IU is a South Korean singer, songwriter, and actress whose real name is Lee Ji-eun. Born on the 16th of May, 1993, IU kick-started her music career in 2008 after signing with Kakao M entertainment agency the previous year. IU however, did not come to prominence with her initial albums including Lost and Found (2008), Growing Up (2009), and IU…IM (2009). She only gained widespread popularity in 2010 after “Good Day”, the lead single from her fourth album, Real turned out a national hit. The song which remained atop the Gaon Digital Chart for five straight weeks automatically became IU’s big break. Her subsequent projects witnessed significant success, earning her much more popularity in South Korea and beyond.
So far, three of her albums and twenty of her singles have reached #1 on the Gaon Music Chart, making her one of the most popular solo k-pop artists and earning her Billboard’s title of the all-time leader of K-pop Hot 100 Chart. IU has also made significant marks in the aspect of songwriting. She has the credit of solely writing and producing her album, Chart-Shire. As an actress, she has appeared in several TV series including You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin, Pretty Man, The Producers, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, My Mister, Persona and Hotel del Luna.
7 Lesser Known Facts About IU
1. She Suffered Abject Poverty as a Child
IU’s family experienced extreme poverty during her early years, precisely after her elementary education. Their poor financial status actually caused them to relocate to a rural area in Gyeonggi Province. Before this time, IU had already developed a passion for the entertainment industry and begun taking singing and acting lessons.
As her family’s economic situation worsened, she moved with her younger brother to live in a studio apartment with their grandmother under very poor living conditions for more than a year. The trio later went to squat in a relative’s apartment where IU was frequently verbally abused by her alcoholic uncle who consistently discouraged her from acting telling her to rather focus on her studies. Having very little contact with her parents, IU took solace in spending most of her time at the music studio where she also got enough to eat and a more comfortable place to sleep. This also caused her to focus more on her dreams and gave it her best.
2. She Fell Victim of Entertainment Scammers
As IU’s passion for singing grew, she eventually settled on making it a lifetime career while still a middle school student. She, therefore, began to attend auditions to earn herself a spot in the industry. IU however, was greeted by ill luck and failed all of the first twenty auditions she participated in. She later fell victim to a fraudulent entertainment agency who conned her into sending a large amount of money to them for training and TV appearances.
3. Her Debut Stage Performance and EP were Failures
IU however, eventually landed a deal with LEON Entertainment in 2007 after she came out successful in the agency’s talent casting. After just ten months of training, she debuted as a solo artist with her first single titled, “Lost Child“. IU subsequently made her debut live performance of the song on M! Countdown on 18th September 2008. Unfortunately, the audience did not receive her performance well. They instead, slurred at her. IU would go on to release her first extended play, Lost and Found which has “Lost Child” as its lead single. The album, however, also turned out a commercial failure.
Speaking in an interview many years after the unpleasant events, IU recalled that her initial failures actually discouraged her at the time, but later benefited her. According to her, she may not have been humbled and grateful to her staff now that she is popular if she became successful from the word go.
4. She Abandoned Schooling for Music
Owing to her burgeoning career, IU began to lag in academics. She would skip classes and this affected her grades negatively. She ended up not making grades that were good enough to earn her a college admission. This caused her to eventually abandon education for show business. Although she later got honorary offers from several institutions, she turned them down, insisting that college education is for deserving students; adding that her career would actually not afford her time to focus on her studies.
5. She Has Suffered Poor Health Conditions
Prior to the promotion of her 2010 album, Real, IU fainted and landed on a hospital bed, leaving her fans dead worried about the state of her health. It later became known that she passed out due to stress and exhaustion from work. IU also suffered from an emotional/eating disorder called bulimia. She has, however, recovered from all and now follows a workout and eating schedule that keeps her on track.
6. IU Is Actively Involved In Charity
IU is counts among the few celebrities that started engaging in charity from a young age. Among several other charitable works, she donated $100,000 in 2015 to alleviate the needs of underprivileged children. She also has her own scholarship fund at her Alma mater, Dongduk Girls’ High School which takes care of the college education of four outstanding but indigent graduates of the school every year. The very interesting part of IU’s philanthropy is that she prefers to keep her benevolence a secret.
7. Here’s the Meaning of Her Stage Name “IU”
“IU” stands for “I” and “You”. The professional name was coined by her training agency, LEON Entertainment just before she made her official debut. It signifies the uniting force of music between people – the singers and the audiences.