Rain in the Forecast
Jeong “Rain” Jihoon was born in Seoul, South Korea on June 25, 1982 where he and his younger sister were raised in poverty by their single mother after their father abandoned the family for Brazil.
Rain was a very shy child who developed an interest in dancing while in junior high. He continued to pursue that passion at Anyang School for the Arts, where also added acting and singing to his repertoire.
He began neglecting his studies to go out on auditions during his junior year when his mom could no longer support the family as a street vendor due to a debilitating diabetes condition. Unfortunately, he found himself being repeatedly rejected for supposedly being unattractive, because he didn’t have double eyelids.
When his mother died while he was still a teenager, failure was no longer an option. Dedicating his career to her, Rain persevered, and eventually blossomed into a handsome hunk popular enough to go by just one name. In fact, the striking, 6′ tall actor/dancer/model/singing sensation subsequently landed on both Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People Who Shape Our World” list and on People Magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People” list.
He made his musical debut with the 2002 album “Rain,” and subsequently starred on the TV series “Sang Doo! Let’s Go To School.” His second CD, “How to Avoid the Sun,” was followed by “It’s Raining,” which sold over one million copies in Asia. And his “Rainy Day” concert tour featured sold-out dates in Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan and the United States, including a couple of shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. His fourth album, “Rain’s World,” was released in 2006 and kick-started another highly-acclaimed world tour.
So, it’s no surprise that Rain became the first Asian artist invited to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards. His other music industry honors include the MTV Asia Grand Slam, being named Favorite Korean Artist by MTV, and winning the Most Popular Asian Artist Award in Thailand, as well as the Best Buzz Asia Award at MTV Japan’s Video Music Awards and the Best Korean Singer Award at the Mandarin Music Honors in Beijing.
Here, Rain talks about playing the title role in Ninja Assassin, a martial arts action flick likely to turn the versatile pop icon into a bona fide Hollywood box office attraction.
Rain: Hi, how are ya?
KW: Great, and you?
R: I’m fine. Have you seen my movie?
KW: Yes, I loved it, and I thought your performance was great.
R: Oh, thank you.
KW: What interested you in Ninja Assassin?
R: Actually, Andy and Larry Wachowski offered me the role when we were working on Speed R:acer, and I said, “Yes!” I just couldn’t say, “No.”
KW: I heard you had a very serious training regimen for this part.
R: Yes, I trained 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 8 months to try to make body look like Bruce Lee’s. It was hard, and studied a lot of martial arts: I learned tae-kwon-do, aikido, kung-fu, kickboxing, sword, double-sword, chain and shuriken.
KW: Did you have a special diet?
R: No sugar, no salt, and I ate only chicken breast and vegetables.
KW: The character you play in Ninja Assassin had a difficult childhood. Did you identify at all with R:aizo because you had a rough childhood, too?
R: No, it was very different from mine, but I loved playing him.
KW: I saw an interview with the actress Megan Fox where she said she saw you without your shirt on, and that she’d like you to sing to her. She also said that she wants to have a date and that she could see herself falling in love with you? Did you hear about her having a crush on you?
R: Yes, I heard about it from my agent.
KW: So, are you willing to go on a date with her?
R: Of course! [LOL]
KW: Have you ever seen the Japanese, reality-TV series Ninja Warrior? I was wondering whether you’d ever like to compete on the show and see if you could master the obstacle course.
R: Ninja Warrior? I’m not familiar with it.
KW: Maybe the show has a different name in Korea. How did it feel to make People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People in the World List?
R: It was amazing! I couldn’t believe it. That was good news.
KW: Maybe more importantly, you were also named one of the 100 Most Influential People Who Shape Our World by Time Magazine. What did you think about that?
R: I was really surprised because I didn’t think I was that influential.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
R: My mother passed away when I was young, because we were so poor. It is because of her that I’m here. She’s my hero. I love her. I miss her.
KW: Is it true, that you visit her gravesite every time before you leave the country?
R: Yes, always.
KW: You sing, dance, act, model and design clothes. Which is your favorite thing to do?
R: You know what? That’s like asking someone if they prefer their mother or their father. I love all of them, singing, dancing, acting…
KW: Ling-Ju Yen says that you are famous for your dance moves. She was wondering whether you were inspired by Michael Jackson and how you felt about his death.
R: Yes, when I was young, I loved Michael Jackson. He was my idol. I loved him, and I’m still so sad about his passing.
KW: Ling-Ju also asks, do you think that Ninja Assassin will create more opportunities in Hollywood for actors from Asia?
KW: Yale Grad Tommy Russell would like to know: What do you think the likelihood is of a reunification of South and North Korea?
R: I’d very much like to see a reunification.
KW: Tommy has another question: who is your favorite Asian actress?
R: I think Gong Li is the most incredible actress.
KW: Larry Greenberg says that his Korean friends show him great warmth and hospitality. But he has never met any who are like the ninjas he sees in the movies. He asks if ninja assassins are common in Korea?
R: [Laughs] No, that’s just in the movies.
KW: Marcia Evans asks if you are familiar with a Korean jazz singer named Insooni?
R: Insooni? Yes, I know her. She’s a very beautiful and talented diva.
KW: Why did you launch your own clothing line last year?
R: It was always my dream to design a clothing line. So, I did it.
KW: How would you describe it?
R: My clothing line, Six to Five, is very casual.
KW: I know you are pals with a lot of hip-hop icons who also go by one name. Guys like Diddy, Omarion and Tyrese have appeared onstage with you in the U.S. Do you have plans for another concert in America soon?
R: Yes, I have a concert in Las Vegas on Christmas Day. It’ll be huge.
KW: I have to admit that I had been unfamiliar with your music, but preparing for this interview I checked out a lot of your videos, like “The Way to Avoid the Sun,” “I’m Coming,” “I Do” and “Any Dream,” and I was quite impressed. They’re tremendous! Now, I’m a big fan, too!
R: Thank you so much. That is my honor.
KW: No, it is my honor. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
R: Yes, do you have a girlfriend?
KW: Okay, do you have a girlfriend?
R: I don’t have a girlfriend, but I need a girlfriend. So, I hope to find one very soon. I’m very lonely.
KW: Well, I might be able to help by spreading the word. I have a lot of female readers. What type of woman are you looking for?
R: I love all kinds of sexy girls.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
R: Yes, I’m so happy to be here, traveling all around the U.S.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
R: 5 minutes ago.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
R: A Korean book about sports.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
R:: I love rap music. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac and Eminem.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
R:: The future… Just the future… a better future ahead.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
R: I never cook. I’m always too busy too cook.
KW: Thanks again, Rain, and best of luck with Ninja Assassin and all your many other endeavors.
R: Thank you, sir.
Watch Rain performing his hit “I Do”