Words by Alexis Hodoyan-Gastelum
It seems like so much is written about 2NE1’s fierce leader CL nowadays, especially after she announced her much anticipated upcoming US solo debut. Whether we’re gawking at her most recent crazy fashions or rejoicing in the greatness of her latest releases with her group or other artists, it’s not just K-pop fans who’re falling for the Baddest Female anymore and craving to know more about her. But while Blackjacks (2NE1’s fandom name) might know Chaerin (CL’s real name) down to her blood type and favorite colors, others might not be so well acquainted with her.
Even though fashion is a big part of who CL is and surely something that stands out about her, it’s definitely not as far as it goes. While everything about her appearance screams for well-deserved attention, it’s her talent as an artist that has made it last. But with all the hype surrounding her American debut and her overall awesome self, attested to by Jeremy Scott and Moschino via Instagram and Diplo by collaborating with her time and time again, what is so special about her and what sets her apart from the rest of the K-pop and even other Western female artists? Here’s a list of crucial CL facts that should answer your questions about the baddest chick out of Seoul.
Growing up, Chaerin Lee lived in Japan and France and attended international schools before settling in Seoul as a teenager. Because of this and the fact that she comes from a family of academics, CL learned English, French, Japanese, and Korean.
Throughout 2NE1’s and her own solo releases, CL has shown her rapping skills in Korean, English, and Japanese, maintaining an almost identical flow and style in each. Her fluency in these four languages allow her to reach out and appeal to even more people beyond Hallyu and her 2NE1 fame.
SHE’S A LYRICIST
The most basic thing a person has to have down in order to be a rapper is to write their own lyrics. In K-pop, companies train kids to be rappers in their assigned groups, even if this didn’t come to them organically. However, YG Entertainment is the Mecca for hip-hop in Korea’s mainstream, and that’s why, even after auditioning and not being accepted, CL, as a teenaged aspiring rapper, didn’t stop until she handed her demo to the CEO herself.
Instead of completely inventing CL, YG worked with her and crafted her into the Baddest Female (her onstage persona). And while most of 2NE1’s songs are written by YG producers, CL has slowly begun to participate in the creative process as well. For 2NE1’s latest album “Crush,” she wrote and co-wrote five tracks, including “Baby I Miss You,” “MTBD,” and “If I Were You,” being the only member involved in the process. She also provided her English rap for Skrillex and Diplo’s “Dirty Vibe.”
But her composing skills weren’t something she learned with time and grueling training. In 2009, the year she debuted with 2NE1 at the age of 19, she penned her own rap in G Dragon’s song “The Leaders” off of his solo album. CL’s talent was always there and she’s more than capable of coming up with her own raps and lyrics and, for some reason, is only fully showcasing them until now.
SHE’S A TRIPLE THREAT
As mentioned before, each individual member in a K-pop group is assigned a role by the company, with these ranging from main vocalist to dancing machine to visual. In 2NE1’s case, CL was destined to be the leader and rapper, with Bom as the main vocalist, Dara as visual, and Minzy as the main dancer and backup vocalist. CL has previously stated that she wasn’t a good singer when she joined YG. Unlike her rapping, her vocals have improved throughout the course of her career and is now given singing parts in the group’s songs. Her range can be appreciated in tracks like “I Love You” and “Missing You,” especially the acoustic performances. Now, she not only raps, but sings heartfelt ballads on par with Bom and Minzy.
Moreover, K-pop groups are known for their intricate choreographies, but 2NE1 has established themselves more as performers than dancers. But even though Minzy is one of the best dancers in K-pop, miss CL can hold her own on stage. These three skills plus her overall fierce persona are what make CL the Beyonce of 2NE1.
SHE’S JEREMY SCOTT’S MUSE AND BFF
After watching 2NE1’s debut video for “Fire,” American fashion designer Jeremy Scott flew halfway around the world to meet the ladies in person. As CL described it, something just clicked between them and both parties went on to have a pretty publicized friendship filled with awesome clothes and the best seats at his runway shows, rubbing elbows with other fashionistas like A$AP Rocky and Natalia Kills. Scott even designed 2NE1´s ensembles for their first worldwide tour in 2012, with some of the pieces making it onto his Fall 2013 collection. He has openly declared CL his muse and she is regularly seen decked out in Moschino and Jeremy Scott’s latest pieces before they even hit stores.
SHE OPPOSED GETTING PLASTIC SURGERY
It is secret to no one that K-pop entertainment companies make their trainees get plastic surgery in order for them to be more attractive once they debut. And in the plastic surgery capital of the world, who would be surprised by or look down on this? CL, for one.
Watching her on stage or through her music videos, one could never fathom a time when the Baddest Female wasn’t so bad and confident. It might seem hard to believe that anyone would say this to such a superbabe, but CL has openly talked about YG Entertainment’s CEO telling her to get plastic surgery prior to her debut because she was ugly, and how she stood up for herself and refused. In an interview with ELLE last year, she explained, “I love CL, but I still want to be Chaerin. And if I felt like I had to change I would. But I love the natural way I look. I said no [to plastic surgery] and I’m not planning to.”
But even if she respects herself and her body, she can’t always avoid getting upset over the criticism of her looks. That’s why in 2011 for 2NE1’s second mini album, Teddy Park and Kush composed the empowering track “Ugly” after a conversation CL had with the former. But since then, CL has released self empowering anthem after self empowering anthem like “I Am the Best” and “The Baddest Female” that prove she’s no longer phased by the hate, has risen above it, and can do anything supposedly prettier girls do better.
Credits: MTV Iggy