Shirt and trousers, PRADA. Trinity necklace in white, yellow and rose golds with diamonds, Trinity ring in white, yellow and rose golds with diamonds, and Santos de Cartier watch, 47.5mm steel case with steel bracelet, CARTIER

No one could ever recreate what Gay Talese did for Frank Sinatra in 1966. They are and were respectively two great powerhouses in their own calibre, and nothing will come close to the written legacy presenting a fresh angle of not only the figure himself, but the culture he was embedded in.

Anyway, the premise here isn’t nearly the same. Lucien Laviscount isn’t unwilling to be interviewed, he merely seems really pressed for time. He doesn’t have a cold either. He just has a broken rib, though he didn’t quite specify how. It has been a crazy couple of days.

Friends, family, and associates were not involved in crafting this piece either. The only third-party accounts available are sifted from prior interviews with him. One particularly memorable (shoutout Fashion Magazine) for effusing such enthralment by his looks and charms that it’s borderline comedic.

Jersey, PALACE. Denim overshirt and denim jeans, JW ANDERSON via SELFRIDGES. Santos de Cartier watch, 47.5mm steel case with steel bracelet, CARTIER

The story often begins as a child model for David Beckham’s clothing line at Marks and Spencer, where the former athlete casually comments that the boy should try his hand at acting. It’s that demeanour that got Laviscount scouted for the campaign in the first place.

Laviscount rose to prominence in his teens through a couple of British dramas, strangely all taking namesake from locations—Waterloo Road, Grange Hill, Coronation Street. For international audiences, he plays Earl Grey (kudos to the writers) in Scream Queens and more notably, Alfie in Emily in Paris.

There’s his upcoming rom-com This Time Next Year and we would go on but this isn’t an IMDB page. Though it will be a pity to leave out that music video he did. Not appearances as a man-turned-werewolf in a Calvin Harris release, or a centaur-turned-man in Shakira’s recent hit; which if combined would probably make the rarest bingo card. No, it’d be fronting his own music in the most random 2012 club banger (for those interested, it’s “Dance with You” featuring Mann).

Coat, tank and denim jeans, AMI. Juste un Clou necklace in yellow gold with diamonds, Trinity bracelet in white, yellow and rose golds, Trinity ring in white, yellow and rose golds, and Santos de Cartier watch, 47.5mm steel case with steel bracelet, CARTIER

He has since come far. Now, the rumour mill churns of his Bond candidacy. The 32-year-old English actor takes this call from London, despite coming off a shoot in LA and his posts showing him last in Miami. After the call, that very evening, he’ll jet off to Cannes for the film festival.

He does wish, fully acknowledging it’s not something he should say, that people would work on the weekends. Perhaps then, Mondays wouldn’t be so swamped. He is possibly the poster child for “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”. It’s not a mantra he recites, but it does surface as a running theme in previous coverages.

He actually just flew in from Antigua, where his professional bodybuilder father is from, and where he has been based since the pandemic days. So really, it’s about managing four days of his life at a time. Anything after will be too much to cope with, but of course, he wouldn’t have it any other way. Once again reinforces the grateful-to-be-here vibe.

Laviscount is insistent that he takes nothing for granted. He’s really happy for everything that has happened in his life and grows with it. Besides relaying how he’s learning and getting a better perspective of what the world for him looks like and who he is now, he encloses another almost boilerplate statement about how you won’t be able to live where you want to if you live in the past.

Surprisingly, motivational one-liners and all, the actor doesn’t quite deem himself an optimist. Even though he strikes as the type to believe in the best of everyone, and resonates with uplifting shows like Acapulco; a tale of overcoming odds and achieving dreams. Even though in a similar vein, when most consider audition processes daunting, he finds excitement in bringing what he has to the table and putting his unique spin on a part that was never written for him.

Coat, shirt and trousers, SAINT LAURENT

Underdog trope aside, the notion of optimism was never an option to Laviscount. In his books, it would only mean the reality of the situation is not recognised. His feet are very much planted on the ground. Great things do happen... with hard work and conviction. In other words—in his words—you can’t be a real optimist unless you are a realist at heart.

