With more than 200,000+ YouTube subscribers and counting, Vivien Valz, a senior at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa shares her love of K-pop, under the moniker “vivienvalz.”
Valz attributes her YouTube personality to growing up in a Filipino family.
“I was born a storyteller and performer,” Valz said as she recounted growing up, going to musicals with her family. “They were always supportive of me going into music, and I want to share that love with the whole world.”
When asked what first drew her into the world of K-pop, Valz spoke about seeing the K-pop group Girl’s Generation on TV and being enamored by the representation of asian women in music.
Valz began her YouTube career in 2014. According to Valz, her start on YouTube was fueled in large part by trying to get the attention of K-pop group BTS.
“BTS debuted around that time and I wanted to do dance covers for them. My ultimate goal was for BTS to notice me.”
Valz went on to say that while it may have started as a materialistic goal, making videos has turned into a “personal love.”
Valz met her goal one year after posting her first video. In 2015, Valz and a friend, Vasika Cheng, were given the opportunity to speak to BTS over video call when the group were guests on the South Korean music variety show “After School Club.” The members of BTS were shown Valz and Cheng’s dance cover video of their song “I Need U” which was met with words of praise from both the group and the show’s hosts, commenting that they were impressed since the song had only been out for a week but they were already dancing to it very well.
Valz’s channel focuses on several aspects of K-pop ranging from dance covers, song covers, reactions to new song releases, album unboxings and footage from her trips to conventions. She also features her family in her videos from time-to-time, a decision Valz said is often not her own. “Sometimes my mom will say, ‘Let’s film a reaction video,’” Valz said. “My family are the ones that initiate the filming. I don’t ask them, they actually want to be in the videos.”
Currently, the “About” page on Valz’s channel states that she is an “in-training independent trainee,” or a person who is pursuing a career in the K-pop industry but is not signed under a company. When asked about it, however, Valz laughed, stating that it was an inside joke with her viewers. “I say I’m an independent trainee trying to make it as an idol, but I think I’m too old,” Valz said, stating that most K-pop idols start their training in their early-teens. “I like to trick people into thinking I’m a trainee because I look so young.”
Valz has actually gone out for “K-Pop Star” season four, a South Korean reality competition series seeking potential K-pop stars worldwide, in 2014 as well as for JYPE, one of South Korea’s largest entertainment companies, in late 2018. She recounted that she was the only one out of 100 auditioners who was over the age of 17. “I was just there to have fun,” Valz said.
Since starting YouTube, Valz says her circle of friends in the K-pop community has grown and she has met several people who are fans of her channel. “It’s really heartwarming to know that my videos can make someone’s day,” Valz said, adding that this motivates her to continue making videos. While Valz admits to getting recognized by fans in public, she says that they never actually come up to her.
“I sometimes get comments like, ‘I saw you riding the bus today,” Valz said. “It doesn’t happen too often, but because I work at a K-pop store, it’s kind of more common now to have people come up to me.”
In the five years since she began posting videos, Valz has been a special guest at KCON LA, a popular annual K-pop convention in Los Angeles, in 2017 and 2018, a special guest host at K-EXPO NY, a popular K-pop convention in New York, in 2018 and became a partner with CJ E&M DIA TV, a South Korean entertainment and mass media company.
“I would have never thought I would be invited to conventions (as a special guest). I used to just go to them as a fan” Valz said. She credits this to the K-pop group ASTRO. In 2016, Valz made a video of her meeting ASTRO in-person at KCON LA, which caught the attention of the event coordinators.
While Valz enjoys making videos, she stated her future plans for YouTube are unclear. Her time in the K-pop community, she says, sparked her love of teaching and becoming a mentor.
“I’m really hoping to teach English in Korea or Japan and, maybe, making vlog videos for my channel,” Valz said. “But later on, I really want to continue teaching because I love the connections I make and watching people grow.”