Is Sexy Girl Lee Hyo-ri Facing an Image Crisis?

Lee Hyo-ri Lee Hyo-ri

Sex icon Lee Hyo-ri's latest acting achievements will soon be beamed into our living rooms in a short series that comes some two years after her appearance in the disappointing SBS drama "Three Leaf Clover."

Of most interest in the singer's return to the screen is a possible change to her image. When you think about it, the star has already been given the tacit go-ahead for an image revamp.

After making her debut with the group Fin.K.L, her raunchy image heightened with every studio release, culminating in the launch of her solo album in 2003. In her first solo single, "10 Minutes" she was the epitome of provocative sexiness. A weekly magazine picked her as the most influential entertainer in Korea later that year.

After her unexpected rise to the top, she took some time out to make professional changes. First, she sought to broaden her skills in front of the camera, and second, she wanted to create a new image. But the new image she created for herself in the "Three Leaf Clover" days proved a failure. Her appearance as a greasy factory worker was a turn-off and she returned to her tried and tested sexiness, in order to boost her ratings once more. And her single "AnyMotion" sparked the second wave of mass stardom for Lee Hyo-ri.

But earlier last year a major problem appeared with the album that featured her ambitious, "Dark Angel." The public was becoming fatigued with her overt sexy image and though still a household face, her popularity wasn't what it used to be.

The star arrived at an image cross-roads. So her new appearance on the TV screen will be viewed with interest, as it reflects her own dilemma. She plays identical twin sisters in the new drama. One who dreams of becoming a dancer, and the goody-goody other who knows nothing but study. In the story, the ambitious sister is injured and the other must learn to dance to take her place.

In so doing she comes to understand her sister's inclinations, which completely differ from her own. The influence of Lee's own identity crisis is clear. The result of wanting to maintain her sexiness at the same time as acknowledging the need for a change prompted her to play two roles in the same TV drama.

Lee is in much the same position as Madonna over a decade ago. From day one, Madonna promoted herself as a singer and an actor simultaneously. But when she took her rough, sexy style straight to the big screen in "Who's That Girl" (1987), she failed. Nobody was interested in going all the way to the movie theater just to see the same Madonna that they could see 10 times a day on MTV.

Madonna changed direction with "A League Of Their Own" in 1992, where she acts as a glamorous but innocent and beautiful fool and boldly made fun of her own fixed image, turning it upside down. She became a vamp with a heart in Dick Tracy, and a confident and ambitious woman in Evita, all the time slightly tweaking her unique sexy image.

The changes weren't so risky and people continued to show interest in her subtle character progressions. That is in many ways the challenge before Lee now. She could take a leaf out of Madonna's book and give a fresh but light once-over to her image, taking care not to shake her foundations too hard.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 02, 2007 06:56 KST