Glass interviews K-pop star Tiffany Young

I’m reborn: Tiffany Young is coming for you, Hollywood. Glass talks to the K-Pop sensation on fashion, success, and her latest music


TIFFANY Young has been born again. Having spent a decade in Girls’ Generation, one of K-Pop’s most successful girl groups, Young returned to the United States last year to step into the Hollywood spotlight. Since then, Young has released her first English-speaking singles, including her first EP of 2019 Born Again. It is vividly coloured with her own personal pain and struggles, and Young has not only found a new musical style through her solo endeavours, but also a new sense of voice. Now focused on creating an open dialogue through her music, on love and strength, pleasure and pain, Young’s newest singles reflect the enormity of the changes in her career and personal life.

The return to the States has been an enormous change for the 29-year-old California native in terms of her music career, but in itself has also been a kind of homecoming. After being scouted by SM Entertainment at the age of 15, Young made the momentous decision to pack up her life and move to Korea solo just three weeks later. In a hugely competitive environment, where artists either make it or crack under the pressure, Young trained for four years before becoming part of Girls’ Generation. The following year, at one of the most critical points of her career, Young was diagnosed with vocal nodules, forcing her to take a short break from music. But she hasn’t let that slow her down. In fact, Young states that her vocal nodules have helped to establish her voice with its distinctive mature and husky sound. 

This kind of radiating positivity has fuelled Young’s career as a pop-artist, and its presence is everywhere in her music. Having announced her upcoming tour Lips on Lips to accompany her upcoming EP releasing early this spring, as well as an iHeartRadio nomination for Best Solo Breakout Artist, this year is going to be the year of Young.

Tiffany Young. Photograph: Ssam Kim

You spent a decade in one of K-pop’s most successful groups, Girls’ Generation, and now you’ve returned to the US to make it in Hollywood. After so long in Korea, what motivated this new direction?

Being a part of Girls’ Generation and being able to inspire a decade of girls was absolutely amazing and eye opening. Along the way, that journey inspired me to want to extend a legacy we had created this time for young women around the world, especially for me juggling culture and languages and always constantly trying to find what it means to fit in, but realising it’s a story and longing for everyone in the world. I just wanted to find that space and inspire a coming of age.

So coming back to the US must have been a really difficult decision to make. The theme of our spring issue is Purpose. What does purpose mean to you?

It definitely was a huge decision and it definitely was difficult to decide to embark on a new chapter of my life. Purpose to me is finding love in what you do and compassion in who you love and what you love. Purpose, I think is really finding compassion and humility, and just pushing forward despite all the circumstances that come along the way – with love!

I love that! I love your attitude. So you moved to Korea at the age of 15. Can you tell us something about your relationship with American and Korean culture and whether you think this influenced your personal style?

Absolutely. Growing up in LA, I was extremely grateful because it is one of the most diverse places culturally in all ways. The categories, the music, the fashion, the food, the lifestyle, being a part of LA where there is a huge Korean and Asian community. I got to stay close to that culture, while also being able to experience and see how beautiful everyone else’s was. That really made me want to find and mix the roots of what I love about a certain sound and melody, or style, or colour palette, and mix it into my art. LA has definitely brought out the best in what I want to create.

Tiffany Young. Photograph: Ssam Kim

You recently stated via Instagram that your pain and personal struggles have allowed you to channel all of yourself into your newest EP Born Again. As an artist, do you feel like your music is very much influenced by your environment and your emotions?

Yeah, my music is definitely about the experiences, environment and emotions, but I usually start creating when I am settled and ready to tell the story. Or when I am at peace with what has happened. Finding the patience in between that experience is where you find the strength in the vulnerability, which is where I am able to open up and share honestly because it isn’t about just me any more. The artists who I love have been so open and brutally honest with their story, which has allowed me to feel myself through their art. I hope to be that type of artist.

So what kind of artists have influenced your music?

