He is the designated rapper in the six-member Korean boyband 2PM, and this 24-year-old Thai-Chinese is arguably the heartbreaker of the group. The facts don’t lie: 759,000 Facebook fans, 1.5 million Twitter followers, a seemingly obscene number of fan sites dedicated to his whereabouts, and a Madame Tussauds wax figure in his likeness. His bandmates? Their combined statistics and accolades don’t even come close. We think his adoring female fans would want to know this: the babyface superstar might just be ready to settle down.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Lee Jeon Ho
STYLING: Olivia Tsang
HAIR: Yang Hyun Shim
GROOMING: Hong Young Ho
MANIFESTO: You are an American-born Thai-Chinese. You have had quite an adventure growing up in different countries. Share with us what your childhood was like.
NICHKHUN HORVEJKUL: I was born in Los Angeles, and we moved back to Thailand when I was two. I started to learn Thai as my first language and when I was 12, I moved to New Zealand to pick up English. So it was a whole new experience because I didn’t know the language, and I went to a very strict boarding school for three years. Then, I moved to America for about four or five years when I was 14, followed by Korea.
M: And where do you call home? Thailand, United States or Korea?
NH: I have three homes right now. I call Thailand home, of course, because my family is still there. And I feel like I am home when I am in the United States too since I am comfortable using English there. I’ve been living in Korea for six years now, and I am used to everything about the country – the food, people, tradition, and culture – so I call this home, too.
M: You were a model before you became a singer. What made you want to give the entertainment industry a shot?
NH: I went to watch a Korean concert in LA, and I was scouted there. (An agent invited him to audition for JYP Entertainment, now known as JYP Corp., one of the biggest management companies in Korea.) I was only 17 at the time. It wasn’t my dream to become a singer because I was a shy little boy, and I couldn’t even speak in front of public, or give a class presentation. Then, the agency didn’t know which department to place me in, so they started with modelling because I just had to look good. Soon, they trained me to sing, dance, and speak Korean as well as some acting lessons. That’s how I got into the group.
M: Do you think you have made the right choice in moving to Korea?
NH: When I first moved to Korea, I was thinking that this was not my place because I didn’t know how to sing and dance, and I wasn’t as interested in learning. I never dreamt of being a celebrity because I cherish my privacy. I am still shy; I like to be in my own world.
M: The shyness could be your Thai genes coming through.
NH: Yeah, we like to keep to ourselves.
M: Do you remember the feeling when you first arrived in Korea, and had to adapt quickly?
NH: Korea wasn’t bad because I was already 18 when I moved there. The worst was my experience in New Zealand because I was only 12 and I had to stay in a boarding school. I remember waking up at 5am every morning and running three miles before school, and I just felt so alone. I cried three times when I was there because I felt like going home. And then I got used to it, and now it is fun to visit another country, and even learning a new language isn’t as hard anymore. The hard part is to make the place your home and to feel comfortable there. But to get there is kind of hard if you don’t open up and learn how to deal with others, how to eat the food, how to speak the language, how to be local…
M: What are some of your challenging moments in the industry?
NH: I think it is the training and the endless pursuit of trying to get recognition for my hard work. Of course, I am not a natural born singer or dancer; I just want people to know that I am trying and improving, and I’m not taking this lightly as a way to make money. I’m trying to carve out a lifetime career. I want to prove that even though I am not as good yet, I will be better.
M: Do you prefer modelling or singing?
NH: I didn’t really get into modelling that much before I became a singer. It was just a short period of time, and I needed to find something to do in-between jobs. Now I have progressed into acting, which I am very interested in. I told my company that my goal is to be in Hollywood to represent Asia. Since I’ve started working in Korea, Thais have regarded me as a K-Pop star.
M: What about your fans? Any strange encounters to report?
NH: When we were touring the United States as the opening act for the Wonder Girls, one of the fans threw her bra on stage, and it caught my foot while I was dancing and I tried to shake it off. It became quite an issue on the internet. So this was probably the oddest thing that has happened to me.
M: What about the weirdest gift you have received from a fan?
NH: My fans don’t really give me anything. But once, I received a gold key. It is not weird but I am not used to receiving this sort of stuff, and it is worth quite a lot. I asked myself if it was right to have accepted it.
M: What would you like to have accomplished by the end of your career?
NH: I want to be successful in life, and not just in my career. I want to be a good person, a good parent, a good husband. Right now, I want to work hard, earn money and build up my career to a point where I could get married and start a family without any financial constraints. I’m preparing a good life for my family. It would be a bonus to continue being in this business and still retain my fame. But my main goal is to start a family.
M: Sounds like you have given this serious thought. Is there an ideal age that you plan to settle down?
NH: I think 10 years from now would be too late for me. I’m not sure and I have to see what the situation is. Maybe when I am 31 or 32 years old? I don’t want a wide age gap between the kids and me.
M: Let’s switch the topic to fashion. What is your definition of style?
NH: I don’t call myself stylish because I’m not into dressing up. I think people need to have some common sense in deciding what to wear. For me, my style is very Californian. In California, people just wear jeans and hoodies – I just throw on a shirt and a hoodie and I’ll be out the door.
M: 2PM has sported various styles for music videos and photoshoots. Is there a 2PM style that you would adopt for yourself or is this just part of your stage persona?
NH: For me and a few of the guys, it would just be an outfit, or an image, to put on a show. But for the others, they are really into the fashion element. They would study what others wear onstage at award shows and all. I don’t shop because if I do, I wouldn’t stop.
M: Do you don any disguises when you are out in public?
NH: I like to wear glasses, just regular ones. I would take out the lens. I just like it to cover my face, and for some reason, it makes me more comfortable to go out. I don’t know why, it’s just my thing.
M: Lastly, since you are dressed in Dior Homme for this entire shoot, how do you feel about the clothes you are wearing?
NH: It is luxurious. It’s what the “grown-ups” would wear. If this was a car, it would be a Ferrari or a Lamborghini – it has that class. If you want to be classy and want to look good, this is what you would wear.