When the members of VCHA saw the teaser of A2K for the first time, they were preparing for the final performances of the reality competition show that would determine their debut. "We were practicing when we saw the video," Kendall recalled. "And we all just started freaking out." Sitting next to her, Savanna smiled in agreement. "Screaming, it was crazy," she said. That was nearly three months ago. Now, A2K, orAmerica2Korea, has finished airing and the members of the new global girl group formed by JYP Entertainment and Republic Records have been chosen: Camila, Lexi, Kendall, Savanna, KG, and Kaylee.
Just days after A2K aired its finale and VCHA released its pre-debut single "SeVit (NEW LIGHT)," the six artists crowded in front of a laptop to chat with TV Guide. They were soaking in all the new experiences from the past 72 hours: Dropping a music video, performing on Korean music shows, and hosting a first Instagram live in which they interacted with fans. It was all wildly different from their lives a year ago, when the VCHA members were living across the U.S. and in Canada. Over the course of A2K, Camila, Lexi, Kendall, Savanna, KG, and Kaylee auditioned at cities in the States, traveled to Seoul to be trained under the K-pop system at JYP Entertainment, and competed to debut.
"The whole journey that we took, it was long but felt so short," Savanna shared. "I don't think we all remember every single detail, but seeing the fans make edits on the different parts of the show is super cool." Over the summer, it was impossible for any K-pop fan to open TikTok without coming across videos from A2K. And the members of VCHA saw many of these clips as well. "There was one that I saw recently, it was me from my very first audition at regionals and then [the fan] edited me right at the end of the final episode, and it actually made me cry," Lexi said. "It made me think of how far I've come."
Over Zoom, Camila, Lexi, Kendall, Savanna, KG, and Kaylee talked about their thoughts during that finale, behind-the-scenes stories from filming their music video "Y.O.Universe," and what it means to be a global girl group.
During the finale, was there a moment when you thought, I think I made it?
Kaylee: I don't think there was a moment where I was like, "Oh, I'm going to make it." It was more like, "I tried my best." Honestly, after the comments for "Go Getter," I wasn't very sure — they weren't very positive, but I'm just happy to be here.
KG: Toward the end, I was feeling happy because I received a lot of feedback about my improvement. But for me, too, there wasn't a moment where I was like, "Oh, I'm gonna make it." I was 50-50, because anything can happen. But I got really emotional towards the end because no matter the results, I was proud of myself and everyone.
"The Y.O.Universe" music video was released and many fans are talking about the different scenes featuring your backgrounds and interests. What was it like filming those scenes?
Camila: Oh my God, those were my favorite. I'm so glad people paid attention to those and that they liked it as well because it's just the best way to introduce us to the world — showing where we started and what we used to do before. For me especially, my scene is in a room at school, and we're studying nursing. It felt like going back to my past, definitely a lot of emotions.
Can you tell me more about those emotions?
Camila: In the music video, I'm supposed to not understand what I'm doing and I see everyone else doing well and I'm not doing well. And I look out the window thinking that I want to do something different, this is not what I want to do. So it really reminded me of when I was in nursing because I remember that most of the time, unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention. I was mostly thinking of what song I'm going to do, what song I should practice, or imagining myself on stage. So it really represented me and how I was before.
Savanna: Filming the scenes were crazy also because we weren't with any of our other members. I feel like I was in my zone and I had a lot of fun filming it, especially because I do gymnastics. And it's been at least two years since I've done gymnastics like that. Being on the beam was super cool. Since it's really thin, I was a little scared. [Laughs.] It was super fun.
Lexi: It was nostalgic for me. It was like going back home and reliving my life over. I almost felt like I wasn't shooting a music video, it just felt like I was back in another ballet class. But it brought back a lot of nice memories and it made my heart very warm.
That's awesome. Kendall, for the art in the music video, did you actually paint that?
Kendall: Before every scene that we shot, I would draw on the canvas. In the scene, I completely erased it because I'm just so frustrated, it's not turning out the way I want it. And I'm like, "This isn't good enough." And so before every scene, I would have to restart the art every time. It was actually so much fun because I haven't had the opportunity to do a whole lot of art recently because I've been focusing so much on the show, preparing everything we're coming out with. And so it was really great to be able to get back to painting again.
Kaylee, can you also share more about your scenes of auditioning and not being chosen?
Kaylee: There's a little bit of confusion on what I'm doing in the music video. A lot of people did think I was doing some kind of taekwondo. But yes, I am auditioning. There are multiple people auditioning and I'm one of them. And one person makes it through to the next round and I am not chosen to be that person. And I basically end up failing that audition and not being able to move on. It was a big flashback kind of because it reminded me a lot of A2K. Obviously we were on a survival show, and there was a judge, not a judging panel. It was very fun to tape, a little sad because no one was there. But it was just an amazing experience overall and I could really put my feeling into it because it was something I experienced very recently [at previous auditions].
I also want to ask about being a global girl group. Besides your nationality, how do you see yourselves as different from K-pop groups?
KG: I think what makes us special is representing diversity just because it hasn't been done before. And so it feels good to be able to represent different cultures and people around the world. We hope to bring in international fans by that. For me, I really enjoy being in the group because before this I was doing a lot of individual music, which was just kind of for fun, doing my own thing. But now, I feel more alive with them.
Kendall: One of the biggest things is K-pop fans as well as albums in that side of the industry. Western audiences don't have as many physical albums for one, and the fans are completely different in everything that they do. And for K-pop the artists are super interactive with the fans, as well as their albums. And I think that's one of the most important things.
What has it meant to you to see fans of different cultures?
Camila: It's amazing to see someone from your culture be represented in a group, and someone that you can look up to because we've definitely had that in the past — people that we look up to. And also because K-pop is more Asian and Korean, this is like the first time there's a girl group that's from the Korean system, but everyone is from all around the world. I think it's really nice and it can inspire other people to also reach their dreams if they ever want to do something like this.
I'm so encouraged to hear that. And Lexi, I wanted to read one quote from TikTok account @bokchoybaddie. "As a Hmong person from Wisconsin and the MidWest this is so f--king crazy. We have Brenda Song, we have Suni Lee, but I never thought we would have another Hmong person from the Midwest debuting as a K-pop idol. I'm so happy for her, I'm so proud. I cried." What has it been like to receive the support from the Hmong community?
Lexi: It makes me really emotional, because I also especially really looked up to Sunisa Lee, the gymnast. And even though she's obviously in the Olympics field, I still looked up to her and I wanted to be an idol too. And especially seeing all of the support from the Hmong community, my family relatives, it's made me feel super emotional because I didn't know I was going to be here one day being able to show little kids in the Hmong community that I could do this. And I wanted to be someone like Sunisa Lee. So being able to finally hopefully be that kind of person, I can't even explain it. It makes me really happy inside and it also makes me want to cry sometimes, I have no idea why.
It definitely makes sense that you would want to cry! And shifting gears a little bit. For Savanna, during the show we saw your performance of "Thunderous." J.Y. Park said he was going to show it to Stray Kids. So I have to ask, has he showed it to Stray Kids, did they give you a response?
Savanna: I actually have no idea as well. It'd be super cool to know, I'm definitely questioning as well. Because that comment really got to me especially because I knew Stray Kids before coming to A2K, they're an amazing group. I looked up to their performances, their dances, super cool. So to be able to cover them and then to get that comment was absolutely crazy. I was not expecting that at all. I don't even know if I showed that on screen but in my head I was like, "What? He did not just say that." I had to process it twice. I don't know if he showed them, I would be wondering that as well.
A2K is now available on YouTube.