When I Look at You: Happy Birthday, Seohyun!
Being the youngest of a group is always a little bit of a special thing. The expectations are different: you can make more mistakes, shoulder fewer responsibilities, trip and act silly only to be scolded with a fond shake of the head. But at the same time, you’re monitored in a different way, too. How have you grown? Matured? How far have you traveled from that starry-eyed kid yelling for the attention of your elders into someone those same elders can now be proud of?
Seohyun was scouted when she was in grade five, and debuted before she graduated high school. As Girls’ Generation nears their twelfth anniversary, it’s easy to stop for a moment and look back on not only how far they’ve come along, but also how effortlessly Seohyun stepped into the grown-up shoes she had to fill, maturing with both humility and grace — all while under the public eye.
Even as a teenager, Seohyun was not what one might expect out of a typical maknae. Her members teased her, holding her at the top of their hierarchy. And at first glance, it’s easy to see why: many of her iconic moments involve her solemn declarations on the deadly repercussions of eating hamburgers, or the revealing of her strict sleeping schedule for the sake of healthy skin cell regeneration.
But as endearingly rigid and straightforward as her image was, there was also the side of Seohyun that remained definitive of the quintessential youngest: the girl who proudly answered that the one who cooks rice in the Girls’ Generation dormitory is definitely the rice cooker, and the one who showed more interest in sweet potatoes than in any celebrity crushes. She’s the one who knows that she’s only at the top because her unnies let her be, and adores them as much as they adore her.
More than a decade later, Seohyun has softened in ways that might not have been immediately evident. It’s the mellowing that comes from learning to compromise with the world around you, both standing your ground when it counts and helping others when you can. And yet, Seohyun also has edges that have only sharpened as the years have gone by: a respectable career in acting both on screen and on stage, her own solo album, and most importantly — meeting with her childhood role model, the United Nations Secretary General.
Because growing up doesn’t mean that you have to completely change. Of course, your outline might blur a little, and some of the cogs in your mindset and perception are inevitably replaced. But at the center of it all, Seohyun has maintained that stainless steel framework of her youth: to stand tall and feel that you deserve it, to aim far yet true, and to love those around her both unflinchingly and wholeheartedly.
Seohyun has long been known as “the maknae of Girls’ Generation”. But that title in itself has become something more than meets the eye, something that Seohyun can push others to embody. It’s a phrase that speaks of marching forward, steady and relentless, but also remembering to breathe. It’s how Seohyun has given everyone who cares to watch a glimpse of what it’s like to roll with the punches of growing up while never losing her own footing.
Happy birthday, Seohyun, and thank you for the many roles you’ve grown into over the years: from adorable maknae to faithful member, steadfast friend, and an impeccable role model in your own right — no doubt inspiring many for years to come.
Sources: it MICHAA, “GQ”, “GGPM”, “Time”, namooactors@Instagram.com
Written by: moonrise31@soshified