Soju Love, Chicago

Soju Love was born in Seoul and raised around Daegu in Korea. Their father worked for the Korean army, and for the beginning of their life they spent growing up in Korea’s military bases. Around 10 years old their parents moved from Korea to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which became a huge culture shock for Soju.

“It was so different. I remember before moving here my brother was showing me books of Europe, and telling me ‘Oh this is where we are going to be moving to’. I was super excited, because I was looking at Paris and places in Germany, and then I get here and it was all cornfields and nothing for me, and I was extremely sad.”

They moved to Rockford, and Huntley, IL shortly after that. At this point it was extremely hard for Soju because they didn’t speak English, and they had to adapt to a completely different way of life that revolved around the Caucasian majority.

“I just remember as a kid everyone just telling me ’No’. They would say ‘Don’t do this and don’t do that, or don’t go there”, Soju says, “And I remember one time when I brought my lunch to school and my mom made me Korean food. I was really excited and I opened it up and everyone at the lunch table was like ‘Ewwwww!! That smells! No Stop! Put it away!’. I remember coming back to my mom and saying “Don’t make me lunch again’.”

From this incident, Soju felt shame and submerged themselves in the sea of white Mid Western culture, and decided to reject their Asian heritage. It wasn’t until high school, where they began to study and embrace their culture, .. and this is where the first crack of the closet door began to happen.

Coming out wasn’t an easy thing by any means for Soju. Born into a tight knit conservative Korean Catholic family, Soju immediately rejected their sexuality when they realized how they were feeling. To further not allude to their sexuality, Soju separated any instance in where they would become implicated by their homosexuality.

“I was starting to be curious, so I started looking on the internet. It was then I knew I had that interest, but right then…. I had to stop myself”, Soju says. “I just remember in Korea when there was a show about these two lesbians, and it was portrayed as bad. I remember seeing it and my father’s reaction, and so I knew that me being gay was not a possibility. I did everything I could to convert myself”.

Soju remained in the closet until their college years studying political science out at UBC in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. They figured since the distance was far, it was safe for them to come out of the closet to their parents. “I wanted to come out because I was just so not happy, and I was tired of not being happy”, Soju says, “I was also 245 lbs at that point, and the move and confidence coming out made me lose 80 pounds”.

“Coming out to my peers was easy, but coming out to my family was horrible. They went through phases. At first they’d be okay, and then they’d not be ok, but I knew that if I backed up a little bit, they’d push me all the way back into the closet. At time they felt like I had brought ‘darkness’ to the family, and even though I heard all those things and cried so much, I knew I had to be strong.”.

For Soju, this was the 2nd closet door to break through. At first they had to open the door to celebrate their culture in a white washed world of middle America. Secondly they had to open the door to tell everyone they were gay. Thirdly, they had to break down to the door to show themselves as the brilliant queen they were always meant to be.

At first, much like their sexuality, Soju was interested in the idea of drag, but was completely hesitant because of the implications it carried. “I was just still coming out, so I wasn’t very gay cultured, and it was like another closet”, Soju says. “I was gay but scared to step out into exploring”.

With the help of their new found drag mother, Kahmora Hall, Soju went from practicing make up every day until their ultimate reveal on Halloween in Chicago. On their first night they were an instant success, and people vied for their attention. They felt like a rockstar, and from there they went onto hosting, performing, and walking the well loved rooms in the clubs out in the city.

Soju’s name comes from the popular Korean alcohol, in where they explain, “In Korea that is a part of the main entertainment. Everyone drinks Soju. I just wanted a name that was fun and entertaining. It also it brings up a lot of emotions when you sit down and drink it. In Korean culture when you meet a new person, they say “drink Soju because it brings out their truth”.

And there is so much truth to Soju and their performances. For Soju, they had to break through the many doors of cultural, sexual, and drag closets that have been locked against them. They’ve maintained as a tour de force in this city at such a short time, all the while combatting the racist structures put against their Asian and subsequently culturally sexually objectified race. Soju doesn’t bat an eye to these hardships, and acknowledges the racism in this city by saying, “To be an Asian queen in this city, you have to be good or otherwise you get lost. At first everyone thought I was Kim Chi, and I kept on saying “No.. No.. I’m not her” and they wouldn’t care. They would take pictures of me because even though I said I wasn’t her, they just assumed I was. I feel like people think there is only one Asian queen here because we are told we all look alike… and we aren’t, we don’t all look alike. There is not one Asian queen in this city. There are many”.

Soju, who was born into the world of Tae Kwon Do, supernova’s on the stage with enormous rhythm, balance, and power. Soju is incredibly beautiful, seductive, and resonates this resilient power that overcomes you when you see them. While they are humble, sweet, and charming… let it be known that these amazing qualities in a human being are only the tip of the powerful iceberg that Soju is. They’re incredibly driven in not only their performance and hosting abilities, but also in their new ventures in their show on Youtube, “Shot with Soju”.

Thank you Soju for your story. You are brilliant, loved, and we are deeply grateful for your presence here in Chicago.

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