If anything, he would brand himself as a realist, but ultimately he rejects being labelled. Like many thespians, he hates being pigeonholed. Which is why the actor wouldn’t want to be solely defined by his occupation. His penchant for creating—whether writing, acting, having a fashion brand, fostering an incredible space for people to learn, whatever form that takes—is something that will always be part of him.

He attributes his unquenchable thirst for exploration to the energy he has. Busy savouring a moment where he is confident in his abilities but on the other side of that same coin, advocating the pursuit of ambitions outside of one’s career.

At the minute, it’s interior design and architecture. It fills his Explore feed on Instagram. The interest probably stems from the aspect of building something visual yet tangible that can live beyond him. He then draws opposing observations between the art world and the industry he inhabits. How in the former, nothing is ever truly finished and there’s freedom to curate individual moulds. Whereas the latter may be equally subjective to audiences, but its course and result are commonly dictated by the opinion of one.

Blazer and shirt, DIOR MEN. Trinity necklace in white, yellow and rose golds with diamonds, and Trinity ring in white, yellow and rose golds, CARTIER

It would be like storytelling; where the storyteller gets to decide how the story is told. Where the reader’s perception is very much shaped by the hands of the writer. Would the license wielded by the author to weave an entirely verbatim-free narrative paint a balanced picture of fact and poetry?

In a delicious twist of irony, storytelling is one key concept Laviscount’s soul is drawn to. For a man who abstains from labels, it’s the sole identity that stays on his social media bio. In separate capitalised words, no less: Story Teller.

According to him, the tales don’t exist unless they are told. The massive appreciation he has for stories extends to people who are just as passionate about telling them. Capturing intrinsic moments of people’s lives and delving deep into their being are nothing short of magic and beauty.

In his yarn, Laviscount is on a continuous journey to discover what the best version of him will be. Navigating life and its many expectations, seeing through the good and the bad, acquiring a variety of experiences and influences with sheer wonder and wide-eyed amazement.

These could be politically correct answers. Or they could be genuine worldviews. Spoken sentences might be rephrased with a keen awareness that responses will be retold. Or they might purely be a reflex to remain neutral. As Laviscount maintains a consistent core, void of career cynicism and characteristically driven, the approach to be guided by inspiration and gratitude is how he aims to take on and run with whatever comes his way.

Or at least, that is how this story goes.

Jersey, PALACE. Denim overshirt and denim jeans, JW ANDERSON via SELFRIDGES. Trinity necklace in white, yellow and rose golds with diamonds, Trinity bracelet in white, yellow and rose golds, Trinity ring in white, yellow and rose golds, and Santos de Cartier watch, 47.5mm steel case with steel bracelet, CARTIER.
Coat, tank and trousers, DOLCE&GABBANA. Trinity necklace in white, yellow and rose golds with diamonds, Trinity ring in white, yellow and rose golds with diamonds and Santos-Dumont watch, 31.5mm yellow gold case with leather strap, CARTIER

Photography: Philip Sinden
Fashion Direction: Asri Jasman
Art Direction: Joan Tai
Styling: Tanja Martin
Hair: Fluffy the Original Barber
Makeup: Charlotte Hayley Mcritchie Trujillo
Producer: Guoran Yu at APEX COMMUNICATIONS
Executive Producer: Even Yu at APEX COMMUNICATIONS
On-Set Producer (UK): Kate Zhu
Production Assistant: Kingvarit Vongchanphen
Photography Assistant: Jon Conway
Styling Assistant: Ania Egan
Retouching: Yang Liu

Blazer, tank top and bermudas, AMIRI

It is always interesting acquainting with someone for the first time, celebrity status notwithstanding. Largely because you never know which version of them you're meeting. No one maintains an utterly identical self while meandering through the varied seasons of life.

I would like to believe it's a good moment in Justin H. Min's timeline to meet him. He's not quite a household name yet, but it's more than fair to say he's on the better side of fame. Most would predominantly know him as Ben Hargreeves aka The Horror or his alternate self, Sparrow Number Two from The Umbrella Academy. Hardcore fans may even recognise him from his stint with Wong Fu Productions.

