A talk about Experiments with Cherprang BNK48,
‘A scientist who becomes an idol once outside the lab’
Published on 13 September 2017
Translated by: T of Diplo-Ota
Disclaimer: this translation is made with an aim to promote Cherprang to non-Thai fans. No copyright infringement intended.
If we talk about what the social media trend in Thailand nowadays is, the name ‘BNK48’ will surely come up.
This new trend even changes the habit of some people. In the past, their favorite activity during the weekend would simply be staying at home and doing nothing. Nowadays, however, life would feel empty if they don’t go out and join some BNK48 events.
BNK48 is often viewed as the ‘gateway’ for Thai people to the Japanese ‘idol’ culture. ‘Cherprang Areekul’ is then often viewed by many people as the ‘gateway’ to BNK48.
Apart from her prettiness, another reason she is getting the public attention is that she is the ‘Captain’ of the group, responsible for taking care of the rest of the members.
As BNK48 is working hard to achieve their goal in being a successful idol group in Thailand, THE MATTER has invited Cherprang to talk about her life, her dream of becoming an ‘idol,’ her passion for science and its application in her real life.
How did you start liking ‘idols’ ?
It started from an anime called AKB0048, which is about a group of idols who sing their songs to fight villains in space and to promote solidarity among people.
Then I learnt later on that AKB48 did exist in real life. I like them even more because all of the members are cute, cheerful and energetic. My favorite is Yamamoto Sayaka-san, so I mainly follow her, and also some others.
How did you start ‘cosplaying’
It’s because I like anime. When I first entered the university, I also did some extracurricular activities. But I didn’t have much friends in university back then and started to get bored. That’s when I started to try to do cosplaying with people who share the same interest.
What benefits do you get from your hobbies?
Some cosplayers have become close friends of mine, because we share the same passion. I’ve also learnt some new skills such as sewing and applying make-up. Before that, I don’t really know how to do make-up. I even hated it. But once I try learning something new, I feel good. Cosplaying also helps improve my English and introduces me to new languages by getting to know some foreign cosplayers.
What is your reaction towards people who have a negative view towards cosplaying ?
I can only try to prove myself to them that it’s not something wrong. Initially, my dad was also against it, but his attitude changed after seeing that there were also some benefits I got from it, such as, having sewing skills, or making some new friends from different circles.
What motivates you to try for the BNK48 audition ?
It’s because of my love for AKB48. I wanted to know what my idol had to go through. When I first learnt that they would form BNK48 in Thailand, I felt thrilled, yet I couldn’t apply for it because I was over the age limit (laugh). Once they changed the age limit, I decided to go for it. I initially thought that to try just one audition or, even to submit the application, would be quite an experience already.
Now that you have become an idol, is it different from what you have thought?
Yes, quite different. I never thought that the training would be this hard and how much we had to gone through. I didn’t know that the trainings would be held every single day. We trained intensely for singing, dancing and performing. I never knew that we had to fight against ourselves this hard as well. I used to wonder why some idols rarely upload their posts in social media. Now I know. After the work, they simply felt drained and wanted to have a rest.
What makes you happy from being an idol?
[I feel happy] when I train and play with other members and when I go on stage. I really enjoy the stage, particularly when the audience give responses to my call for their participation. But if they don’t, then I have to think what I should do to make them enjoy our show more.
What is your goal of being an idol?
I would like to help make BNK48 stronger. I’ve never wanted to become a singer or an actress. My dream was to become a scientist. I prefer to work behind the scene. But now that I’m here, I am ok to be in any position, as long as I can make some contributions to the band.
Do you have to sacrifice your private life when becoming an idol ?
Not really. The only sacrifice for me is that I can no longer take photos with my friends. My friends complain about this a bit, but I tell them that at least we have met one another and instead of photos, we can keep our memory in form of texts.
Does what you have to lose worths it ?
I think so. I feel happy when reading letters from my fans, saying that they have found some encouragement and inspiration from what I have done. I don’t think I have done anything special. I only do ordinary things in my way. This is really something new for me. I am happy that I can help people.
Do you have to change yourself a lot ?
Quite a lot. I have to start taking care of myself like doing a lot of exercises. I also have to dress well and keep a good image in the public. Sometimes I feel too lazy to do so.
Do you feel suffered from the fact that you have to keep a good public image ?
