HoYeon Jung’s Struggle With Low Self-Esteem Started After Appearing on ‘Korea’s Next Top Model’

In theory, overnight fame might not exist. But if you ask Squid Game star HoYeon Jung, it might be real. The model-turned-actor starred in the survival drama as a North Korean defector and pickpocket, almost instantly becoming a worldwide star.

HoYeon recently spoke about her career and detailed her struggle with low self-esteem, crediting it to her appearance on Korea’s Next Top Model.

HoYeon Jung was already a star before ‘Squid Game’

Jung Ho-yeon smiles on the red carpet at the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards
Squid Game star Jung HoYeon | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

HoYeon’s career began when she was 15. After taking acting classes, she did freelance modeling on runways and in shows like Seoul Fashion Week. In 2011, she tried her hand at Korea’s Next Top Model for its second season but quit after making it into the top 30.

In 2012, HoYeon signed with ESteem Models and rejoined the modeling reality show during its fourth season. She got eliminated in the third episode but returned in the fifth, placing as a runner-up. In 2014, HoYeon appeared in Jim Yeon Woo’s music video for the song “Move.”

She also graced the covers for the Korean editions of major magazines like Elle, Vogue, and W. HoYeon signed with The Society Management in 2016 and left South Korea for greener pastures overseas. During that time, she triple-signed with Nomad Management and Elite Model Management.

The model made her international runway debut in 2016 at the New York Fashion Week. She followed that up by walking for shows like Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Alberta Ferretti, and Fendi. HoYeon was also featured in campaigns for Gap and Sephora.

In 2016, she walked at the Paris Fashion Week modeling exclusively for Louis Vuitton. In 2018, she made it to the Top 50 Models list for Models.com. The following year, she won the Asian Star Award at the Asian Model Awards.

HoYeon said she made the switch to acting in order to broaden her prospects (given the shorter careers of models). After signing with Saram Entertainment in 2020, HoYeon made her acting debut in Netflix’s mega-hit Squid Game playing Kang Sae-byeok, a pickpocket looking for money to support her family.

HoYeon Jung struggles with low self-esteem

HoYeon graced the cover of Vogue for their February 2022 issue. Speaking to the publication, the model-turned-actor detailed her newfound fame and past projects. She recalled developing low self-esteem when she took part in Korea’s Top Model.

“I searched my name every day, and I read all the comments one by one. Even if eight people loved me and only two people hated me, I always cried at home alone,” she said. To HoYeon, the criticism was personal, revealing that she still struggles with low self-esteem.

The 27-year-old revealed that she looks at those moments differently now, saying, “Looking back, if not for those quiet and lonely times, I do not know that I would have ever dreamed of acting.”

HoYeon’s upcoming projects

Her role on Squid Game might have been HoYeon’s first acting role, but it certainly made her a force to reckon with. Her performance earned her a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. She is set to appear in BBC Film’s The Governesses. The series will focus on three rebellious governesses who cause chaos in their places of work.

HoYeon also landed an unannounced role in Apple TV+’s Disclaimer. The thriller series does not have a release date yet. On January 25, 2022, she appeared in The Weeknd’s music video for the song, “Out of Time” alongside The Mask actor Jim Carrey. 

RELATED: ‘Squid Game’ Lee Jung-jae and Hoyeon Jung Left Baffled by Interviewer’s ‘Ignorant’ Question