At this juncture, we're discussing his latest release on Disney+, The Greatest Hits. The premise takes relatability quite so literally. Ever felt like listening to a particular song transported you back in time? It actually does for female protagonist Harriett, for whom the act has now become an obsessive plan to potentially undo her lover's ultimate death.

Min plays the new man Harriett encounters, whose existence inevitably forces her to make that fateful decision. A choice (no spoilers!) he still doesn't quite know if he would have made the same way, despite heavy contemplation.

"It's a movie about the exploration of grief, and I was grieving a friend that I lost when I received the script," he shares. "It's amazing that I can do art that resounds with me on a very personal level, often at a very specific time in my life the last few years."

Blazer and shirt, KENZO. Sunglasses, OLIVER PEOPLES

Not one with dream genres in mind, the only litmus test Min has is the emotional connection to the material that comes his way; because why would you put your heart and soul into something you are not passionate about?

One character that naturally surfaces is Ben from Randall Park's Shortcomings. If actors enjoy playing roles vastly apart from themselves to have a distinct divide, the highly-flawed and insecure Ben was terrifying for Min.

"The joke when I talk about him is that's who I was before therapy," he chuckles lightly, "He did feel so close to me in many ways that it was very vulnerable. Other characters I could hide behind different qualities that make up the person, but this felt raw sharing a lot of my own brokenness."

Ben, who finds his source in Adrian Tomine's graphic novel of the same name, feels unnervingly like someone you might know in real life. Which begs the question: exactly which traits did Min see in himself most?

"He has a strong sense of what he likes and doesn't. His taste in movies is very elevated, and yet he is unable to produce the kind of art that he loves because he's paralysed by his own perfectionism," Min says, explaining a similar revelation in his early aspirational phase, "You have to be willing to put yourself out there, do the work required to build a portfolio and hopefully reach where your taste and your art aligns."

Blazer, sweater, shorts and belt, AMI

Experience also puts crappy shows in a new perspective. "We can all watch and say it's so bad but we don't know how many things were needed to work out perfectly for it to be done right."

Min agrees that actors often only have the script—a fraction of the final product—to gauge; the execution you can only hope for the best. "That's why when I see a movie now and dislike it, I have so much more compassion than I used to."

However, one special script did make him cry. Not a cinematic singular-tear-down-the-cheek, but unapologetic sobbing on the plane.

"First of all, I would disclaim that by saying some of that was due to altitude," he clears his throat semi-sheepishly and grins, adding that he's not one to cry much but later discovered that heightened sentimentalism during transit is universal. In his defence, this theory has been widely supported by several psychiatric articles and reported stats.

See, the thing about After Yang (which if anything, you should watch solely for that rad dance break at the beginning) is not your typical robot flick. We don't just mean because it's an A24 starring Colin Farrell.

"Majority of android films and TV is always about the robot wanting to become human, and the thing I was so moved by was that Yang was so content being a robot. So content with serving his family and found so much reverence and dignity in doing his duty."

"It's kind of that Asian immigrant mentality that I think really struck a chord. The idea that my parents have no other joy than to see their kids succeed, you know? That's why a lot of immigrant parents move to America, for their kids to have a better life."

Min trips on his words for a split-second and continues, "I thought about my parents and it broke my heart because I want more for them? My mom owned a [dry cleaning business] for 20 years, my dad worked at a supermarket and they were just perfectly happy doing that. Anything to keep our family afloat; for my brother and I to have a future."

Suit, shirt, tie and boots, CELINE. Sunglasses, OLIVER PEOPLES

It's beyond evident that family and his Asian roots are dear to the actor's heart. Presented the hypothetical chance to access anyone's memories the way Yang's was, there wasn't much hesitation.

"I love my parents and they've been so great, but as much as we try to meet each other where we're at, there's always gonna be a fundamental disconnection because of the difference in where we were born and raised," he muses.

