I grew to hate Kim Yeon-ah's fake smile. You can tell it's fake because the smile fails to hit her eyes. She looks dishonest. She looks empty. She's a bimbo—all beauty and no fucking brains. As hollow and soulless as a plastic doll. That's what I thought.
But then I had an epiphany.
The girl's an Olympic athlete.
Kim Yeon-ah is a gold-medal-winning champion and a proud representative of her country. When she takes to the ice, she goes from being a giggly sprite to an incarnation of music and poetry. Her athleticism is unquestionable, and to reach the pinnacle of her abilities, she's had to work hard—damn hard—to become a top performer. Along with skating, she sings, acts, and writes as well. Kim Yeon-ah has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
And as an athlete, she's undoubtedly a woman of action. How enjoyable must it be for her to sit still for hours and hours under hot, glaring studio lights, shilling for a product she'd been told (by somebody) that she needed to sell because it would somehow be "good for her image"? And that's when I realized: shooting these pics was probably hell for her. She'd rather be in the rink, cold wind whipping past her face, spinning and jumping with the ease and grace of a martial-arts master: fully there, her skates, smile, and eyes glinting. A Maxim Coffee shoot would probably feel like unfiltered bullshit to her.
And thus my opinion of Kim Yeon-ah's fake smile changed. There's a reason why the smile doesn't hit her eyes. She's a pure athlete. I doubt she wants to shill for Maxim Coffee or for any other product. She young, she's vital, and she's still got something to prove. Maxim is bullshit. Sitting is bullshit. She wants to be on the battlefield. And I don't blame her one bit.
"Ah, but," you say, trying to be clever—"she chose to do those shoots, didn't she?" The girl's got bills to pay like everyone else—sponsors who support her while simultaneously asking for chunks of her soul. Just because you choose to do something doesn't mean you have to like it, so there no valid argument there.
I wonder if Yeon-ah's insincere smile is actually a kind of fuck-you to the cameraman, to Maxim, and to everyone who thinks she's at her best when she's plastered on the side of a cardboard box. So go ahead, sister: fake-smile all you want. I've got your back.