Miss Korea Kim Joo-ri talks about her dreams and challenges during an interview with The Korea Times.
/ Korea Times PhotoBy Han Sang-hee
by Shim Hyun-chul
by Shim Hyun-chul
Growing up to be a beauty pageant queen may be one of many dreams young girls have, but for this year's Miss Korea, Kim Joo-ri, it was a stroke of coincidence.
``When I saw the 2007 Miss Korea Lee Ji-sun prepare for the Miss Universe pageant on television, I instantly thought `I want to do that!''' the 21-year-old Kim told The Korea Times during an interview last week at a cafe in northern Seoul. Dressed in black, Kim was ready for another long day as one of Korea's most beautiful women, with interviews and photo shoots lined up on her schedule.
Kim's dream as a young girl was to become a ballerina and she was on the right track from the start.
``I was a little girl who loved to dance. I started ballet when I was five years old and moved to England to attend the Royal Ballet School during third grade. When the 1997-98 economic recession hit Korea, I came back home and went to Sunhwa Arts School to study Korean dance,'' she said.
Kim Joo-ri waves to the audience after being crowned as 2009 Miss Korea at the pageant last July at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.
/ Korea Times File
``I didn't look back. I was a bit chubby when I was in Korea, and I had to lose weight to start ballet again, so I started a quite painful diet of eating only vegetables like cucumbers, potatoes and carrots. It was difficult, but I was fit and ready in no time,'' she said.
Life in Russia was not bad at all, as the outgoing Kim made many friends and rehearsed vigorously.
``But right before graduation, I injured my leg. I didn't make it to the final graduation performance, but I endured the final exam with my leg wrapped up with cabbage leaves to ease the swelling. After graduation, I was offered (the chance) to join a ballet troupe in Russia, but that was when I saw Lee on television. I instantly wanted to try it out,'' said Kim.
Preparing for the contest was not easy, as she had to practice public speaking, making eye contact with the audience, walking around the stage and smiling effortlessly. Her win as Miss Seoul won her the ticket to the Miss Korea pageant, but it also brought jealously among fellow contestants, for many Miss Seouls eventually won the final title in the past.
``Nobody was mean in front of me, but yes, I did hear rumors. But I told myself it was just a process. We had so much to prepare from dancing, smiling and walking, so I was a bit preoccupied to consider every little thing,'' she said.
During the Miss Korea pageant, Kim wore a tiara even before they announced the semifinalists. Was this a style strategy?
``Yes! We have to randomly draw straws to choose our dresses, but we get to style our hair and use accessories the way we want to. Of course, it's important to stand out, so I wore a small tiara. I heard that a lot of people wondered why I was wearing a tiara, but it caught attention, so that's good,'' she said laughing.
Winning Miss Korea not only brought her the title as the representative beauty of Korea, and it also brought immense attention from the media and public.
``It was actually fun. I get calls from entertainment agencies, but I'm not ready for that yet. I'm already busy fulfilling my task as this year's Miss Korea ― taking photos, meeting new people, going out for volunteer work ― and I also have to prepare for next year's Miss Universe pageant!'' she said.
Kim sat up straight as she started talking about her future as a Miss Korea, but her eyes sparkled with anticipation.
``It's natural I have to consider what I say and what I do now, and I'll have to live with that even after my term as Miss Korea ends. Miss Korea Kim Joo-ri has to be confident and proud, but the plain 20-something Kim Joo-ri is a young girl who loves challenges. I'm working to find the balance between the two,'' she said.
Dreaming of becoming a nongovernmental diplomat like her role model Audrey Hepburn, Kim said that pushing yourself toward your dreams is a beautiful thing and that she hoped she could become a role model for those who are hesitating in doing so.
``I hope people don't give up on their dreams. I never thought I would come this far, but I have. If you really want to become Miss Korea, go for it and the same goes to everything else!'' she said.