Elle in bold. CL’s answers follow.
It’s 1 am in the morning now. I’m usually awake at this time. I go to sleep at around 6 AM? So this is ok.
So, you’ve shot this pictorial with the theme of ‘the CL that we’ve not seen before’. As much of your true persona as possible… you mentioned that it’s a concept that ‘brings one of everything’. The image of ‘CL’ in its entirety consists of strong makeup and flashy clothes, and because of that I have done many unique (photo shoot) concepts. I thought that people might be more curious about how I look like naturally. I’ve received many concept proposals but I think this is my first time (trying such a concept).
Does that mean that you thought it was time to reveal your natural look? ELLE has always made me look good so I trusted you guys (laughs). It’s just been a long time since I did a photo shoot. It feels good to gather and do something like this on a summer night.
The proposals come to you non-stop though, from invitations for collaborations to projects, what’s your deciding factor for these proposals? I do what I want to do. I think it’s important for me to work with people that I’m close to or with those that are able to share something with me. (Shooting for) the Alexander Wang 2016 S/S Campaign happened because I was close with Alex. There’s that mindset of accepting proposals for the sake of promotion right? Instead of thinking like that, I look for work that is able to inspire me or work with people that give me joy.
CL is the happiest when she’s expressing something isn’t she? That’s why I started music and I like fashion, because both of them allows one to express oneself. I find joy in the process rather than from the outcome. When doing a photo shoot, I have meetings, try on clothes, find a concept; and when I’m making music, I record multiple times to see what fits, and I also think about how to put together the performance… things like that. Because of the creative atmosphere that is in the process rather than the outcome.
Don’t you get tired of going through the same processes each time for those outcomes? I think I don’t get tired of them because I’m doing a numerous variety at the same time. What I like about music is that I’m endlessly inspired to make something. It drives my imagination and makes me want to try and do things. I asked for a speaker just a while ago right? I’m always playing music where ever I am. The atmosphere instantly changes when you play music in a silent space doesn’t it? I really like that. I’m inspired in other areas because of music, hence I guess that’s why it’s possible for me to work on a number of different things at the same time. When a song comes on, I’m thinking of the clothes that a woman singing this song would be wearing and the setting in which she’d sing this song in. I tend to forget everything else around me as I constantly imagine (these scenarios).
Your fashion is also something that we’ve not seen elsewhere. Hence, we’re even more curious, airport fashion/official appearances aside, what do you usually wear? Usually… I don’t dress up. Ah, firstly, I don’t go out of my house often, so when I do have to go out of my house, I don’t know what I end up wearing. I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ll end up being associated with this one style that fits me in the future, like Steve Jobs & Mr Karl Lagerfeld (laughs). But… don’t all girls go with how they feel for the day? I’m sure everyone agrees with this, for example when going to the supermarket, I have days when I feel like putting on full makeup just to go to the mart while on days that I don’t feel like dressing up, I’d just put on a T-shirt and go like that.
But your styling as ‘CL’ has always featured flashy clothes Well, I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot recently. Should I be changing (CL’s style) up? Should I try something simple? But I don’t think it’s for me. I think it’s difficult enough to find a style that suits you perfectly and if on top of that, you want to do things that aren’t you… I don’t think that’s it. For example, for this photo shoot, while we’re doing something simple, I said that we should do “CL’s simple” in the meetings. If it’s something just basic and simple, other people can do it too. If we’re talking about the revealing shots, there are others with better bodies that could do it. Makeup wise too, there are others with prettier bare faces.
So that’s why you’ve brought your fur slippers from home for today’s shoot? Yes. I don’t wear them out of the house so I just brought them along for today. I’m happy they came in handy for today’s shoot.
You have such a diverse group of people around you I like meeting people. I’ve said that I don’t go out of the house often, but when I do, it’s usually to meet people. I’m living a life that not many people can relate to, hence, I like to gain different viewpoints of the world through other people and I learn lots from meeting older people and listening to their experiences. Indirectly experiencing the world from them. That’s a big part of it for me.
People usually meet other people within their own age group but CL seems to transcend age, geographic, and gender boundaries and meet a variety of different people Everyone can do that! It’s not that I only meet special people. I like talking about anything to anyone.
Anyone? But don’t you have to be somewhat careful with that? Well, that’s why I’ve lost out quite a bit (laughs). It’s impossible to have only good people around you. You have to experience bad situations too of course. ‘Why is this person like that’, I’d get out of the situation thinking that without obsessing over it and would just think of it as an experience. Annyeong*, Bye (laughs). And someone who’s a bad person to me could be an angel to someone else. It’s relative. If you want to see their good side, you have to show them your good side too.
*Anneyong – ‘Bye’in Korean
Isn’t it difficult be continuously thrown into situations that requires you to meet new people even when you’re not ready? It’s not easy, of course. But in my line of work, I meet new people every other day. There are people that you just know you’ll click with when you meet them. You just have to trust your gut feeling.
