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Wax vows to keep Joan of Arc spirit until 70

Singer Wax talks about following her heart despite the naysayers

Throughout her 20-year career, Wax has been typecast as a nationally acclaimed but secretive balladeer. Her biggest hit, “Fixing My Makeup,” a tear-jerker of a post-breakup song, has been on the list of people’s favorite karaoke sing-alongs for more than a decade, while her personal life has been veiled from the public.

“Due to my balladeer image and vocal, people think me as a serious person. But I want to dismantle that image,” Wax, 45, whose real name is Cho Hye-ri, told The Korea Herald in Seoul. 

Wax (iMe Korea)
Wax (iMe Korea)

And listening carefully to her unique voice, which has an ambient, growling and breathy quality at the same time, her real personality surfaces. She is cheerful, sentimental and gallant all at once.

She has rarely done media interviews and small screen appearances in order to maintain her image as a genuine musician -- on the orders of her previous agencies. But Cho now feels free to talk about the bold choices and challenges that have filled her life.

She made her debut as a singer in 1998, at a comparatively late age. After a spell as a vocalist with a band called Dog, she struck out on her own as a soloist under the stage name Wax in 2000, and went on to rack up awards with hits like “Oppa” and “Fixing My Makeup” in the early 2000s.

“When I decided to debut in my late 20s, everyone dissuaded me, telling me that I would fail. But I had this confidence, which has been a driving force my entire life,” she said. “People used to tell me that I had the spirit of Joan of Arc.”

In 2015, the veteran singer took another big leap, establishing her own label Wuntus Entertainment. She was the CEO as well as its only employee. Although her independence didn’t last long -- Cho joined a new agency the next year again in 2016 -- she recalled those times as her life’s most fruitful and passionate. As she didn’t have a single assistant, the singer had to promote her music by delivering her own CDs to radio stations and making her own music video.

“Again, people told me that striking out my own wasn’t a good idea, but I had to do it, as I didn’t want to regret not doing it. Handling everything on my own was definitely tough, but I was very passionate at that time,” Cho said.

Since 1998, Cho has been releasing studio albums and drama soundtracks almost every single year. Having recently dropped her new single “Stupid You” earlier this month, the diligent singer said she has always been a dreamer, with her head full of ideas and inspirations.

One of her life goals was to train junior vocalists and open her own fitness center. Recently, she has also been hoping to revive her old band, Dog.

Having a young mind was one of the most important traits that enabled her to continue singing for almost two decades, Cho said.

“People always tell me that I haven’t changed in all those years. I’ve always followed my heart no matter what people said. After drawing a picture of myself singing in front of people in my mind countless times, I became a singer. And I founded my own label as well,” Cho said.

“I want to stay like Joan of Arc until I become 70,” she added.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)
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