On December 22nd, 2013, Girls’ Generation held its Märchen Fantasy concert at the Korea International Exhibition Center. Upon finishing the opening set, the members continued their concert tradition of greeting the audience, but added a small surprise with their classic introductions. After Sunny and Tiffany introduced themselves as Girls’ Generation’s “energy pill” and “brighter than gems Fany Fany Tiffany”, Taeyeon took fans back to 2007, when she would still call herself Girls’ Generation’s “kid leader”.
Then and now, many found Taeyeon to be an unusual choice for a leader. She was timid and reserved, with even her group members saying they knew nothing about her. From the start, she felt that it was difficult to lead, as there were other members who were more outgoing and forceful, and though she was the oldest among them, there were five others in the group considered to be the same age. Still, sometimes the best leaders aren’t those who choose to lead. Taeyeon has shown time and again that her way of leading has made it so the other members can shine in their own ways, from giving the speeches to directing the visuals for an album. No one is a leader on their own, and Taeyeon has allowed us to see that her members are leaders themselves.
Because of this, sometimes people can overlook Taeyeon’s natural leadership, which the other members of Girls’ Generation continually turn to. Though Taeyeon may encourage other members to accept various awards, they sometimes (all the time (even as I write this)) still look to the kid leader to speak for the group. Taeyeon leads by example rather than by force, and at the conclusion of Girls’ Generation’s second tour through Japan, it was her who addressed the fans who attended the concert tour through a letter written in Japanese and put into words how thankful all of the members were.
Of course, Taeyeon also led Girls’ Generation’s foray into social media, creating an Instagram account that has since led to four others, two Weibo accounts, two Twitters, and even a YouTube channel. Though the members had promised each other not to use social networking sites, Taeyeon chose to break that rule when she thought of fans who were waiting for Girls’ Generation, and opened the floodgates for her group. With social media, the members of Girls’ Generation have given fans a glimpse into their lives, uploading pictures of their dogs, vacations, baby photos, dogs, family members, ski trips, and occasionally, dogs. They have had hilarious conversations, held informal question and answer sessions, and have talked with fans about nearly everything, from movies to food to music.
However, Taeyeon’s Instagram is just a little different, and through it, her leadership is seen once more. As much as she enjoys sharing photos of Ginger, Taeyeon has also used her Instagram to promote her members’ dramas and musicals, give previews for songs in upcoming Girls’ Generation albums, share her vote for the YouTube Music Awards, and inform followers of music video release dates. Photos from Girls’ Generations birthday parties, gatherings, and photoshoots are shown to more than a million fans all around the world instantly, many of which otherwise never would have been seen. She is Girls’ Generation’s most active member on social media, and has uploaded over 500 photos since she began sharing pictures on March 18th, 2013, less than one year ago.
Taeyeon’s hundreds of posts also show that it takes more to describe her than the word “leader”. Though she has been an idol for over six years, outside of Girls’ Generation, Taeyeon is a young woman, interested in drawing and cars, who plays “The Sims” and with various toys, and does her and her mother’s nails. At home, she is the middle child instead of the eldest, both a younger and an older sister, with proud and loving parents who travel to see their daughter perform in front of thousands. She is a lover of music, who shares the most amazing fifteen-second song covers you will ever hear.
As a member of Girls’ Generation, Taeyeon’s Instagram shows instead just how much she loves her members and her fans. She has posted countless photos of her eight closest friends, taught them to stitch together pictures to upload, and shares their efforts and hard work. While other idol groups who debuted after Girls’ Generation send members to release solo albums, Taeyeon instead is at home posting photos of her members’ dramas (while hoping for kiss scenes), and has only just released her first solo song not for an OST. She has thanked fans through comments on Instagram for taking photos of her when going to the airport alone, for coming up with “Taeng o’clock”, and started an Instagram account entirely for them. She has opened up her life and allowed people to see more of who she really is.
Perhaps most importantly, Taeyeon’s Instagram has proven what fans have known since first meeting Taeyeon as she was yelling off the Dongho Bridge: that she is a special kind of leader, who makes those around her shine, and an amazing idol, who always thinks of her fans. That she is an incredible singer, whose voice has soothed and awed hundreds of thousands, and a representative of Korea, who was invited to sing the national anthem overseas. And most of all, that after seven years, she is still Girls’ Generation’s kid leader, who wants nothing more than to sing with her beloved members for as long as she can. We hope she can do so for many more birthdays to come.
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