"There's also seeing your parents as this sort of omnipotent superheroes who are always there to take care of you and don't really have ambitions and feelings of their own. I think navigating my mom's world through her eyes could give me that much more empathy for her as a human."

Besides that instance where we as children awaken to the fact that our parents knew us our whole lives, but we perhaps only know them for half of theirs, there were other aspects the movie confronted him to consider more critically.

"The ever-evolving question I'm constantly ruminating on is: If I ever have kids, what part of my Asian identity would I want to pass down? Would I go as far as Korean New Year traditions? I don't even know enough myself to feel like I can accurately teach them… so there's no easy answer."

Blazer, vest, trousers and scarf, GIORGIO ARMANI

Still, it doesn't matter whether his Asian identity is at the forefront of his acting. It's as much fun to deep dive into the dialogue as it is simply left as a subtle nod. Min is content to work with the people he admires, participate in discourses about said work and is at peace with current circumstances.

Witnessing peers that he entered the industry with leave; the opportunity to sustain a decent living post-pandemic post-strikes; doing what he loves without countless side jobs as he used to, is in itself, career success.

It's surely been a roller coaster ride since cutting his teeth on The Umbrella Academy, which sees its culmination this August. To summarise, that's going from recurring character to series regular; from bidding the cast farewell to screaming in his Toronto apartment when he read the secret new script that brought him back.

"And before Netflix, no one was dealt fame in such rapid ascension. Even with the biggest stars, you were watched all around the globe in a gradual rollout. Whereas now you're instantly in 190 countries with millions watching. I don't think enough people talk about how crazy that is."

These days, catching a break between press tours and role-prep, Min has retreated to his happy place—alone in nature.

"I've been slowly ticking national parks off my list," he recounts the most recent being Arches National Park, but Redwoods is one he finds himself returning to. "There's something about the grandeur of those trees that just makes me feel so small in the best way possible; and acknowledge that these ‘huge problems' in my head really aren't that big of a deal."

Success on an individual level though, is something he ponders long to define.

When Colin Farrell called you beautiful, I proffer, gaining a merry burst of laughter.

"Exactly, such a core memory in my life now," he humours, referring to the very first time the two met. On a serious note, he goes, "Sounds cliché but living more authentically. By that I mean figuring out more about myself, my values and hopefully learning to live by them."

Tuxedo jacket, shirt, trousers and cummerbund, BRUNELLO CUCINELLI. Cap, stylist’s own.

Who would the authentic Justin H. Min be?

The man who was once less confident and perchance a little more self-centred, or the one before me; who carries an open, positive energy that you can see why he resonates with crews and audiences alike. Who was previously a photojournalist, but whose fascination with the stories of others persists in his curiosity towards mine through the two-way conversation that the interview eventually became.

The actor who resolved from the onset to have his middle initial be present in his stage name because he feels tethered to his Korean identity. Yet was not aware of what "Hong Kee" means (he's convinced it was a phonetic preference his parents had rather than significant symbolism …but he's going to check with them after this).

The child of immigrants, who recalls Celine Dion's It's All Coming Back To Me Now as one of three albums playing in the car on family road trips. Who abides by the culture that surrounds him, who reflects on essential truths when in the forests and in the air; to imbue its amalgamation in his craft, and one day, in his children who would look back and wonder what the world was like through his eyes.

Photography: Art Streiber
Fashion Direction: Asri Jasman
Art Direction: Joan Tai
Styling: Oretta Corbelli
Producer: Cezar Grief at COOL HUNT INC
Grooming: Aika Flores at EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS using SKIN 1004 and ORIBE
Styling Assistant: Alessandra Mai Vinh
Location: Downtown LA Proper Hotel

Top, trousers, belt, bracelet and boots, SAINT LAURENT

Some people are just born performers.

As a viewer, you can, somewhat, get the sense when the on-stage persona vastly differs from their IRL personality. The unapologetically magnetic stage presence versus a modest, amiable character is often a duality afforded by those who revere their craft. TEN undoubtedly falls under the category.

