In­spired by Adele:

A young Adele fan, Ly­dia Lee, did a cover of the star’s hit song Hello for a school pro­ject. But even in her wildest dreams, the South Korean teenager could not have pre­dicted the out­come. Thérèse Henkin tells her story.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - Contents -

Ly­dia Lee on be­com­ing a YouTube sen­sa­tion

Ly­dia Lee sat eat­ing her lunch in the court­yard of her high school, just as she did on any other day. Ex­cept this wasn’t any other day. As the young­ster was tak­ing a mid­day break from her stud­ies, she was obliv­i­ous to the fact that mil­lions of peo­ple were watch­ing a video of her singing Adele’s chart-top­ping song Hello and that she was be­com­ing a YouTube sen­sa­tion.

The phe­nom­e­nal re­sponse to her video only hit home for the Korean teen when her mu­sic teacher ap­proached her a few days later to say talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres had called and wanted Ly­dia to ap­pear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. By the time she stood in the TV stu­dio and per­formed live for the first time, her cover video had amassed more than 16 mil­lion views.

“It was strange be­cause I was re­ally calm. I don’t think it had sunk in what was hap­pen­ing. When I went home from school and told my par­ents, ‘Ellen DeGeneres wants me on her show,’ they just looked at me, stunned. I think my calm­ness made them think it might be a joke,” she laughs.

Ly­dia’s overnight fame was the re­sult of her beau­ti­ful ver­sion of Adele’s hit song, which she filmed and up­loaded to a pop­u­lar Korean mu­sic

web­site, from where it was then up­loaded to YouTube and quickly gained pop­u­lar­ity and ap­pre­ci­a­tion across the world. Even Adele may have seen it.

“There was a ru­mour go­ing on through YouTube that said dur­ing one of her con­certs Adele men­tioned my cover video,” says Ly­dia. “Even though those ru­mours were un­con­firmed, it was so ex­cit­ing to think I might be on Adele’s radar.”

The avid fan ad­mits she has never ac­tu­ally been to an Adele con­cert, de­spite her ad­mi­ra­tion for the singer. “Peo­ple ask me that a lot, but I don’t think she has ac­tu­ally ever come to Korea. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a dream come true one day to see her per­form live.”

Be­ing part of a mu­si­cal fam­ily from Seoul in South Korea, Ly­dia has been singing for as long as she can re­mem­ber. Her par­ents have al­ways en­cour­aged her to pur­sue mu­si­cal en­deav­ours, and she at­tended the com­pet­i­tive

Seoul Mu­sic High School. She cred­its her out­stand­ing English to the seven years she spent in New Zealand as a child, when she says she had the hon­our of be­ing part of the Auck­land Girls Choir.

The teenage vo­cal­ist says she has al­ways hoped to have a ca­reer in mu­sic, but at the age of 18, when she did the Adele cover, fame was not fore­most in her mind.

“It was just part of a school pro­ject,” she ad­mits. “I was ac­tu­ally to­tally un­aware of the at­ten­tion the video was get­ting be­cause I as­sumed it would only be passed around fam­ily and friends.”

Two weeks af­ter the call from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ly­dia ar­rived in Los An­ge­les and sang Hello live on TV, with her mum proudly sit­ting in the au­di­ence. Within a few hours of be­ing posted on the Ellen Face­book page it had re­ceived four mil­lion views and com­ments.

“I never thought of per­form­ing on TV as a re­al­is­tic dream. To be per­fectly hon­est, I had never thought this far ahead in my mu­sic ca­reer. The recog­ni­tion I got from that one cover video was not some­thing I could ever have imag­ined.”

Now, how­ever, Ly­dia has learnt to dream big. She is de­ter­mined that this ex­pe­ri­ence will amount to more than just 15 min­utes of fame and has set up a YouTube chan­nel to show her fans that she is still singing and will con­tinue to do so.

The now 19-year-old singer-song­writer says the Adele cover was a huge turn­ing point in her mu­sic ca­reer. She re­leased her de­but sin­gle

Blue in Fe­bru­ary. The song was writ­ten in At­lanta with a team of song­writ­ers and pro­duc­ers, one of whom has worked with the likes of One Di­rec­tion and Ed Sheeran. “We spent the whole week to­gether, from day to night, and wrote songs,” Ly­dia re­calls.

“We all sat down in the stu­dio and shared our sto­ries. I told them my sto­ries and what I would like to say through my mu­sic. Then the magic hap­pened. And ev­ery one of those five writ­ers helped me take my story to the next level.”

Blue is about a large blue birth­mark Ly­dia was born with on the left side of her face. She had the birth­mark re­moved af­ter suf­fer­ing from hurt­ful bul­ly­ing be­cause of it. “Back then I couldn’t see how spe­cial that could have been, and that it is to­tally okay to be dif­fer­ent. I know now that I could have em­braced my­self a lit­tle more. So [in the song] I wanted to say, ac­cept your­self for who you are, em­brace your sor­row and find the true beauty in it.”

Ly­dia is now pre­par­ing for the re­lease of her sec­ond sin­gle, which she wrote with the help of pro­duc­ers and song­writ­ers in Lon­don, and hopes to one day do an en­tire al­bum.

“Be­fore, I was just an or­di­nary stu­dent from an or­di­nary high school who ma­jors in mu­sic. Then all of a sud­den I was the girl that ev­ery­one was lis­ten­ing to,” she says.

The ex­pe­ri­ence has changed her ap­proach to song­writ­ing and per­form­ing. “I have al­ways ad­mired Adele. I love her songs, her voice, and how gen­uine she sounds. It’s re­ally in­spired me and it’s won­der­ful to think that I might be able to suc­ceed in this in­dus­try like she has.”

She also jokes about pur­su­ing a mu­si­cal pro­ject with her brother, who she says is a bril­liant singer.

At 19, Ly­dia is the same age Adele was when she was work­ing on her de­but al­bum, which cat­a­pulted her to world­wide suc­cess. Lit­tle did the singing su­per­star know that nine years later her mu­sic would pave the way for an­other young as­pir­ing artist to fol­low in her foot­steps.

But Ly­dia says it is not just her own suc­cess she is dream­ing of. “I know now that I too can in­spire others through my mu­sic and send pos­i­tive mes­sages that in­flu­ence peo­ple in the right way.”

ABOVE: Since ap­pear­ing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ly­dia has up­loaded sev­eral more cover videos and has re­cently de­buted her first orig­i­nal song, Blue.

ABOVE: Adele, the star who in­spired Ly­dia. To see her per­form live would be a dream come true for the Korean teen.

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