No. It’s my nature to try to behave myself in accordance to the time and place, for example, today I’m having an interview so I’m sitting straight and trying to look proper. But once I go back home or hang out with my friends, I’ll behave differently.
It’s not really about a public image thing. It’s more like being responsible to my given roles.
The public images of BNK48 are associated with cuteness, freshness, and cheerfulness. Do you guys also have any other sides?
We also feel stressed, exhausted and discouraged. Sometimes we might feel jealous of other members, or feel unfair, when seeing that some members have tried so hard and yet are not given a fair chance.
The system of 48 group divides members into ‘the center,’ ‘senbatsu,’ and ‘undergirls’. Naturally, there will be some members who are ‘out of the spotlight’ or ‘not in the media’s attention.’ Does this put a lot of stress on members of the band?
We always feel the pressured. Yet it’s the competition in which all players love one another. We support and take care of one another.
It is true that, deep in our heart, we might sometimes feel : ‘but I also want that opportunity too’. It’s a funny feel, isn’t it? We want to support our colleagues. We feel happy for them. But at the same time, we also feel : ‘but why am I not given that chance ?’
In the end, this system allows all members to take turn to shine, I think.
Each member has their own goal. What is then the common goal of all members?
The executives always tell us that we are all the family. We might have different goals but, in the end, they want us to be happy and strong together.
Have you discovered your dark side once you have become an idol ?
Yes. When I can’t do something, I will be very hard on myself. Sometimes I even compare myself to other members, thinking something like: ‘why they can improve their skills so quickly and I can’t ?
How do you pull yourself out from such a negative attitude ?
I’ll have a look at the photos of my idols or think about other members who are not given the chance that I’ve got. I will then feel that I’ve to try harder on their behalf. When we are given something, we have to share it with others.
As the captain of the band, do you have more responsibilities ?
I still feel not quite confident in this given role. I always ask the staff what else I have to do. They’ll then tell me to simply be myself, seeing that it’s in my nature to take care of other people and see the overview of situations. I’m quick quick to spot when something goes wrong. I also have to take care of general management as well.
You’ve got your own goal; the band its own ones; other members their own ones. Then how can all of these heads towards the same direction ?
Everyone has several goals in their life, hasn’t they? We might have our own different goals but at the same time, we also share one same goal: to make BNK48 become more mainstream.
Personally, I want the band to become stronger. Hence, I’ll try to take all opportunities given to the band, so that I’ll gain more experiences. In this regard, my goal then complements to that of the band.
As for other members, some of them might want to become a singer or actress. Then becoming part of BNK48 helps fulfill their dreams, but at the same time, they also help make BNK48 become more popular, when they perform as ‘members of BNK48’. [So in a way, their own goals and that of the band complement each other.]
As the captain, if you can issue a policy, what will it be ?
I would like to have a group meeting everyday, so that everyone can share their experience or problems. Usually we talk about our work experiences to members who we are close to. But I think it’d be better if we share them with all members so that everyone can learn from one another.
You have become a confidant to several members of the band. What is the common feeling shared among them ?
Everyone feel pressured. Many of them feel self-doubted and wonder if they are ever good enough. Many ask themselves why they are here. Some wonder why they cannot achieve what they have hoped for yet.
However, I can listen to all of these frustration in silence, because sometimes I also ask myself same questions. In addition, I know that sometimes, people really don’t want to get an answer. They only want to get it off their chest.
To be an idol of an 48 group, one needs to follow a set of rules. Have you ever felt restricted by them ?
Yes, at first, I felt restricted by those rules. I wondered why I had to change myself so much.
But then I had discussion with other senior artists (who were not in BNK48). He stated that he had to go through many things before achieving this status, and more importantly, he had to start from ‘zero’.
However, our case differed; we started from ‘ten’. In this regard, having those rules are a trade-off for us. They also help make us stay together as a group with harmony as well.
Some might viewe that having to follow a lot of rules make them lose their identity. Have you also ever felt that way too ?
Those rules don’t have such strong impact on ourselves. We still have our own identity. We still can do what we like; we only need to learn how to express our feelings in conformity with those rules. Also, we can talk freely and frankly with other members of the band, hence the expression of our feeling or thought are not that restricted.
You have done a lot campaigns for BNK48 and met a lot of fans. How does that make you feel ?
It feels good to see that there are people who support us. Well, let’s say it’s quite encouraging to see that there are people who think we are worthy of their support.