Naturally introducing himself without pretension, TEN carries himself unlike someone with a celebrity status. The answers issued come across as gentle and sincere, regardless of how accomplished he is in his respective fields and regions.

Even the unprompted birthday surprise when, during the photo shoot, the crew comes out with a cake, the chorus of “Happy Birthday” sounds with equanimity. His birthday, if you must know, is 27 February; a recent entrant into a new turning around the sun.

Suit, top and boots, SAINT LAURENT

TEN is talented, clearly. You can’t help but buy into the calling that as he had shared about knowing that this is what he wanted to do since the early age of 14. Since his days as a trainee finding foundations in South Korea, the goal was to release his own solo album. Now, years of practice have culminated into one multi-faceted articulation of who he is as an artist.

But is that an accurate depiction?

This is different from his past solo singles. The elation of presenting a full album is real, but so is the pressure. And that’s the thing about high-contrast performers; you just know the level of perfection they demand of themselves is far from the average. But perhaps attributing it to being in his late 20s, lacking no tenure in the industry, or simply personal ethos, TEN’s perspective on what matters to him now has changed a little.

Somewhere between the hopes of acting in a thriller and winding down with a cold one after a busy schedule that typically ends at midnight... somewhere amid album preparation and promotion, quiet self-reflection, and newfound inspiration... There, at the nexus of passion and creativity, is where you’ll find him, charting along an ongoing passage of growth and expression.

T-shirt, trousers, belt and boots, SAINT LAURENT

ESQUIRE: You’ve been part of NCT, WayV, and SuperM; how do you navigate your identity among the different groups versus as a soloist?

TEN: When I work in a team, I try to adapt to the style that was given to me. Whereas as a soloist, you get to represent yourself and do what is right for you. You’re behind the wheel now; you’re the one creating the concept with your team, so I try to understand more about myself to better represent myself.

ESQ: Is there any belief that you feel is essential to your success?

TEN: (ponders) I think I have the mindset of “Being Humble”. If you think you know too much, you will stop growing. So knowing how to educate yourself is very important for me. If I feel like I’m not being humble today, I sit down to reset my mind. You have to [tell yourself], “Don’t be arrogant. You’re assuming but there are so many things you don’t know, you have to learn more. You’re not perfect right now.” So I’ve always had this like... good negative thoughts? It helps me feel grounded again.

ESQ: Is it hard to know where you stand in terms of humility with all that surrounds you?

TEN: Since young, my mom told me to be humble. Be kind. If you’re kind and have positive thoughts, good things will come your way. I’d always keep that at the back of my mind all the time. These days, I’m more into a positive working environment. I feel that if you’re in a good environment, the outcome is way better than when you’re not in a good mood.

ESQ: Could you talk us through your creative process?

TEN: For this album [TEN - The 1st Mini Album] my team and I sat down to share ideas, photos and listen to multiple tracks of various genres. Then I’ll add my two cents and we’ll put these songs up for a vote. This process is more accurate than me saying, this is a good song. It’s interesting to see how everyone has their take and different talking points on why certain songs should be the title track or part of the tracklist.

For the dance, we received demos internationally but we took the good bits and improved on them. So there was a lot of discussion about this album.

ESQ: You’ve been in the scene for close to 10 years now, how much input do you have in what you wear for performances and appearances?

TEN: I always give my opinion on the outfit because I need to feel comfortable to perform. If I don’t feel relaxed about the things I wear, I’m not representing myself on stage. But I do listen to other people’s [feedback], I think that’s very important.

Shirt, trousers and belt, SAINT LAURENT

ESQ: What do you look out for when it comes to fashion?

TEN: Fashion! Nowadays, I want to see something new because when I go shopping online or offline, there’s this standard where everything kinda looks the same. I want something that can be very simple, yet stands out. Saint Laurent for example, any of its suits may have the same look as every suit but there are little details that make it look unique.

ESQ: What’s your earliest memory of the Maison?

