Tiffany Young on Defining Herself as a Solo Artist, Songwriting for Her EP, and Her Future With Girls’ Generation


Tiffany Young would like to reintroduce herself to America.

The 29-year-old Korean-American, who was raised in San Francisco, has spent the last decade as a member of Girls’ Generation, one of South Korea’s most popular (and successful) K-pop girl groups, which debuted in 2007. She was one of originally nine, then eight members there.

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This October, she was reported to not have renewed her contract with the group’s agency SM Entertainment, although Young herself is the first to say her days performing with fellow members Taeyeon, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun are far from over; she’s said before that they could reunite. To, she confirmed it again, although it hasn’t happened yet. “But yeah, we are serious,” she said. “I’m not the one who gets to say, but I’m definitely—you know me, if the girls want to go, I’m definitely ready to go.”

But Young is also setting the foundation for her next chapter as a global solo artist right now. This week, she announced her first solo North American tour, her Lips on Lips mini showcase tour, which will start next March.

2018 has been good to Young. She is finishing up her EP, set to come out next year. She’s already released two English singles, “Over My Skin” and “Teach You.” She’s gone to her first U.S. award show, the American Music Awards, and made history there as the first female K-pop artist to attend. Oh, and she wants to act too, and is taking classes.

A lot is happening—and for the first time, Young has full control over every aspect of it as a solo artist, from her fashion to the songs she’s writing now, instead of being given. talked to Young about the songs she’s writing for her EP, her style idols as she creates her own look as an artist (Blake Lively is among them), how she feels about K-pop’s rise abroad, and her big 2019 plans.

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ELLE: You were just at the AMAs and made history there as the first female K-pop artist to walk the carpet. How did it feel?

Young: Such a dream come true to be there, especially since I’ve been watching it since I was a little girl. And going as the first female K-pop artist is also…I’m so proud. So lucky. So blessed. I hope it’s the first of many opportunities, not just for K-pop artists but all female artists around the world.

2018 American Music Awards - Arrivals

Young in Versace at the AMAs.

Getty ImagesFrazer Harrison

Is there anyone who you were really excited to meet?

I got to see Mariah Carey perform, and I was super excited. I said hello to a few people on the red carpet and inside, but when I was standing outside, and we were all waiting to go to our seats, I saw Post Malone. His outfit was just so amazing that night. I couldn’t even say hello, I was just like [gasps], that is one nice suit. But yeah, I was happy to see Post Malone.

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As a solo artist, you have complete control over your look now. So how have you created your own fashion identity?

I’m still working on it. I definitely want myself to look the way I sound at the moment. I want to make sure somebody is looking at me and they see what the song or that whole era of that song is about. I think that’s something I picked up from K-pop. It’s been fun, especially “Teach You.”

“Teach You” has so many different ways to dress up. I remember at first I had lots of plaid going on, and then it turned into lots of glasses and suspenders, and I think I’m really learning how to dress to the art that you’re creating. So I can’t wait for the next song and building around that all the time.

Are there any designers you gravitate to?

I am a huge Dior fan. We had lots in the music video. And I’m a huge Versace fan—in Girls’ Generation I was in Versace too. I think that’s why I chose it for the red carpet as well.

Do you have any style icons?

Of course. Carrie Bradshaw—Sarah Jessica Parker. And I loved Blake Lively in Gossip Girl when I was growing up. I don’t know if you’ve seen A Simple Favor yet, the new movie?

Celebrity Sightings in New York - March 14, 2008

Blake Lively and Leighton Meester on the set of Gossip Girl in 2008.

Getty ImagesJames Devaney

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Yeah! I was actually on the red carpet for the premiere, so I saw Blake Lively there.

Oh my goodness. She is one of my favorites. She can do it all. She’s gorgeous, and she does it all on her own [Ed. note: Lively is her own stylist]. Which is so inspiring because I’m learning how to do it all on my own, where I get to choose and piece everything together. So yeah, I love Blake Lively. Jennifer Lopez. Natalie Portman. All very strong but very, very feminine and delicate.

We’re in a moment where K-pop is taking off in the U.S—BTS is popular and Monsta X was just confirmed for Jingle Ball. How does it feel to be part of that wave?

I got to do such amazing things years before, and it feels amazing to be able to continue that and have other groups doing what they do, bringing out the best and creating the best. And I think because of the quality of the production and the artists right now, it just inspires and motivates everybody else, including myself. Watching all of the performances recently with BTS and what you just shared with me—congrats to Monsta X. Jingle Ball, I grew up to that too. It’s inspiring and go K-pop!

I want to show that it’s all about the work ethic and practice, and that you have to go that extra mile and that there is no secret to doing this.

What do you hope to accomplish in your solo career?

