Someone Interesting

I was asked by a former classmate from NYC if I would answer some questions for an assignment she had due in a current class.  They were asked by the professor to interview “someone interesting”, and this former classmate of mine chose me. I am someone interesting to her. Hell yes.

So I decided to share the questions/answers because I had so much fun doing it, and I realized…I really AM “someone interesting”!

None of the Questions/Answers below have been edited.

Where were you born? Describe it.
I was born in Seoul, Korea in 1975 and my parents left me there with my paternal grandmother so they could go to NY and set up a home and a business.  I was left there for 3 years and raised by my paternal grandmother, who was gangster…so I never knew my parents until I was 3.  And by the way, I wasn’t “expected” so I was almost aborted…I would remind my parents of this every birthday when I got older “See? Aren’t you glad you had me? Otherwise you’d be stuck with just Danny (my brother) and not have such a smart and beautiful daughter to show off.”
Do you remember living there?
I don’t remember much because I was so young.  But I do remember my bad-ass grandmother.  She smoked and drank and hustled people out of their money in a Korean cardgame called Hwa-t’u.  OH.  And I remember vaguely (because I was probably traumatized that severely) owning little chicks (as in baby chickens) as pets and my grandma running out for cigarettes and leaving me home alone with them one day and it’s like the chicks knew they had me alone and started pecking at my little feet until they bled and when my grandma came home she freaked out because I was frantically trying to climb out a window with my bloody feet and all.  This was not a bad dream I had, the story’s been confirmed.  We’re not supposed to remember anything before the age of three but like I said, this was so traumatizing it’s engrained in my head forever.
Why and when did you move to America?
My parents “sent for me” when I was three, I guess they thought they had made enough money and furnished a home good enough for me and so I was put on a plane BY MYSELF (with a chaperone from Korean Air Lines) and I arrived at JFK Airport in 1978.
What did your parents do?
My parents had opened up a stereotypical Korean fruit and vegetable market (I suppose they didn’t feel like opening a nail salon or a dry cleaners which was what the rest of the Koreans were doing at the time (mid-70s).
How was the transition to living in New York?
According to my parents, my transition was rough.  For me, my parents were strangers and I cried for my grandmother everyday, cried myself to sleep, cried myself awake, refused to eat or drink for days until I made myself sick.  Even at the age of 4 it turns out I was a master of manipulation because my parents went out and bought every toy and treat money could buy to make me happy.  I even got a lifesized pony ride they had bought from a carnival going out of business.  They were basically trying to bribe me for my love and forgiveness for leaving me behind in Korean, and it worked.
How would you describe your childhood?
My childhood was AMAZING but not perfect, but the amazing parts can’t be topped.  I was the apple of my parents eyes and I got to travel at a very young age because my parents were big world travelers and would take me with them. I was super smart and outgoing and as the ONLY Korean within miles I was always speaking out when people called me Chinese “I’m Korean! I’m NOT Chinese~” I would shout at people. Growing up on the lower east side of Manhattan I was THE ONLY KOREAN among Black, Dominican, Jewish and Chinese people.
What were your parents like? How was your relationship with both?
My parents were so in love, they had been high school sweethearts.  Originally, my dad was supposed to “court” my mother’s girlfriend but he fell in love with my mother instead and they were inseparable.  He came from a very very poor family and my mother from a very rich family, so there was UBER drama when they said they wanted to get married.  But because they did and because their love was true and not “arranged” like so many other marriages back then, they showed me what fun and romance and true love really is growing up.  I would watch them hug and kiss and be cute with each other and it really rubbed off on me I think because it made me a hopeless romantic :).  My mom was always fun to hang out with because she always spent money (on me and herself) and my dad was just the coolest person ever (he passed away in 2004 and I miss him everyday).
What schools did you attend ?
I went to PS 110 (Florence Nightingale School) on the lower east side (Actually started at PS 140 but I got knocked out by a snowball thrown by a bully in first grade so I got transferred immediately to PS 110 after my mom went Krazy Korean on the school board)…then to JHS 22 (I was only there for two years because I took the “Specialized Exam” and placed in Brooklyn Technical High School).
What were you like as a teenager?
