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Meet the Korean-Mexican Hearthrob Topping The K-Pop Charts

Brave Entertainment

Meet Samuel Arredondo Kim — or Samuel, as he’s better known in South Korea where he’s currently a K-pop idol. Yes, you read that correctly. There’s a Latino K-pop idol.

CREDIT: Credit: Brave Entertainment

While there have been other half-Latino figures in Korean entertainment industry in the past – like the Korean hip-hop pioneer Carlos Galvan (Mexican/Korean-American) of the ’90s group Uptown and Tia Cuevas (of Puerto Rican descent) from the now defunct K-pop girl group ChoColat – Samuel is the most prominent and only current figure since Hallyu (Korean wave) exploded worldwide.

Born in Los Angeles to a Korean mother and Mexican dad, the 15-year-old made his solo debut this past August with the electro bubblegum pop jam “Sixteen” and gave us major Justin Bieber “Baby” era vibes.     

Korea calculates age differently, making people one or two years older depending on the month they’re born. That’s why Samuel sings about being 16.

The  singer speaks English, Korean and poquito Spanish.

However, he has said he feels weird speaking English since he’s lived in Korea for so long.

Since he was very young, Samuel exuded star potential. He got his start making extremely cute commercials for a Volkswagen dealership in Bakersfield, which the internet speculates is owned by his family.

And because all that talent couldn’t be wasted, Samuel moved to Korea at 11 years old and started training to become a K-pop idol at Pledis Entertainment. 

Pledis Entertainment

He was initially part of the original lineup of the now very successful boy band SEVENTEEN, where he was the maknae, or the youngest member of the group.

SEVENTEEN trained for many years together, gearing up for debut as a 17 member band. However, the wait was long and some members ultimately left, including Samuel, citing personal reasons.

But this wasn’t the end of the road for Samuel. He soon joined another Korean company, Brave Entertainment, and debuted as the hip-hop duo 1Punch.

He performed under the moniker Punch along with another member, One. He was 13-years-old and One was 20.

While cringey and hella problematic, “Turn Me Back” and “Nightmare” gave us the first results of his training. The boy had not only grown in dance, but was also singing and rapping. 1Punch didn’t last long though, and One soon left to join YG Entertainment, the entertainment giant home to acts like PSY, Big Bang and 2NE1.

Punch gave it another go, though, and released an East-meets-West collaboration with the “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” singer Silentó.

Even though the song won the Global Collaboration Award at the Seoul Music Awards earlier this year, “Spotlight” didn’t lead to much success for Samuel. And yet, he persisted.

Samuel joined the second season of the competition show Produce 101 in early 2017.

Produce 101/Mnet

On Produce 101, participants competed against each other through a series of performances in hopes of making it into the 11-member supergroup lineup. The participants were all trainees of different South Korean entertainment companies, and most (though not all) had yet to debut. Viewers served as “producers” and voted for their favorites to make it onto the top 11. By the end of the show, the group Wanna One was formed. Because the show turned out to be a smash hit, they group is the most popular K-pop act of the moment.   

Throughout the show, Samuel was considered as one of the top contenders for the win. He immediately gained attention for his dance skills and the fact that he co-choreographed most of his teams’ performances. Samuel continuously placed within the top spots and was among the most popular trainees.

But in an unfortunate twist of events, he ended up placing at number 18 on the final and didn’t make the group. Fans were livid, especially the ones outside of Korea who weren’t allowed to vote, and even set up a petition seeking justice.  

International fans were especially invested in seeing Samuel win, in part, because they wanted to see a Latino thrive as a K-pop idol.

But not making the cut actually turned out to be a blessing for the singer. Within days of the show’s ending, the head of Brave Entertainment released a statement announcing his solo debut, “Sixteen.”

Upon release, the first batch of physical albums sold out, with many of the copies being shipped overseas. “Sixteen” reached number one on the iTunes worldwide albums chart in countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, and placed within the top 10 in Singapore, Thailand and other countries.

Your Moment of Kpop/tumblr

The K-pop industry is oversaturated and cutthroat, so the fact that Samuel is still standing and thriving at such a young age is nothing short of amazing. Hard work pays off, and after a successful debut EP, Samuel will be coming out with a full album in October. And if it’s anything like “Sixteen,” we’re surely in for a treat of pristine pop perfection.