I definitely would like to perform at the American Music Awards as well. Coming back home and starting music, being a new artist but having all of that experience and knowledge, I want to be that responsible. I want to be that overly dedicated once again and show that it’s all about the work ethic and practice, and that you have to go that extra mile and that there is no secret to doing this.

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That’s exactly what everybody in K-pop is doing. They go the extra mile and they work so hard and their love and passion for music, I think that’s what’s translating. I hope to connect and reintroduce myself over here back home as an artist that wants to connect so deeply with music. Especially now that I am writing and very hands-on with what I’m creating right now. I hope to be doing all of those amazing performances and stages, and I really want to see my fans here in the U.S. as well. It feels good to be back.

What have you learned as a songwriter and what has inspired you as you’re writing your music?

I started writing 2013 to 14. So it hasn’t been that long, I went to Korea in 2004 so I didn’t write for 10 years. And when you first start learning something you feel like, “Am I not meant for this?” But it really is about pushing and surrounding yourself with the right people. And the people you look up to—the people who make you better. Right now, I’ve been able to be with some amazing producers that are helping me grow and learn into what I want to sound and write like. You know how you have an idea of what you want to be and what you want to sound and write like, but it just never is until that practice is there? I’m taking it step by step and really putting in my hours because, you know, 10,000 hours [Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of anything]…got some time.

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Is there anything you’re exploring with the music that you’re writing now that you can tease to fans?

There was a lot to write about, talking about heartbreak, talking about being very, very open and honest and owning who you are. Life is definitely the inspiration right now. I would say a lot about love and where my heart’s at or where it’s been at: feelings I’ve had and feelings I want to have. It is from experience or past experiences right now, because there’s just so much to dig up from. I’m just starting out.

Your twenties are a really hard time to navigate relationships, both romantic and friendship-wise. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned about love over the years?

Give it your all, because there’s no regrets and there’s no looking back. And it’s comforting that you did give it your all or you loved so deeply. That’s always just been me. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I give so much all the time. But I should be thankful about that because I don’t want to have regret.

Give it your all, because there’s no regrets and there’s no looking back.

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And what about friendship? Being in Girls’ Generation and having this group of girl friends in their late teens and early 20s, what have you learned from them about what it means to be a good, true friend?

Oh, friendship with my girls—I mean, it’s family now. But honesty: fun and being honest. Being there for each other at the best times and the worst times possible…having and sharing your thoughts and morals and values and your view on life and contributing to each other to make yourself better, or better each other. That’s my friendship in a nutshell with the girls. And loyalty is everything. Loyalty has been such a big part of Girls’ Generation.

OnStyle 'Channel SNSD' Press Conference In Seoul

Tiffany Young with Sooyoung, Hyoyeon, Yoona, Taeyeon, Sunny and Seohyun of Girls’ Generation in 2015.

Getty ImagesHan Myung-Gu

Is there anything you can tease about your own upcoming work? An album or a single?

I have my EP ready for the beginning of next year, which is not too far away. We’re almost there and I’m really excited. I finally got to perform “Over My Skin” and “Teach You” for the first time for my fans. It’s a whole new feeling to perform the songs you write and then have the fans—my amazing fans I’ve had for so long, I got emotional with them. There are some fans that were crying like, “We’re so proud of you,” and now I’m tearing up too. It really feels like I’m creating with the fans as well, and I’m very much inspired by performing for them on stage. And that made me really, really want to release this EP so that I can perform more and hopefully tour.

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So this will come out in the beginning of 2019. What does the rest of the year look like for you ideally?

I want to tour, and I want to get back into the studio. My goal is definitely a full album.

A tour around the U.S. or around the world?

Around the world. Why not? I’ve been looking and reading into what all my fans are saying and I want to go to anywhere they are. There’s so much to explore. I’d love to go to South America—I was just talking about it with a couple friends who have been and went—other K-pop artists who’ve toured there with their shows. I was like, “Oh, I wish I could go!” And I’d like to visit all 50 states. Not many people get to do that—but hopefully tour across America as well.

I read that you’re taking acting lessons. Is there a dream role you’d like to be in?

My dream role will forever be anything from Baz Luhrmann. I loved Moulin Rouge. I actually gravitate more toward Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby and Romeo in Romeo + Juliet. So I guess the hopeless romantic roles are definitely what I love. And I also loved La La Land, and it just inspires me and reminds me of what I did when I was younger. How I took off and wanted to be a musician. And now back here in America and LA. And it all has something to do with music.

You just started a campaign with H+M. If you were to start your own clothing line, what would the aesthetic be?

I love fashion, and fashion plays such an important role in my creativity and in putting production together. If I got to create anything, I think I would want to have it very, very accessible but very glam and sparkly. I would want to make things that make anybody feel fabulous.


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