Meet TV and radio host : perfect charm, perfect hair, and that damn perfect smile. He could easily be the sixth member of Big Bang if he just dyed his hair one of the few colors that the band has not yet been tainted with. (I vote for orange). He is by far the biggest Korean culture advocate I have met during my seven months living here in the ROK and you would think someone like him centered his whole life around the entertainment world to get where he is at today. Yet Adrien studied Industrial Engineering in Paris, France, with no hopes to become an entertainer. Because of a random opportunity and a little help from lady luck, today Adrien finds himself hosting one of the most popular Korean entertainment shows, , and his own evening radio show, , both under the Arirang Network.
I met with Adrien at the Arirang Studios in Seoul just after he wrapped up his live radio show, and we discussed the everyday challenges of an entertainer, his opinion on Psy’s explosion of international success, and how soju is not exactly his best friend.
Chincha: Thank you so much for meeting with Chincha. I know you’re a busy guy.
Adrien: Of course, anytime. I know this segment is called a Shot of Soju With and I know soju is definitely a big part of Korean culture. But to be honest, soju is not my best friend. [laughs] Well, okay, I drink it from time to time.
Chincha: I’ll be sure to add mixer to your soju. So you were raised in France. What exactly made you move from Paris to Seoul?
Adrien: I was born here, but I was raised in France. I wanted to re-balance my life between Korea and France, so putting more weight on the Korean side was pretty important for me. I lived here for a few years when I was younger, but I lived most of my life in Paris. While I was earning my Masters in Engineering, I always had in mind that one day I would like to come back. So, all the internships I did were here in Korea. I guess coming back to Korea as a student and seeing all the energy and the fun that you can get here in the city, I was really convinced that I should definitely try to look for a job and get some experience here.
Chincha: You mentioned you studied Engineering. So how did you land into the TV and radio industry?
Adrien: As a kid I never dreamt of being an entertainer or a celebrity on TV. Just today on the show we asked young kids, “what is your dream job?”, and the top answer was “entertainer.” Probably because they’re influenced by what they see on TV and they know stars have fun. They only see the positive side and the bling-bling aspect of becoming a celebrity. But for me that wasn’t my dream at all.
The thing is, when I moved to Korea I didn’t want to go straight into a company because once you start working you’re sort of trapped and you’re stuck there and it becomes a cycle. You have to work for a few years before you climb up the ladder. I gave myself two years to do random things and not work for a company right away. I was very open-minded. Tried different things. I was offered the jobs from friends of friends who worked in the industry. I did some modeling and did a few TV shows on Korean television just to see how it was. And then, finally, I auditioned for TV.
Chincha: Tell me about your audition experience.
Adrien: I have a younger sister, Olivia, who actually worked at Arirang as an intern. She actually wanted to become more of an entertainer than myself. She was the one who told me about the audition. I went for it. I had nothing to lose. Just trying out for an audition is a rich experience; it’s nothing you can do everyday. I just went with no pressure, just to see how it is and to see what it really means to be in front of a camera and talk.
Chincha: What made them pick you, out of everyone else?
Adrien: For me, since I didn’t have any stress or wasn’t really dying to get the job, I think it went well. Sometimes in front of cameras, people stress out. I was very calm and did my thing. Also being a guy gave me a bit of an advantage because it’s mostly girls who want to work in the entertainment industry. I guess the timing was right and I was lucky to have met the right people. Two weeks later I was then given a job for one of their main TV shows, ShowBiz Korea.
Chincha: What is Showbiz Korea?
Adrien: Showbiz Korea is Arirang’s main entertainment program. We talk about the Korean wave, Korean celebrities, and different productions. It’s kind of like Hollywood E News. That was my first job here at Arirang and my first serious gig as an entertainer.
Chincha: Did you manage to remain just as calm on your first few days at Arirang?
Adrien: No. It was hard. Because it wasn’t an audition anymore. It becomes a real job and you have to do your best. We’re all freelancers here, for TV and radio if they know they don’t need you anymore or they feel that you’re not fit for the job then they can get rid of you anytime. It’s not like you have a contract with a company and they’re going to be like ok we’re going to keep you for 2 years or a year. There’s a lot of pressure. Especially since I wasn’t trained to talk in front of cameras.
Chincha: What are some challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?
