How Bold Beauty Choices Set Rookie Group ATEEZ Apart in the K-Pop World

Devon Abelman

As long as ATEEZ is commanding the stage, you'll feel like you're living inside that split-second moment when the grand finale of a firework show begins. The K-pop boy group has the energy of a lit fuse that causes a million colorful explosions to go off at the same time.

With so much going on at once, you'll never know who or what to look at in any given moment as they move around the stage; perhaps Wooyoung's charismatic facial expressions, San's sparkling red eye shadow, Mingi's robust rapping, or even Seonghwa's palpable passion. Maybe Hongjoong's majestic mullet will draw you in or even Yunho's swift movements, or Jongho's effortless high notes, or Yeosang's bewitching stare.

I know this exhilarating feeling all too well, and damn, I wish I could bottle it up. In March, I attended ATEEZ's first-ever New York show at Warsaw, a venue down the street from my Brooklyn apartment. Before the concert came to a close, Hongjoong, the group's leader, thanked ATEEZ's stylist and makeup artist. I've been to dozens of K-pop shows, and no one had ever given a shout out to their beauty team — until Hongjoong.

But he's just giving credit where it is due. Dramatic makeup and colorful dye jobs have helped morph the group of eight young men from Korea into internationally acclaimed performers in less than six months. With new K-pop groups debuting on a weekly basis, bold beauty choices, like Hongjoong's embellished mullet and Yeosang's ear art, have set ATEEZ apart from other rookies. "Our music and dancing are all conceptual, so our hair and makeup are very important — maybe more than other groups," Hongjoong tells me.

KQ Entertainment

The day after the big show, I met up with ATEEZ at their hotel in New York City to learn more about their dynamic relationship with beauty. Honestly, I'm shocked our interview happened so soon. They dropped their first single "Pirate King" in October 2018 and only have 10 songs to their name — yet they already have the U.S. leg of a world tour under their belt. Thanks to their dedicated fanbase lovingly called ATINY (a combo of ATEEZ and destiny), the group has made its way to New York quicker than I imagined. Keep scrolling to find out more about ATEEZ's most stunning beauty moments (so far).

Smeared Lipstick and Smoky Eyes

KQ Entertainment/YouTube

The members of ATEEZ are keenly aware of the way their smoky eyes, graphic brow art, and bright hair allows them to show different sides of themselves and get into character. A hefty swath of red lipstick, in particular, made one of ATEEZ's most striking music-video moments possible. In the final seconds of "HALA HALA," Wooyoung smears it with the palm of his hand and glares into the camera. Even after the music video is over and you click out of YouTube, the image is sure to stick with you.

"Makeup is magic."

"Makeup is magic," a mesmerized Wooyoung muses from the couch in front of me. Many of his declarations, including this one, are made in English. "I can't be without eye makeup," he continues in Korean. Coincidentally, he's not wearing any for the interview. However, chestnut-toned shadow winged outward from the corners of his eyes for the show.

A giggly Mingi, whose eyes are rimmed with taupe shadow, tacks on a "me too!" to Wooyoung's sentiments. Mingi, with spurts of energy, often exclaims this phrase. In this instance, he jokes that fans far away in the crowd wouldn't be able to see his eyes if he didn't have makeup on. He also agrees when San says BB cream is the one beauty product he'd reach for if he had to do his own makeup for a show.

Ateez/Twitter

Speaking of San, he chimes in to say his red-streaked hair makes him look stronger on stage. I can't help but agree. He debuted with a mossy green hue, but red has proven to be his power color. San's scarlet balayage, which he's had since January, is often amplified by washes of shimmery crimson shadow all over his lids and two red slashes through his brow. This combination turns the adorable Shiba Inu stuffed animal-loving 19-year-old into an onstage force to be reckoned with — and he's ready to up the intensity. "I want white hair," San says as he does everything — enthusiastically. "Real white. Bright white."

Ateez/Twitter

Graphic Liner and Expert Blowouts

Unlike many K-pop stars I've interviewed, the boys of ATEEZ don't see themselves solely as willing canvases for the whims of their beauty team. They are also active participants in their aesthetics. Take one of the group's notable televised performance of "HALA HALA" on Music Core for example. At the 3:04 mark, Seonghwa stares into the camera with a red streak down his right eye. This moment, which has since been GIF'd hundreds of times, was carefully calculated. "I think of different makeup depending on the [performance] to give them different auras," Seonghwa says. To execute the looks he imagines, he often brings reference photos for his makeup artist to work off of.

Ateez/Twitter

As the oldest member, 21-year-old Seonghwa is a perfectionist who is incredibly mindful of the way he presents himself. When fellow vocalist San describes Seonghwa's personal style as knight-like, the description makes sense to me right away. Let me explain: At one point in the interview, Seonghwa mentions he wants to try out rhinestone eye makeup. After he says this, a couple of others recall my look from the day before — rainbow gems in the shape of a star around my right eye. "Yesterday, you gave us inspiration," Hongjoong remarks. This is the exact (and possibly only) kind of chivalry I support.

