They’ve been called the Spice Girls of South Korea, and with good reason: The all-femme pop act Wonder Girls have the kind of quirky looks, industrial-strength dance beats, slick hooks, and rabid following that made the British fivesome of Ginger, Scary, Posh, Baby, and Sporty a cultural phenomenon in the ’90s—and now the quintet is looking to follow in the footsteps of the Spice Girls by riding the wave of the new western hipster fascination with all things K-Pop to become international superstars in their own right. The group was assembled in 2007 by Korean pop impresario J.Y. Park (the Korean Simon Fuller, though, according to Wonder Girl Yenny, “He would describe himself as P. Diddy”), who created JYP, his namesake academy in Seoul, with designs on cranking out future chart-toppers. At JYP, each of the Wonder Girls, who are all between the ages of 18 and 22, had to undertake a rigorous training regimen and a battery of draconian examinations designed to weed-out the would-bes from the wannabes. “It’s like a Motown academy,” Wonder Girl Sun explains. “You get tested once a month, and if you don’t do good, you get kicked out,” Yenny adds. The effort, though, has paid off: Wonder Girls are now bona fide stars in Asia, and JYP has linked with the Jonas Brothers’ management in an attempt to break the act Stateside. “When we first came to America, people said, ‘They won’t make it—they’re dreaming too big,’” Yenny says. “Even though we’re not on top yet, we’re getting there, step by step.” In between gigs—they’ve opened up for the Jonases—the Girls reside in a dormitory-style residence in Manhattan, where they are applying the same diligence they displayed in their adolescent pop studies to learning English. “We love American artists like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, so it wasn’t hard to get into it,” Yenny says. “The emotion is easy, but the pronunciation is the hardest part.”
Photo: Wonder Girls in New York, September 2010. All Clothing and Shoes: Anna Sui. Bangles: Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu. Cosmetics: Nars Cosmetics, including eyeliner in Black Moon. Styling: Elin Svahn. Hair: Anthony Turner using Tigi/Art Partner. Makeup: Kristi Matamoros for Nars Cosmetics/Kate Ryan, Inc. Manicure: Rica Romain Using Incoco/See Management. Special Thanks: Fast Ashleys.