All year long, we’re bringing you essays from fascinating folks turning 30 this year — just as Allure is. (Think of it as a joint birthday party.) Key, of iconic K-pop group SHINee, is kicking things off by bringing us through his entire history as a K-pop star. Known for his adventurous taste in beauty and style (lest we forget his spray-painted buzz cut), the captivating performer sat down with Allure’s digital beauty editor Devon Abelman (via Zoom, of course) to share his thoughts on his milestone birthday in his own words ahead of SHINee’s first comeback in almost three years.
Depending on where you are, I’m already 30. Technically, I turn 30 on September 23, but in Korea, I’m actually already 301. When I was younger, I thought I would be someone’s husband or a father by now. Thirty years old seemed so grown-up. My parents got married when they were 28. I’m already late. I can’t even imagine that now.
I didn’t think I’d still be a singer at 30, actually. When I looked at other artists I noticed by 30 most of their careers would start to dwindle. I didn’t think I would still be doing this so actively. But, you know, I still feel like I’m 18 years old. Nothing has changed.
When I was younger, I was a quiet, observant type, always busy watching other people’s manners, actions, what they’re saying. Usually, when I’m in a setting with people I’m not familiar with, I take in my surroundings, making note of everything. But inside of my heart, I had this personality fighting to get out. There was a fire.
My mother is a nurse and my father was a financial investment advisor. They always wanted me to study a lot and become a doctor, but hell, no. I secretly studied dance in school, and, of course, loved to sing. At 15, I started auditioning for SM2 behind my parents’ back. After my SM audition, I sat my parents down and told them I want to be an Idol. (I didn’t actually get it, though.) My parents were really shocked. They’d never seen that side of me before. “You’re such a shy kid,” they said. “You can’t be a star.” They couldn’t believe what I was saying. I felt like my parents were rebelling against me.