Sad Details About Blackpink

Record-breakers. Icons. Idols. Korean pop foursome Blackpink have been called many names in their rapid rise to stardom. The "Shut Down" singers are known for dominating the k-pop industry with their sassy choreography, epic raps and runs, and more than a handful of billion-viewed music videos.

But members Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa have also faced their fair share of hardships and heartbreaks as they navigate both Eastern and Western music industry expectations from their label and fans. The ladies toiled through years of idol (aka celebrity) training to get to the release of their debut with dual singles "Whistle" and "Boombayah," only to be faced with continual criticism. Even before hitting the music scene in a big way in 2016, the four members of Blackpink faced the harsh realities of pop stardom.

There's more than meets the eye when it comes to Blackpink, and it's not all aegyo (translation: cuteness) beneath the surface ...

The group spent years in grueling training before their debut

Blackpink's members got their start similarly to many of their k-pop contemporaries, undergoing intense, years-long training at one of k-pop's major record labels, YG Entertainment. Between vocal and choreography rehearsals, to fitness and publicity training, trainees would face multiple eliminations as executives narrowed down the field to create a group. "We were on survival mode," lead vocalist/rapper Jennie told Rolling Stone. "Every month, our friends were forced to leave, go home. Getting stressed? Having it rough? Those feelings were a luxury. What mattered was debuting."

Some group members trained longer than others. Jennie studied the longest at the company for a total of six years. Vocalist Jisoo and vocalist/rapper Lisa both trained for five years, while vocalist Rosé trained the shortest amount of time, for four years. But the length of the training didn't change the intensity.

"I ended up fighting for my life, training for my life," Rosé shared with Vogue Australia. "Because I couldn't accept the fact that I'd just be cut and sent back. So I had no time to slack off. I remember I took every minute and every second to work on my craft so that I [could] make it."

The group's label mandates strict rules on artist lifestyles

Even the limelight can't hide the darker shades of k-pop idol fame. Blackpink's parent agency, YG Entertainment, has been repeatedly criticized for its difficult training regimens, as well as the way the label treats their artists both before and after their debut. Among the many examples of this, YG reportedly mandated regulations for all of their artists that included bans on "drinking, smoking, clubbing, driving, plastic surgery, and dating." 

Members Jisoo and Rosé addressed the restrictions. "I wasn't allowed to get a driver's license," Rosé explained. "However, exceptions can be made if you discuss it with the company. The restrictions are just there to tell you not to do any of those things secretly." Moreover, Blackpink's fans, lovingly called "Blinks," have taken to defending their favorite foursome when they felt that YG wasn't adequately taking care of their artists. From claims of alleged favoritism to spotlighting serious allegations like death threats, fans have stormed the internet on multiple occasions to bring to light some serious grievances against YG.

The intense fan movements online have even prompted responses from YG themselves. "All of us at YG would like to express our deepest gratitude to the fans and would like to take this opportunity to share with you that we are doing our absolute best to give Blackpink and Blinks the best music YG has to offer," one statement from the company read.

Jennie's personal photos were leaked

While there is no official leader in Blackpink, vocalist/rapper (and longest-tenured trainee) Jennie is often referred to as the de facto spokesperson for the group. So when a scandal erupted in 2022 regarding the leak of her personal photos, including those with her rumored boyfriend V of BTS, the media (and the fans) pounced immediately. As South Korea maintains strict defamation laws, the severity of this case caused an uproar amongst fans — particularly regarding how the parent company initially handled the matter.

Multiple Jennie fan groups released a joint statement in September 2022, pleading with YG Entertainment to "Protect Jennie" from the malicious attacks sooner rather than later. "YG Entertainment's continued silence is difficult to comprehend," the statement read. "What we want is for YG to officially clarify the company's position to protect artists."

YG Entertainment eventually addressed the issue in an October 2022 statement. "There have been indiscriminate rumors, criticism, personal attacks, sexual harassment and violations of personal life sparked by those private photographs," it read. "We are now announcing that we will take legal action and correct the situation." Meanwhile, BTS' label — Hybe Entertainment — also released a statement, signaling their intention to pursue a criminal case.

