

All images courtesy of Shreya Lenka.


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