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The Girls Of Global Girl Group UNIS Talk Girlhood And Living Out Their Dreams

Taking over the universe.

Eight-member global girl group UNIS is making their way across the universe, holding their youth, and each other, close to heart.

Related: Pinoys In K-pop Alert: Gehlee Dangca To Debut With Fellow Pinays Elisia and Hyeonju In K-pop Girl Group UNIS

Girlhood can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. From being a simple concept associated with female youth, to being a glorified limiting construct, girlhood can be as simple or as complex as the people talking about it deem it to be. Regardless, for a few people making their way through the world as artists but also still as young girls with big dreams and the chance of a lifetime, it seems to be something closely tied with growing up, freedom, change, friendship, freedom, and identity.

When eight aspiring young artists placed in top spots on reality talent competition show Universe Ticket (2023-2024), they also earned themselves a ticket to achieving their dreams as members of South Korea-based global girl group UNIS. And they’re not nothing short of eager and rearing to take over the universe with their music, performance, and personalities.

Once the winners of the competition were named on January 17, 2024, the members UNIS immediately went to work, training, debuting with their mini album WeUNIS on March 27, and embarking on a fansign tour in the Philippines in May. Talk about booked and busy!

The global girl group made up of eight young South Korean, Japanese, and Filipino artists from the ages of 12 to 22 bravely took the opportunity to show off their skills to the world and improve in a high-pressure setting. Clearly, theirs is not your typical girlhood experience. Eventually, the final members we now see would go on to win the whole thing, and be part of a K-pop global girl group that shows us what it means to have girl power. Like other reality show-made groups, UNIS, for now, is set to be active for a limited period of two and half years.

In this exclusive interview with NYLON Manila, get to know Hyeonju, Nana, Gehlee, Kotoko, Yunha, Elisia, Yoona, and Seowon as they talk about each other, their personal experiences of girlhood, and their journey so far. Read on below!

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How did you feel when your debut album WeUNIS and music video for title track SUPERWOMAN went live?

Hyeonju:  I was very proud that the songs and performances that we worked hard on were revealed to the world! We’re happy to have our fans listen to these wonderful songs.

Gehlee: I was thrilled! During our debut showcase, I was struck by the realization that I am finally getting to live out my dream as an official performer. It was surreal. My heart was filled with so much love, gratitude, and hope for what UNIS could achieve as a group that people look up to and are inspired by.

What are your MBTIs and do you think they’re accurate for each of you?

Hyeonju: I’m ISFJ but I feel like my S switches to N and F switches to T sometimes. They change depending on my situation.

Nana: I’m ISTP and I think mine is accurate. I like to charge up on my energy by myself in a quiet place.

Gehlee: My MBTI is INFP. After I took the personality test and read more about my personality type, it was like I was reading the story of my own life! It’s true that I have an emotional connection to music, art, and nature and like to pay attention to my feelings. So yes, I think my MBTI is quite accurate!

Kotoko: Mine goes back and forth between INFP and ENFP. I can be introverted or extroverted depending on the situation.

Yunha: I’m INFP! I realized my MBTI was accurate as I spent more time with them together and communicated with them.

Elisia: My MBTI is INTP! But when you ask the members, they always say that I seem like an E! But in my opinion, I really think that INTP is accurate for my personality.

Yoona: I’m an ENFP. I think I match well with my MBTI because I’m very active yet I’m thoughtful, emotional, and spontaneous.

Seowon: My MBTI is ESTJ and I think it’s accurate because I like to plan things out and I’m active.

During Universe Ticket, was there ever a moment where you were amazed by another member? A moment that really made you realize “oh, this girl could make it.”

Hyeonju: Bang Yunha! I thought this contestant can do anything after seeing her having a different concept every performance and still doing so well.

Nana: I was shocked when I heard the ad-lib part of Elisia’s WHATEVA.

Gehlee: That moment would be while I was watching Seowon and Elisia’s solo performances at the very beginning of the show. The both of them were so stable! Seowon is impressively talented for her age, and with my experience with Elisia, being roommates with her during Universe Ticket, I can say that on top of her talent, she was already such a bright, sweet and optimistic girl, that I knew the both of them being chosen to debut was inevitable. 