Definitely Annie Lennox – when I was growing up, my mom always played Annie Lennox, Madonna and Whitney Houston. So definitely the uplifting divas of our generation and of all generations. They were so vulnerable, but fearless, they always looked for beauty in the most struggling times. I’ve also been very influenced by Sofia Coppola and Tim Burton films. I like the juxtaposition about how everything moves so fast and so intensely. There is this beautiful filter and I am very much inspired by that and want to create my art the same way.

Your new EP Born Again was released last night. Can you tell us what it means to you?

The EP and the process has been everything to me. This EP are the intimate moments of passion, pleasure, pain, which is a lyric from Born Again. Passion, pleasure and pain is my life, that I hold dearly to my heart. It embraces the fact that the darkness in your life only makes the light shine more vividly. And that if you decide to hold on through the turbulence, you find the strength to speak your truth. That’s all it is, truth will set you free and I have never felt so bare and raw, but I have to the extent of my age, but I guess I’m feeling a whole new sense of being out in the world on my own.


Tiffany Young. Photograph: Ssam Kim

It’s an amazing song, I’ve had it on loop all today! So, you released Over My Skin and Teach You in the US, and of course now Born Again. How do you feel your new music sounds in comparison to the music you released in Korea?

The music I did in Korea was definitely what I wanted as a young girl, as a 15-year old, and a 17- year old. Coming back home and being able to take my time and craft it with the producers I look up to and admire so much, from the Far East Movement to Fernando Garibay, to The Rascals and BabyFace – to name a few of the amazing producers on this EP, I learnt and realised I wanted my sound to be all the things I love listening to growing up until now. Over My Skin and Teach You were the beginning of blending all the things I love about pop and K-Pop from 1990s to early 2000s, and with Born Again, it’s everything I love about now.

You can hear the Emo Trap in the verses and you can also hear a little bit of country. I’m super into Miley Cyrus right now. I just watched Dumplin’ recently, with all the Dolly Parton music. It’s everything from my past, present and I hope to be the future. From the experiences, I wanted to shape my voice and story about representing the sound of a modern woman. Because it’s not about you’re this, you’re that, it’s what you want to be and envision yourself and channel all your energy into. I hope Born Again is a song that represents and encourages coming of age, being fearless, being honest and vulnerable, and hopefully just embodies all that I am.

One of my favourite of your songs is Teach You, and the music video is amazing, your styling is incredible! Can you tell us which is your favourite look from the video?

I loved it all. I loved the drastic dramatic haircut, because that’s what you do when you’re heartbroken: you change something about you. But, in terms of a look, if I had to pick, my favourite scene is the interrogation scene, less is always more. There is always something so vintage and modern about the style at the same time. The red lip is always a good idea, and the shirt, to the slacks, to the suspenders and the glasses and the classic watch, when trying to be stronger and masculine is when I think femininity is actually highlighted. I love Annie Lennox and her look is so fierce and so androgynous, like masculine and feminine at the same time, but that definitely is my favourite look from that video.

Talking about fashion, in 2018 you were made the face of the global H&M autumn campaign. What’s planned for you in 2019 in terms of fashion?

It was an incredible way to start my journey in the US as a solo artist, and fashion is and has been one of the most important things in my creativity. I am heading to Taiwan for a collaboration with Dior Make Up this weekend actually, but I get to continuously team with creatives and brands that have the same vision and moral values so we can better story-tell for each other. One of my most favourite fashion relationships I admire is when Jean Paul Gaultier and Madonna started off with the Blond Ambition tour.

Gaultier is one of the designers I am obsessing over right now – over and over, I’ve been digging into the archives. I love what they had and I hope to have that with somebody one day – and obviously Gaultier, Versace and Lady Gaga, Gaultier, Versace and J Lo. The pop star and the designer relationship that just grows into each other’s art, I just dream of a relationship like that and I hope to partner up with somebody.

Tiffany Young. Photograph: Ssam Kim

On that topic, during your time in Girls’ Generation you also had some amazing outfits. Can you tell us about some of the favourite things you’ve worn as a K-Pop star?