So you’re saying that you can be friends with whoever it is with that mindset It’s important to not judge people. Whether they’re rich, poor, famous, or have been unknown for the past 10 years, you have to treat them separately from their jobs. It doesn’t have to be too difficult, neither should it be too easy. You have to respect each other.
Did anyone teach you this? I just realised it from meeting so many people. People don’t originally have difficult personalities.
I don’t think I can do it. No, don’t think like that! It gets easier if you love yourself. For me… when I’m having the hardest time, when I’m the loneliest, or when I’m the least confident, I (prefer to be) by myself. If you’re emotionally weak and you meet people then, you end up relying on them. Yes, you can be comforted by them but you don’t develop in the process. Even if someone helps you then and things get better, it could get bad again when that person is not around. That’s when I’m losing my ‘power’. I tend to recoil at the thought of having someone else resolve issues that I’m having difficulties with, so I try my best to resolve them myself. That’s when it’s important to invest time in yourself and to love yourself lots. And there’s always an answer when you go to nature, always.
Even when you feel like complaining to someone? You can get addicted to that. You know how when you miss someone, the more you say you miss the person the more you miss them? And as you’re saying “This is so hard”, it gets even more difficult for you? While others are listening to those words, you yourself are listening to it too. You shouldn’t voice out the difficulties that you’re facing. You should resolve that difficulty and make it disappear within you.
You mentioned that nature always has an answer. Where should I go for nature? I hike. I go to the Bukhan Mountain often. I just put on a mask and go.
‘Oh it’s CL?’ Don’t you get people like that? I think they tend to be more like ‘why would CL be here?’.
Since you travel often, I’m guessing that there are cities that you go to when you want to hide I usually get busier when I leave Korea. I travel for work so there are lots of people to meet and I expend lots of energy overseas so I hide in Korea when I want to hide.
You do know what CL is to women don’t you? You’re close to the only woman to give strength to other women My work environment.. the music business, it’s full of men right? As a working woman, I want to give strength to other women. Being a working woman… it’s quite a challenge isn’t it? Women have an an inborn maternal instinct and are strong internally but that may sometimes have an opposing effect with certain aspects of business. So you need a balance. If you always appear as this demanding, assertive lady that makes others nervous, sometimes it seems like you’re just looking for a fight. (I think) being ‘strong’ just up to the point that you’re respected, that balance is important.
Actually this is something that has been said about CL a lot, that you’re not as ‘bold’ or ‘hard’ in real life I prefer to be strong than to be ‘hard’. There’s clearly a big difference between the two. There are multiple personalities within Chaerin. There’s a grandmother, and a 7 year old boy, and I’m also raising ‘CL’ (laughs). To me, ‘CL’ is one of my many emotions. I’m just overflowing with that ‘CL’ feeling whenever I’m on stage or in front of a camera. But it doesn’t happen just because I want it to. It’s not like a special skill. I don’t think I can do it if someone says “Chaerin, please just show us a little bit of CL.” It’s also why I haven’t been on TV for quite some time. I can’t force it so it’s like I’m not myself (on TV).
At what stage is CL’s career in right now? Personally, it’s just beginning. No, it hasn’t even started yet. I’ve yet to release my global album. Although it’s been close to 8 years since I had my debut, I want to pour everything that I’ve learnt thus far into my album. I want to properly write and put it into an album.
Even though it’s yet to begin, where CL is right now, the level that you’re at, it’s almost unprecedented I think it’s really boring when I feel safe. “Ah, I should maintain this state” or “this much is enough to depend on though?”, that’s really boring to me. Everyone has different standards. You might be considered amazing somewhere for doing a certain amount of things but elsewhere, you might not even have started. I think drawing a bigger picture (setting a bigger goal) and looking at that as you live will allow you to find paths to walk on in the future.
Have you thought about where you’ll be able to rise up to (T/N: in terms of advancing in her career) I’m just living my life. I was born as Lee Chaerin so I just want to do my best living this life and then die as Lee Chaerin. It’s not like I’m climbing a mountain, so what would a higher level of success or a higher level of fame mean? I just think of it like a game; how many levels can I pass before I die? I’m going to continue living as ‘me’.
How about being rich? If you obsess over wealth, you’ll miss out on things that you should be taking note of as you’re calculating that. So, I’ve lived my life as a good person and have gathered good people around me. Work wise, I’ve been able to get some money and received awards as I’ve worked hard. I’m trying to live modestly because it seems less tiring to do so. I might look like I party and live lavishly as I immerse myself in this job but that’ll all go away some day. It’s bad. Even when I meet a man, I want to do my best for just one man and not cheat (laughs).
So success isn’t important? Success is sweet whatever the case isn’t it Just as everyone has their own standards of beauty, success to me is ‘a state of being able to do what I want to do’. (Success is) me being able to drop an album now because I want to. (It’s me having) to be able to eat ice cream if I want to eat it now.
Translated by CLTHEBADDESTFEMALE.COM
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Original interview by Elle Korea, available in Elle Korea September 2016’s issue.
Scans provided by munixcl 🙏