TEN: Oh, since my debut in 2016, my stylist always gave me Saint Laurent outfits to wear for performances and music videos. I just want to stress that this isn’t scripted or anything. I’m not paid to say this; this is as real as it gets. It’s fun to see how Saint Laurent’s styling has changed since then.

For Spring/Summer 2024, all the colours and materials are very simple, but how they are used and the way they are worn just make the clothes stand out. I’ve attended two Saint Laurent shows and the collections look totally different.


ESQ: What about your relationship with art? Is there a chance your artwork can be shown to the public one day?

TEN: Art really helped me express the side of me that I couldn’t really show at work or to my peers. Since my trainee days, I would express myself through drawing whenever I felt depressed or stressed out. If someone were to ask me why I haven’t been drawing lately, it’s mainly because I don’t feel any stress currently. But I also draw when something inspires me, like a quote from a movie. I’d start drawing what could represent it. Yes, when the time is right, I want to open my own gallery and welcome all my fans to come see it. I want to be sincere and tell them the true meaning of every piece of my artwork.

ESQ: Aside from being an artist, is there anything that you were always interested in developing but did not have the time to pursue?

TEN: Ah, to go to university (laughs). I want to know how university life feels like because that’s once in a lifetime. Ok, you can enrol into university when you’re 30, but the feeling is different. It’s not regret... just curious as to [what it’s like] going wild in your early 20s in university as opposed to attending university when you’re 30.

Trench coat, trousers, scarf, sunglasses and boots, SAINT LAURENT

ESQ: If you could go to university now, what course would you take up? And do you think it’d be easier or harder to cope when you’ve been in the spotlight?

TEN: Business or art. I think it’s going to be ok. I don’t think I’ll feel the difficulty in enrolling into university because of my fame because I’m always up to meeting new people.

ESQ: Is there anything you’re grateful for in your career?

TEN: When I debuted, I had a leg injury. I went to get my operation after and had to rest for two years, [which is when] I started to focus more on my vocals. The doctor told me I might not be able to dance again, and that picture got me fired up. Like, ok TEN, if you can’t dance, what could you do in this career? Let’s try developing my singing skills. So during the recovery, I went to the practice room every day practising my vocals and the result came out very nicely for me. And those two years just made TEN become who he is right now.

ESQ: Do you ever think about legacy?

TEN: I’m a person who doesn’t think too far into the future. I’ll just focus on the present. Right now, I just want to have fun. The reason I wanted to do a solo album was that I wanted to open up that part of me that I couldn’t show when I was in a group or too afraid to when I was younger. It’s about time that I get up to face my fears on stage, understand the person I am and feel free.

Top, trousers and bracelets, SAINT LAURENT

ESQ: Is it easier now or is it always frightening?

TEN: I’m still learning, right? It’s not easy. I had my first solo fan-con [fan concert] and it was very nerve-wracking at first. I may seem fluent but I worry all the time about what I’m going to say or whether my fans would enjoy watching my performance; do the songs sound good?

But... I figured I’d just... go with it (chuckle). Don’t think about it too much. Because the fans love you just as you are. They don’t want to see perfection; they just want to see the artist and his story. I feel like I tried too much to be perfect in the past but [ultimately] you just need to be real with yourself. Just take it slow and people will end up loving you.

ESQ: Do you feel put in a box as an idol, regarding people’s perception of you?

TEN: For now, I won’t say everybody knows who TEN is. As a soloist, this is the year when I’m representing myself as TEN. There will be more things to reveal in the future. I must keep a little suspense, otherwise, it won’t be fun to watch, right? I’m going to slowly reveal myself [bit by bit]. It’s like reading a novel or playing a video game; if you complete the game in an hour, it’s boring; you don’t want to know the climax. You have to walk one step at a time; you’d want to be on the journey of that character.

Photography: Jungwook Mok
Fashion Direction: Asri Jasman
Art Direction: Joan Tai
Styling: Sihyuk Ryu
Hair: Daeun Nam
Makeup: Hyebeen Kim
Producer: Daniel Teo

For international orders of the Esquire Singapore April 2024 issue with TEN, email

Parka, overshirt, trousers and sneakers, HERMÈS

_It’s hard writing about a celebrity who [sic] international press dub “Accidental K-pop Star” and Korean media affectionately call “Nation’s Boyfriend” without rehashing facts.

