Having black voices share their insight about the K-pop genre is really important because of how much of K-pop draws from black culture, so seeing Jessica (known as The Jess Lyfe) be so open, excited, and motivated to learn more about Korean culture, Korean music, and introduce thousands of others who may be interested in it, as well, has been incredibly influential.
This interview discusses everything from her reasons behind her Youtube channel, some of the accomplishments she has earned from having this channel that highlights various K-pop artists, the struggles she faces as a Black, K-pop fan, and what she would like to see regarding the future of her Youtube channel.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself. Your name, age, hobbies, goals, interests, dreams, and so on. Outside of K-pop, who and what else do you find yourself listening to?
I’m actually pretty terrible at talking about myself but to give a bit of my background, my name is Jessica, I’m originally from Detroit, MI (born and raised), moved to Germany in May of 2010 and I’ve just recently relocated to the UK.
I’ve had many goals and dreams over the years but my most consistent goal is to be a filmmaker. I’ve always wanted to work in the movie industry, write scripts, direct my first film, BE in my first film. I think it would be dope.
Outside of K-pop, I like listening to a lot of lo-fi, chill vibes. Right now, I’m really into Malena Zavala, The Paper Kites and Snoh Aalegra. I like music that calms and speaks to the mind and soul. But every now and then you’ll catch me listening to some Audioslave, Linkin Park or Childish Gambino. My playlists are all over the place haha.
2. What inspired you to start making videos reacting to K-pop music videos? Will the reaction videos be coming back anytime soon, especially with so many upcoming debuts and comebacks in the K-pop world happening right now?
My sister actually got me into K-pop even though I was unknowingly already into it. It started off with me accidentally stumbling upon this Korean drama on YouTube called “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK”. Instantly I was drawn to Rain and I wanted to know everything about him, lol. So, I Googled him and found out he was a music artist and started listening to his music, watching his videos…
That’s when my sister came along and said, "Well, if you like Rain then you need to check out Big Bang” and she sent me “Bad Boy” because that was their most popular song at the time. TOP with that mint blue hair… it was pretty much downhill from there.
Reactions! They actually are already back but I’m doing them exclusively on Patreon now. I’ve decided that I want to focus my channel on making short films and skits, vlogging and gaming. So, for anyone reading if you would like to see my reactions again you can go to my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/TheJessLyfe) and become a Patron!
I’m definitely grateful and also shocked at the support I’ve received so far. I didn’t know my reactions were so loved and it feels good to know there are people out there who enjoy just watching videos with me.
3. Why did you feel it was necessary to start your channel? What is your mission?
Initially I began my channel because I felt lonely and isolated in Germany and I wanted to channel my energy into doing something productive and progressive. I wanted to make people laugh while also making the content that I enjoy making and I wanted something that would steer me in the direction of filmmaking and I felt YouTube would be a great platform for something like that.
4. Your “If (insert K-pop group) were a Kindergarten class” is really cute and fun to watch. Where did the inspiration for that came from? They usually garner tens of thousands of views, so why do you think it attracts as many views as it does?
The inspiration for that actually came from a tweet my friend Sydney made about BTS and how her students in South Korea are just as chaotic as BTS is in interviews and I thought, "Hmm, what if BTS was a kindergarten class" and it just went from there.
I think those videos attract so many views because it’s never been done before. No one has ever taken a video of a K-pop group and manipulated it in a way that it feels like they’re a kindergarten class and doing that just brought me so much joy. I literally could not wait to edit those videos and judging from the views they garner; I think everyone else enjoys watching them just as much as I enjoy making them.
5. As you’ve grown as a popular channel, how has your experiences changed online and what kind of opportunities have you gained?
I don’t think much has changed because I don’t see my channel as a popular channel. I think I’m still pretty average, still “under the radar” as people would say, haha. I don’t think I’m at a point where people pay attention to every little thing that I say and/or do which is just fine with me.
However, I have been included in some pretty cool opportunities which has been nice. I’ve gotten to work with YouTube Space London and Amino. I’ve gotten to travel as well which has always been a goal of mine. I love traveling and documenting my travels with my photography and video camera. I usually post things like that in my vlogs on YouTube or my Instagram stories.