You were once a fan of AKB48 and paid for them. Now you are in their shoes. In your view, how much one can pay for their idols without exceeding the appropriateness?
I think it’s a personal rights thing. It’s like how much you are willing to pay for a service. As for me, I can only feel grateful that my fans are happy with me and ready to support me. I would like to thank them for seeing that I’m worthy of their support.
In the past when I was a fan of idols, I didn’t have regular incomes, so the only thing I could do was to collect memorabilia. But now that I have got some fans who are ready to support me, I feel very glad. If they are happy to give, then I’ll be happy to receive their support with gratitude.
In your view, how the relationship between idols and their fans is like ?
I view that it’s a kind of parent-child relationship. They support us because they want to see us grow up and become better, like what our parents expect from us as well.
You’re not only an idol, but also a student. Can you tell us why you chose to study in the fields of science ?
Science can answer a lot of questions. For example, I used to wonder why water can change from one state to another. Then I learnt that it’s about chemical bond… [Cherprang explained a bit more about the chemical process but the translator has zero knowledge in science, and hence, cannot translate it. Gomen ne~]
Science can answer my questions, so I find it’s fun to study about it.
In your view, what is the reason why so many people dislike studying science ?
I think it’s because there’s no one there to help clearly explain about science to them.
In my school, the method of teaching science relies more on doing experiments, than memorising textbooks. Our teachers gave us chances to try something new. So in my case, it’s fun to learn and discover something new by myself. Although not all questions could be thoroughly explained then, it was still fun to try it out. It also helps that our teachers were there and graphically explain to us the logic behind our little scientific discovery.
I think many people dislike science because there’s no one there to help explain things to them clearly and graphically, so they might feel they are blocked out by the science. It’s natural that when we don’t understand something, we lose our interest in it, right ? But should there be someone to help illustrate science graphically and visually, people might be more open to learn about it.
I want to spread out this idea to people, that science can and should be explained in a simple and graphically way. People always look amazed when they find out that they themselves can understand some complex-looking scientific information once explained in a simplified manner.
Scientifically speaking, do you regard ‘becoming an idol’ as an experiment in your own life ?
I applied for BNK48 because I’d like to know how the audition would be like.
As for me, all life is a scientific experiment. It’s all about asking questions, making hypothesis, testing your prediction and creating your conclusion.
I applied for BNK48 because I wondered how would it be if I were there, so I made a test by entering the audition. My conclusion after I joined the band was that it’s fun for me and that I’m not that bad.
Is it true that nowadays, less number of women studying science than those of men ?
In highschool, my classroom majored in science and I was the only girl in the classroom. The rest of my classroom were guys. I’m not quite sure where I have read about this, but there’s an article explaining that male brains are better suited to math and science. Women, on the other hand, are more emotional.
But I’m quite weird, because I don’t have any strong emotions. When an emotion arises, I will become aware of it and can understand why it is happening, so I can manage it better than other people.
What is easier : understanding quantum physics or memorising dance routines ?
Memorising dance routines. It’s easier to build muscle memory than to remember things by the brain.
Previously, I didn’t like memorising dancing routines, as I was a kind of person who’d prefer analysing data to dancing. But as of now, I’ll certainly choose dancing over memorising textbooks.
How do you apply your strategy for studying science to your career as an idol ?
To remember a lyrics, you’ve to keep singing the song. The same goes to memorising the periodic table, if you write it down everyday, you’ll then remember it.
I believe that everyone can do anything as long as you practice it everyday or as often as possible.
As for me, if I want to remember something, I’ll keep reading it everyday, for a week or a month, then I will be able to make it. The same goes to mastering dancing routines or remembering lyrics. I believe that if l practice them everyday, I should somehow manage to do them.
In my view, this principle can be applied to any situation, for example, if you want to be good at playing a musical instrument, you’ve got to practice it everyday. By that way, you will certainly get better and better, and manage to master it eventually.
This is the lesson I learnt from my past experience. I learnt to play the violin everyday from Monday to Friday, form grade 1 to 12, or 12 years in total. Then I stopped playing it for 2 or 3 years. But now I try to play the violin again, my body can still remember the movement. So I believe that if you practice something regularly, you’ll have the muscle memory and it will stick with you for a very long period of time.
When did you realise that you like to study science ?