These nicknames alone encompass what you need to know about the singer-songwriter. The former clues you in on his professional trajectory; from getting scouted off YouTube to placing in the finals of a Korean singing competition, subsequently kickstarting his presence in the music industry. The latter tells of his personality that has earned the collective good sentiment of fans, no doubt thanks to his bright and humorous disposition.

_What could I tell you about his recent headspace that his song “House on A Hill” doesn’t already express?

The very lyrics centred by a chorus of “what ifs” spell out his apprehensions about the pursuit of happiness. Taking after a potential property he was eyeing, the title represents the existential crisis it sparked in him about why we were taught that buying a home, among other relative “necessities”, were qualifiers for our happiness. As well as the unreliable metrics behind a sense of accomplishment, or even the motivations driving our daily grind.

“For me, it’s been as long as I’m healthy, feeling challenged and finding fulfilment in the work I’m doing, being respected and surrounded by people I love. What more do we need?” he asks rhetorically.

Sweater and denim jeans, LOEWE

“Am I exhausted? Yes. Do I want to take a break? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I’m unhappy. I’m not Oh-my-god-life-is-wonderful-this-is-the-best-thing-ever overjoyed. It would be a little bit weird to be consistently like that. I might have taken some time but I’m getting to the point where on average, I’m always like, I’m good.”

One thing he fluctuates with, though, is his ADHD. An adversity his parents always regarded as a youth’s excuse rather than an actual condition. “It’s something I’m always trying to get a better grasp on. And I wish I had known better earlier. I wish I had sought help earlier. Cause when your parents say it’s not real, you think, oh maybe I’m just lazy. But I literally cannot focus on things. I cannot do very simple tasks sometimes. Many times. Very often,” he laughs.

He acknowledges that it didn’t necessarily exist the same way for a generation that survived war, absolute poverty, and making ends meet with backbreaking jobs. There’s no resentment, but it’s only at this point in his life that he can have that discussion with them on the realities of mental health.

_So is there diving deeper when the Atlanta-born artist has already shared similar, immensely personal stories on his mental health app, Mindset?

Tunic, trousers, scarf and loafers, BOTTEGA VENETA. Socks worn throughout, stylist’s own

The platform he founded tackles difficult topics by celebrities in a real and open way, encouraging listeners to take heart in kindred struggles and normalise what would otherwise be taboo conversations. He leads by example with his own experiences of feeling vastly displaced twice in his lifetime.

Once as a child of immigrants in America, who spoke no English and was bullied for being different. The second time returning to Korea as a foreigner, navigating its culture when he had since lost his native language. You can hear the slight weariness in his voice as he recounts becoming an outsider yet again after having tried so hard to fit in.

This social-cultural recalibration, on top of attempting to carve out a living on unfamiliar ground, marked a murky season. Oddly, seeking help was not an option. It all came down to optics. Should the public find out, he was told, they’ll think he’s lost it, and his career would be over.

“That was such a weird perspective to wrap my head around,” he exhales, expounding on mental health in a way that echoes his fervent speech at the TIME 100 Impact Awards last year. “It is at our core. It is the beginning of who we are and how we react and how we socialise and how we love and how we are. So it’s something that everybody has to deal with.”

Jacket, shirt and shorts, LOUIS VUITTON

“And there is no one right answer. It’s finding what works for you as an individual,” he explains, raising how it’s not easy to find a good therapist, plus the cost doesn’t exactly make it a service accessible to all.

“It’s more than saying get therapy, be on this medication, meditate. I immediately fall asleep when I do meditations, so it doesn’t benefit me. But if I talk to a trusted advisor, friend or family, walking it through with them is my form of therapy. And every song that I write now. It comes from real-life encounters and what I’m going through.”

_Where do I begin mapping out the evolution of the 35-year-old’s over decade-long vocation?

