When Holland debuted his early 2018 music video ‘Neverland’, it carried a bright red dot with the number ‘19’ in it, writes the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of Dazed Magazine. The decision to include imagery of two men exchanging a kiss was a sign of self-obliteration for the K-pop idol in his home country. Dazed explains: “Homosexuality is legal in South Korea, yet members of the LGBTQ+ community are still social pariahs, routinely shoved into the shadows by unpunishable discrimination, public protests and large-scale petitions to the president’s office.”
As the result of red-dot-19, no mainstream broadcast media in Seoul would air the video when it came out in January. As someone who used to joke that I was flying to Seoul to have dinner in my fav Italian restaurant (being there every four to six weeks), I had no idea that anti-homosexuality sentiment was so strong in the country.
Lensed by Leslie Zhang with styling by Robbie Spencer, Taylor Glasby conducts the interview with Holland, for Dazed Magazine’s latest issue.
Despite queerness being used as a marketing tool routinely in K-pop (from choreography to fan-service games, where same-sex idols pass thin sheets of paper mouth-to-mouth), LGBTQ+ performers are shunned in actuality. As such, Holland, who started making music when he was studying for an art degree at Seoul Institute of Arts (he’s since put his studies on hold to focus on his career), was unable to secure a deal at an entertainment agency, and lacked the money and connections needed to appear on the country’s variety and music programmes, which play a major part in the careers of idols.
Holland’s rise was totally stymied in his own country — and then the Internet took over. Taylor Glasby tells the story.