KANGDANIEL Is Everything That A Star Should Be And Here's Why He'll Always Shine Brightly
The K-pop star talks about his roots, love for his mom, and love from his fans—the core reasons behind his success.
The K-pop star talks about his roots, love for his mom, and love from his fans—the core reasons behind his success.
It's 2017. There's a new K-pop project group called Wanna One, formed through the survival show Produce 101 Season 2. Everyone was instantly hooked to them and their infectious song, "Energetic." The track was still a hit even months after its release, and I can remember walking the streets of Myeongdong and hearing it everywhere—inside cosmetics shops, convenience stores, and barbecue restaurants. Locals were humming the song as they looked for things to buy. At that time, Wanna One was the nation's latest boy group, and its *center* was KANGDANIEL.
Prior to his debut in Wanna One, KANGDANIEL was already a crowd favorite in Produce 101 Season 2. He started a craze with his ~*thigh sweeping dance*~ during a performance, which, BTW, was done on impulse. KANGDANIEL wanted to give his dream one last try when he participated in the program and finally, he won the #1 spot. It ended up being his best decision in life.
You can say that Wanna One was that group when they were still actively promoting. Their popularity grew day by day. They did so well on the music charts, they were the face of multiple brands, and they were loved by many—Filipino fans included. When their Manila concert at the SM Mall Of Asia Arena was announced, tickets were sold out in just a few hours. After the group's activities, KANGDANIEL established his own entertainment agency which signaled his new start.
Born and raised in Busan, the idea of his hometown always puts a smile on KANGDANIEL's face. The 25-year-old remembers his childhood with warmth in his heart, which was mostly spent near the sea. He shares with us that he loves Busan's sea air and the calmness it comes with. Every time he gets to smell it from a different place, he recalls the good times. KANGDANIEL has a thing for scents (due to his sensitive nose) and it induces nostalgia in him. "I think the scent which makes me happy is the earthy smell of a playground. It reminds me of my elementary school days. I also like the smell of old books and it makes me think of my childhood when I was into reading," he tells K-loka by Cosmopolitan Philippines.
KANGDANIEL is an only child and he's very thankful to his mom. You can see proof in the little things he does. One time, he planned a date with her and he was seen with a bouquet of hydrangea—flowers that represent gratitude, among others. "My mom is my best friend. Even though I am her son, she usually respects me on the same level as her rather than just treating me as a child. The greatest advice that I received from her was to do what I want to do without regrets in my life," he says. The thing he wants to do the most? To perform on stage.
KANGDANIEL wears many hats: He's a singer, songwriter, host, and variety star. He manages his own label, KONNECT Entertainment, and continues to add artists under his team including CL, Chancellor, and YUJU. On what role is the hardest, the multihyphenate shares that he always tries to enjoy the moment whenever there is anything that he feels is difficult. "Everything is such a delightful role for me. However, I think there is nothing more exciting than being on stage as a singer. I feel encouraged and motivated when I show up to perform for my fans, DANITY," he continues.
These days, KANGDANIEL is not only performing on stage but is also showcasing his acting skills in front of the camera. His first project is the Disney+ drama Rookie Cops where he plays the main lead. KANGDANIEL hasn't done any acting before and this new endeavor made him feel two things: Excited and nervous. "I always feel ecstatic and have butterflies in my stomach whenever I start something new. So I enjoyed acting in a drama and got a bunch of priceless and great memories. If I do challenge myself with acting again next time, I'd like to take [on] a role with a lot of action scenes."
KANGDANIEL is now a K-pop solo artist and aside from the singing, he also composes some of his songs. His albums are a reflection of his life and in particular, the color trilogy is a representation of his self-discovery in finding his own colors. Cyan has upbeat and refreshing tracks that anyone can bop their heads to. Magenta is like the sun on a hot afternoon—strong and powerful. On the other hand, Yellow speaks differently to him. We often associate the color with happiness but for KANGDANIEL, yellow symbolizes the street lamps at night. The moon that shines in the dark on its own. A late-night diary entry with unvarnished thoughts.
Out of all the songs he has released, he says that "PARANOIA" from Yellow best represents him. The track is about KANGDANIEL fighting his own demons and it's an expression of his dark days. "The song seems to describe negative things that I felt in my life in a positive way, so I think it is a meaningful song which reveals the inner side of the past." Yellow shows a part of his life that's not the easiest but is the most important for his personal growth.
In contrast to this, his latest full album, The Story, highlights a new chapter. It leans more on sharing a variety of stories that others can resonate with. Specifically, the title track "Upside Down" tells us that we can always turn things around. With lyrics like "Everything I want, the way I want it," KANGDANIEL gives the reassurance we all need in being in charge of our lives.
