I’ve interviewed quite a number of celebrities in my writing career, and I must say, Song Ji Hyo is one of the most down-to-earth celebrities I’ve met. She may be one of the top actresses and variety show star in South Korea—and other parts of Asia, including Singapore—but she didn’t put on airs when we interviewed her backstage at the Korea Brand & Entertainment EXPO 2018 (KBEE 2018) earlier this month, for which she was one of the ambassadors. In fact, she even lightly chided the translator for being late and making me wait.
When I welcomed her back to Singapore, she gushed, “It’s so good [to be here],” before switching to English, “I’m very happy.” She later on told me at the end of the interview that she really loves Singapore and that she’s happy every time she comes back.
She might be known as “Mong Jihyo” (“Blank Jihyo”) for her “blur sotong” moments on Running Man sometimes, but there was nothing “mong” or blank about her when she expertly fielded questions during the interview while maintaining her frankness. In fact, what we saw was a glimpse of her other personality on the variety show that catapulted her to international fame, Ace Jihyo. However, she reckons that she’s not quite like her on-screen persona in real life. When asked if her personality is as strong as Ace Jihyo’s, she says, “The character itself is a character. I’m just human—I get hurt and feel down sometimes. It’s a character that’s made in Running Man.”
And if you’ve been watching the variety show, you’ll know that the 37-year-old actress can sleep anywhere. In fact, sleeping is her secret to having good skin. She says, “It’s not that I have confidence to show my bare skin [on TV but] I would rather use the time and energy used to get ready to sleep, so I can I channel that energy during my shows. … I’m happy that everyone thinks I have good skin. I don’t really have any particular skincare regime. Sleep is the best! (Laughs)”
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Out of all the roles you’ve acted in, which can you best relate to?
Actually, rather than how the character is, if I don’t see myself in the character, I don’t think I can play it. In every character I’ve played, there was a part of me inside, so I can relate to all the characters I’ve played. … [That mindset applies] not just to characters I play, but in everything I do. (What role do you want to try in future?) I want to try everything! (Laughs) I want to challenge myself and do everything I can.
As you grow older, do you find that the roles you are attracted to have changed?
When I was younger, I focused on romantic relationships between a man and a woman. But as I grow older, I focus more on other stuff, including familial love, domestic relationships, platonic love, love for animals and other things. As I grow older, I gain more experience on all those things, so I’m now more open to the things that I do. I think that applies to my outlook in life, and it translates into the character that I choose. As I grow older, I look at more varied things.
Let’s talk about your recent drama Lovely Horribly. In the show, you wrote a drama with Philip. If you could write a drama in real life, what would it be about?
If I were to write a drama? (Pauses for a long time.) If there were only happiness in the drama, it would be too idealistic and it wouldn’t be fun, so I would write a story where there are ups and downs—there would be sadness as well—for a wholesome story. I hope there’s 99% of happiness and 1% of sadness in the drama (laughs). Genre? Anything but horror! I would cast someone else to act in the drama, and if that were to happen, then I would want a painful story (laughs). If I did it, it would be painful for me, but if I saw other people doing it, I would realise how painful it is, then I would rewrite the story. (Laughs)
In Song Jihyo’s Beautiful Life, you tried a plethora of things, from becoming a dog trainer to dancing. Which did you enjoy most, and which was the hardest to do? Was there something you wanted to do but didn’t get to try?
I liked everything from the start to end. I could learn things in everything that I did. [But] everything was difficult! (Laughs) There were a lot of things that I wanted to try [but didn’t get to]. I wanted to create customised clothes and cosmetics, clothes for weddings and different body sizes… I think society really needs it right now. Nowadays, people sit or stand a lot, so their postures are not very good. I want to create clothes that can self-diagnose people’s postures, so you can find out if your posture is good. I feel like I need it myself because I’m older (laughs), so if I created it, it’ll be helpful for everyone else too. Rather than curing the outside, I want to cure the inside. If you correct your posture, you’ll feel stability. If I were to explain it, it’ll be too long, but I want to customise cosmetics based on skin types. I feel like not a lot of people—including me—know their skin type, so I want create cosmetics where people know what kind of cosmetics suits them best and what skin type they have.
A celebrity faces a lot of pressure because they’re constantly watched by the media and the public. Do you sometimes get scared of how your actions will be regarded? What do you do to destress?
I pick something that I love to do, and for me, it’s meeting up with people that I love and spending quality time with them. That really heals me and releases my stress. (Speaking of spending time with family, how will you be spending your Christmas?) How should I spend it? (Laughs) I don’t really celebrate these celebrations; it’s just another day for me. I’ll just be at home during Christmas. I’m surprised because you suddenly talked about Christmas! (Laughs)