There are a variety of things that go into determining the success of a K-Pop idol outside of talent. Appearance and age have always played a significant role in deciding how an idol’s career will play out. Stars like SISTAR‘s Bora and Hyorin are known to have changed their age by one year when they debuted. Though this was a small, harmless change, it had been much different for others.
In the case of former Baby V.O.X member Lee Gai, she made a much larger change to her age in the hopes of finding success.
K-Pop girl group Baby V.O.X debuted in 1997, a time when 1st gen groups like S.E.S and g.o.d were dominating the charts. The group’s company, then DR Entertainment, now DR Music, actually modeled the group after the Spice Girls and H.O.T, earning the group the title “the female H.O.T.” Their debut hit somewhat of a rough start as their title track, “To Men,” was banned from broadcast due to the lyrical content.
It was during this album’s promotions that the group line-up had its first of many changes. Member Cha Yumi left the group due to an onstage injury and was replaced by Kan Miyoun. Next, members Jang Hyunjung and Jung Shiwoon left the group and were replaced by Shim Eunjin and Lee Gai. It was with this line-up that Baby V.O.X hit high levels of success following the release of Baby V.O.X II, where the group’s concept changed to a much more cute and public-friendly image.
After the release of this album, one of the members began getting a lot of attention for her rather “mature” look. According to her profile, Lee Gai was 20 years old but many fans questioned how someone that age could look “much older” than the other members. Lee Gai would also wear sunglasses or hats often to cover her face and often made mistakes while dancing on stage.
Curious fans began digging and discovered there was a singer that had the same educational background and looked exactly like Lee Gai. The only difference was that this singer was born in 1968, a full ten years before what Lee Gai’s profile stated! It was revealed that Lee Gai had previously debuted in a trio called, Saetorae, in 1988 under her real name Lee Hee Jung.
Saetorae released two albums before disbanding in 1989, leaving Lee Gai to figure out her next steps. She then debuted again as part of a duo called TamTam with one of the other members of Saetorae in 1991. They released a single album before parting ways in the same year.
Lee Gai’s next play at success was a solo career under the name Lee Jisoo under Yoon Deung Ryong‘s Deungryong’s Planning (a predecessor to DR Music) in 1993. Her two solo albums under the label did not gain very much attention and Lee Gai was quickly back to square one by 1994.
In what would be her final attempt at stardom, Lee Gai was added to the line-up of Baby V.O.X under another new name and with ten years taken off of her age in 1997. Her success as a member of the group, however, was short-lived. What many say was the moment that truly gave her away was a moment in an interview with a soccer player who was 19 years old at the time. In the interview, Lee Gai can be heard calling him oppa or older brother, something that did not line up with her false age.
Fans were outraged that a woman so much older than the rest of the group (the other members had an average age of around 18 years old) would have debuted and attempted to fit in with the group’s “youthful” concept.
DR Entertainment (DR Music) released an official notice and apology for the deception regarding her age but the “damage” had been done. Lee Gai was removed and replaced with Yoon Eunhye, a girl half her age. Baby V.O.X continued as a group until 2006 when a Tupac sampling on a track caused an unfortunate and unwarranted scandal that led to their disbandment.
Lee Gai’s current whereabouts are unknown with the assumption that she continued living a regular life after her entertainment experience. One of the members of Saetorae has expressed a desire to reunite and perform but nothing has yet come of this.