I was fat (more freedom meant more food, I have been a foodie all my life, I always have to be munching/trying something) but I was always super confident. I always wanted my voice to be heard so I joined groups and clubs having to do with speaking and speech.  I have always been a voracious reader, and Judy Blume’s books were my Bible, and so I was always prepared for “firsts” (first kiss, first period, first penis, etc…).  Oh, and my hair was always permed because Koreans went crazy for perms in the 1980s…it showed that you had money, so stupid to spend your money on PERMS to show you had money.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
At first I wanted to be a pediatrician, because I wanted to have my practice on the first floor of my home, and live in the higher floors.  But this is because my pediatrician had this set-up and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.  And I had told my parents that they could live on their own floor because I would make enough money to buy a house big enough for all of us to live in together. Yeah.  Right.  Ahhhh, the dreams we dream when we are young.  But yeah, I was pretty set on being a pediatrician.  I thought I’d be good at giving shots and then giving out lollipops.
How was high school?
High School was when I really went through an identity crisis.  Because I grew up on the lower east side where there were NO Koreans, I was pretty much Dominican by nature. I had been wearing heels since I was 11 and eating cuchifritos (fried Dominican fast food) and saying bad words in Spanish since my neighborhood was so heavy with Dominican population.  Then when I got to high school, I identified with the black kids more so my freshmen year was spent with black friends.  Finally in sophomore year, I started to identify with my Korean roots and started hanging with the Koreans and I thought okay I guess I AM Korean.  But that was short-lived, all they wanted to do was smoke and play pool and wear black and only hang out with other Koreans so I dropped them eventually. Junior year I discovered the Greeks, and I wanted to be Greek so bad.  I would eat feta and baklava and hang out with all my greek friends everyday.  Senior year I decided I wanted to be class president so I got into student government and because I had hung out with so many different/diverse crews, I won easily and so Senior Year I was president.  Oh, and I was still fat.
Did you go to college? When and where?
I started out at NYU Class of 1997, proudly.  My dad had tried to convince me to “go away” to college so I could become more independent which now I understood he meant “Get away from your over-bearing mother because she will still treat you like you’re in high school”. But when I was accepted into NYU I was so thrilled I forgot all about “going away” for school and decided to stay in NYC..
Describe your experience in college. What was your major?
My first year at NYU was a hot mess, I failed most of my classes because I was trying to balance the freedom of adulthood with the fact that my mother still wanted me home by dark and the fact that the boy I had a crush on all first semester broke my heart second semester anyway, etc…and after one more semester, I quit. I was majoring in pre-med thinking I’d make my “dream” of being a pediatrician come true and I realized…I HATE SCIENCE.  So I quit school and then I moved out of my parents’ house.  My mother likes to say I “ran away” but really, when you’re 19 you are moving out, not running away.  It was the best thing I did because it made me more independent than I already was and it proved to my mother that I was an adult.  Granted, I was shocked when I first moved out that I actually had to pay for electricity and gas and phone, and it didn’t “come with the apartment” I was renting.  I busted my ass that first year living on my own and I had FIVE W-2s that year because I was working so many jobs trying to make it on my own.  But it felt GOOD.
What did you do after college (career wise)?
When I left NYU I was screwed.  I hadn’t finished school and I had led a pretty cushy spoiled life at home so I really didn’t know the value of a dollar.  So I used my (still valid) NYU ID card and went to the job center and found two jobs, one working at a “law office” near the WTC as a secretary and one working as a receptionist at the “fitness center” at the Hilton in midtown. But I needed more money to make it on my own so I was also working a retail job at Benetton in the West Village on commission, and also at the Gap in Herald Square hourly, and then through the Hilton I also got a job at the Waldorf and the New York Palace.  After a year of doing all this, I decided to walk into a “temp” agency and landed a job as a secretary at a small investment firm in jersey city. So I said goodbye to my 6 W-2s and headed to my frist “real” job in Finance.
How did you get on Wall Street?
After working at the Jersey City nightmare (which is what I call that first investment firm, OMG, that place was soooo stereotypical sexist trading firm) I went back to the original “temp” agency and told them I wanted a real job now, in Manhattan, at a real bank.  And I landed a job at Citibank, which eventually became Citigroup, as a secretary.  After three months my boss told me stop wasting my time as a secretary and pushed me to go back to school part-time and at least get my Associate’s and I got a promotion, and after that I got another promotion, and etc…and I never looked back as I climbed that mighty corporate ladder…all without my Undergrad degree.  Ironic huh?
