Minzy sat down with Billboard's Jeff Benjamin and for the first time ever, shared why her time with 2NE1 led to years of instability and confusion.
At her room at a downtown Los Angeles hotel, Minzy looked cozy as she sat in a lounge chair in a bright-pink hoodie. She came across as friendly and approachable -- answering nearly every question with an adorable "eye smile" -- but the star notes that four years of waiting for her professional life to start at age 15 stunted her personal growth and social skills.
"I didn't know how to have relationships with people," she reflects. "Since I was so young in such a controlled environment, I never learned how to socialize. I really didn't have a normal childhood -- I never went out to play with other kids. I was just training and everyone was older than me."
"People, netizens were critiquing the fact that, you know, we were not the prettiest group," she says. "We were the 'ugly group.' I didn't know how to process that, I held that in. It was tough. [As a group], we pretended it was not a big deal and tried to forget about it, but you can't forget about it -- it's tough. I was trying to keep up with the other girls in the group in terms of maturity, but when you're up against these girl groups who look like models and you're doing something different -- cool, but different -- you deal in a different way."
With success came challenges that extended beyond her professional life. Citing a lack of a "natural support system" that only magnified with the increasing pressures of celebrity, Minzy says depression and suicidal thoughts plagued her throughout her teenage years. She hit her lowest points when she was 16 and 17 -- around 2NE1’s "Can't Nobody," "I Am the Best" and "Ugly" era, for fans familiar. What eventually came was a confusion of where her passion laid.
"I would go on stage and everyone was so supportive, they'd love me," she says. "Then when the stage was done, I would be in the hotel feeling so empty. Life felt like just a stage. I didn't know what was my life about; I wasn't sure if life was better as a performer or if life would be better just alone. It was such a contrast, but I never had the time to figure out how to balance both being on stage and being alone."
"There wasn't enough focus to finish my stuff,” she says of a management style where every company release required all hands on deck. “They kept delaying it and then when it comes to basically everything else, you don't know the details."
Longer hiatuses in between 2NE1 albums meant less quality time with her band mates. She calls them her "sisters" to this day. "We are all homebodies so really just being at home watching TV were the best moments," she says of CL, Bom and Dara. "Those memories were very cozy and warm, to me at least. Maybe because I was so young? But the world was quite a strange place to me, so those moments are close to my heart. The family feel was more important to me than the fame, but as it took longer and longer for our albums to come out, we would only really meet when it was time to plan for the album. As everyone started doing their own thing, I was having even less time with them."
Where she did find a resource was in Teddy Park, who was mainly responsible for producing a majority of 2NE1's discography and encouraged her to hold on to her Christian faith as a positive from her pre-fame life. "Since I was the youngest, he would try to encourage me," he says. "He would say things like, 'I know you're feeling like you're depressed and struggling with your depression, but you believe in God and you're going to get through this.' I have good memories of him. I'm really thankful for Teddy and see him as a good person in my life to remind me to keep going even when depression was at its worst."
When she decided to depart 2NE1 and YG Entertainment in 2016, Minzy says it was the first step in figuring out if performing was her true path. "I needed some time to deal with my depression, find my own way and decide if this was something I really wanted to do,” she explains. “It was something I was doing for so long, but it was so hard to maintain. I had to find my own direction, and the only way to do that was by leaving the group and fighting for my own will. I was wondering, 'What is my life about?'"
You can read the full interview with Billboard's Jeff Benjamin here.