Newly published unretouched images of the group go directly against the flawless beauty that is expected as a standard part of the music scene’s culture
Arriving home in South Korea following their first global concert tour (which brought them to London’s Wembley Arena last month), the nine members of rising K-pop band NCT 127 were probably hoping for a break. But there’s no rest for the rebellious, and Taeyong, Taeil, Yuta, Jaehyun, Mark, Haechan, Johnny, Doyoung and Jungwoo have already caused a fierce beauty debate among Knetz (Korean ‘netizens’).
In a special NCT 127 edition of Dicon magazine, the music heartthrobs appear in a series of stripped-back, black and white portraits. Other than the random, disembodied hands that hover over and around their faces, it’s hard to see what the controversy is all about; but to Korean viewers, their subversive beauty statement is obvious. Rejecting the extreme flawlessness of Korean beauty standards, the band are pictured with unretouched skin, showing their natural pores and a few (very minor) ‘imperfections’, including marks, spots and scars.
While it may seem like no big deal to foreign audiences – and to many Koreans – a raft of negative comments on popular social platform Theqoo show just how confronting unretouched images of natural skin can be for some K-pop fans. “Is this the raw image, uploaded by mistake?” asked one commenter, while another slammed the photographer, saying they have “zero talent for taking pretty pictures of people.” Others expressed shock and disbelief, posting notes such as “What the hell”, “Everything came out ugly”, and “Why didn’t you correct the skin?” With the power of Google translate, I found one dissenting voice; a user who posted the simple observation that “The skin is realistic”.
On Twitter, the natural beauty concept found more support. “I can’t believe NCT is getting made fun of for having skin,” posted one user, while another listed “Things that DON’T make you ugly”, including acne, scars, stretch marks and physical differences, alongside a one-item list of “Thing that DO make you ugly – hating NCT for having an unedited photoshoot and showing their natural skin.” Others commented about how the shoot made them feel about their own skin. “I’m really grateful for NCT 127(’s) recent photoshoot. I was really upset the other day about how my skin isn’t (as) smooth and clear as certain idols, and the fact that some of my fav talented bbies have skin that is normal makes me love mine even more,” one person wrote, adding that the images “(put) everything into perspective.”
i think nct’s skin is beautiful n am so happy we got to see their unedited photos. ur skin doesn’t have to b perfect to b pretty :))— ##lex ✰ 🛵💨 (@luv4suh) August 5, 2019
“I think NCT’s skin is beautiful (and) am so happy we got to see their unedited photos,” posted another, along with the sage advice that, “ur skin doesn’t have to (be) perfect to (be) pretty :)).”
Hopefully NCT 127’s skin-baring bravery will encourage the negative commenters to rethink the value of unachievable beauty ideals and fake images of ‘perfection’, and embrace the natural beauty of skin, for themselves and their music idols.