In my room, my pink walls are peppered with outdated posters of mostly Korean celebrities. This is the first thing people notice when they enter. It’s been seven years since I altered the layout, or added anything new. It’s been this way for a while now; GD and T.O.P and 2NE1 on one side, Jay Park on another, Lu Han off in a corner, and a whole wall plus my door dedicated to only SHINee. It’s been like this for so long that if I took them down, it wouldn’t feel like I was at home.
I bought and set up these posters sometime in 2010 when SHINee had just released Lucifer, and their repackaged album, “Hello.” At the time, I had been going through the motions of high school and adjusting to being one of the new kids in an unfamiliar place. As far as I knew, there were only one or two other people I could talk to about K-Pop. Everybody else either didn’t care or thought I was weird for listening to music that wasn’t English and dreaming about pretty boys who were thousands of miles away.
I was fine with being different, but it started to take a toll on me. I had my friends, but I never really felt like I belonged. I would have rather been in my room, surrounded by my posters and on my laptop watching videos. SHINee, as five, gave me space to be myself. They comforted me by releasing music, going on variety shows, and just being themselves.
Nothing made me feel happier than knowing that even SHINee, who are huge celebrities, also had their dorky sides. The most entertaining of them all for me was Jonghyun, who eventually became my favorite. He’s always been known for being a very outspoken and playful member. He would make endless jokes and digs at his fellow members, especially Minho. Jonghyun was extra even before being extra was a thing. The smallest things could send him into fits of exaggerated dancing or nonsensical screaming.
With his teasing and signature facial expressions aside, Jonghyun was also known for being the most sensitive and romantic SHINee member. His sweet nature coupled with his ability to empathize with others allowed him to be open about his depression and speak out for the LGBT community in Korea, making him one of the very first and few celebrities to do so. He gave us songs like Breathe and Depression Clock because he knew how it felt to be riddled with loneliness and pain. He gave his all in every song he sang, and he had the uncanny ability to convey emotions beautifully through his voice. His songs and performances were a reminder that we were not alone, that he understood how we felt even if he was miles away.
My SHINee posters, memorabilia, and songs remain simply because of the strength they gave me. I’ve always wanted to reciprocate this, but as a fan, I know I can only do so much. I could only watch as my timeline flooded with worry and disbelief. A part of me wishes I could have done something to help him, to return the favor thousands and thousands of times over, but now I can only accept what has happened and celebrate his life. Jonghyun, who was in pain, is now at rest. I feel blessed to have had his music and his life become a part of who I am today.
To our bling bling Jonghyun, who has shined brighter than any other star seen on earth, you’ve done more than well. Thank you.