If you are a K-pop fan, but have not heard the name of rising star Holland, then you should definitely read this article.
The 22-year-old, who made his K-pop debut only this year, is the first openly gay idol in South Korea – a nation where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (also known by the acronym LGBTQ+) relationships are still taboo subjects and gay marriage has not been legalised.
The video of Holland’s first song release, Neverland, racked up more than 1 million views on YouTube in a single day and, up to now, has been watched more than 9 million times.
That’s a huge accomplishment for an independent solo artist just starting out in South Korea, who was not promoted at all.
Holland is planning a new album, which is expected to be released later this year.
He told the South Korean television show SBS PopAsia that he was also preparing for a world tour.
1. First single – ‘Neverland’
Based on Holland’s experiences of growing up as a gay person in his home country, Holland’s first single Neverland – launched in Korea at midnight on January 22 – quickly became a YouTube hit.
Some comments from viewers on YouTube have compared him with the Australian singer Troye Sivan, who is also an iconic gay singer.
The song’s story – about a boy who is dishonest about his true desires, unfurls to the sound of a soft piano hook and skittering beats.
He finds himself discriminated against because of his sexuality, while wanting to go to a place where he can follow his heart and do what he wants.
Today on #NOWNESS, we’re celebrating Queer icons. #RadicallyQueer . Holland (@holland_vvv) is breaking barriers as the first openly gay K-pop idol in South Korea. Head over to @Dazed’s #IGTV to see the #Dazed100-er talk about discovering his sexuality, and how he navigates it in his industry.
A post shared by NOWNESS (@nowness) on Jun 23, 2018 at 2:43pm PDT
“Neverland [in the world of J.M. Barrie’s] Peter Pan is a dreamland,” Holland told SBS PopAsia.
“I want to tell queer people that although we can’t marry someone, and we are not sure what’s going to be next, but we are OK, nevertheless.”
The song came out with a music video, which featured Holland having a date with a man and kissing him in bed.
The homosexual kiss resulted in the video receiving a 19+ rating in South Korea.
2. His motivation to come out as a gay singer? Being bullied at school
Growing up as a gay person was not easy in South Korea, Holland said.
He suffered periods of depression, starting from his time in middle school, because of his sexuality.
“When I decided to come out in [my] middle school days, I told one of my closest friends about being gay,” Holland said in a video interview with South Korean video channel PRAN.
“The next day everyone in school was gossiping about it.”
Afterwards, Holland found himself bullied almost every day at school, which had led him to consider committing suicide, he said.
The traumatic experiences of growing up as a gay person became the motivation for him wanting to be a voice for South Korea’s LGBTQ+ population – and an openly gay K-pop idol, he said.
“There are not many celebrities in Korea who speak up for human rights,” Holland told SBS PopAsia.
“I thought there’s got to be someone like me who discloses their sexual identity.”
3. Unofficial fandom: Harlings
It's all thanks to you.— HOLLAND (@HOLLAND_vvv) April 29, 2018
I'm very lucky to have met you guys.
I could do it because you supported me and loved me.
My fans is amazing and strong
세상에서 제일 너희를 사랑해
Holland’s fans are referred to as “Harlings” – a combination of the singer’s name Holland, and “darlings”.
Holland often interacts with his Harlings on social media.
“The fans are very special to me,” an emotional Holland said in an emotional video interview with South Korean magazine Dazed.
“I’m working harder because I want to be a special person for my fans, too.”
The singer has fan from around the world, including the United States, Brazil and Spain.
He launched his first single on Billboard and iTunes charts, and has developed a worldwide following since then.
Holland also tries to communicate with his foreign fans.
Before the release of his first song, he posted an announcement on his Twitter account in four languages: Korean, English, Japanese and French.
He also wants to learn Portuguese because he has many fans in Brazil.
4. First love – falling for someone while at secondary school
Holland was a bit shy about talking about the person who would later become his “first love” with Dazed.
The young idol said that he met his first love – someone the same age as him, but more mature – when they were both in the first year at secondary school.
“The more you love, the more you know how to treat people and how to be loved,” Holland said.
“My first love [remains] a thankful existence to me.”
Today, Holland, like any other 22-year-old, has his fantasies about romantic relationships.
In his video interview with Dazed, he talked about wanting “skinship” – which he said was “an affectionate Korean slang term for [public displays of affection] PDA” – even though South Korea was not very open about skinship.
5. Facing negative comments – stay chilled and ignore them
As South Korea’s first openly gay singer, Holland has not always had praise and encouragement during his life.
He said negative or malicious comments while living in the relatively conservative country remained a big challenge for him.
However, Holland said he was lucky that he had a strong mind and a good supportive network which included members of his family and friends.
Although he read all the comments, he said he did not care about the malicious messages.
A post shared by HOLLAND (@holland_vvv) on May 20, 2018 at 7:46am PDT
However, the singer said he was open to constructive advice from people.
“I really appreciate it if they point out what I need to improve, but I don’t care about those who abuse me without any reason,” he said.