READ: There’s A New Frida Kahlo-Inspired Makeup Compact Made By A Korean Beauty Brand

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Alejandro Villanueva's Jersey Is Top Seller After He Was Only Steelers Player To Stand During National Anthem

Entertainment

Alejandro Villanueva’s Jersey Is Top Seller After He Was Only Steelers Player To Stand During National Anthem

Joe Robbins / Getty

Yesterday, as the NFL began its Sunday games, several players and coaches protested President Trump’s disparaging remarks against Colin Kaepernick and the NFL by taking a knee or not showing up for the National Anthem altogether.

The controversy between Trump and the NFL first began on Sept. 22, when the president spoke about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests (without mentioning his name), saying that players that “disrespect our flag” should be fired by the team owners. He also added during his rant that if players take a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner,” coaches should “get that son of a bitch off the field.”

As football games began on Sunday, several teams came out to show solidarity towards Kaepernick and the right to protest. The Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans didn’t come out during the anthem in Nashville and opted to stay in their locker rooms during the anthem. During Sunday Night Football, the Oakland Raiders sat during the anthem, while their opponents, the Washington Redskins, chose to step out onto the field with locked arms.

Before their game with Chicago, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS that his team was going to remain in the locker room during the anthem.

Initially, news outlets believed that all Steelers players remained in the locker room. One player did come out and placed his hand over his heart.

Alejandro Villanueva was the only player to stand during the “Star Spangled Banner.”

CREDIT: Credit: Joe Robbins / Getty

According to Penn Live, the players gathered in a secret meeting and discussed how they would respond to Trump’s comments. They all voted on three options: “They could stand along the sideline holding hands. They could stay off the field, which they did. Or they could take the sideline with some players kneeling, some standing and some of them standing putting their hands on the shoulders of the kneeling.”

All of the players voted to stay off the field with the exception of Villanueva, a military veteran.

“[Villanueva] was cool with it, with whatever we went through. He was on board. That’s Al, man,” Steelers Offensive tackle Christopher Hubbard said. “He’s a good guy.”

But because of time constraints, the players couldn’t stay in the locker room but had to stay in the tunnel, Cleveland.com reports. Villanueva didn’t want to be singled out but at the last minute, he stepped out of the tunnel and saluted the flag.

While Villanueva has yet to comment as to why he chose to stand alone, his career as a serviceman is an indication as to his support for the anthem. He also has spoken against Kaepernick’s decision to protest. Last year he told ESPN: “I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year… when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year.”

Although some attempted to use Villanueva as an example of a Latino athlete who was “standing up” to those protesting…

Villanueva’s parents are from Spain, not Latin America. 

https://twitter.com/JaimesonPaul/status/912048163485138944

Before becoming an NFL player, Villanueva served three tours as a U.S. Army Ranger Afghanistan.

Defensive end Cam Heyward commented on Villanueva’s actions on Sunday saying: “I don’t want to go into that, but we support our guy Al,” Heyward said, according to CBS Sport. “He feels he had to do it. This guy served our country, and we thank him for it.”

Another teammate, right guard David DeCastro, also said: “Al is a unique circumstance, what he’s been through, some of the things he’s talked about before. I’ve got a lot of respect for Al. I wish there was a different way to do this thing. We’ve got some people who look at the national anthem as patriotism, soldiers, all the stuff that it means, and obviously, people are upset, and I understand that. I just wish both sides understand that they want the right thing, but doing it through the national anthem, I wish there was a different way.”

While his teammates supported him, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t too pleased with Villanueva.

Like I said, I was looking for a hundred percent participation,” Tomlin told reporters after the game. “We’re going to be respectful of our football team. Man, these are divisive times in the United States. And it’s a shame, but it is, but we’re not politicians. We’re coaches and professional athletes. If those of us are individuals choose to participate in politics in some way, I’m going to be supportive of that, but when we come out of locker rooms, we come out of locker rooms to play football games, and to be quite honest with you I didn’t appreciate our football team being drug into politics this weekend. And I’m sure that’s a global perspective.”

Less than 24 hours since Villanueva saluted the flag, his gear is now the top-selling NFL gear, beating out Tom Brady.

A spokesman for Fanatics told ESPN Villanueva gear “jerseys and name and number T-shirts” has outsold all other items from various athletes.

UPDATE: In a press conference held earlier today, Villanueva said he was embarrassed for “butchering” the team’s plan to not come out for the anthem.

CREDIT: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / Facebook

Villanueva later apologized for making his coach, teammates and team “look bad” in the process. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed,” said Villanueva.

READ: This Latino Kicker Is So Good, An NFL Team Made An Unusual Move Just To Get Him

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