August 2014 was a weird time for me. I was a 17-year-old teen who was counting down the days before turning 18, panicking about my braces, and crying about going from small to medium. But it was also a time when I was singing “Shine on me, let it shine on me” in the shower.
Fast forward to 2022, I’m a 25-year-old woman who’s figuring out her career path, mentally computing gasoline bills in my head, and singing loudly to Feel My Rhythm at the Mall of Asia Arena with tears in my eyes. After eight years, I finally saw Red Velvet in the flesh.
To recall, Red Velvet was one of the performers at the “Be You” benefit concert with BGYO, BINI, and Lady Pipay. Prior to the show, their last visits to the PH were the “K-pop World Music Festival” in June 2019 and the “Best of the Best” event in April 2015. They haven’t done a solo concert in the country—and hopefully, the concert was a reminder of why they have to return.
The moment their introduction video was shown at the Mall of Asia Arena, Reveluvs erupted into cheers as they raised their Mandu-bongs (also known as Red Velvet’s lightsticks) in delight. At that time, I was holding my phone in shock. I expected that I would scream my lungs out when they would perform—which I did—but I was immediately brought back to the time when I witnessed SHINee’s Key sing live. That awkward teen fangirl who found hope by supporting her favorite groups in the comforts of her snail-slow desktop computer turned bulky laptop and secondhand iPhone 5.
Reveluvs, mag-ingay! 😍 Cheers erupted at the Mall of Asia Arena as Red Velvet took the #BeYou stage with ‘Feel My Rhythm.’— PhilSTAR L!fe (@philstarlife) July 22, 2022
ICYDK, the single was included at our ‘16 of the best K-pop title tracks of 2022’ list. See our review at https://t.co/HqxhRWPCYV.#BeYouWithRedVelvet pic.twitter.com/mkVkIhQ9L6
I’ve been a fan of Red Velvet since their pre-debut days. The moment I saw Irene, Seulgi, and Wendy’s SMROOKIES videos in 2014, I knew that I’ll be supporting them wherever they go. At that time, I was doing my best to get through my International Studies degree (which I hated) in college. I was going through mundane teen problems (Your braces are off and you went from a large to a medium again, past self). I was cursing my first love for breaking my heart back in high school where I vowed to live a better life than he ever would (vengeful much). I was crying over Sulli leaving f(x) and Kris (little did I know) and my former ultimate bias Luhan leaving EXO.
But Red Velvet’s debut made me excited. And when their debut music video dropped on Aug. 3, 2014, I was initially confused—but Wendy’s “shine on me” sealed the deal. My teen fangirl self vowed that I’m going to stan this group until the day I die. Even when I graduate from college, find a job where I can fangirl to my heart’s content (which I fulfilled), get married, and have kids.
I’ve always been secretive about my emotions and personal demons and I had K-pop as my coping mechanism. I didn’t have money to buy merch but their split-up videos were more than enough. Red Velvet was quickly added to my favorites list, but there’s something about Happiness and Ice Cream Cake (minus the suggestive lyrics they made 16-year-old Yeri sing) that got me through my awkward young adult phase.
Back then, I had to hide my love for K-pop. But Red Velvet made me embrace my love for K-pop in its cute, crazy, and wacky ways. The girl group made me dream of a career that caters to a budding writer who’s passionate about the Korean entertainment industry. Which, in a twist of fate, I made it happen.
So, you can imagine the disbelief when I finally saw Red Velvet in the flesh. I knew I had to write about my experience and do my job. But it was hard to control my loud voice and tears at that moment. I screamed my heart out for Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy, and Yeri. I wildly waved my Mandu-bong all throughout their set. I sang along to every lyric of Feel My Rhythm, Psycho, Hello Sunset, Queendom, and Red Flavor at the top of my lungs.
I did my job as a content producer, of course. But most of all, I cried tears of joy when their set ended. In the sea of faces at the MOA Arena, I felt they were performing for me as a reward for confidently going after my dreams. It was a moment where I felt that the girls were congratulating me for embracing who I really am—and succeeding in doing so.
Stanning Bae Joohyun, Kang Seulgi, Son Seungwan, Park Sooyoung, and Kim Yerim made me realize that being true to yourself—whether you’re more Red or Velvet—is what matters the most. Red Velvet never followed the trends. Throughout their career, they seamlessly embraced being baddies, summer queens, cake girls, pizza delivery guy killers, ballerinas, little monsters, and a ton more. But the K-pop industry loves them for it.
As soon as the “Be You” concert ended, I returned to my car with the biggest smile on my face as I put Happiness on repeat.
I am far from the awkward teen I used to be. But I’m still the 17-year-old Hannah who learned how to embrace her true self, thanks to these five beautiful ladies.