The journey of Go A Ra and Lee Yeon Hee before and after leaving SM Entertainment, “Their pretty faces were disadvantageous”

Lee Yeon Hee and Go A Ra are showing more diverse sides as actresses after leaving SM Entertainment.

Lee Yeon Hee and Go A Ra are actresses SM introduces during their early days of actor management. Both were considered SM’s representative visual actresses. Lee Yeon Hee was selected as an SM trainee after winning an award at the 2001 SM Youth Best Contest then made her debut in 2004 through KBS’s drama “Emperor of the Sea”. Go A Ra, who won the title ‘best visual’ at the same contest in 2003, started her acting career through KBS2’s drama “Sharp” in the same year. With outstanding beauty, the two actresses were able to achieve their debuts relatively quickly compared to other trainees.


However, their pretty faces became a disadvantage. They were mainly cast in roles that highlighted their images, which led to controversies surrounding their acting skills. In addition, since SM primarily focused on managing singers rather than actors, being an SM actor did not benefit them.

Moreover, Go A Ra and Lee Yeon Hee had to face challenges while working with SM, which had just started their actor management. Following SBS’s “Snowflower” (2006), Go A Ra, who played the lead role in the MBC drama “Heading to the Ground” (2009) had to work with SM’s idol-turned-actors, making it difficult for them to perform good synergy in acting. The situation became worse as the drama received criticism for its bad storyline.


Lee Yeon Hee faced a similar case. In SBS’s “Paradise Ranch”, she took on the lead role and had to overcome the limitations of internal casting and ended up working with Max Changmin. Gaining the title “first love icon” after starring in the movie “A Millionaire’s First Love” (2006), Lee Yeon Hee did not receive much recognition for her acting abilities and drew regrets as she did not fit the sexy image of her character in the movie “Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island” (2015).

Go A Ra left SM in 2016 and moved to Artist Company. In January this year, she signed an exclusive contract with Starship Entertainment. Lee Yeon Hee moved to VAST Entertainment after leaving SM in 2020. Both chose companies that could properly manage their acting careers.


Since then, the two have been showing ‘liberating’ moves. Go A Ra showcased her action acting skills as the determined and passionate character Damo in the drama “Hwarang”. In “Miss Hammurabi”, she received compliments for her natural portrayal of Park Cha Oh Reum, a rookie judge who stands up for justice.

In her upcoming film “The Childe”, which is set to premiere on June 21st, she takes on the role of Yoon Joo, a mysterious woman who suddenly encounters boxer Marco. The recently released still cuts featuring scenes of Go A Ra smoking have raised viewers’ expectations for her drastic image transformation. During a recent press conference, Go A Ra expressed her excitement, stating, “I was thrilled from the moment I heard that I would be working with director Park Hoon Jung. This project had a different vibe compared to my previous works. I really enjoyed the filming”, expressing her willingness to take on new challenges.


Lee Yeon Hee challenged herself in theater in 2021. Making her stage debut in the play “King Lear”, Lee Yeon Hee delivered a highly immersive performance despite the challenging environment of playing dual roles. In the KakaoTV drama “Welcome to Wedding Hell”, she received praise for realistically portraying a woman in her 30s getting ready for marriage. Recently, in the Disney+ series “Race”, she garnered empathy from young people in her role as a contract worker, who is falsely accused of corruption. For this project, Lee Yeon Hee even cut her hair into a short style.

In a recent interview for “Race”, Lee Yeon Hee revealed that she has belatedly developed an enjoyment for acting. The actress said, “Theater was also a great experience. Standing on stage is a bit nerve-wracking and tense, but for some reason, it was enjoyable. It felt like the beginning of my acting journey. I was excited, having fun, and feeling the adrenaline.” 


She also mentioned, “In my 20s, I had countless experiences, and now I want to share my thoughts and create enjoyable work with people. Although I have been acting for a long time, I haven’t been satisfied much. Challenges are the driving force for me, and curiosity about what can be gained through challenges is also a driving force. I feel complacent if I don’t take on new challenges. Acting helps me grow.”

Having outstanding looks and being from a music-based agency were double-edged swords for Lee Yeon Hee and Go Ara. While it allowed them to attract attention from their debut days, it also created preconceptions. Now “liberated” from SM Entertainment, both individuals are making more independent and flexible choices. Through their filmographies, Lee Yeon Hee and Go Ara are building their skills and dispelling controversies surrounding their acting abilities. It seems that the true value of these two actresses lies in their choices to continually challenge themselves instead of being complacent and staying still.

Source: Naver

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