Lee Michelle grew up as a half Korean, half African American in South Korea and has gotten known for her vocals through the first edition of K-pop Star. Ending the competition in the top 5, she proved her talents with her first music video “Without you”.
This video is about the bullying she suffered for her biracial identity as a child. It confronts prejudice and racism in a story about a little girl (played by Egypt Yoona) and her struggles with accepting herself. The message however behind all the struggles is to find your own confidence and overcoming all the pain, hence: “I’m beautiful without you, I’m meaningful without you”.
Although I’m not biracial or I’ve never been bullied at all, I feel as though my struggles during my childhood/teendays were similar to what she expressed in her MV. As an Asian girl who grew up in a complete Caucasian world, I knew that in this society, I was/am seen as different and definitely don’t match the typical beauty standard. I felt lonely in my group of friends and even with my own family: always tough, quiet and smiling to hide my insecurities and pain so scarring I became a zombie. Yes, I was one of those people who hated high school.
I wasn’t bad at school, nor was I unpopular but I just wanted to be “normal”. I didn’t want people to ask me where I was from cause I was born and raised in Belgium. I didn’t want for my teachers to look at me to see if I understood what they’ve explained when there were other kids who needed the help more. My family hadn’t truly helped either: why were my parents’ expectations so high just so I would look good in front of their Lao friends? Why couldn’t my brothers talk to me when they were the only ones who could understand how I was feeling? And why was I hurting so much for being treated differently compared to others? It was unbearable to live like that and it showed in my grades: I slowly let myself become a dummy and I hadn’t made any more efforts into studying. I thankfully graduated with truly low grades and I feel quite stupid about it now but depression is tough to beat.
I managed to get out of that negativity after graduation where I felt the need to flee as far as I could and it led me to Brussels. My understanding of how ridiculous it was to have self-pity while there were so many out there who suffer even more than I do, is what got me out of the darkness. I slowly gained confidence and made my own image as to who I wanted to become and finding acceptance within myself. This inner battle took me years to get me where I am today but at least I can say I found my own happiness.
Right now, I’m at a point in my life where I don’t truly care for other people’s approval anymore. Where 10 years ago, I hardly spoke to my brothers and now they’re my besties. Where my parents actually brag about who I’ve become to their friends eventhough I don’t always make decisions they support. Maybe it was just me becoming an adult or maybe it’s my religion that made me see life differently. I just wanted to share my experiences with others out there who feel they’re outcasts or feel they don’t belong.
Michelle’s message is to embrace your inner strength instead of wallowing in self-pity. Be brave and you can overcome anything. I wanted to share this video because for the insecure child and lonely teenage girl that I was, I had Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” that is a powerful MV that shot straight through my heart more so than any speech or sermon anyone ever gave. And I hope Lee Michelle’s “Without you” serves the same strength to young people, telling them they’re beautiful in every single way.