“I am a believer in fate. If good things happen, I think it’s meant to be. On the other hand, when bad things happen, I tell myself that it’s the hardships now that will lead to a better future, instead of nitpicking at the cause and effect,” says Cha Eun-woo, the 25-year-old South Korean actor and singer who recently added global ambassador for Burberry to his repertoire.
It’s the kind of philosophical outlook and maturity that riddles his interview with BAZAAR—not that you’d expect anything less from someone who reportedly has an IQ of 142. A top student who was a student council president and sports team captain, Cha was working towards becoming a lawyer or judge when he was scouted at a school festival. Life was never the same after. In 2014, he played a minor role in the drama film My Brilliant Life, starring Song Hye-kyo and Gang Dong-won, before making his debut as a boyband member for Astro in 2016.
Five short years later, and with an impressive list of films, television and web series, variety shows and hosting gigs under his belt, it seems Cha’s impeccable work ethics are paying off. Coming in at 17 on Forbes Korea’s 2021 Korea Power Celebrity 40 list (and second in the publication’s Top ‘Visual Queen and King’ of K-pop Industry poll released last month), the talented celebrity has his 23.3 million fans swooning over his boyish looks with every post on his Instagram account. Here, he speaks to BAZAAR about ambition, personality tests and taking things in his stride.
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How does it feel to be Burberry’s global ambassador?
I’m extremely happy. Becoming a fashion ambassador was one of my goals—and I’m even prouder that it is for Burberry. My family finds it amazing too; they can’t believe it. My brother asked why me (laughs).
What has been the biggest change for you since your last interview with BAZAAR two years ago?
I was just trying to do my best back then—stubbornly and a little recklessly, but I thought that was the way to go. It’s not that I’m less hard-working now, but I want to be better by focusing on my strengths. I’ve developed confidence at what I do, but I still fall into a rut occasionally. At such times, I picture my future and visualise the things I want to do, and my initial thoughts and feelings will go away. I feel that mind control is truly important and that’s why I think a lot about focusing on my strengths these days.
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Would you call yourself ambitious?
I feel like there’s a difference between desire and ambition. In my mind, the bigger the desire, the better; but the bigger the ambition, the more reckless it becomes. Sometimes, I just want to collapse and not do anything; and the next thing I know, I’m all for it. That’s why I don’t let go of myself so easily. I want glory and prosperity, but more importantly, there are still so many things I want to show people. That’s probably what drives my desire.
Do you feel that you’re suited for your line of work?
It’s an occupation, so I will have to match it. While I tend to not blindly trust MBTI personality tests, Cha Eun-woo and Lee Dong-min (Cha’s real name) have different MBTI types. Cha Eun-woo is an INFJ while Lee Dong-min is an ENTJ. Being in the industry has changed Lee Dong-min’s personality, but Dong-min is still Dong-min. My original personality shows when I’m around people I am comfortable with. There are areas where I’ve become more careful; looking three times before I leap and being more cautious with my words.
“Switch On”, the song by your pop group Astro, is occasionally my driving song. How do you feel about its success?
A thousand emotions crossed my mind; I was overwhelmed with pride, but it also felt bittersweet. For the first time, we achieved No. 1 on terrestrial TV music shows. It was a goal that we repeatedly fell short of—and that repetition sort of hurt me big. Then, to finally achieve what I wanted so badly… I was flooded with emotions. We achieved it in the sixth year since our debut. I kept my cool, but deep inside, I was extremely happy.
From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like you’ve been on a roll since your debut.
I don’t know who draws the line between failure and success; but if you feel that way, I guess it means I’ve been doing well? It has been back-breaking, particularly because it hasn’t been easy, both physically and mentally, to do my best on all three fronts (singing, acting and modelling). Going all in on one made me feel like a bad person in another. I personally think I’ve done pretty good so far, but hearing your comment boosts my confidence.
Translation: Cecil Lee. Additional reporting by Charmaine Ho
Styling: Jung Yun-kyung
Makeup: Jung Bo-young
Hair: Park Mi-hyung
Set styling: Yu Hye-won
Assistant: Shin Ye-rim