She ain’t heavy, she’s the weightlifting fairy

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LEE SUNG KYOUNG during the press conference. — CECILLE SANTILLAN-VISTO

By Cecille Santillan-Visto

Fan Meeting
Lee Sung Kyoung Be Joyful:
First Fan Meeting in Manila
July 27
SM Sky Dome, SM North EDSA, QC

THAT one iconic role can catapult an artist’s popularity to unimaginable heights and earn him a spot among the elites. In the world of Korean drama, there are only a few actors whose portrayal created such impact that they continue to be recognized years after their series have ended.

Lee Min Ho’s Gu Jun Pyo of Boys Over Flowers, Hyun Bin’s Kim Joo Won of Secret Garden, and Lee Young-ae’s Jang Geum of the historical drama Jewel in the Palace come to mind although there are several others who have left indelible marks on K-drama viewers.

For actress-model Lee Sung Kyoung, it was the romantic-comedy Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo that made her a household name.


Weightlifting Fairy is a youth sports drama inspired by the real-life story of Olympic weightlifting champion Jang Mi Ran. The 28-year-old Lee played Kim Bok Joo, an innocent yet determined weightlifter who fell in love with swimmer Jung Joon Hyung, played by Nam Joo Hyuk. Already an established model before becoming an actress, Ms. Lee turned a bit unglamorous for the role by gaining weight, cutting her hair short, and limiting her wardrobe to sweat pants and weightlifting suits.

The series, dubbed in Filipino, was aired on ABS-CBN in 2017 and it enjoyed respectable primetime ratings.

Ms. Lee came to the Philippines last weekend for her first fan meeting in Manila and showed her trademark “swaaaaag,” which is one of her more memorable lines in Weightlifting Fairy.

She met with select fans and members of media before the SM Sky Dome event, expressing her delight to finally visit the country for the first time.

“I hear that you really love the Kim Bok Joo series and I thank you for that… While it was a challenge to transform (particularly physically), I did my best to understand the character (and give justice to the role),” she said, adding that she is open to discussing a possible second season of the phenomenal hit with the director and the writer.

When asked, she said that while she enjoyed internalizing Kim Bok Joo, she can better relate to her character Michaela Choi in the fantasy romance About Time. “We are both the eldest daughter (so in that way we are similar),” she noted. She has played diverse roles in her career, from a troubled teenager in It’s Okay, That Love, to a materialistic sister in Cheese In the Trap, and a competitive neurosurgeon in Doctors.

Prior to her visit, Ms. Lee made showbiz headlines after Broadway star Lea Salonga complimented her for her version of “A Whole New World” from the Disney animated movie, Aladdin. The exchange on Instagram had netizens commenting that they were fangirling over each other.

For the opening song of her Be Joyful fan meeting, she chose to instead perform “Part of Your World,” from The Little Mermaid. Her singing voice was impressive and her English impeccable.

She told the audience that she was under the weather but this did not stop her from giving an all-out performance, which also included dancing to a medley of some of the biggest hits of the hottest girl groups such as Black Pink’s “Let’s Kill This Love” and Twice’s “Fancy.”

She took selfies with fans, gave away polaroid photos and a hand-design shirt, played a bit of piano, challenged fans to rounds of rock, paper, scissors, and even showed fans how to strut on the runway. Ms. Lee, who uses @heybiblee as her Instagram handle, also showed some of her best photos and shared the stories behind the pictures. She likewise shared her song playlist.

“Next time, when I return, I will dress as Kim Bok Joo,” she teased the crowd.

Audiences will likely continue to associate Lee Sung Kyoung with Kim Bok Joo until her next big role. Fans are looking forward to a second serving of the K-drama, which is not farfetched considering its huge following. Besides, it was the series where Ms. Lee and her former beau, Mr. Nam, developed their liking for each other.

Regardless whether a second season is in the offing, Weightlifting Fairy is already a major achievement for Ms. Lee. Thanks to her, Kim Bok Joo is now included on the list of most loved and iconic K-drama characters to have hit the screen.