Gelo De Vera has met ITZY twice physically, had four videocall fansigns with the group, two solo Lia video calls, one solo Yuna video call, and one solo Yeji video call. But he says it has nothing to do with luck.
In the past decade, K-Pop has undeniably taken over the world and no more is that true than in the Philippines. In fact, the country ranked second in the world in terms of the number of K-pop-related Tweets and third in terms of the number of people who Tweet about K-Pop according to a study from Twitter. The rise in K-Pop then has also led to a rise of people wanting to meet their favorite idols in person.
Pre-pandemic, K-Pop groups, and artists would hold fan meets where only a select few fans are able to participate, meet their idol face-to-face, and have their album signed. Because of the pandemic, that has now shifted to online video calls, which makes things a bit easier for more fans since there is no need to travel to South Korea. But the competition is still intense as fans spend thousands of pesos just to get a chance to meet and talk to their idols as it is a goal for many K-Pop fans.
If meeting an idol in person then is a dream, then you could say Gelo De Vera is living the dream. The 22-year-old Filipino K-pop fan has been able to meet the K-pop girl group ITZY six times in the past year. But to hear it from him, getting the chance to participate in a video call isn’t just about luck.
GETTING INTO K-POP
Gelo first got introduced to K-Pop when he was in high school through the songs of 2nd gen icons like Girls Generation, 2NE1, and Super Junior. He became more of a fan in 2016 when he discovered Seventeen. His stanning of the group soon led him to more K-Pop groups. These days, he considered Seventeen, ITZY, Blackpink, and ASTRO as his ultimate groups.
His love affair with ITZY first started back when he was in college. “I read that JYP will be debuting a new girl group which was ITZY and I just decided out of boredom to try and listen to their debut single DALLA DALLA when it came out. It instantly caught my attention cause it was super catchy.” As he watched more videos of the group and saw each member’s personalities, that was when he was slowly becoming a MIDZY to the point where memorized the dance steps to their song.
Currently, his bias is Yeji and his bias wreckers are Lia and Ryujin. Gelo recalls that his first ITZY related purchase was a signed ICY album from MWAVE. But it took so long to ship that he had to buy the album from a seller who had it on hand in the country. Ever since then, Gelo has continued to buy ITZY albums and merch, especially during comebacks and contests where you have to buy albums in bulk for a chance to enter a fan call.
In over a year, Gelo has met ITZY so many times that any fan would get jealous. He first met the group physically back in 2019. During ITZY’s Showcase in Manila in December 2019, Gelo met the group twice. “It super quick as it was a hi-touch event where I got to touch the hands of all five members. I can remember Ryujin’s dimples and how my world stopped when I interacted with Yeji as she was the last person in the line. The next one was the photo op that happened after the hi-touch. I really didn’t get to interact with them during the photo as they were far from me but the photo was nice.”
Since then, he’s had four videocall fansigns with the group, two solo Lia video calls, one solo Yuna video call, and one solo Yeji video call. If you include the solo video calls, he’s met ITZY around 10 times already and their official Twitter account even liked one of his tweets.
PARTICIPATING IN FANSIGN
So, how did Gelo manage to meet the girls so many times? “Usually they hold events or contests on Korean music stores online and the mechanics are usually buying a lot of albums to join the raffle. So whenever there are events, I just try my luck!” Gelo then goes into detail on how a fansign usually works. “It starts with knowing if an event is ongoing! Groups usually tweet or retweet those online stores with ongoing fansign events and you just have to buy the album from those sites. 1 album = 1 raffle entry for the call and they usually pick just 30 winners per event. Sometimes they do solo members or group fansigns. It’s always harder to get into solo fansigns of really popular members of the group as a whole (since all fans battling with each other for slots).”
He continues, “After the winners are announced, they give you about 1 min and 30 seconds for each member so you can talk to them. They sign albums under your name also so you can expect one of the albums you bought will have your name written by the member/s plus their signatures!”