Kotoko: Elisia has been a princess from the beginning to the present, and I remember being moved by how such a child exists!

Yunha: I was completely infatuated after seeing Nana’s DDU DU DDU DU performance.

Elisia: Kotoko! Actually Kotoko, the moment you see her—you’ll just know! She doesn’t have to do anything. She just has to be there. And you’ll melt with her cuteness! She’s so lovable. And of course, her talent and charm really showed in Catalena!

Yoona: During the round, Nana, who was on the other team, did overwhelmingly good, that I couldn’t help but be surprised and think “Can our team win?”. Despite that, we still agreed to do our best.

Seowon: I saw all the members and cheered for them. They were so pretty and full of passion.

How and what do the members do to support each other?

Gehlee: Hyeonju does the most to try and make sure our performances are perfect. She is also very responsible when it comes to correcting mistakes! We all really appreciate that. Also, in my opinion, simple moments like when the group has a fun conversation or simple physical interactions, like when Kotoko clings to me or when Yunha smiles at me, is enough to cheer me on and keep me going. 

Seowon: We send a lot of supportive messages to one another through our group chat. We also send lots of support related to personal concerns through messages.

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What meaning does girlhood have for you?

Hyeonju: It was a precious time. It’s because of that time that the present day Jin Hyeonju is here today.

Nana: It was a time that changed a lot for me.

Gehlee: Girlhood to me means exchanging genuine compliments, offering to take someone’s photo, taking in the scent of flowers, and carrying yourself with love and light. Girlhood is being brave enough to dream big, being able to feel your feelings, and creating memories through seeing the beauty in every moment with the people around you.

Kotoko: It’s a time I want to go back to, the more I think about it.

Yunha: I think it’s cute memory that I want to go back to!

Elisia: Girlhood…it’s a just a happy time to celebrate and just be free! It is super fun to be a girl and I’m happy that I’m enjoying my girlhood now with my girlies! But also, it’s also a time when you learn so many things about life and stuff. I’m learning so much now, and it’s sometimes challenging, but I’m happy about that too!

Yoona: They are unforgettable memories. I had so much happy and fun memories during my childhood, making it a very precious time.

Seowon: Although I am still young, I think I lived a really hectic life everyday since I was younger. I think I spent a new and happy childhood for the future.

What kind of messages do you want your music to impart to the world?

Nana: I hope that the people who listens to our song to find their courage and confidence.

Gehlee: I want our music to be a happy vitamin! Just like how our seniors, TWICE, had always been able to cheer me up, inspire, and comfort me, I hope that UNIS’ music does the same. I want to help bring music that does good to people.

If you had a ticket to go anywhere in the universe, across space and time, where would you go and what would you bring?

Hyeonju: I want to go back to London and do what I enjoyed the most when I was there!

Nana: I want to go back to the day I was born and take a picture with my baby self.

Gehlee: If I were given that kind of an opportunity, I would most probably just choose to explore more of Korea! Being my second home, I want to learn a lot more and immerse in its culture, traditions, tourism, arts, entertainment, and more. One thing I’d love to do is to wear a pretty hanbok one day! I’d even bring a camera with me to capture all my experiences.

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Kotoko: I want to take a bass guitar to me from 10 years ago, because I want to play the bass well now!

Yunha: I want to go to all the bakeries in the world and bring back delicious pastries and bread home!

Elisia: I wanna go to the future and bring all my loved ones and and the people that are here with me now, I want them to still be in my future—together with the experiences, lessons and memories that we are making now!

Yoona: I want to go to the future! I’m super curious about what I would be doing in the future, and I think there would be a lot of developed technologies in the future.

Seowon: I want to visit the moon. I think it will be so cool there.

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Anything you want to say to all the dreamers in the world out there?

Kotoko: Whatever it may be, give it a try! However it may be, fight!

Elisia: I know there are a lot of hard times when it comes to the journey of reaching your dreams, but you really shouldn’t give up on it, if you really want it and are determined to reach it, you should find the motivation in yourself to keep on going.

Translated by Universal Records Philippines, Artist Management Team. Interview has been edited for length and clarity. Images from UNIS on X.

Continue Reading: Meet Elisia Parmisano, The Top Filipina Trainee Of Universe Ticket Set To Debut