K-pop’s first openly gay star Holland on being a role model

In an intimate film, the Dazed 100er explains why he wants to bring LGBTQ representation to the Korean mainstream

Holland, the emerging K-pop star currently sitting at number two on the Dazed 100, is unique. Not only did he rack up eight million plays on his debut single, he did it with a video depicting a same-sex love story – in a country where LGBTQ+ relationships are still taboo, and where out and proud K-pop idols, until Holland, were simply non-existent. To celebrate his inclusion on the Dazed 100 list, filmmaker Celine Hong met Holland in the town of Iksun-dong (익선동) for an intimate filmed interview. 

He talks about his first love in school, about wanting “skinship” (an affectionate Korean slang term for PDA) with somebody, and about how he deals with negative comments online (or even, how he chooses to be chill and totally ignore them). 

The most poignant bit of the video comes when Holland opens up about the reality of growing up gay in Korea, with a lack of openly out role models visible in his life or in popular culture. “I had a very hard time in my school life...I confessed my love to a boy I loved when I was a secondary school student, and the response was not good, so that made my school life very hard.”

It was this battle that inspired him to go into music, and to become the role model he wanted to see. “Although at that time there wasn’t a single role model to look up to in Korea, I was very consoled by foreign celebrities. So I thought, ‘I want to be a famous person like them’... I’m working harder because I want to be a special person to my fans too.”

Watch the film above, and vote for Holland in the Dazed 100 here