This year's most searched celebrity on top portal Naver was Seolhyun of girl band AOA, who also debuted as an actress. She was especially popular among young men.
Her lead comes as something of a surprise since she was largely obscure for the first three years after AOA got started in 2012.
On Jan. 19 this year, Seolhyun first captured serious attention with her first appearance on the panel of reality show "Brave Family" on KBS. Overnight searches jumped 30 times.
The "survivor"-style show, which puts up celebrities in a remote village overseas, brought out the best in Seolhyun, who charmed viewers with boyish and unaffected demeanor that included not washing her hair for three days and catching a chicken with her bare hands.
Then she appeared on variety staple "Running Man" on SBS in early July, and searches jumped again. One TV producer said such programs on the terrestrial channels "have become the best gateway to stardom for budding celebrities, so nowadays they come prepared with strategies to grab people's attention".
Many searches focus on her figure. In May, she was cast as the "Face" of a telecom company, and a commercial that showed off her body was a huge hit.
The company gave away 60,000 posters of Seolhyun to customers, which were gone in a trice, and even a life-size cutout was stolen from a store.
In the saturated market for manufactured combos, more and more of their members gain stardom not with singing and dancing but through second jobs. Seolhyun too has now appeared in a film and starred in a soap opera, being cast prominently in KBS drama "Orange Marmalade" in May. Although it racked a mere two percent viewer ratings, the show brought her praise for her acting.
At the end of November, she won a "popular star" award at the 36th Blue Dragon Film Awards for her role in "Gangnam Blues", plus a new commercial showcased her in a red mini dress that proved perfect eye-candy for the online community.
Seolhyun has been quick to cash in on her newfound stardom, securing the exclusive modeling rights for no fewer than five major brands.
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