Adrien: It’s not only you who needs to do a good job, but your partner. I have a co-host. The energy and the chemistry between us two are very important. It has to be natural and it’s really hard because you have to have everything in your head. We don’t have any prompters. So you basically have to prepare ahead of time of what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
Also, there are so many things to think about, like where to look. There’s not only one camera. Your eye contact will be on different places, with your host, with different cameras. Some of them are moving, some of them are fixed, some of them are one shot of you, some of them are bigger frames so you can’t move around too much. It’s little, different things you need to focus on. The first few months were actually quite hard.
It was also challenging because I had to learn more about the entertainment industry here in Korea. I didn’t know all of these stars. I didn’t know all of these actors. I didn’t know all of the productions. If it was only Big Bang, that would have been easy. But we talk not only about the top-notch stars, we also talk about medium stars and less known productions. It was definitely a challenge.
Chincha: I know that you didn’t exactly grow up wanting to be an entertainer, but now that you’re in the industry do you have an idol that you look up to?
Adrien: It’s hard to say. I try to get advice from people around me but I don’t really have a real mentor. Maybe I should? [laughs] I’m half Korean so I try to identify myself to some other people but there aren’t many half-Koreans active in the entertainment industry in Korea. If I need to give a name, in terms of business and a career in entertainment I would have to say Ryan Seacrest. He’s amazing in the terms of his professionalism and his network. He could be somewhat of an inspiration for me. That can definitely be someone I can learn from.
Chincha: What is your ultimate goal with radio and TV hosting?
Adrien: My main vision at the moment is to promote and be an ambassador of the Korean culture. It’s just about people interacting more with the Korean people and to know more about the culture. And Arirang allows me to do this.
I’m really proud of being Korean. I always have been. I didn’t have this problem of identity. Some people do when they’re half Korean or half something else. Or when they’re just from multi cultured backgrounds, they don’t really know who they are. Are they French? Are they Korean? They are basically sitting in between two chairs. So it can sometimes be frustrating. I never felt the pain or trouble it can be to be half Korean and French. I luckily always had my parents behind me. They always gave me lots of love. Lots of support. I was always proud of my Korean roots. Even when I was in the French school system I always proudly said I was Korean. Even bragged about it. I naturally wanted to promote Korean culture, especially because it’s not as famous as Japan or China. It’s a small country and kind of a well-kept secret. And of course, now, it’s opening up with the internet, with YouTube, with K-Pop, with PSY [laughs], with the whole entertainment world. The Korean wave in general is really spreading.
Chincha: What is your opinion, as someone who works on the radio and deals with entertainment, on PSY and the international phenomenon of Gangnam Style?
Adrien: I think he has a hard time himself explaining this tremendous success. If I were in his position it would be very difficult. I think with Gangnam Style he was expecting a hit, but not an international hit. So I guess timing was right. He’s not new to the scene. He’s produced many songs. He wrote many songs before. He’s been here for 10 years and knows what he’s doing. He’s at the top of many charts everywhere. He’s all over the place. I think it’s amazing. It’s such a big success for a Korean singer. Especially him. He’s not the typical good-looking K-pop star most people see. I think it’s his personality that got him as far as he is now. He’s a real funny guy that’s full of energy and doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Chincha: Do you think that expats have a strong effect on Korea at all?
Adrien: I think expats influence Korean people, the younger generation is quite open-minded. I know more and more foreigners moving to Seoul. There are more international schools. There are more interracial marriages. I think Korea is changing a lot. Koreans like change and like things that evolve with time; they don’t like to stick to what their used to. That’s why many people applaud Korean people because within the past few decades Korea has transformed its self from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest countries in the world. It’s a great example for other developing countries.
Chincha: What is your golden piece of advice for Chincha readers who want to put put their foot into the door of the entertainment industry?
Adrien: In Korea, it’s very important to know people to have a network. I guess that’s important for other countries as well. The job opportunities will probably stem from those relationships. It’s hard to just go to a random job interview. If you don’t have any connections or help, it might be a little tough to get that job.
I think whatever you do try to enjoy the moment. People like to work with people who are outgoing. Stay open-minded. Stay positive. Smile. Life is fun because tomorrow is always a mystery and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Interview and feature photo by . Other images courtesy of .