post- 02/26/21

Page 6


A Star Drawn with My Left Hand rhythms of reality in iu's "celebrity" by nicole kim Illustrated by caroline dai Stepping into the departures terminal at SFO, my suitcase filled with various fermented Korean sauces and clothes I probably wouldn’t be wearing to Zoom University, I felt the same sense of relief wash over me that I’ve always experienced when I fly out to Providence. It had been almost nine months

The music video for the song opens with IU half-

since I last made the trip I usually take around half a

kneeling, half-sitting dramatically on a carpeted floor,

dozen times per year. Even with the knowledge that

her iridescent blue cape billowing out onto the carpet

I was going to be spending most of the semester in an

behind her like a soft, velvety expanse of ocean. There’s

apartment befriending my laptop screen, my desperate

an edge to IU’s voice in this opening sequence, just

brain was soothed by this false pretense of normalcy—

like her. At first glance, she might seem traditionally

/ Can’t you see how beautiful / Spring will be tomorrow?

the streamlined process of traveling from origin to

attractive, with the doll-like features and ethereal long

The video cuts to another IU in a fancy red dress and

destination: following the moving walkway at the airport

hair that is common in the Korean music scene. But then

decadent jewelry as the melody echoes with the familiar

and seeing myself reflected in the blacked-out windows,

IU makes direct eye contact with the camera and smirks

“You’re my celebrity.” I grin into my mug as I watch her

listening to my sister’s playlist whilst sitting by the gate,

into the microphone as she effortlessly hits a high note,

run into the night, away from flashing cameras, sharing

nursing an almond milk latte while waiting for my flight

and you can almost see the bad b*tch energy radiating

in her newfound sense of freedom and selfhood.

at Washington Dulles. The rhythm of movement and

off her (cue swoon).

tension in the song breaks as we return to the chorus one last time, the lyrics slightly altered: “잊지마 이 오랜

겨울 사이/언 틈으로 피울 꽃 하나/보이니 하루 뒤 봄이 얼마나/ 아름다울지 말야.” Don’t forget that through this long winter / A flower can bloom through the frozen cracks

To me, “Celebrity” describes the feeling of being

passing hours felt familiar and comforting. I like flying

The irony of “Celebrity” is that IU, a singer

trapped in our own reality. Whether we’re a famous

because it resembles a break in time, a moment when

whose renowned fans include a horde of popular

musician or a college student, tracing the same patterns

I’m not occupying my life at home or in college. I’m just

artists, is telling the listener/the person the song is

through each day can feel overwhelmingly lonely and

me, moving through the world with nothing really to

addressed to that they are her celebrity—essentially,

suffocating at times—as if we’re an iceberg slowly

do and no one to talk to. It’s a nice feeling, this strange

the celebrity of the ultimate celebrity. The song isn’t

melting away, not really sure what’s happening or if

sense of obscurity.

necessarily romantic, but rather filled with a kind of

anything is changing. Within the landscape of the music

The quiet and independence I experienced

patient, soothing love. Despite the deceivingly upbeat

video, I get the feeling that IU is reassuring herself.

during the nine-ish hours of travel quickly gave way to

instrumentals and high-pitched vocals, “Celebrity”

Telling herself that this “real” you exists, both when you

overwhelming anxiety during my first few days back.

carries a tinge of sadness that I can’t shake off. The

occupy the role of the glamorous celebrity and when

Left to fend for myself after a nine-month retreat from

storyline of the video follows “celebrity” IU as she

you feel distant from it. “Celebrity” reminds us that we

“real life,” I suddenly felt threatened from all sides.

coincidentally runs into her doppelganger, “fan” IU,

can’t escape ourselves, no matter how hard we try. And

Despite the various stressors that came with living

who is sitting at a cafe, looking a little bored as she

that, conversely, we don’t have to, because it is in facing

at home, the semester I spent in California had been

distractedly plays with her coffee. Still reeling from

our fear and doubt that we find freedom from the world

accompanied by a level of seclusion that both eased and

shock, “celebrity” IU attempts to follow “fan” IU, but

around us.

