By now you know I was already up and working before the sun made its appearance so I won’t bore you with that part of my adventures. Instead, I’ll get right to the good stuff aka an incredibly fun, idol-filled Saturday at KCON!
Not wanting to miss a single moment of the day, we were all up and out the door early. (We didn’t even stop for breakfast, that’s how excited we were!) Getting to the convention center right on time, I headed to the expo hall with the hopes of snapping a few good photos before my first panel of the day. Not more than a few rows of booths in, I was stopped by a very cheery “Hello!” and before I knew it, I was chatting away with a group of very awesome ladies running the Boss Cheoreom booth. I could have stayed there, talking with these ladies forever but eventually I remembered that I was actually on a quest for pictures so I said my goodbyes and set off. (But not before buying a set of both GOT7 and DAY6 buttons. *whispers* Cute buttons are one of my biggest weaknesses.)
Continuing on my photo-taking quest, I soon ran into a group of friends and fellow colleagues milling about outside the Flower Boy Cafe. After chatting about our KCON adventures thus far our eyes started wandering towards the pair of flower boys standing just outside the cafe. With all of us writing about KCON for one publication or another, we quickly agreed that having a photo of some of KCON’s flower boys was an absolute necessity (for our articles, of course). The only problem was, none of us was really very keen on just walking up to a couple of cute guys and asking them for their photos. (Yes, we’re all a bunch of chickens… Well, I am anyway.) Eventually I decided that the only way any of us was ever going to get a photo was if one of us asked so… I did. Lucky for all of us, these guys were very sweet and graciously agreed to let us all snap a few photos. They even chatted with us for a few moment afterwards which pretty much made my day. (I’m not really sure why… I guess I just like being in the company of charming gentlemen. Go figure!)
With photos taken it was time for me to set off for my first (and only) panel of the day. Saying bye to my friends, I set off on the 12-mile trek that would eventually lead me to the panel rooms. (Okay, so maybe it wasn’t actually a 12-mile hike to the panels but it certainly felt like it, especially when you had to run!) Being asked to be a part of the So Your Kid is a K-Pop Fan panel was such an honor and I can’t thank Sara (Young Ajummah) enough for inviting me to be a part of it. The panel itself went very well (despite certain technical issues) and the participants were all so great. Being able to share something like K-Pop with your kids is an awesome thing and it was amazing, seeing so many parents at KCON, supporting their kids in something that they love, even if it wasn’t something they fully understood.
Thanks to one of my amazing friends (you know who you are, you incredible person you) I had an audience pas to Block B’s artist engagement *squee* which meant that as soon as my panel wrapped up, I was off. Bookin’ down that 12-mile corridor, I made it to my only artist engagement of the day, just in time to squeeze my way into the very back row. Woo! Actually, I didn’t have to squeeze my way in anywhere because the room was massive and everyone was squished as close to the stage as possible. While being in the back probably isn’t most people’s ideal spot for such a thing, I didn’t mind because it gave me a chance to find my friends and simply enjoy being in the same room as
Zico Block B. I’m afraid Lola and Cheryl had to endure a bit of my silly fangirling over my Block B bias but they bore with it very graciously and didn’t even judge me as I let my inner fangirl loose for a while. Aren’t K-Pop friends great!?!
After swooning over Zico and squeeing over the rest of Block B for maybe half an hour or so, the boys disappeared and Lola and I headed back into the convention hall. Meeting up with more friends, we all chatted a bit before going our separate ways. With so many panels and workshops and artist engagements to enjoy, it was hard for all of us to stay together for more than a few moments at a time but being the big girls that we are, we all managed to survive. With my friends going one way and I another, I set off for the expo hall to interview the lovely people at ARITAUM and then headed to the panelist green room to grab a quick snack and maybe chat with any friends who might be hanging around.
It’s funny how much things change over time. I remember the first time I ever walked into the panelist green room at KCON 2014. I felt so awkward and out-of-place, like I was a huge fraud and the whole world knew it. (I know that’s crazy but it’s totally how I felt at the time.) I knew next to no one back then and being surrounded by so many people I looked up to and admired was ridiculously intimidating. Fast forward to KCON 2016 and things couldn’t have been more different. Walking into the panelist green room didn’t even phase me. With friends always there to welcome me, I felt as if I was exactly where I belonged. (Which, honestly is how I feel about KCON in general as it’s the one place in the world I can be completely me and not be judged for it by those in my life who just don’t understand why it is I do what I do.)
Sitting down with a group of friends, DeShonda (from K-Drama Paradise) and I began talking about our adventures which eventually led to her showing me all the photos she’d taken with various YouTubers and such. Comparing each other’s photos and experiences we were in the middle of a rather fun conversation when I happened to turn my head for a second and… OMG! Doing a double-take, I completely lost track of the conversation as I realized that Park Joon, from Viki’s Dramaworld (aka Sean Dulake), was sitting at the table behind us! Turing back to DeShonda I asked her to confirm what I already knew. That being that Park Joon was, in fact, sitting not more than 3 feet away from us. The moment we both realized that we weren’t actually imagining things, we immediately began to ask each other if we had the guts to go up to him and ask to take a photo with him. At one point we both almost chickened out but realizing that opportunities like this don’t happen very often, we mustered up our courage and made our request. All smiles, Mr. Dulake was more than happy to take a photo with us and even went so far as to chat with us for a few minutes afterwards. Being the super awesome mom that I am (haha), I just happened to mention that my eldest daughter is currently obsessed with Dramaworld and tried to get everyone she knows to watch it. (Which, I think, may have made Park Joon’s day.) We ended up talking for way longer than I would have imagined possible and somehow, when it was all said and done, I walked away with an autograph from Park Joon written just for my baby girl. Needless to say, that was one of the highlights of my KCON experience and it also won me about a zillion cool mom points. Woohoo!