What was it like to work on Wall Street ?
I realized very quickly that working on Wall Street is 50% hard work and 50% hard ass-kissing…meaning, you have to know who’s important and get as much exposure to them as you can, get noticed, get recognized.  It’s called fast-tracking and it happens all the time.  But not to everyone, obviously, because then it wouldn’t be special.  But someone high up has to see something in you and want to help you in that climb.  And I have always had this confidence in me and it helped me on Wall Street because it got me attention by all the right people.
When did you decide to go on Big Brother? Why?
I was at Citigroup for five years and I was an A.V.P. and COMPLETELY bored.  I had just broken up with a boyfriend of four years and I was ready to rip my heart out and throw it in the east river or off the empire state building and I just needed to GET OUT OF NYC.  So I was watching tv one night and I saw the last few minutes of season 3 of Big Brother and at the end of it the voice on the tv asked me “Do you think YOU HAVE what it takes to outwit and outplay everyone in a house and win half a million dollars?!” and I thought “Um, FUCK YESSS.”  So I went on the CBS website right then and there and downloaded the application (which was like 80 pages it felt like), and took two polaroids (yes, I had a polaroid camera, two in fact) and borrowed a video camera from a friend and sat on my bed with the camera on my dresser and just talked into it for two minutes, as blunt as I am in real life.  I sent everything in FedEx on a Thursday, and on Friday night I got a call from them saying they wanted to meet me!
How did you get on the show?
After the initial call, I met their producers in NY and then I was flown out to LA for the rest of the rounds of “auditions” and I just knew in my heart that I had made it.  I KNEW I was going to be on the show.  I don’t know why I was so sure, I still don’t. But I know that when my gut tells me something, I listen, because my gut has never proven me wrong.  The audition process was grueling.  Locked in a hotel room for days and meeting with producers, getting blood/urine tests done, pysch evaluations, etc…
What was it like being on the show?
Being on the show was SURREAL, it still is.  The first hour or so you were SO conscious of the cameras and microphones everywhere.  But eventually you HAVE TO forget about them otherwise you will never get comfortable and be able to play the game.  You have to get comfy in your surrounding and OWN IT in your head and heart before you can take down 12 or so other people and win that prize money.  In all honesty though, I played the game as if it was real life.  In real life, we are constantly faced with douchebags and bimbos and people we just can’t stand, but we have to deal with them in a civilized manner so we’re not taken into custody for killing them you know?  So this was the same thing, I had to play nice and eliminate people by using other people so I wouldn’t get my hands too dirty because at the end of the game, I’m depending on the votes of the people who were kicked off.  And everyday I missed my friends and my family and cell phone and television and magazines, but once I’m focused on something, I can live without luxuries until I get what I want.  And that’s exactly what I did 🙂
What did you do after the show?
Right after the show I locked myself up in my apartment for a good month.  I ordered food through fresh direct and I just spent a lot of time alone.  It really was traumatizing to have been filmed and watched 24-7 (because in addition to the televised show 3 times a week, there was a live internet feed also so people could watch me sleep and get up to pee and brush my teeth etc…) and I don’t think I realized just how much I was traumatized until I got back to NY.  I realized I would avoid eye contact and contact all together with people on the street and I was paranoid that I was being watched constantly.  But I think it’s because that’s how seriously I had taken the game.  I had not gone on the show for fame or notoriety, I had gone on to win and so the cameras and microphones weren’t things I loved about my time in the house, like it was for others who wanted “to be famous”.  I also spent an incredible amount of time with my family, and my dad in particular, because he had fallen VERY ill WHILE I was in the Big Brother house and my family had taken a vote not to tell me so I could stay in the house and win.  Unlike many other reality shows, Big Brother is filmed and televised live, and my family thought I had a real chance of winning and so they didn’t want to take that away from me, which is ridiculous because if my dad had passed away while I was in that house I would have seriously killed somebody.  So I didn’t return to Citigroup (where I had taken a 4 month leave of absence) and instead I spent a year with my dad because he finally passed the next year.  I know I wouldn’t have been able to afford a year off if I hadn’t won the half a million on the show, so everything happens for a reason.
