Jessica Jung hardly needs an introduction. Anyone even vaguely familiar with pop music from the mid‑aughts would have caught her debut in 2007—when she was just 18—as part of the nine‑member South Korean girl group Girls’ Generation, which first came onto the scene with the rousing pop anthem Into the New World. Under the aegis of South Korean record label and entertainment behemoth SM Entertainment, the group went on to find massive success, starting in 2009 with the infectiously catchy Gee, which swept the Song of the Year category at the country’s award shows, from the Melon Music Awards to the Korean Music Awards, that year and the next (and also unintentionally popularised coloured skinny jeans by way of its cheery music video). And all through the group’s subsequent hits, from the dance‑pop track Tell Me Your Wish (Genie) to the EDM‑ and disco‑infused Mr. Mr., Jung’s sweet vocals and powerful stage presence propelled her to K‑pop royalty status.

PRADA dress, mules; YVMIN earrings; stylist’s own bow

After parting ways with the group in 2014, Jung signed with Coridel Entertainment in 2016 and has put out a succession of records, the latest being the EP Beep Beep, released last November. On her fourth mini album as a soloist, she says: “This EP was definitely for my fans, my Golden Stars—they’ve waited so long (Beep Beep was released some six years after her third mini solo album, My Decade) and deserve the best. It wasn’t a spontaneous move, as it was always in the works. I had a good feeling about Beep Beep and everything started to come into place!”

Showcasing her strengths as a musician, the album spotlights Jung’s versatility as a vocalist as she grooves to diverse styles, from the uptempo feel‑good bop that is the title track—about the early days of a crush and the thrill of potential romance—to the more soulful Get It? Got It? Good, featuring Taiwanese‑American singer and rapper Amber Liu. “Amber was very sweet and wanted to fully support [me],” Jung shares. “We come from similar backgrounds (Liu is a fellow SM Entertainment alumni and the former bandmate of Jung’s younger sister Krystal in the five‑member group f(x)), so we have lots in common and we like to share ideas. It’s always exciting to collaborate with different artistes. It’s a fresh experience and the outcome is unique. Amber and I were both so happy our fans enjoyed the song.”

LONGCHAMP dress, belt, Roseau bag; stylist’s own stockings
LONGCHAMP hoodie, dress, boots, Roseau bag

And as if music, fashion and business were not keeping her fully occupied, Jung became a bona‑fide author when she published her young adult romance Shine in 2020 under Simon & Schuster, and its sequel, Bright, in 2022, presented as a behind‑the‑scenes look into the K‑pop industry but with fictionalised elements. (While the books are labelled as novels, the storyline—tracing the journey of a South Korean‑American girl who travels to South Korea to undergo training in hopes of debuting in a K‑pop group, falls in love, and launches a fashion brand that then becomes a point of contention—bears a resemblance to Jung’s real‑life tale that is hard to overlook.)

LOEWE sweater, shirt, skirt; PEDRO pumps; stylist’s own stockings

At the same time, she took part in the third season of the Chinese reality TV series Sisters Who Make Waves, featuring female celebrities over 30 who compete for a chance to debut as part of a project girl group. Despite having a difficult time singing in Chinese, Jung eventually made it into X‑Sister, the 10‑member group formed through the show. “Honestly, at first, I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved all of my stages, and made lifelong friends and unforgettable memories,” she recounts of her time spent on the show. “I learnt once again that there’s nothing that practice and diligence cannot achieve.”

It has certainly been a long, winding journey. However, all these experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today.
LONGCHAMP hoodie, dress

You’d imagine she has some downtime now, having recently concluded her Diamond Dreams concert tour—which brought her to Macau, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur between last November and this January—but Jung will have you know her “free time” isn’t really free. She uses such breaks in her schedule to “go for Pilates, work out, [do my] skincare, [visit the] nail and hair salons, and the list goes on,” she shares. “What I’d love to do is stay at home all day, binge‑watch TV shows and eat takeaway food.” Celebrities—they’re just like us.

LONGCHAMP hoodie, dress, boots

In the 17 years since her debut, Jung has lived through immense “highs and lows, joys and sadness”, but she stays upbeat about what everything means for her. “It has certainly been a long, winding journey,” she says of her evolution, personally, musically and fashion‑wise. “However, all these experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today. I’ve been fortunate [in that I’ve been able to] pursue all of my dreams and passions, and I’m always thankful to all those who’ve made that possible.” Now, she places pursuing happiness at the heart of all she does. “Anything I do, I do because I want to and it brings joy to me and those around me, particularly my fans,” she expounds. “They’ve stayed with me all these years and I’m convinced they’re the reason for a large part of my happiness and, of course, success.”

CELINE BY HEDI SLIMANE coat, bustier, shorts, hair clip, Derby shoes; stylist’s own socks

While she is driven and ambitious—this much is clear, seeing as how she has scaled the heights of the music industry and constantly challenges herself by venturing into uncharted territories (and then acing whatever she has set out to do, be it her forays into fashion, entrepreneurship or publishing)—Jung adopts a take‑things‑as‑they‑come approach to her career and life in general. “I’m a girl who goes with the flow,” she says. “If something comes my way and I feel it’s a good opportunity, I do my best and own it. I believe that’s what makes life interesting and fun!”

Sounds to us like Jung is set to step into many other new worlds yet unknown. Everyone had best be ready.

This story originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of GRAZIA Singapore