Former Girls Planet 999 contestant Tammy Wu made her on-screen debut with the show’s first episode in 2021. Since returning home after her eight-episode run, the aspiring Chinese-American performer has divided her time between pursuing her dream and going to college. EnVi spoke with Tammy over Zoom to discuss life since Girls Planet 999 and what’s to come in the future.

Performance Beginnings

Tammy has always been surrounded by music — growing up, she studied classical music and played the flute, the piano, and even the piccolo. Her interest in K-pop sparked when her brother introduced the genre to her in elementary school. Since then, Tammy has actively sought to immerse herself in the K-pop industry. After spending a year convincing her mother to let her attend a dance class by popular New York-based dance studio I Love Dance, Tammy began nurturing her performance abilities more seriously. “I overcame my stage fright ever since I started dancing and now I’m trying to get even better at performing,” she said.

When it comes to performing, Tammy draws inspiration from people who exhibit tangible dedication to their craft. “I think some of my all time favorites are ITZY’s Yuna and Jihyo from TWICE. I think they are both people who, when I watch them on stage, I can feel the happiness come through, and I think that’s so important,” she explained. Tammy’s genuine admiration was palpable during our call as she recounted her awe-inspiring experience watching xikers on stage. She recalled the group’s impressive ability to capture the audience’s attention, even as rookies. 

Tammy’s chance to audition for Girls Planet 999 materialized serendipitously, when the aspiring idol came across an open audition call on social media. After submitting her last-minute application, Tammy underwent the program’s multi-step audition process. Between her February application and her long-awaited flight to South Korea around June, Tammy spent about three months completing three separate evaluations and following a training regimen. While she had freedom to choose her audition songs for the first two rounds, according to Tammy, every prospective participant was instructed to perform Girls’ Generation’s “Into the New World” as their final audition.

After receiving the life-changing news that she would be moving forward with Girls Planet 999, Tammy took remote vocal and dance lessons that were coordinated by the program. As per the show’s protocol, she emailed daily videos that documented her vocal and dance progress to the program’s South Korea-based managers. Tammy also shared that the cast was asked to film behind-the-scenes packing and travel vlogs as they prepared to convene for the show, though her own footage was never aired. 

Show Time

Taking the stage on Girls Planet 999 was an overwhelming experience in many ways. For Tammy, joining the survival program after watching similar shows for so long was the first step in realizing her dream of debuting as a K-pop idol. Not unexpectedly, one of Tammy’s favorite things about being in the show was actually participating in real, broadcasted performances for the first time. Meeting like-minded young performers, who shared a common passion despite coming from diverse backgrounds, was another notable highlight. “I watched all of Produce [101], and now I’m on it. And so it was like, ‘Whoa, what is happening?’ It felt kind of not realistic,” she said.

However, participating in Girls Planet 999 came with a unique set of challenges, exacerbated by the fact that Tammy was not only an independent trainee, but also the only participant from the United States. While she expected the K-pop trainee life to be difficult, the reality was even more demanding than she had imagined. The filming period was filled with “firsts,” from Tammy’s first time traveling on her own to her first appearance on television. “Everything was so new,” she said. “I’d heard of how it’s definitely hard, but having to actually do all that was hard to adjust to at first.”

Trainees maintained a rigid schedule, with long hours and repetitive training sessions to perfect one song at a time. “I feel like I’ve heard that song definitely 10,000 times,” Tammy said about the show’s opening song while laughing. K-pop fans curious about the reality of a competition show may be interested in knowing that trainees’ phones were confiscated for the entire production duration. Competitors were given one iPad per performance team with an audio file and video of the song they were practicing. Though trainees had no means to keep track of time as they participated in each scene — as per Tammy’s recollection, the initial evaluation stage may have taken well over 30 consecutive hours of filming.

Despite the myriad struggles Tammy experienced while participating in Girls Planet 999, her experience performing as an idol for the first time confirmed that debuting is her ultimate goal. Rather than crumbling under pressure, Tammy embraced each new challenge as an opportunity to grow and climb towards her dream. Although she was eliminated in the show’s eighth episode, Tammy returned to New York City filled with revived ambition.

Homecoming and Next Steps

As she navigated her renewed conviction to work in the K-pop industry, Tammy returned to New York University to complete her degree in music business. Combined with numerous event-related extracurriculars, Tammy’s experiences have allowed her to stay up-to-date on the music industry’s trends. As a graduating senior at NYU, Tammy has recently had time to focus on her interests. Tammy shared that she has been studying Thai, spending time with her college friends, and learning how to crochet as a stress-management tool. 

Over the past two years, Tammy has also continued her quest to debut as a K-pop idol. During her many auditions, she has handled both positive and negative feelings and experiences. After several meetings with entertainment and management companies to determine a best course of action and potential for debut, Tammy bashfully disclosed that she might have exciting news for her supporters in the near-future. “I am actually talking to a company… and I think I will be signing with them,” she said. 

In the moments when she discussed her aspirations, Tammy openly shared her sincerest ambitions. Someday in the future, Tammy said, she would love to perform in New York City and extend an invitation to all of her friends, relatives, and, most importantly, her parents — it would be her full circle moment to celebrate her hard work.

For now, however, Tammy plans to continue training her singing and dancing skills, wrapping up her college education, and seeking the best path to achieve her goals — and she knows she couldn’t have fueled her drive without the encouragement of her supporters. “They’re so patient, waiting for me and still being supportive,” she said. “I just hope to release a lot of new stuff and be able to give back to the people that are supporting me from the beginning.”

Image courtesy of Mal Peterson.

Keep up with Tammy on Instagram.

Looking for more budding talent to delve into? Read about South Korean R&B singer Vincent Blue here!