I have such mixed feelings about I.O.I’s disbandment. In a way, I’m not overly sad because I know that all of these girls will either be in other girl groups or work as soloists. However, it’s clear that they developed a strong bond, and it’s sad that they won’t be able to see each other as regularly as before. In light of their disbandment, I wanted to make an appreciation post to fangirl about these bright and talented girls.
I didn’t watch Produce 101 when it first aired. But when I found out that I.O.I. was performing at KCON France, I decided to binge watch the whole season in one go. I think that I finished all of the episodes in two days, and it was such an intense experience. I know that comes with watching reality shows, but I just got so invested in these girls and their dreams. All trainees and idols have a rough time before debut, and all survival shows are especially brutal. But there was just something about Produce 101 that made it extra emotional. It was really a unique opportunity that took off and became extremely popular, perhaps more so than people expected. Success for the other girls who appeared on the show has been debatable, but those who made it into I.O.I have had a major popularity boost. Here’s what I like about the girls of this one-of-a-kind group.
1) Jeon Somi
I bet that this whole experience has been a whirlwind for all of the girls, but Somi in particular has had a crazy ride. She participated in two survival shows in one year, and she won the second. She promoted as the face and center of I.O.I., she’s got hosting and variety show gigs coming up in 2017…and she’s only sixteen years old! Honestly, I have so much respect for her. She’s just brimming with confidence at such a young age. I was the complete opposite of her as a teenager, and I was super insecure. So I think that it’s really something to be able to put yourself out there like that at such a young age. There are clearly bright things in this girl’s future, and I can’t wait to see what JYP does with her. (Just please don’t add her to Twice!)
2) Kim Sejeong
In the end, she couldn’t quite beat out the notoriety that Somi already brought to Produce 101. But it’s easy to see why she became so popular and got the nickname “God Sejeong.” Not only is she very talented and a good vocalist ( “Flower Way” made me cry so much), but she also appears to be very kind and gracious. She made sure to look after Jellyfish labelmates Mina and Nayoung while on the show, and she also helped Sohye during one of the group missions. She’s also so relatable – one of my favorite moments during Standby I.O.I was when she was doing crunches before a photoshoot because she had to wear a crop top and she had a big lunch. Overall, she seems like such a fun and pleasant person to be around.
3) Choi Yoojung
Yoojung was, in my opinion, the MVP of Produce 101. She was put in the bottom in the beginning, but through hard work and practice she managed to land the center position for their first performance of “Pick Me.” From then on, she was always ranked at the top and noted for her all-around versatility and killer facial expressions. Look no further for her most famous one:
Yoojung is a girl with so many talents. She can sing, rap, and dance, and she has an excellent variety sense. She’s such a bright ball of sunshine, but she’s also so sensitive to others. On Star Show 360, she could barely get through reading a letter from Nayoung’s father because she was so moved. She’s so well-rounded as an entertainer and as a person, and she has a lot of star power for such a young age.
4) Kim Chungha
This girl caught my attention from that insane freestyle she did to “Yoncé” in the first episode. Anyone that is a dancing machine automatically becomes one of my favorites. Mad dancing skills aside, what really impresses me about Chungha is her quiet confidence. She’s a fierce and sexy queen when performing onstage, and she’s so normal offstage. When she said on Produce 101 that she normally doesn’t wear makeup, it really resonated with me. I generally don’t wear makeup unless it’s for special occasions, and I have yet to meet someone that goes as bare-faced as often as I do. It really made me relate to her.
5) Zhou Jieqiong / Pinky
On Produce 101, Jieqiong was mostly noted for her visuals (voted #1 amongst the girls) and her dance abilities. I got the impression that she was pretty quiet and low-key, but it turns out girl is a cute and happy beagle. Not only does she have a lot of musical (main vocal status in “Whatta Man” and playing the pipa), but she’s also regularly commended for speaking Korean very well. As someone who also lives abroad, I really appreciate this. She’s demonstrated on Knowing Brothers, Weekly Idol, and Star Show 360 that she has a really good grasp of the language by beating native Koreans at their own word association game. And it allows her to really engage when she’s on television, which some foreign idols aren’t always able to do.
