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For idols, singing and dancing on stage with thousands of fans screaming and cheering is the most blissful feeling ever. The feeling of knowing that those countless hours of practicing everything, from footwork to smiles, has finally paid off. It’s the feeling of success. But one can never be popular without knowing what it’s like to be hated or envied upon. One can never be famous without escaping criticism. Inside that ocean of cheering fans, there will always be a few who seek joy through other’s misery. This is reality after all. And hatred is a part of human nature.

Any person reading this right now will most likely have something they like and support. A favorite sports team, a favorite writer or even a chef. A fandom, in general, but for the majority reading this will have a favorite group in mind. They call themselves a SONE and their favorite color is pink. The majority reading this love and support SNSD. But, like in any fandom, one will always have his or her biases, and it’s not surprising to know that leader, Kim Taeyeon, has the largest fanbase within SNSD. But she hasn’t garnered so much attention because she is their leader. This one word isn’t enough to make thousands of people flock towards her like a beacon of light. Sure, it plays a fair role in grabbing attention, but it’s definitely not one of the main reasons why people love and support her.

Just think, how many leaders in history have actually had supporters who genuinely loved them and didn’t stick around because they feared having their throats cut in a dark alley? There aren’t many. Fast forward to the present again and think Kim Taeyeon. Sure she was chosen as SNSD’s leader because she was the oldest in the group, but this wasn’t what made her an excellent leader. Every person has the ability to gather a group and proclaim themselves as “head”, but being a good leader is a whole new story. A great part of SNSD success comes from Taeyeon who leads with natural-born talent. Respect and devotion sum up Taeyeon’s leadership. This is the reason behind why the other eight are able to trust Taeyeon with their lives. It’s the reason behind how they have been able to grow and learn from each other. To live and love as a family.

At first glance, Taeyeon reminds you of a little kid. Happy, dorky and full of smiles. It’s hard to imagine how someone so small can muster the energy and courage to lead and motivate eight other girls. There is just so much that could go wrong. So many expectations. So many eyes scrutinizing your every move because as head of the group, what you do will ultimately affect the rest of the team as well. This, in itself, is already a huge burden.

But Taeyeon manages it all extremely well. As a leader, it is her job to lay down the first and most important step that will, in one sense or another, play a part in determining the success of SNSD. When trying something new, Taeyeon goes first. When starting off a talk or interview, Taeyeon introduces the group. If she does it well, a certain sense of confidence is established and morale is lifted. She brings SNSD together and keeps nine unified as one. This girl knows she is a wonderful singer, and she knows she can stand firmly on her own. There are countless breathtaking OSTs out there to prove that. But as the leader of SNSD, her role is to ensure that her members can stand firmly with her as well.

So what makes Taeyeon excel at being a leader? How has such a tiny girl held and strengthened the Soshibond for over four years? The answer lies in the fact that Taeyeon is independent. She is different from the rest and quite frankly, she needs to be. Sure, by differentiating herself and drifting a bit away from the group, she has gotten more attention, but reality is harsh and nothing good comes without a price. Her independence holds the Soshibond together, but in order to strengthen this bond, Taeyeon has isolated herself form the rest. Of course she is praised by countless people for her independence, but honestly, we can’t even come close to understanding any of the hardships she is forced to face. When her members are feeling under the weather, it’s Taeyeon who comforts them through words and hugs. But when the leader is upset, who does she turn to? Taeyeon is the leader, and she’s supposed to always stay strong. Right? Remember how the attitude of a leader will affect the actions and emotions of the other members as well?

As a leader, the burden on Taeyeon is tremendous, and self-sacrifice cannot be avoided to ensure that everything else runs smoothly. For a person to sacrifice a little bit of their well-being in order to satisfy the others around them deserves the upmost respect. Think back to the recent fan meet event in New York City. Remember how Taeyeon looked as pale as a ghost and extremely weak? She had apparently eaten food that had been in contact with nuts thus causing an allergic reaction. Yet despite this incident that took a menacing toll on her body, Taeyeon tried to remain strong. She tried to remain positive and smile. She didn’t want to worry the fans, but more importantly, she didn’t want to worry her members. Her sisters. For them, just the mere thought that Taeyeon couldn’t attend the fan meet because she was sick and weak is enough to drain morale completely. How could the other eight possibly focus knowing that their leader, their friend…their sister was extremely ill? Taeyeon couldn’t let that happen. She wouldn’t let that happen. So in the end, she put on a professional face and sacrificed her well-being for us. Heartbreaking? Needless to say. How about inspirational? This word just seems like an understatement when placed tangent to Taeyeon’s situation. To be present at the fan meet is one thing, but to laugh, smile and even sing and dance. That, in itself, is worthy of admiration beyond anything that words can describe.

Because nine have an ironclad rule of leaving not even a single member behind.  If they are to succeed, it will be as nine. It is either nine or nothing, as simple as that.

All this, from the bottom of a leader’s heart.

I won’t speak on the behalf of every SONE present that day, but for the inner SONE in me, just the mere presence of Taeyeon at the fanmeet was enough to make me love this fandom even more. It was enough to fuel me with the motivation to never give up, no matter how difficult things get because along with experience and hardships come little life lessons that help us learn and grow. Coming back home from New York, I treasure the Soshibond as well as the bond between SNSD and SONEs nine times more. To me, I feel truly blessed to have immersed myself into this fandom because every little thing that we have done to support the girls, and every little gesture the girls have done to reciprocate our love is truly amazing. There are no regrets at all. Ever. Over the course of two and a half years, all the new, unforgettable experiences, and all the amazing people I have met have slowly become a blur of events. A tangle of memories. Memories capable of moving me to tears, making me laugh nonstop, but most importantly, memories that allow me to go not even a day without being thankful for all that this fandom has given me.

credit: FrozenArctic@SNSDKorean

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