When it comes to her relationship with music, Tiffany Young is as straightforward as can be: it is her lifesaver. And as pop royalty, she is looking to make her mark on the world by sharing its power through her songs and performances.
A Cali girl born and bred, Tiffany Young (Stephanie Young Hwang) spent her formative years in Los Angeles’ Diamond Bar neighborhood, and actively participated in many musical activities while in school, such as band, show choir, dance, which reflected her upbringing. “There was a lot of music growing up at home for me,” she says, recalling how her mother used to play The Beatles on a guitar, and sang the Fab Four’s songs while playing piano. Her parents, immigrants to the U.S. from South Korea, introduced her to pop culture like K-pop and K-dramas while her grandfathers, who she grew up around, taught her about traditional Korean culture and formal speaking patterns, all of which inspired her to become interested in the South Korean entertainment industry. “As a young teenager, that’s when you really grasp onto your roots through arts and entertainment.”
These days, Young is based in the States, and putting out release after release. Her most recent single, October’s “Run For Your Life,” is an impactful, high-powered electro-pop dance track that evokes early Lady Gaga vibes with its echoing, dramatic delivery and futuristic, avant-garde music video. It was preceded by August’s “Magnetic Moon,” which gives its name to Tiffany Young’s current tour, her first ever North American solo tour.
Getting to a point where she could head her own concert series in the U.S. has been a long road for Tiffany Young. When she was 12 years old, Tiffany Young lost her mother and found solace in developing her voice. “Losing anybody, let alone someone so important at that age, it triggers this emptiness and hunger that you really want to grab and fill,” says Young. “Nothing was really working until I started singing.”
During her sophomore year in high school, Young auditioned for a talent show in Los Angeles but was deemed ineligible because of the competition’s age requirement of 16. But a representative of the Seoul-based K-pop company SM Entertainment was in the audience, and that changed her life. Three weeks later, she auditioned and was invited to join the company and head to Korea to train under SM’s auspices. In 2007, despite her father’s initial misgivings, Tiffany premiered as one of the nine members of what would go onto become the iconic act known as Girls’ Generation, one of the most popular girl groups of the past decade. “This is my calling,” she remembers telling him. “My mind was set, my heart was set.”
However, when she got to Seoul to train at SM, things weren’t easy for the young K-pop hopeful. “I thought I was so Korean when I was in America, but when I was in Korea I was too American,” she recalls, recognizing that this is a common experience for third culture kids. But, just as she turned the loss of her mother into artistic expression, she took her struggles acclimating to living in Seoul and training within a competitive South Korean entertainment company and turned them into a motivational tool. She recognized that the difficulties could inspire her growth and be used to fuel her development, both as a young woman struggling with her sense of identity and belonging and also in her professional life. The experience ended up inspiring her, and her perseverance led to a “magical” bond between herself and the other members of Girls’ Generation. “It was strong girls, coming together and empowering one another to perform at their best and be their best.” Though she has since left SM and is now focusing on her solo career in the U.S., Young still regularly meets up with other members of Girls’ Generation, and earlier this year she celebrated her 30th birthday with them.
After the group’s 10th anniversary album, Holiday Night, was released in 2017, Young decided to focus on her solo career and parted ways with SM. She had already released her Korea-focused EP I Just Wanna Dance in 2016, and it was time to turn her attention homewards to study acting and focus on songwriting back in L.A., and go down a new path as a solo pop star. “I want to tell these stories,” she recalls telling the other members of the act, who supported her decision to pursue a new challenge.
When she was younger, Stephanie Hwang turned her pain into passion, and became Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany. As Tiffany Young, she’s continued to explore her musicality as a path of healing and empowerment, turning her experiences and emotions into inspiration for her songs. Working with a team of producers and songwriters including Far East Movement, Fernando Garibay, and Satica, Tiffany is rising on her own terms surrounded by people she trusts with her art. Although in the U.S. music market there is minimal mainstream Asian representation, as a star with her K-pop career bolstering her next step, Tiffany Young is pushing beyond the limitations of the American music industry’s established racial insularity towards a more diverse pop music scene where anyone can be heard. “Girls’ Generation, the experience and the platform it’s created, it’s inspired me to want to now inspire young women and men from all around the world to use their voices and come together and be okay with sharing everything.”
“Music saved my life,” declares Tiffany Young. “It’s still saving my life. And it’s just a gift to be able to do what I do.”