HE sings, raps and dances with the K-Pop group IN2IT. Touted as the first Malaysian K-Pop idol, Isaac Voo was going places with the popular South Korean music outfit.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic left the talented 28-year-old Sabahan stranded in Malaysia and unable to participate in his group's activities and promotions in 2020.
That year also saw five members of IN2IT having to enlist in South Korea's mandatory military service, which put a another damper on the group's immediate future.
Not one to waste his talents, the fresh-faced artiste recently inked a deal with Prodigee Asia Talent, a sister company under WebTVAsia, to expand his activities here.
"I want more Malaysians to know about my existence. I have a lot of creative output to offer and show. I hope with Prodigee Asia Talent, I am able to showcase other aspects of myself," said Voo in a recent interview.
He added: "I aim to present more works to the fans who have been supporting and waiting for me."
IN2IT was the result of the South Korean boy band competition show, BOYS24, which saw the group forming in 2017.
The group originally had eight members but is now a six-member music outfit that includes Voo.
The soft-spoken artiste, who can speak Malay, English, Korean, Cantonese and Mandarin, also shared his K-Pop experience.
At age 15, the plucky teen had already been interested in the world of K-Pop and started following its famous groups on TV, doing his own research on the Korean language at the same time.
"My friends and I were actively dancing in school and we took part in competitions in Kuala Lumpur.
"Then we flew to South Korea to participate in competitions over there," he said.
Not having much money in his pocket, Voo explained that he could only rent a tiny room there, but he was ambitious and hungry to succeed.
"Life in Korea was tough, but I did not want to give up. I kept on going for auditions, one after another, even though I failed all of them," he said.
The stakes were stacked high against Voo as the steady supply of emerging talent was unending in the highly competitive world of K-Pop.
Adding to his problems were the high exchange rate of the South Korean currency, which forced the budding star to skimp on food.
"It was very hard to sustain myself there. I actually lost a lot of weight. Although I thought that my grasp of Korean was pretty decent, the agencies there highlighted a lot of my weaknesses.
"For most of the songs, my singing parts were shortened, which made me sad. But being the only non-Korean in my group, I did not want to differentiate things.
"In fact, the other members treated me like I was just another Korean and the fans there were surprised to find out that I was Malaysian," he said with a smile.
Although he had extensive training, Voo revealed that he was fortunate to be able to become an artiste relatively quick, unlike stories of talents waiting for years before making a debut.
"It was surprising that I did not go through a long process as a trainee, but it can't be denied that the situation does happen. Many K-Pop artistes take a really long time to make it as a star.
"Talent is very important but having a personality is what changes everything. Without that quality, it would be very difficult to break into the market over there.
"I never expected to be well-received over there so it was a pleasant and relieving surprise," says Voo.
When asked about plastic surgery, Voo explained that he never felt a need to resort to improving his looks.
"Every individual has his own unique attraction. I don't think about getting plastic surgery to improve my image.
"What counts is the person's good heart and as they say, inner beauty will eventually shine forth.
"However, I'm not against plastic surgery. That's up to people to decide for themselves," said Voo.
He added that their agency had given him and the other members the freedom to decide and had never insisted on changing their looks.
THE K-POP LIFE
Voo said he was aware of the challenges of working in this industry.
"I was ready to face the pressures and challenges, the long and tiring hours, which is just the reality of being a K-Pop artiste.
"There were times that we would get only two hours of sleep and sometimes even none. We'd take a long time to prepare and get ready for things," he says.
Getting up at 6am for preparations, Voo would then attend show after show and meet-and-greet sessions with fans.
"The process would repeat over and over. There was a time when I fell sick, but I had to soldier on and continue with the shows.
"I was also once rushed to the hospital after almost fainting while doing a show," he said.
Being a true professional, he managed to finish his performance and headed offstage before giving in.
Despite all the hardships endured, Voo smiled and said that it was all worth it as he got to live his dream and accumulate a bevy of memorable experiences.
"I have no regrets and would not trade this for anything else. Right now, I just want to continue entertaining people," he said.