Gelo says that calls are usually done through his own phone. The store or staff members are in touch with you to give you reminders of what to and what not to do like how you can’t ask too many questions, can’t swear, or you can’t appear on the call with someone else besides you. The staff will also remind you of when you can enter the call with the idols.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO TALK TO ITZY
Meeting an idol face-to-face can be a stressful or nerve-wracking situation. The fact that you only have less than two minutes to talk to your fave makes it even more anxiety-inducing considering that if you mess up, you may not have the opportunity again. Gelo experienced this as well and recounts his experience with his first fansigns. “The first time I won a group call, I had to prepare a Korean script just to get my message across within the time period. I had also notes of what to say for the two fansigns following that but now I don’t have to prepare much anymore as I figured it’s easier and chill that way.”
Despite having talked to ITZY a few times already, Gelo stills gets anxious and nervous especially when it’s just a few minutes away before the call starts. But these days, he’s calmer now as he has a certain way to approach a fansign and maximize his time. “It’s always better to just talk to them casually and not try to squeeze as many things you wanna do in the short call.” Gelo has actually documented his video calls with ITZY on his TikTok account. In some of the videos, he teaches the girls how to speak a few words in Tagalog while another video of his went viral after he asked Ryujin what it was like appearing in a BTS video pre-debut.
According to Gelo, talking to ITZY is not as nerve-wracking as it sounds, but he has noticed that each member has their own personality and style. “At first it was super awkward, to be honest, I didn’t think my first calls with them were cute at all! They were still so nice though. it’s always easiest to talk to Lia as she’s fluent in English. Yuna is also refreshing to talk with, she’s just super talkative and cute. Ryujin has this humor that you have to match in order to vibe with her. For Yeji and Chaeryeong, you really have to talk slow or speak in Korean for them to easily understand. But recently, their English has been improving a lot so it’s becoming easier to talk to them.”
Gelo’s most memorable experience so far with ITZY has been when they remember him (so far, it’s just Lia and Yeji who have said they remember him). “Plus that one rare time Ryujin said ‘love you too’ to me.”
If you think that Gelo is a lucky man who always wins every contest he participates in, think again. For every hit, there is a miss, and he says that he’s lost around six contests. These video call fansign contests are a gamble and require you to spend a lot to have a good chance of winning. Gelo estimates that he has spent around 100,000 pesos on albums between the Not Shy and Guess Who eras.
He buys most of his albums on Twitter and Facebook. “Twitter and FB Marketplaces (for specific groups) are always the go-to for me. For Twitter I just search “WTS ITZY (or insert the group name here) PH” and for Facebook, there are ITZY Marketplace groups where we shop and trade merchandise. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve started ordering directly from Korean sites as well like Withdrama, Ktown4U, Interpark, to name a few. It’s faster but the shipping can be pricey.”
K-Pop albums and merch can be expensive, as seen by how much Gelo has spent, so he always tries to save money on the side so that he can use it to participate in comebacks and contests. “Since I’m already working, I usually separate the money I need for essentials, savings, and bills whenever I get my income. From what I get left, they mostly go to merch. For comeback season naman, I’m happy companies announce at least a month before so I can prepare. Now that promotions are over, my bank account is only finding rest now.”
When Gelo does lose, he doesn’t horde the albums either. “I just collect the photo cards and sell the albums. Just two days ago I sold 15 albums for 200 each, I just needed to get rid of some incoming albums. Pamigay sale.”
NOT LUCK, BUT STRATEGY
And with all the times Gelo has lost, he realized that it’s not all about luck. After all, if he was that lucky, he would have won every contest he participated in. Instead, there is a strategy to it winning a fansign contest. “For fansigns actually, you just need to have a strategy all the time. I always go for the fansign events I think not a lot are joining, I also consider which members to join for. For the album quantity, I also open discounted group orders to boost my chances.”
For people looking to win and participate in a videocall fansign, Gelo says that the most important thing to do is try. “Enter with the number of albums you’re comfortable with and strategize. Do not just leave it to luck. If you feel like you didn’t enter with the ‘right’ amount, try getting more entries. You can ask your friends to buy from you as well to boost your entries.”
And for those who are nervous about being part of a fansign, this is the advice Gelo had to give. “When you get to the fansign, make them remember you! And talk with the idols as if they are your friends, they would appreciate it so much. Go and get that once-in-a-lifetime fangirl/fanboy experience!”