Credit: Hannah Gwenn
South Korea is about to get its first openly gay singer and no one knows how he’ll be received.
MRSHLL (born Marshall Bang) is a Korean-American singer who’s found his home in South Korea, and preparing for the release of his first EP in the country this fall.
Originally from Texas, Marshall grew up deeply rooted in Christianity as his mother is a minister.
As such, it was pretty hard for MRSHLL when he came out as gay. And recently it has become even harder now that he has become more public about his sexuality (to the point that he hasn’t talked to his mother in months).
“I adore my mother,” says Bang told Forbes, “She’s an incredible, strong woman but her and my dad don't have the context for what it means to be gay. They come from a community that doesn't talk or want to know about this topic, but I get where they are coming from, and I'm going to continue to have conversations and try to get through.”
And the problems with acceptance will only continue as Bang tries to make it in South Korea.
"I thought about it extensively," says MRSHLL, "I asked all my friends and went over and over again whether I should come out from the get-go, or wait later in my career. I was worried that I might be typecast as the resident gay artist, but at the end I was like, 'I’m gonna do me beau.'"
You see, South Korea is still struggling with its understanding of LGBTQ people. While the country is conscious of their existence, many still don’t have names and faces to associate with LGBTQ people (or at least don’t know that they do).
In fact, there are still very few out celebrities in the South Korean entertainment business. And, the South Korean government is not helping matters with the military opening targeting gay men and the newly elected president saying he'll have nothing to do with LGBTQ issues.
As such, MRSHLL would be the first openly gay singer in the country and has stated that he won't stray from talking about LGBTQ life.
"My song 'Dopamine' literally has a line saying: ‘This is for my gays,'" MRSHLL confessed, "It's a song about empowerment for the LGBTIQ community, and it features a narration from the one and only Kim Chi from Season 8 of 'Ru Paul's Drag Race.'”
Luckily though, MRSHLL has found acceptance and family in his new record label.
Feel Ghood Music is a record label that’s known for collecting “kyopo” singers (or Korean singers hailing from other countries), and it seems that MRSHLL has found a home there.
"I was working in music video production, and I was already starting to know people in the industry. I was invited to this event, and at the after party, a karaoke machine was brought out, and I decided to sing Boyz II Men's 'It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.' Then, Tasha aka Yoon Mi-rae came up to me, complemented my singing, and we just became friends starting from then onward. She has been especially supportive," he recounted.
And now with the support of his label and several foreign fans, he is quickly moving on to his musical debut. But, the question is will South Korea accept him.
In addition, there’s also the question of will people accept him for himself and his music or because he is a gay singer. We admit that the reason he has popped onto our radar is because of his sexuality, but its his voice that’s had us stay to see what becomes of him.
What about you?