One of my favourite red carpet moments was the 2011 Film Music Awards. It was the first time getting things off the runway, and it was Burberry collection with Christopher Bailey. It was a patent leather jacket with a leopard mini-dress, and this was when we were starting to creep into our own styles and wanting to do things out of the box. I remember doing a full red lip, and it wasn’t common yet, mostly because we had the whole plain white jeans, no make up, bare-face look and I said, “No, I know I want this.” I remember everyone at the label telling me “No”, but it is still one of the best decisions I made, and one of my favourite red carpet moments.

But, I also think all the outfits for the TTS project I got to direct, and one of the most fun moments in terms of albums for Girls’ Generation was definitely the Party and Lion Heart era, because we really got to wear, do and be who we wanted to be as individuals while just empowering each other. I just loved these eras.

You were also the first Korean-American woman to be featured in a global H&M campaign, which is amazing. After 2018 featured films like Crazy Rich Asians and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, do you feel like the US fashion world is following Hollywood in becoming progressively more diverse in its representation of Asian women?

I hope so, but I also do know that there are so many amazing Asian designers and creatives and artists that have been changing the game for a while. For example, Vera Wang, who I absolutely love, Alexander Wang, Ambush, Dior Rei Kawakubo, Junn. J and the creators at Gentle Monster. It’s been bubbling and I feel so honoured to wear their pieces and just be able to be part of the change.

I purposely want to wear more Asian designers and collaborate with more Asian creatives, just so it brings up more opportunities for everyone and, most importantly, conversation for a new generation of Asian kids who want to become creatives and artists and all of the above, because what you see contributes a whole lot to what you identify with growing up.

I hope that these opportunities just continue to open up conversation. I’m just so passionately naming all these Asian designers, but there are just so many! Even in film, and especially with the piece I wore in Born Again by Nicole + Felicia which are Taiwanese designers; their work is absolutely amazing and I hope I can continue to showcase for Asian creatives.

So, people say 2018 was the year of women. Do you feel female empowerment plays a big part in your music?

Absolutely. I think it plays a big part in the whole world. There are women that have been so open about sharing their story; their strength and honesty has really been the most inspiring for me to be more open in my art, and I hope it continues, because the more open everybody is, the more stories are going to be told, and the more stories there are. I hope there is a story for everyone, for each and every person to relate and open up to.

Tiffany Young. Photograph: Ssam Kim

To round it off, you have just announced your Lips on Lips EP is coming early spring, and you have announced your upcoming tour, which is so exciting. The year 2019 is obviously going to be a huge year for your career. Can you tell us if you have any specific aspirations or goals for the year ahead?

Touring with my EP is my main goal right now. Seeing my fans and sharing it with them is what excites me the most. I’m rehearsing every single day, and I hope and plan to write during the tour and step right back into the studio, with all the energy and inspiration. So, it’s just touring, seeing my fans, sharing the music, and going back into the studio and staying focused on my craft. The art is the most important thing at the end of the day, and with this iHeartRadio nomination I am blown away. I’m can’t wait for the new music and how everybody will react to it and I hope they love it as much as I did creating it, because I bared my soul and now they’re embracing it, and it feels so good.

by Emma Hart

From the Glass Archive – Glass Magazine, Decade,  Issue 37, Spring 2019

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Photographer: SSAM KIM
Production coordinator: LUKE IM
Photography assistant: JUN PARK
Styling assistant: NADIYA MAZURCZAK

Look 1 
Jacket, shirt, trousers, shoes: GUCCI 
White gold ring with rainbow gems: H.CROWNE

Look 2 
Trousers: ZHIVAGO 
Flying pig acrylic cuff: GUCCI

Look 3 
Diamond cross earring: CHROME HEARTS 
Diamond ear climber: HENRI J. SILLAM

Look 4
All clothing: GUCCI
Right hand: Lotus Between the Finger ring in white gold with diamonds
Left hand: Cosmos Between the Finger ring in white gold with diamonds and onyx 
Cosmos earring in white gold with diamonds and onyx 
Lotus earring in white gold with diamonds all, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS

Look 5
Diamond ear climber: HENRI J. SILLAM