6. Have you seen that by creating content as young, black woman that you have been encouraged by the responses from black people towards K-pop? Have you seen new fans reach out to you to say that you are the reason why they started listening to K-Pop, as well?
I have actually and it always gives me a warm feeling when I’m told that. It also puts on a bit of pressure because regardless of if you aim to be a role model or not (and I haven’t) when you put yourself out there on social media, there is bound to be people who will begin looking up to you or become influenced/encouraged by you. So, as a black woman, I try to remember that there are young black girls and boys watching me.
7. How would you compare yourself to other K-pop youtubers? What makes you different?
I don’t. That’s the worst thing you can do as a creative is compare yourself to others. I don’t consider myself a K-pop YouTuber because I don’t stick to just K-pop. I love K-pop but I also love creating other forms of content and at times incorporating K-pop, hence my kindergarten class series. It’s combination of my comedic side and my love for K-pop.
8. What would you like to see for the future of your channel? I’ve noticed that you’ve posted less reaction videos and more videos outside of K-pop, regarding hair, vlogs, giveaways, and much more. What type of things would you like to do with your channel?
I would like my channel to be more focused on making short films, comedic videos, vlogs and gaming. Those are the videos I absolutely enjoy making. Especially the comedic videos. I enjoy making people laugh more than anything and I also enjoy reaching people emotionally which is why I will be making more films that speak to the heart.
9. Are there any particular struggles that you have faced being a black woman interested in K-pop?
Not feeling included or respected. Using black women in imagery only when it’s convenient; like when I unknowingly appeared on a Korean show because I was standing on the street watching them do some “hip hop” thing with Zico (another story). I actually have a specific memory that sticks with me because I felt so bad after seeing the photo. Back in 2017, NCT 127 did a private show at the Apple Store in New York. I attended that show and was able to get a seat directly upfront (if you Google it, you’ll probably see me in some shots). Anyway, after the show, someone from NCT’s team (not sure of their position) asked everyone to get in real close for a photo. At first, I didn’t want to get too close because Johnny was right next to me and I know how netizens and fandoms explode on black women (women in general) for getting too close to idols BUT they asked me to scoot in closer to Johnny, so I did. I was expecting to see the photo online a few days later with me in it but when it was posted on NCT 127’s twitter, I was cut out. Completely. It hurt. I said what I had to say about it and I left it alone but sometimes I do wonder why they cut me out and it saddens me.
10. You have 111K subscribers on your channel which means you have a huge, dedicated following. What can your subscribers look forward to in the near future?
Definitely more K-pop kindergarten classes; I just LOVE making those so much! I’ve recently moved so I have to set up my “studio” again (it’s my bedroom), but once things have settled, I’ll be getting back to making those videos. I’m going to be including more exclusive content on my Patreon and of course more gaming videos and vlogs on my not so interesting life, haha.
11. Are there any upcoming concerts (K-pop or anything else) that you would like or are planning to attend?
Well, being broke phi broke, makes that difficult but My Chemical Romance went back on tour and I screamed inside; I would love to go see them if I can. If there are any K-pop acts that make their way to the UK, I’ll try to make it to their concerts. However, I do enjoy more intimate chill gigs over the chaos of concerts with thousands of people. That BTS one in Berlin was MADNESS! There just wasn’t enough water, haha.
12. Where can the readers of this article follow you? Links to social media? Patreon?
Plug time ey? Alright, alright, alright…
My Patreon is https://www.patreon.com/TheJessLyfe
And if you want to keep up with my daily activities don’t forget to turn on your notifications so you’ll know when I post a story on Instagram, a video on YouTube or rant about something on Twitter!
With all of that being said, it's safe to say that The Jess Lyfe has made a significant impact online as a young, black female fan of K-pop through her ability to not only draw non-K-pop listeners into this genre, but to share her excitement, point of views, and perspectives on this industry. The Jess Lyfe's honesty and enthusiasm about this genre has garnered hundreds of thousands of viewers, some of which were already K-pop fans while a lot of others were just people who wanted to know more about this industry. I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to interview her and I'm wishing her nothing but the best for her future, both online and offline.