A member of a Korean girl group has recently been the topic of discussion among netizens – and the reason is appalling. Korean netizens are fat-shaming 15-year-old Kyla Massie, and saying that she’s too fat to be an idol.

One comment stated that she needs to quit being an idol because she “can’t take care of herself”, while others said it didn’t matter whether she was a public figure – she needed to shed the kilos.

Pristin’s Kyla.

But here’s the thing: there is no rule in K-pop that states an idol has to be stick thin. In fact, this misconception, coupled with the stress of being an idol, has led to serious problems, such as eating disorders among some idols.

Recently, Oh My Girl’s JinE had to take a break from promoting with her group to have her anorexia treated. According to reports, the 1.59m girl group member’s weight was under 40kg prior to intervention.

K-pop girl group Oh My Girl.

Girl group members are also known to go on extreme diets. Ladies’ Code’s Sojung admitted that she went on an extreme diet, which led her to missing her period for a year.

A few years ago, Girls’ Generation made headlines for their extreme diet plan, in which they allegedly only consume 800 calories a day. However, in subsequent interviews, the members have clarified that none of them actually followed that diet and were confused on how it became known as their diet plan.

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However, most idol groups still go on diets because they feel that they have to show their best image to their fans. When Red Velvet’s Wendy first debuted, naysayers commented on her chubbiness, but the 23-year-old’s current skinny frame has sparked concerns of an eating disorder. Wendy addressed the issue on a radio show and revealed that she was no longer on a diet and is “losing weight naturally”. However, she admitted that she was afraid that she might get chubby, like how she was as a trainee, so she becomes self-conscious.

Wendy (right) with member Seulgi.

But it seems it’s not only the members who are conscious about what they eat – their managers also make sure the girls don’t indulge in junk food, evident from their appearances on Girls’ Generation’s Sunny’s radio show, and Taeyeon’s variety show last year. On both instances, they were offered ice cream but kept shooting nervous glances at their manager who was watching them like a hawk.

The Red Velvet members told Sunny that they were told to go on a diet because they were in the midst of promotions and had to look good on-screen. Perplexed, Sunny exclaimed, “Why are you losing weight when there’s nothing to lose?”

But girl groups are not the only ones bearing the brunt of this vicious benchmark set by society. Male celebrities also face similar pressures. For example, netizens used to make fun of EXO’s Xiumin for being chubby when the group first debuted. In a bid to lose the kilos, Xiumin hit the gym every day and even went on diets. Concerned, his fellow member Lay asked him on EXO’s Midnight Summer Growl, “Why are you dieting so hard? My heart really hurts.”

Xiumin (centre) flanked by Chen (left) and Baekhyun (right).

He went on to ask fans, “Honestly, if Xiumin gained some weight, will you stop liking him?” When fans answered in negative, Lay told Xiumin to stop being too concerned about his weight and eat more.

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Xiumin told the host the real reason why he went on a diet. He said, “When I look at myself on the screen now compared to in the past, I’ve changed a lot and I don’t want to go back to how I was in the past.”

While this is not an issue that could be solved overnight – it’s happening even in Hollywood, evident from the fat-shaming that Fifth Harmony members and Demi Lovato face – it’s clearly something that we need to address to prevent issues such as eating disorders and poor mental health.

In fact, in Singapore, doctors have noticed a rise in eating disorders among the young, with some being as young as nine years old. Doctors interviewed by The Straits Times attributed social media as being one of the mediums that perpetuate the desire to be thin.

Dr Celine Wong, a consultant at the Psychological Medicine Department at the National University Hospital, told the newspaper, “They associate being overweight or obese as being less attractive, less diligent and less likeable. Coupled with a low self-esteem, a negative body image and bullying in school, some adolescents fall into the trap of developing eating disorders.”

If you know someone who has an eating disorder and needs help, contact AWARE at 1800 777 5555.

Images: TPG/Click Photos