encouraged my anxious mind. While the repetitive cycle

loses her in the crowds of people on the street. She ends

Talking to my therapist this week, I told her that I

of eating, sleeping, and doing schoolwork had cleared a

up returning to her apartment, flopping onto her bed

hadn’t been sleeping well and my appetite was a little

little too much space for worrying about the future, it

defeatedly as she looks out at the Seoul skyline. I can’t

low. “You seem a little depressed,” she observed. “Have

also allowed me to avoid making decisions I now had to

help but think that she looks very lonely.

you been having other symptoms?” Oh, so this is what

face at school. Now, I worried that my pod-mates (both

An echoey hollowness colors the world of the music

I’ve been experiencing, I thought to myself, feeling a

of whom are close friends of mine, but hadn’t really

video. Other than the two IUs and the dancers, the other

cooling sense of relief at this realization, knowing that

known each other previously) would feel uncomfortable

“people” in the video only appear as limbs or faceless

this is something I can sit with and tend to.

with one another. I worried that I had bought too much

bodies, passing IU by on the streets, holding up makeup

There’s only about a month and a half left of spring

spinach and was creating food waste, contributing

brushes to her face, or, at one point, circling around

semester of junior year. Somehow, that makes me feel

to global warming. I worried that I wouldn’t get into

her draped in fairy lights. The effect is eerie, as if IU is

both relieved and disappointed. Maybe I should be

graduate school next year. I worried that I wasn’t doing

living in a dollhouse or musical set where she is the only

making more of this time? Am I spending my energy

or being enough.

sentient being, while everyone else moves around her in

on the right things? Will I regret these decisions? I find

In these first few weeks of fogginess, the digital

a mechanical rhythm. I’m sometimes reminded of how

myself groping around for a sense of agency. And despite

single “Celebrity” by renowned Korean singer-

loneliness can feel like a soft cocoon, when I’m wrapped

desperately wanting a break from everything, I’m also

songwriter Lee Ji-eun, better known by her stage name

up in its intimate, isolating hold and don’t have the

afraid of who and what I’ll be once all of the dust clears

IU, came to me like fresh snow on a winter morning. The

energy to escape. As if I’m sitting by a big window and

and the noise settles. If I don’t have a fancy internship

electro-pop track jump starts with a crisp, bouncy beat

watching the people, cars, and pets pass me by, a little

this summer, without all of the work and business that

and IU’s clear, watery vocals, describing an unspecified

detached. Wanting to join them, but mostly wanting to

pummels me through the school year, what will I do?

individual who is rejected by the world for who they are:

keep sitting there. Towards the end of the video, the two IUs end up

hard and frightening and makes me want to crawl away

At the world’s edge, crookedly shaped, an outsider. As the

side-by-side at the edge of the bed in the aforementioned

from myself into my blankets forever. Maybe this means

lyrics illustrate, this person seems to be out of sync with

apartment. In a ripple of movement, the IU on the right

that I still have a lot of work to do on myself. Or I’m just

(celebrity IU? it’s unclear at this point) reaches out to

experiencing imposter syndrome. Nevertheless, I feel

“세상의 모서리 구부정하게 커버린 골칫거리 outsider....” the expectations of those around them: “걸음걸이 옷차림 이어폰 너머 play list 음악까지 다 minor.” The way they

If I’m being honest, sitting with that uncertainty is

touch the IU on the left (fan IU?), just as the IU on the

held because I know that I’m still showing up. Despite

walk, the way they dress, through their earphones their

left sweeps her hair back with her hand. Just before

everything that’s happening and everything that’s

playlist—-even all of their music is minor. Still, to her—

they make contact, fan IU leaves the room. Celebrity

moving too fast, I know that I’m okay and things will

the speaker and/or IU—everything about this person

IU once again rushes after her, but when she turns the

pass, as they always do, because I have myself and people

is perfect and perfectly beautiful. “Celebrity” is a love

corner, the other IU is gone, and she is faced with her

who love me, who know the real me. I’m looking into my

letter to this person and to the listener, reminding us

own reflection.

own reflection, stopping momentarily—at the airport, in

that despite everything we feel and the doubt we harbor, to those who love us, we are already whole.

6 post–

Gingerly, she reaches her fingertips up to the mirror, looking into her own eyes wide with fear. The

the windows I pass on my way to get my COVID test, in my apartment bathroom. Confirming that I’m real.

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