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K-pop heartthrob Mark Tuan may be winning over his 12 million Instagram followers with his frequent selfies and sultry photoshoots, but the GOT7 star says he hasn’t always been so confident about his looks. In an industry where having the “whole package” is often a pre-requisite for stardom, the 28-year-old says he’s often struggled with the scrutiny that comes with being a K-pop star, especially as his profile continues to grow.
It’s why he decided to partner with Spark Clear Aligners on a new campaign that offers fans the chance to win potentially life-changing orthodontic treatment, something that Tuan reveals he had done recently. Dubbed the “My True Smile” campaign, Tuan and Spark will select five fans who will receive clear aligner treatment. To enter, fans are invited to share how a transformed smile would bring about a positive change that impacts their life.
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The new campaign comes as Tuan prepares to release his debut solo album this summer, something the Chinese-American singer and rapper been working on for more than a year. While Tuan has released numerous singles — and was even featured on the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings soundtrack on a duet with Korean singer BIBI — the album will mark his first full-length release outside of GOT7.
The LA-born Tuan spent much of the last year back in Los Angeles to work on the album, when not in Korea recording with GOT7. Of course, the K-pop group is still together too, having released a self-titled EP in May. Still, the boy band’s departure from longtime label JYP Entertainment last January has given each of the members a chance to work on individual projects as well, something Tuan is grateful for — and eager to unveil to his fans.
Rolling Stone caught up with Tuan to chat about his new “True Smile” campaign, how he deals with the pressures of being a pop star and why he’s finally ready to reveal his solo album to the world.
You get hit up all the time for campaigns — what was it about Spark Aligners that made you want to partner with them?
Whether I’m on stage or offstage, I’m always getting my pictures taken and I felt that Spark Aligners would help improve my smile. I am beyond excited that I am already seeing improvements on my teeth straightening journey with the help of my orthodontist.
People see you as a perfect K-pop idol, but have you ever felt insecure? How did that affect how you saw yourself in public?
I think I’m far from perfect. I feel like everyone has their own insecurities regardless of what the public thinks of them. I wouldn’t say I was insecure about my teeth, but I always wondered if there were ways to improve upon my smile. I was also worried that my [aligner] treatment would be noticeable, especially when I’m modeling or out in public, but my Spark Aligners are surprisingly comfortable and you can barely tell I am wearing them.
How important was it for your partnership to give back to fans?
It was very important to me, because they have always been there for me and I feel like being able to give back to the fans means a lot to me.
Aside from Spark Aligners, what are some other ways you’ve learned to deal with pressure in the industry?
When I’m under a lot of stress and pressure, I like to go on a walk to clear my mind. What stresses me out the most is trying to figure myself out, but I think I am on the right track right now. I’ve had a lot of things to say and being able to let everything out through my solo music is helping me a lot. I think being an artist is about being able to express myself for who I am, through good and bad times.
How involved were you with this solo album? Fans have been waiting patiently for years.. how did you know this was the right time to release it?
I was involved in the whole process for this album from the beginning. Everything started from just an idea and being able to complete this album meant a lot to me. It’s been a bit over a year since I left Korea and I felt that my fans have been waiting a long time for this and it’s the perfect time to release my album and go on tour.
Why is it important for you to still be part of GOT7? How do the rest of the guys make you feel when you’re with them?
It means everything to me that the group is still together and that I can still say I am a part of GOT7. Whenever we’re together it’s just a good time and we all like to have fun but stay serious when it’s needed.
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