I think it was when I’m in grade 9. I started to realise that I didn’t like studying the Thai language and the social science, seeing that they are already part of our lives. I prefer studying science to languages.
In your opinion, how much does the present-day [national] educational system help students find out about themselves and their future career choice ?
Everyone is forced to learn the same thing in school, so I think that our education system doesn’t really help us to figure out what we really want to do in life. We still have to study what we don’t like. I’m not really in the position to talk about this subject matter, however, as my secondary/high school is an alternative school.
[But in the other way around,] the fact that everyone has to study the same things means that a lot of options are presented to them, as they have to study all subject matters. So it also depends quite heavily on teachers who can help make those subjects interesting for students.
In my opinion, students should learn a wide range of subjects until grade 9, so as to find out what they like or don’t. They will also have a basic set of skills necessary for daily life. After grade 9, students should be given the chance to study in what they are really interested.
What do you do in your free time? Do you play games ?
Yes, I like playing RPG games, in which players assume the roles of characters. Players have to take responsibility for acting out these roles
If you were in an RPG game, assuming the role of an idol, at which level would you be ?
I think I’m at the Beginner level. I should have earned enough experience points to enter ‘Level 1’ soon. I’ll be then given a new outfit and new arms.
If you compare being an idol as a kind of games, what are obstacles that you have to overcome ?
It’s like a game that you have to go along a route and try to avoid all kinds of traps. You also have to perform some good jumps to go from one side to another. I think BNK48 is going through the same thing. We are in the ‘trial and error’ phase, trying to find the best path we should take.
The name BNK48 reminds people of Bangkok. Supposed that BNK48 became a representative of Bangkok tourism, what would you guys do?
We would present Bangkok in the way the song ‘BNK48’ talks about the city. Thai temples, food and art are our own unique culture. We should present those aspects of Bangkok. They are the things that makes Bangkok famous.
You live and work in Bangkok. What do you think is the most troublesome aspect of the city ?
It’s the traffic jam. I sometimes wonder how the urban planning was made. I understand that those responsible for the planning might have not thought about such the far future. The design for the city might be suitable for another period of time.
But now that we are in the modern era, even though we want to modify some aspects of the city, we might not be able to do as much as we like, because something cannot changed, as they might be of historical or cultural values.
So as an alternative way to solve the problem, we keep on building something new, like new bridges and so on. I think this is the cause of the traffic jam.
What are things in Bangkok you wish you could change them ?
I would like to change the urban design. Well, it’s systematic in a certain way, but a lot of things still scatter around rather randomly, causing many problems. The city planning can be improved quite a lot.
When you face a problem, are you a kind of person who wants to tackle it, or run away from it ?
I would want to tackle it. But sometimes I have to let it go, if the problem is connected to many people, and thus cannot be singlehandedly solved. Even if I want to do so, it will be too difficult to change the view of the majority of people anyway.
Do you think being an idol can have an impact on some social movements ?
Yes, I think people are now more interested in what I said. This is the reason I told my dad [why I wanted to apply for the BNK48] that if I became an idol, I could promote science to the public.
This is what my professor told me when I was making up my mind if I should apply for BNK48. He said : if I’m simply a scientist, when I publish a paper, it’s just a publication. Who knows how many people will read it. But if I become a public figure, people will be more interested in what I’m researching as well. Then being a scientist who is also an idol will certainly be more useful than simply being a scientist. So if I want to try it out, go for it. There’s nothing to lose anyway.
Looking ahead, how do you see an idol-culture in Thailand ?
It’s still something brand new in Thailand.
If it’s something brand new, how do you deal with it ?
We will certainly have to face some doubts from the old generation. Sometimes, it’s hard for old people to accept something new. So this is our challenge: to make them accept us. We have to prove to them that what we are doing are not non-sensible and useless. Everything is useful in one way or another, but whether people can see its usefulness is another question.
So in your view, how will the idol-culture in Thailand be in the future ?
We are trying to prove that we can become good examples for other people too. I hope that in the future there will be more people who understand us and accept us, seeing that our performances can make people happy. I hope that the public will give us more support. Then, in the future, there will be more people who want to become idols, want to change to the society and want to speak out their mind.
In the future, if BNK48 holds an election like AKB48, what will be your election campaign ?
I’ll try to be the best I can be, and do my best in everything I do. Please take care of me and consider supporting me.