IU is one of Korea’s most successful female soloists, and top-tier celebrity. Her journey to the top wasn’t easy though, and the difficulties she struggled through may bring not only a tear to your eye, but courage to your heart as well!
1. She came from poverty
IU’s family was well off until a debt they had underwritten went awry and the family faced financial difficulty. While IU’s parents tried to handle the situation, IU and her younger brother grew up with their grandmother. This may explain why IU is very close to her grandmother.
At first, the three lived in a small room full of cockroaches. Then they moved into a relative’s house, where IU had to put up with the relative’s verbal abuse. The relative, upon returning home drunk and seeing IU, her brother, and her grandmother, started shouting that IU will never make it as a singer and so she should be studying instead of practicing. IU recalled pretending to be asleep as she endured this verbal abuse. She decided at this point she will try her best to become a successful singer.
2. She was conned and robbed
Things didn’t work out too well for IU even when she became a trainee. While looking for auditions to enter, the young IU was conned. An agency tricked her into sending a large sum of money for training and appearing on TV programs. IU was even more heartbroken because the money that she lost belonged to her grandmother who saved up little by little from selling small accessories.
3. She finally succeeded, and gave back to her family
IU debuted in 2008. She immediately became a rising rookie with hit songs like “Boo” and “Marshmallow”. By 2009, when IU had saved up enough to turn the table around for her family, she bought her father his dream car. Though IU does not like to reveal her family on camera too much, she has shared Instagram pictures of herself enjoying a date with her dad at a strawberry farm. Her series of text messages with her younger brother also went viral for a bit, showing that IU is still a baby girl to her parents and a silly older sister to her brother.
4. IU gave up everything to focus on her dream
On an episode of Healing Camp, IU talked about how she didn’t have the grades to go on to college. As her popularity hiked, several universities around Korea offered special admission opportunities, but she turned all of them down. Fans applauded her decision to remain focused on her career and turn down offers that often become controversial later on as done for other celebrities.
“College entrance is for those who worked hard for it. I won’t even have time to actually have a college life, so I will not be pursuing college education.” — IU
5. She worked herself to exhaustion and poor health
IU had her fans worried sick when she fainted and was hospitalized, before she returned to promote her “Real” album. Since then, fans have been concerned about her health, as she is quite skinny. Since then, IU has been trying to stay healthy by working out. By 2017, when she appeared on Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast, IU picked up on yoga with the recommendation from Lee Hyori. IU has uploaded videos of herself trying out different yoga postures to show that she is working on stay fit.
6. She has struggled with an eating disorder
In 2014, IU revealed she was disgnosed with bulimia, an emotional disorder involving body image and the obsessive desire to lose weight, which can cause depression and self-induced vomiting. Because of it, she fell into self-hate and self-pity. She now has a set eating schedule that keeps her on track and healthy.
“Because I was so stressed, even the smallest thing would actually make my skin crawl. I was really unhappy. Once I started disliking myself, there was no end to that. I kept digging deeper and deeper into a hole of self-pity. I was so lethargic and felt like I only had two choices – to sleep or to eat. So whenever I wasn’t sleeping, I was binge eating.” — IU
7. IU has a heart of gold
In 2015, IU donated $100,000 USD to help the children in need. While she did not wish to reveal her good deed, a press covered her donation to charity. From that news, more press began covering IU’s actions to give back to the community. IU has been supporting her own scholarship at the high school she is from, to send four outstanding students in need to college. IU has also donated books to this high school’s library and sent supporting funds for educational purposes.
8. Friendship is extremely important to her
IU and actress Yoo In Na have an adorable friendship that is goals for any BFFs out there. Despite the huge age difference, IU and Yoo In Na remain one of the most well-known best friends in the industry. When IU received the “Album of the Year” award at the 2017 Melon Music Awards, she thanked Yoo In Na for sticking by her side through the thick and thin. IU’s fans are also grateful for this beautiful friendship, as the two have been each other’s greatest support system and everyone needs that.
“Though we may not be real family that shares blood, you are my best friend, my number one fan, my superstar and my muse, Yoo In Na. Thank you.” — IU
9. She misses him dearly, like the rest of us.
When SHINee‘s Jonghyun passed away, IU’s heart broke, along with millions of other fans’ around the world. She treasured her friendship with Jonghyun, who wrote and featured on her “A Gloomy Clock”.
“I usually don’t have that many people whom I can say that I’m close to. I feel like once I say I’m someone’s good friend, it almost puts that pressure on the person. So I try not to say things like that in public, but I believe I am pretty close to Jonghyun.” — IU
A month following Jonghyun’s sudden passing, IU delivered a heartbreaking speech to him at the 2018 Golden Disk Awards and apologized for not realizing his state of sorrow earlier.
“I believe we should laugh when we’re happy, cry when we’re sad… It’s okay to be exhausted or hungry or sick. These things are natural, and I wish we can all show and accept these natural things. Fellow artists, our job is to console other people and it’s great we try to be professional by hiding our feelings, but we should really look into ourselves and take care of our needs as well.” — IU
10. Sometimes her vulnerability becomes her strength
When talking about how she came to write the song “A Lost Puppy”, IU shared that she was able to write the song as she imagined when she is no longer loved and popular. This actually broke a lot of fans’ hearts, as the lyrics are terrifyingly lonely.
This song was reviewed as one of the “20 Essential K-Pop Songs” by Pitchfork.
“Lee Ji-eun, better known as IU, is one of K-pop’s few musician’s musicians outside the studio. As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, she is that rare idol who fulfills the roles more commonly demanded of acts in the West, while also ably handling the ones more commonly expected of Korea’s music stars: actor, television host, model, spokesperson, and on. Composed, written, and sung exclusively by IU, “A Lost Puppy” is a lament of astonishing hopelessness coming from a lighthearted 18-year-old icon.” — Pitchfork
11. IU is always working on getting to know herself better, as we all are.
During her interview with CeCi Magazine, IU talked about her self-esteem. While she mentioned she has low self-esteem, she isn’t bothered by the fact. She talked about how she uses this self-consciousness to remember that she should not become arrogant. Realizing IU is just as vulnerable and human as the rest of the world, fans couldn’t help but fall in love with this down-to-earth K-Pop superstar.
“I have built up some esteem. I still wouldn’t say I have a good amount compared to other people. No matter how insignificant someone sees me, it will not be as nearly as bad as how I see myself. I’m actually good at looking at myself in that light. It could be considered a weakness, but I think it’s a strength. I know exactly who I am, so I will never, ever become cocky…” — IU