Lisa was a victim of fraud

In 2020, mainstay rapper and member Lisa reportedly lost 1 billion South Korean won (around $816,000) due to her former manager. According to Market News, the then-manager abused his relationship with the star under the guise of investing in real estate and instead spending the money on gambling. YG Entertainment released a statement on the incident, saying, "We are embarrassed by the misconduct of [this person] and we are feeling responsible for the management and supervision. We are taking preventive measures so that this does not happen again."

The former manager was reportedly someone involved with Blackpink from their earliest days, and fans were quick to defend their idol online. Many of them used the opportunity to express their continual frustration with the label, blaming the company for not adequately protecting their artists. "Apologize to Lisa and treat her the way she deserves," one Twitter user shared. "Who can she trust if she can't even trust those you put around her?"

The matter was eventually settled quietly, with YG claiming that the unnamed manager left the company and also reimbursing part of the sum that was lost.

Jisoo's acting debut caused controversy

Oldest member Jisoo made her acting debut in 2021 in the Korean drama series "Snowdrop," which premiered across the Asian market and on Disney+ in other markets. However, before the show could really take off, controversy surrounding the time period of the drama caused some to take issue. The show takes place in 1987, which marked a transitional period for the South Korean government as it moved from a dictatorship to a democracy. This change in power was in part caused by an uprising in support of fair elections, and thousands of people were arrested, while South Korean military forces claimed that their violent reaction was needed to protect the country against North Korea.

In "Snowdrop," the lead couple is in a romantic relationship — South Korean student (played by Jisoo) and a North Korean spy (played by Jung Hae-in). Audiences were quickly outraged by the inaccuracies of the show, with petitions for cancellation and even lawsuits following. Korean broadcasting channel JTBC released a statement addressing the controversy: "Although we unfortunately cannot reveal much of the plot ahead of each episode, we ask that you watch over the future progress of the plot."

Another tragedy plagued the series, as co-star Kim Mi-soo died suddenly at age 29 in 2022. Both Jisoo, who played Kim's roommate, and series co-lead Jung released tributes to their fellow actor on social media. Fans shared their concern for the drama's team with similarly touching social media messages, urging them to "stay strong."

Members have received death threats

Several members of Blackpink have received serious threats throughout their rise to the top. Lisa, who is the group's only Thai member, faced death threats in 2020, and the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul even took to their official Twitter page to confirm the threats. As is their policy, YG Entertainment later released a statement that read, "We'll be responding strongly without leniency." Member Jennie also received threats against her life that same year. Fans on Chinese platform Weibo brought a tweet to attention that detailed a potential attack on the vocalist/rapper and pleaded with YG Entertainment to respond accordingly. The Weibo post was trending so high that acclaimed Chinese celebrities like actor Esther Yu took to their own accounts to attract the attention of the group's label.

When Jisoo received violent threats against her in September 2020, supporters took to Twitter with the hashtag "YG_ProtectJISOO" in an effort to draw attention to the seriousness of the matter. Fans around the world have continued to express outrage at the threats made against the members. One supporter on Weibo summed things up by writing, "The cyber-bullying phenomenon toward celebrities is becoming worse, and we need to take more strict actions to punish this evil."

Fame has made them sick -- literally

Several members of Blackpink have disclosed how their megawatt fame has affected their physical and mental health. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jennie shared how her body shut down after three grueling years of non-stop recording, touring, and fulfilling promotional obligations. "I had no immune system at all, but we needed to keep touring," she said. "When the tour was done, we got some time off to be at home. Back then, I didn't have time to learn how to take care of myself." She credited relying on friends and living a more sustainable lifestyle for getting her back on her feet after a much-needed break.

Meanwhile, Jisoo also shared how she coped with both an injury and the expectations set upon her and the group during their Coachella debut in 2019. "I wanted to perform sitting down," she said. "But my pride wouldn't allow myself to sit. And it wasn't because 'I love this stage so much;' stronger was my sense of responsibility and duty."

The group has been upfront about their mental health and how they cope with stardom, an increasingly common talking point for millennial and Gen Z-leaning artists nowadays. "When I'm good in my body, I feel happier and healthier in my mental health," Jennie shared in a group interview. "And [having] good people around you that you can trust. And pets."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.