Sophomore wins competition, turns down chance to become pop star

By Lizzie Thomas

When Sanah Ebrahim ’14 came back from her Thanksgiving break, she found an email alerting her that she’d won the SBS KPOP STAR competition, its grand prize of $285,000, an international album release and a full-time career as a Korean pop star.

It was not some kind of cruel joke.

Ebrahim had entered the singing competition in September and had subsequently advanced through each of its three rounds, uninhibited by the fact that she doesn’t speak Korean.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d win since there’s so much talent in the world,” Ebrahim said. “I literally auditioned because of the hot Korean boy bands, and I wanted to see how far I could go.”

But Ebrahim surprised the three major K-pop companies, JYP entertainment, SM entertainment and YG entertainment, who hosted the competition by sending an email of her own that night, turning down award and its proposed fame and fortune. She objected most to the stipulation that, as a Korean pop star, she would have to move to Korea.

“It’s really cold in Korea, and I’m assuming I’m going to work there and not come back for a while,” Ebrahim said. “I really want to continue and finish my studies at Harvard-Westlake.”

While the decision may have been a quick one for Ebrahim, it was not so easy for those around her.

“All my family and friends were pestering me about it, trying to ask me to email them asking if there was a way that I could do it over the summer or in a few years,” Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim said she might just be more comfortable singing for a group of family and friends, explaining that she often serves as entertainment for her parents and any guests they have over.

“I kind of experienced a little bit of what it’d be like to be a celebrity from being in the Chronicle [in November],” Ebrahim said. “It was kind of fun but a bit too much for me.”

In spite of this early success, Ebrahim remains nonchalant about a potential future in music.

“I don’t mind if I don’t pursue that kind of career. If an opportunity comes up then I’ll be happy to take it. But if not, then so be it,” Ebrahim said.