For his next albums, the K-pop star wants to try the rock genre one day. "I'd like to collaborate with rock musicians. I've loved rock music for a long time since when I was young, so I look forward to a collaboration with a rock band someday for my album." When asked how he sees himself a decade from now, KANGDANIEL cites that he can still envision himself in the music industry. "In 10 years, I think it will be an ordinary and stable life. Also, I will be satisfied and happy with my life while continuing to build my favorite musical career."
For someone who is looked up to by a lot of people, KANGDANIEL says that the popularity doesn't faze him. "I am not a person who is interested in fame. I think there is nothing but gratitude for the support and assistance people send to me all the time." But of course, he's often reminded of his well-deserved success. From a b-boy club member in Busan to a global star, KANGDANIEL is undeniably in his prime and he is bound for more. "I realize that I've come so far when I look around my surroundings. Especially, since I've got my label and crew like family after I began my solo career following my group activity.”
As he looks back on his roots, KANGDANIEL remembers how his background was of great help to his current stints and it helped him realize what he wants to do. "This is the major change that I can see in my career. I personally like that I was able to be the host of the popular South Korean dance survival series Street Woman Fighter and the spinoff Street Girl Fighter. This was a great opportunity to introduce a street culture that was a part of my life, and I felt that this is such a big change with these opportunities."
KANGDANIEL is a Hallyu superstar with almost five million Instagram followers, millions of records sold, a string of endorsements—the list of his feats go on and on. His marketing power is so intense that the sunglasses he advertised flew off shelves, with a certain style that got sold out in under a minute. He is that kind of influential and what I admire the most about him is how he keeps his feet on the ground. Despite his popularity, he is happy with the simple things.
I was asked to come up with a list of interview questions for him and one of the first that came to my mind is to ask about his love for Patrick Star, who's also my favorite. Yup, the adorable cartoon character in Spongebob Squarepants. On his IG account, you'd see photos of him where he'd put captions based on his mood. He adores him a lot, and there's a reason behind that. "Patrick Star and Spongebob made me realize that it's okay to live a simple life. I think the more complicated it is, the more attractive it is to have a simple and innocent approach. I think I came to like these characters after I heard that it would be hard to find again once I grow out of my innocence."
Aside from watching the show in his spare time, KANGDANIEL is also a movie buff. He has watched thousands of films and he credits Stars Wars as the one that changed his life. It made him want to become a film director. The movie played a big part in his interest in LEGO which also inspired his creativity, and you can see this in his stellar repertoire. When his eyes are not on the screen, KANGDANIEL is busy reading (and munching on gummy snacks). He likes comic books and webtoons best, and if there are three titles he'd recommend to his fans, they're all under fantasy and action—Solo Leveling, Buk Gum Biography, and Return Of The Blossoming Blade.
KANGDANIEL enjoys doing these hobbies alone and this is another trait that I will always associate him with. He appreciates the beauty of solitude, and it's what makes him unique to me. In our interview, he narrates that he sincerely loves having time alone without any particular reason. "My favorite type of solitude is daydreaming and spending time with my cats. I like traveling alone, too, and if there is a place I hope to visit someday, that would be Alaska." As you can see, KANGDANIEL is a top celebrity but he's also a relatable person, and maybe that's one of the many reasons why DANITYs were there for him from the start.
We often read news about Korean celebs who share their blessings with charities and KANGDANIEL is one of them. From his donations to the hearing impaired to his gifts to children from low-income families, his generous heart is often mentioned by his fans. This inspires them to do the same. In the past years, DANITYs have contributed to comfort women survivors and animal protection, among others. They have also reached out to disaster victims. Every charitable activity they have done with him is meaningful and rewarding, and KANGDANIEL says that he's always happy to be able to help since he was also supported when he was struggling.
DANITYs are one of the reasons why KANGDANIEL continues to thrive in his career. As his way of thanking them, he would always put himself in their shoes. Like when he did a V Live broadcast early so his fans can avoid sleeping late. Hours before a scheduled fan meet, KANGDANIEL was rushed to the hospital due to dizziness but he still managed to drop by during the event, because he was concerned about the fans who came from far-flung places just to see him. No wonder he has such a strong fanbase after all these years—KANGDANIEL thinks about them as much as they think about him.
There's no denying that KANGDANIEL will always be famous: No matter where he goes, what he does, or what's he into, his innate talent helps him move forward. In trying times, his persistence is unmatched. Not to mention how honest he is with what he feels and what he thinks about. The huge support he gets will forever be consistent, if not increasing as time passes by. KANGDANIEL is slowly unraveling the story that he wants to tell and the best version of himself—and we all can't wait to see it.
*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
PRODUCED BY: Hanna Tamondong
LAYOUT BY: Pau Moyano
SPECIAL THANKS TO: KONNECT Entertainment and Sony Music