Emerline Ji

Weekend GIRLCRUSH / Hwangbo

Emerline Ji
Weekend GIRLCRUSH / Hwangbo

We're so excited to start a new series that we're calling Weekend GIRLCRUSH. In-depth posts about our favorite warriors & babes around the world.


First up is 90's popstar turned badass entrepreneur, coffee shop connoisseur, Hong Kong traveler, and SUPREME lover — Hwangbo.


01 • Rediscovering Hwangbo

One of my favorite Korean shows to watch is a talk show called TAXI. It's a unique show where two celebrity MC's pick up up-and-coming and trending celebrities in a pimped out taxi and drive them to interesting destinations. They typically pick up two to three celebrities whose careers are related to each other in some way, and the MC's take turns interviewing their subjects during the ride. I love the format so much and it's my main source of seeing who's in the spotlight these days in the Korean entertainment and creative scene. 

Rewind back to late last year when I saw in the title of a TAXI episode — "황보." I have never clicked so fast in my life on a TAXI episode. 


In the episode, we hear the backstory on what the 90s pop star and early 2000's variety show regular has been up to in the past few years. We also get a glimpse into what her apartment looks like on the inside. 


02 • Some Background

If you have no idea who Hwangbo is or you vaguely think you've seen her somewhere, she used to be in a group called Chakra. They were a quirky experimental group inspired by Indian sounds that had a few hit songs (looking at it now, I feel they definitely had questionable cultural appropriation going on).

After the group disbanded, she went on to be a regular on a lot of the hit variety shows of the early 2000's like X-Men and We Got Married. She was literally on every show I was watching at the time. Which means $$$.

In my memory, she did not have any scandals or publicly known issues. In fact, she was well-liked and loved on shows for her outspokenness, humor, and down to earth personality. Then one day, she just disappeared. It wasn't that I noticed her disappearance in an obvious way, but she just slowly faded and never surfaced again for the next several years. 

This is why I was so surprised to see her back on a show in 2016. 


03 • Transformation & Hong Kong


So where in the world has Hwangbo been? 

According to her interviews in recent months, Hwangbo wanted to try retiring from her celebrity life. She loved to travel, but because of her busy schedule in Korea — she never had the time to be herself. This is a narrative that I'm sure is familiar to a lot of us who see celebrities wanting to "stop-being-famous." A funny statement that seems like a spoiled complaint to us normal non-famous people. 

What I respect about Hwangbo though is that she actually acted on this pain without announcing it to the world. She didn't make a big deal out of it and just went out and did what she needed to do for herself. A trait I always admire in fellow women in the modern world. 

Hwangbo packed up her things, informed her agency she was moving to Hong Kong, and left her crazy celebrity schedule and life just like that. She took all the savings she had and relocated by herself. Hong Kong, though, is no cheap place to live. She shares in her interviews these days that she quickly ran out of funds and had to start her life from scratch again.


During her career as an entertainer and singer, she was known for her great style and taste. Not born with the worshipped soft and pale Korean features, Hwangbo never seemed to mind standing out with her different looks. She used this talent and strength to dive into the business world.

Working between Seoul, Hong Kong, and other big cities in the world, Hwangbo now runs a restaurant business with her friend Shim Tae Yoon, operates a coffee shop all by herself, and has launched an online fashion apparel shop. 

Let us all have a moment of silence for her entrepreneurial badassery. 


04 • Drive & Orbiting Back


When the MC's asked Hwangbo what brought her back to the entertainment industry and Korea, she was very frank about it — money and family. Back in April 2016, the MBC documentary series "Human Documentaries: People Are Good," Hwangbo's personal life was closely filmed. 

The biggest reason behind her return to the television screen and industry is that her father fell ill and is in a vegetable coma state. It's really heartbreaking watching the documentary on her family and reality of what drives her. The hospital bills that go into taking care of her father has put her family into a large amount of debt. It's obvious in the documentary that her family members depend on her heavily and need her to help out financially and emotionally.

I love her frankness and honesty on why she's back on television and doing all the things she's doing. While celebrities definitely should not need to share every detail of their lives, I found it incredibly vulnerable of her to share this part of her story and being real about what's behind her drive — she's ambitious for reasons that many people could relate to no matter what.


05 • On Essence & Moving On Up

I'm so glad she's back on the scene and she's aged so beautifully.

What's funny about her escapade into retiring from fame is that she said she had to realize the hard way that it was never going to fully go away. Wherever she went, people in Asia would recognize her. Her main reason for leaving the permanent variety show life was that she was tired of pretending to be happy and being responsible to make people life when there were days she was not feeling that way. 

To me, her journey from the past few years is about more than just retiring from fame. It's a mature and natural experience of designing and building a life that is a wholesome representation of who she really is in many different ways, born out of a desire to just live a life true to her many dimensions. As a fan, I'm so happy to have someone like her back on screen. It's refreshing to see more versatile careers being represented and talked about on Korean shows. 

But beyond all that... I just love girl crushing and being inspired by this beautiful 30 something, entrepreneurial, creative, honest, SUPREME obsessed, serial Instagrammer of a person.  


All images in this post are from Hwangbo's Instagram

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