He went from mimicking sounds because he barely understood the language he was singing, to finding his voice and colour as a musician. He describes it as an eye-opening process where he has witnessed growth, especially in lyrical content.

“Where it was previously young and playful, or I may not even fully know what I’m saying, everything now very much has intention,” he affirms. “Also, the confidence in my approach. Because the hardest thing about being a creative is that you’re creating stuff that’s not there, there aren’t really guardrails on what’s good or bad. Everything’s very subjective. And it’s always been nerve-wracking.”

The next steps will probably put him in a comparable situation. Having hosted/podcasted at the helm of DIVE Studios with his brothers, he foresees the next chunk on time going into acting, writing and producing. While something may or may not already be in the works, releasing a consumer product (maybe skincare, maybe wellness) is another venture he often ponders.

Jacket and shirt, LORO PIANA

_I could perhaps tell you how Eric Nam is like on a Zoom interview at 6pm LA time instead.

How he’s casually in a green hoodie and his house is in disarray because he’s leaving on a flight to his ensuing world tour spot the next day. But his skin looks amazing (so yeah, he should drop that skincare line).

How he gets a little more serious than what you had expected from prior appearances. How he considers each question sincerely, with no qualms leaving pockets of silence to reflect before commenting. How these responses run long, and how he apologises for them midway. How words are chosen carefully when broaching delicate subjects, not out of distrust but in acquiescence that positions can always be misconstrued. How these spiels ultimately return to what was asked, and how he peppers endings checking if they make sense.

How he lately enjoyed a film called Didi because it made him feel seen. And amid the excess entertainment we’re inundated with, properly demonstrated what good content is supposed to do. How while it was fun, poignant, and made him laugh; its quality also served as a sobering reminder to do everything with purpose.

Jacket, shirt, trousers and loafers, ZEGNA

“I’m thankful that I’m able to do what I do right now, but honestly, there are moments I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this,” he admits. “So we really have to enjoy what we do. We’ve been conditioned to be hypercritical so that we don’t receive criticism, and so when we see something we don’t like in or about ourselves, we tend to be very mean to ourselves, which is unfortunate.”

“There should be a practice of being grateful and complimentary of yourself. Not arrogant, not complacent. Just recognising effort and when there are things that you cannot control. Having a good head on my shoulders is something I strive for, and when I do make a mistake or something doesn’t work out, it’s fair to be disappointed.”

“There are several other factors beyond my resolve that determine whether something is successful or not. There’s timing, luck, trend; with all that’s going on in the world, anything can happen. It’s now about holding myself accountable to make the best possible decision and put my best foot forward. Whatever comes after, I must live with and have grace for myself because there’s no point in beating myself up over things I cannot control.”

_Perhaps I could explore why Eric Nam still wants to do what he does.

Why despite counting himself blessed with the opportunities he’s had, it doesn’t mean that they came freely. Why some may think everything was handed to him because they are not privy to the hurdles and the way he had to grapple behind the scenes to get to where he is today.

Vest, shorts and loafers, DIOR MEN

“Those who know, know that I was one of the first tours to go to these markets and open them up. I’ve seen people who literally do exactly what I do, and I’m more than happy to help guide them when they hit us up, but being that first one to do it was so tough,” he shares.

“So even if I don’t become the number one artist in the world who has a bajillion streams, it doesn’t matter. It’s about being as trailblazer-y as possible. To be bold and make something that seems incredibly impossible happen.”

“That’s what I want my legacy to be. It could change completely because this tour, these acting gigs and start-ups, there’s so much going on that I’m like, how do I do this? So that’s kind of where I’m at now. I hope that giving it as much as I have with the intent of doing things right, it will be to people a point of empowerment and inspiration.”

There’s a split-second Nam seems to be at peace with his answer, before he characteristically goes, “Does that make sense?”

Photography: Shawn Paul Tan
Styling: Asri Jasman
Hair: Christvian Wu using KEUNE HAIRCOSMETICS
Makeup: Kenneth Chia using YSL BEAUTY
Photography Assistant: Xie Feng Mao
Styling Assistant: Chua Xin Xuan