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Is overweight the new heavyweight?

Piggy Dolls and full-figured leading ladies bask in limelight


For years, thin girl groups have traipsed and wriggled across the stage, belting out catchy tunes while executing perfectly choreographed moves.

There was the occasional breakthrough not-so-skinny act ― like the iconic Big Mama ― but those bands generally stayed away from the realm of dance music and brought on the soul.

Then, in January, a trio called Piggy Dolls went live with a single called “Trend.” 

Decked out in flashy outfits, members Lee Ji-youn and Park Ji-eun crunked and swiveled around leader Kim Min-sun, who channeled electro-gospel in black sunglasses and a robe-like get-up. 
Girl group Piggy Dolls — (from left to right) Park Ji-eun, Kim Min-sun, Lee Ji-youn — stand up for full-figured ladies with their single “Trend.” (Winning Insight)
Girl group Piggy Dolls — (from left to right) Park Ji-eun, Kim Min-sun, Lee Ji-youn — stand up for full-figured ladies with their single “Trend.” (Winning Insight)
Comedienne-actress Hong Yun-hwa (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Comedienne-actress Hong Yun-hwa (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Throwing down, the plump act belted out, “My body?/So what about it?/My face?/It’s got character.”

After which, the buxom dolls sang, “Check me out/We are what’s in/Check out my body/It’s got curves” before nailing it with “This is what is on trend.”

The girl group and their incendiary lyrics put the spotlight on the increasing number of full-figured heroines and female acts hitting center stage, a phenomenon most evident in the realm of cable television where one particular leading lady has been winning the masses over.

Actress-comedienne Kim Hyun-suk, star of tvN’s “Missy Young-Ae,” is ringing the changes in an industry where overweight female celebs are usually limited to supporting roles or work as a comedian.
Lee Young-ae, played by Kim Hyun-suk in tvN’s “Missy Young-ae,” has captivated fans with her uproarious take on life. (tvN)
Lee Young-ae, played by Kim Hyun-suk in tvN’s “Missy Young-ae,” has captivated fans with her uproarious take on life. (tvN)

Her character, Young-ae, believes revenge is sweet.

An average-looking, single woman in her 30s who does not take fat jokes or social injustice lightly, Young-ae will find a way to get back at you ― even if it means beating you down with a garbage bag or spiking your drink with a roach; and, guess what? Viewers love her.

Not just when she first popped on screen in 2007. Audiences have been tuning into her escapades for eight seasons.

Her “it” factor, in the opinion of the series’ program director, Park Joon-hwa, has to do with the female psyche.

“If you look around you, most people are slim,” the 37-year old said. “But what I feel when I talk to women is that even though they aren’t fat, they still think they need to lose weight.”

Park believes that because women constantly think about dieting, they find an ally in Young-ae, a fellow diet fiend and career woman-up-in-arms.

Curvy comedienne-actress Hong Yun-hwa ― who often plays the “fat” sidekick in TV dramas and who tunes into “Missy Young-ae” ― agrees.

“People probably won’t relate to a thin and pretty woman as much as they would to a chubby, average female,” the 22-year-old said, before adding that she thinks this is because the majority of the female population seems to be dieting.

Statistics and research support Park’s and Hong’s theories.

Seoul Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy researcher Lee Im-soon conducted studies on female college students for a thesis on dieting.

Lee found “a somewhat general tendency among women to perceive themselves as fatter than they actually are and to feel the need to lose weight.”
 
In a survey conducted by the female portal site Mimint (www.mimint.co.kr) from Feb. 15-23 on 454 women, 61 percent of respondents expressed a strong desire to lose weight before spring.

It was this female tendency that spurred the team behind “Missy Young-Ae” to take a risk and go for a realistic series that would not sugarcoat the appearance of their lead character.

“We were worried that people might not tune into our show if the heroine wasn’t beautiful,” Park admitted.

Their concerns were proved wrong. When “Missy Young-Ae” aired its first season, viewer ratings exceeded one percent, a major feat in the world of cable television.

“The response was explosive,” said Park ― who has been on board from the beginning.

The resounding popularity of the series, particularly among female viewers, has kept it going for four years and counting, inspiring people like Hong.

“I want to be like her too,” Hong said of Kim’s success as Young-ae.

Hong added that “we, as a generation, don’t buy into” the old school pretty, slim heroine anymore.

Park also believes there are opportunities for more series featuring full-figured heroines, provided the angle is fresh and that “dramas like ours” continue to succeed.

Park, however, is well aware of how rare it is for a plump actress to nab a lead role.

“I do wonder what will happen if Kim Hyun-suk stops playing Young-ae,” he said, voicing his concerns about her chances of continuing onwards as a leading lady.

Hard to tell what the future holds, especially when the Piggy Dolls rallied against reported pressure from above to lose weight on an SBS variety show less than a month ago.

A representative of their agency confirmed that the girl group is slated to release their first full-length album in early July, meaning that fans will have to wait till summer to find out if the trio won what seemed to have been their battle for the bulge.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)
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