Believe it or not, it took me a little while to recover from my encounter with Park Joon. It’s just not every day you happen to be sitting next to a drama star and well, it kinda took me by surprise. Okay, it took me a lot by surprise but whatever. After texting my daughter all that had just happened (because I was way too excited to keep it a surprise) I finally manged to calm myself down. From there I was able to go back to my more normal self, which was good because I had a Red Carpet event to photograph and there was no way I could take good photos if my hands were still shaking!
Lucky for me, by the time I headed to the press workroom to meet up with more friends and fellow photographers, I was completely back to normal. With way more stories to tell than I would have ever imagined, the time spent waiting to be escorted to the Red Carpet area passed quickly. In what felt like no time, it was time for us to make our intense 12-mile Press Power Walk over to the artist engagement area. Arriving out of breath (which is totally the norm when walking behind Speedster Kevin) we were all allowed a minute to compose ourselves before being led into the Red Carpet area.
With plenty of time to snap test photos and adjust camera settings, I was more than ready when Danny Im took to the stage to open the evening’s Red Carpet event. Lee Min Ho was the first to walk the Red Carpet on Saturday and I think the entire room took a collective gasp of amazement when he first made his appearance. He was just that stunning. I don’t really know how to describe to you how gorgeous that man is in person. All I can say is that no film, drama or photo can ever do him justice. To fully understand his beauty, you just have to see him in person.
After being shocked to death by Lee Min Ho, the audience was miraculously revived by Dean who, I must say, has the most adorable smile!
Seriously, Dean is just so darn cute, it’s almost unreal! I.O.I was next to walk the Red Carpet, followed by GFriend and both groups are just as cute as you could possibly imagine. Turbo was next and I can’t deny it, I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at Kim Jong Kook’s arms. Good gracious! His arms are definitely sonnet-worthy! And he’s got a killer smile to boot! *swoon* Up next was Amber and OMG! She is the most adorable llama you could ever hope to meet. She was all smiles and laughter and just so sweet! I could have happily watched her chat with Danny for the rest of the day but like every artist, her time on the red carpet came to an end way before I wanted it to. *sigh* Lucky for me, SHINee was next to walk the Red Carpet and well, as soon as they made their appearance all my thoughts of anything disappeared into nothing.
It’s so funny to me, how much my feelings for SHINee have changed over the past couple of months. There used to be a time when I could squee over their comebacks or solo projects or dramas or whatever and then move on with my life. It was a happy time. A time where I could fangirl without fear of losing my life or my heart to a bunch of boys who would ultimately prove to be my death. And then SHINee came to Chicago… And I met them. And talked with them. And even though it was only for a few minutes and even thought it was strictly for work, those few minutes were all it took for me to succumb to SHINee’s many, many charms and I’ve never been the same since.
Having fallen victim to SHINee’s voodoo, I had to fight very hard with my inner fangirl as SHINee graced the Red Carpet stage that night. A very big part of me wanted to cheer and wave and squeal with the rest of the audience but my professional side just wouldn’t let me. (Which is really a good thing, seeing as how I love my job and would like to continue doing it for a very long time.) While the crowd cheered behind me, I focused on the task at hand, snapping as many photos as I could while SHINee worked their inescapable magic.
It would be a lie if I said that some part of me didn’t wonder if SHINee would recognize the pink-haired zombie photographer standing in the press pit. After all, I’d only met them a couple of months before and though the interview I’d done with them had been brief, it had also been memorable. (At least for me.) Would it be utterly ridiculous of me to hope that they might remember me? I knew that even if such an impossibility actually was possible, there would be no way for them to actually acknowledge my existence. And who’s to say they would even want to? All of these ridiculous thoughts swirled through my head as I was taking photos that night and a part of me kept hoping to spot some sort of clue that maybe, just maybe, all of these nonsensical thoughts actually had some sort of merit. Alas, never once did I notice any sort of recognition from SHINee while I was shooting. They were busy doing their awesome SHINee thing and I was busy doing my work thing. It was a dream that never came true. Or did it?
Looking back through my photos (days later) I happened to stumble across a couple of photos that have completely made my life. I can’t say with any sort of certainty that these photos are what I hope they are, because obviously, I’m not SHINee and I would never dare to speak for any of them on any subject ever. But there’s enough in these photos to spark my overactive imagination and I will be perfectly content to spend the rest of my life believing that maybe, just maybe, I might have been somewhat remembered. (Just so you know, I’m fully aware that I’m completely delusional but since today’s my birthday, I’m just gonna go with it.)
With SHINee’s time on the Red Carpet over, the evening’s event came to an end. With no time to dawdle, I said bye to one set of friends then ran out to meet up with Lola for the concert. Exhausted but ridiculously happy with the events of the day, I collapsed into my seat, indescribably glad to be able enjoy a few moments of relaxation. Using this downtime to catch up with Lola, the time passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time for the evening’s main event to begin.