6) Kim Sohye
Sohye is the Cinderella story of Produce 101. Originally wanting to be an actress, she started at very bottom because she didn’t have the skills necessary to be an idol. But with hard work, help from girls like Sejeong and Pinky, and voter empathy, Sohye rose to the top. She’s so easy to relate to because of the journey that she took. It’s clear that she went through a lot, and she was visibly improving not only during the show but also during her time as an I.O.I. member. Although she’ll probably move into acting, I’ll bet she learned a lot and has a special experience to look back on. And I also have a soft spot for her after I saw her at KCON France – she wrote her greetings on her hand and got so nervous and it was too adorable!
7) Jung Chaeyeon
I must admit that Chaeyeon was the one person that was not on my wishlist to be in I.O.I. It’s not that I dislike her or anything, but she just didn’t stand out to me at all during the show. The only moment I remembered her was when she stole the judges’ attention during her performance of “Full Moon” with Pinky and Sohye. But it turns out that she’s one of the breakout stars of I.O.I. She promoted with I.O.I. twice, she did numerous photoshoots and CFs, and she acted in a drama and went on a reality show. And on top of that MBK managed to get two DIA comebacks out of her. Many talk about her visuals, but if you read her interviews and look at her on variety shows she always seems like such a normal and down-to-earth girl. I hope that people will look at that side of her, even when her looks are getting pushed so much.
8) Kim Doyeon
Doyeon’s visuals are insane, and she also has an amazing fashion sense. She made it onto Vogue’s list of Teen Style Stars with the likes of Jaden and Willow Smith, Sasha Obama, and Camila Cabello. For all that beauty, she doesn’t hesitate to throw them away to win ugly dance competitions. While most of the girls seem cute or beagle-like, what I like about her is that she’s kind of sassy. I loved on Weekly Idol when Sohye and Yoojung were telling a story about a nice thing that she did and their recounting didn’t satisfy her. She’s sassy, but at the same time she’s not a diva. She clearly cares about her members and is a team player.
9) Kang Mina
I ended up relating to Mina a lot on Produce 101, mostly because of the fact that they made her go on a diet (I always feel for those girls). She’s marketed as cute a lot and she is indeed that, but she blasted everyone out of the water with her sexy turn on the “Say My Name” project. And she had a lot of compassion for Nayoung in that instance, who was struggling as the leader of the group. I feel like I didn’t see as much of her as some of the other members because of gugudan, but from what I remember she has a great sense of humor. And she totally surprised me with her rap part in “Very Very Very.”
10) Lim Nayoung
We finally arrive at my bias! Nayoung became known for her overall lack of expressions, but it was fun to see her warm up and play around with the other girls on shows like Knowing Brothers and Standby I.O.I. My favorite moment was when she was the loser for the first episode of Standby I.O.I. and had to wear a robot costume for twelve hours. It must have been hard to be the leader, but she clearly did her job well and was responsible and hardworking. Plus she’s a triple threat, and she really filled the need for a rapper within the group. Maybe it’s because she’s my bias, but I feel like she was a little low-key compared to some of the other members. I really hope she’ll get to shine when she’s in Pristin!
11) Yoo Yeonjung
Like Mina, I don’t feel like I know Yeonjung all that much because she wasn’t in the subunit or heavily promoted like Sejeong and Chaeyeon. What I do remember is when she came out of nowhere and caught my attention in that “Into the New World” cover. Seriously, what a clear and clean high note! She’s really helped out WJSN and I.O.I. in terms of vocals, and she has the potential to be a killer main vocal in time. She definitely had her share of struggles throughout the competition, but I think because of that she really grew and matured.
I was feeling nostalgic this week, so I started watching a lot of their variety show appearances. Most of them I had already seen before, but I decided to check out both of their episodes of Knowing Brothers (which I don’t normally watch). I hadn’t realized that their appearances were both their very first and last as a full group. It made it super emotional because it’s clear that they’ve all been through a lot together, and they really made the last of their moments together. I will miss them as I.O.I. a lot, but I can’t wait to see what awaits these members in the future!
SOURCES: Youtube, Tumblr, YMC Entertainment, Jellyfish Entertainment, Vogue, Soompi, Produce 101 all episodes (Mnet), Standby I.O.I Episode 1 (Mnet), Weekly Idol Episode 266 (MBC Every1), Star Show 360 Episode 4 (MBC Every1), Knowing Bros Episodes 23 and 53 (JTBC), After School Club Episode 224 (Arirang)