How did the show affect your life?
My life hasn’t changed all that much.  After my dad passed away I decided to return to Wall Street and went back to working like normal.  Of course I went back on the show every summer for a cameo appearance and I did interviews here and there, but like I said, I never wanted fame out of the experience, I just wanted to win.  And I did.  And so I returned home like normal.  I can’t say the same for many of the others on the show with me…so many of them stayed in LA in the hopes of becoming the next big star (morons)…I have to say though that having won a show like Big Brother means more to other people than it does to me and so dating life was pretty interesting.  Some guys were so turned off by the fact that I went on a reality show…and some guys were so turned on it was creepy! HA
What did you do after the show in terms of work?
I went back to Wall Street and after a year I quit.  I took some time off again just for myself to deal with my dad’s passing…and also…to start my own business.  An “underground” business.  I was basically a “madam” for a while…shhhh…and then I went back to Wall Street again 🙂
THE REST: I got laid off from my job on Wall Street in December 2008 and most of 2009 I travelled.  I covered much of Italy and some of Greece and then I decided it was time for me to return to school and finally finish my undergrad degree.  I had been putting it off for so long because I never NEEDED it.  When I went on job interviews my work experience was so long and impressive that my lack of formal education was never a big enough deal to keep me from getting the jobs I wanted.  My last title before getting laid off was “Learning and Development Manager”.  Meaning, I was in charge of coming up with curriculum and career development for everyone at the firm, from junior analysts all the way to the CEO.  Ironic, since I didn’t even have my undergrad degree, but like I said, presenting yourself and what you bring to the table to push an organization forward is much more important that what kinds of degree(s) you have in finance.  And I sold myself.  I sold myself to the point where I was holding titles and earning salaries/bonuses that someone who doesn’t have an undergrad degree “shouldn’t be” earning 🙂  So I started Hunter in January 2010 and after calculating transfer credits, etc…I realized I could do everything in 3 semesters: Spring, Summer and Fall.  And so after a GPA of 3.8 in Spring semester I decided to reward myself with a trip to the Dominican Republic with some girls (a whole other story because they turned out to be psychotic maniacs, note to self: do not travel with bitches you don’t know for more than 2 days)…and I hadn’t banked on meeting my future husband, Davy, while I was there.  I swear, I hadn’t even brought any condoms with me which I usually do when I travel.  I honestly took the trip just to reward MYself for a job well done in my first semester back in school and I think that’s why I met him. 🙂  And just like my gut had guided me in the past, I let it guide me in May as well.  I just KNEW he was IT.  So after the trip I returned to start summer semester and after going to classes Monday through Thursday, I got on a plane that Thursday night and went back to DR because Davy was there another 7 days and I spent the weekend with him in DR before returning back to school for classes on Monday.  We continued a long distance relationship (He lived in Belgium) and I made FIVE TRIPS to Belgium since I had the $$ and the time (it’s not like I had a job) and my mother came with me on one of those trips to Belgium and it became really really real to her that holy shit, I was going to marry this man and move to Belgium). And then Davy came to NYC in December, we got married on December 21 and we spent the holidays in NYC before I came back with him to Belgium to live, on January 4th. 🙂 But it was NOT easy…sure there’s telephone and email and Skype, but Davy and I were the biggest single whores that ever lived.  So for us to commit to something like this was unimaginable and all our friends and family were SHOCKED that we pulled it off because both Davy and I have a long history of conquests and play and now, we finally met our match 🙂


  1. Anonymous

    I loved reading this!!! I had an amazing childhood too, Jun. It amazez me so many people didnt. It’s sad. We were blessed. So blessed. I have often said…and I still say….if I could jump into a time machine & go back to my childhood, I would. I would leave my wife, son, all behind…it was THAT good!

    I loved reading about ur life!!! You are absolutely an interesting person.

  2. Anonymous

    I enjoyed this so much, Jun. I am fascinated by you and love your honesty, sense of humor, love for your family and all of the qualities that make you so interesting. I do not say this lightly because it take a lot to hold my interest in people – you are one of them.

    May you have every blessing in life and I am sorry about your Dad. Your Mom is adorable, Davy and Noah are gorgeous. You do have it all – I hope you always remember that….


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