The youngest in ATEEZ, Jongho, on the other hand, takes control in the hair department. The 19-year-old has learned how to blow-dry and style his hair by dutifully observing his stylists. "When the other members are sleeping, I practice on their hair, too," he adds. "Anything I’m not good at, I improve by asking the stylist questions."

Ateez/YouTube

Brave Mullets and Unexpected Hair Colors

The first time I met ATEEZ was in their dressing room before the show. Less than a minute after introducing myself, Hongjoong brought up his mullet, which he officially revealed in the music video for the group's second single, "Say My Name." Our conversation about it resumes the next day. When the music video dropped in January, the back section of his mullet was extensions, he shares. Now, it's all his natural hair.

Adjusting to having longer hair was uncomfortable at first, Hongjoong admits. "When I'm dancing, it gets in my mouth," he laughs, reenacting the way he has to spit it out before his rap verses. The other members often get hit in the face with Hongjoong's mullet, too, Yunho adds. Occupational hazards aside, Hongjoong is grateful to be able to try out the polarizing look, as it put him on the radar for many people, including me. It also speaks to his adaptable nature and the way he constantly challenges himself to try new looks, which Jongho mentions to me. "It gave me the inspiration to try more [styles like it] next time," Hongjoong muses.

KQ Entertainment/YouTube

Most of ATEEZ has have cycled through a handful of hair colors over the past six months. Wooyoung has gone from amethyst to gray to khaki to (most recently) charcoal. Yeosang has tried out varying shades of pink while Mingi always has some blue, green, or purple in his hair. Throughout all these changes, Yunho has kept his hair dark and his makeup minimal. I sense that he would prefer something more experimental, though.

The best way to describe Yunho is he's like a Golden Retriever — playful, loyal, alert, and universally likable. The only time his smile fell was when he was visibly miffed when Mingi tells Yunho that the hair color he has right now (black) looks best on him. "I want to go blonde," Yunho counters.

When I ask the group what hair color they think would look best on the person to their left, Yunho is the first to take a creative approach. "The base would be white. The ends would be black. Do you know soccer ball?" he decides while looking at Wooyoung. When I acknowledge that I know what a soccer ball is, his grin grows with pride.

A similar look covers Yunho's face when he shows me the way he arranged the purple heart-shaped gems I gave him on his cheek. Backstage, he requested heart eye makeup after seeing my star, so I made sure to bring some rhinestones for him. He quickly peeled them off the sheet and stuck them on as soon as I took them out of my bag. About a week later, he posted selfies of the look on Twitter.

Glowing Skin and Daily Sheet Masking

Because ATEEZ wears more makeup now than ever before, skin care has become a priority for them, Yunho says. However, Yeosang has always been diligent about his routine to avoid breakouts. Most of the time I'm around Yeosang, he keeps to himself and quietly observes, but he speaks up about skin care. He proudly runs through the steps of his nightly regimen: cleansing oil, cleaning foam, toner, lotion, eye cream, moisturizer, and a sheet mask. ("Too many," someone interjects, but I'm too focused on Yeosang to notice exactly who.) Thanks to Yeosang, the rest of ATEEZ knows what masks to use, Hongjoong notes. Without him, their skin-care routines would be lacking. San even adds that he asks Yeosang for help.

Don't ask Wooyoung for skin-care tips, though. He admits he's genetically blessed with glowing skin. "I don't get any pimples or anything like that," he says. "I’m lucky. Thank you, Mom."

Painted Nails and the Polished Man

Beauty not only helps the guys of ATEEZ shine a little brighter, but it also helps them send an important message. Backstage, Hoongjoong and I noticed we had a similar shade of cobalt blue color nail polish on. "I paint it myself," he disclosed, referring to his lacquered left pinky nail. ATINYs often praise him for breaking down gender norms, but that's not his ultimate intention. Instead, advocacy drives the manicures Hongjoong gives himself (and occasionally Yunho).

Devon Abelman/Allure

Before ATEEZ debuted, Hongjoong noticed male idols, like Bang Yong-guk and iKon's B.I and Bobby, painted only one of their nails to represent the fact that one child dies every five minutes as a result of violence in support of the Polished Man campaign. Taking this message to heart, Hongjoong vowed to start painting his nails as soon as he had the right platform. Once he became the leader of a K-pop group, Hongjoong didn't think twice about officially participating in the campaign. Now, he changes the color of his nail every couple of weeks to renew interest.

"One of ATEEZ's goals is to have a good effect on people, whether it's behind the scenes or when we're on stage."

"If I'm on stage or appearing on a broadcast, I can easily do this," Hongjoong explains. "One of ATEEZ's goals is to have a good effect on people, whether it's behind the scenes or when we're on stage, and I knew could easily try this and do this for children." And it's working: ATINYs have created fundraising goals on Polished Man's website, raising hundreds of dollars to support trauma recovery and prevention services.

As my time with ATEEZ comes to a close, I realize this firework show is just getting started. Although they are bringing an amazing amount of momentum to everything they do at the moment, this K-pop group is just going to become even more daring and dazzling.

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