Two Indian-origin singers Lara Raj and Ezrela are among the 20 contestants vying for a shot at stardom as they compete to become a part of a new global girl group, South Korean music giant HYBE and American record label Geffen Records have announced.
Hybe, which manages the global K-pop group BTS through Big Hit Music, and Geffen Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, had announced their joint venture in November 2021.
More than 120,000 submissions were received before a list of 20 contestants was finalised for an audition program, called The Debut: Dream Academy, the two companies announced on Monday during a live-stream event aired from IGA Studios in Santa Monica.
The new global group, whose name will be unveiled later, will be created and modelled based on the world-renowned K-pop training and development system, under which the contestants have been quietly training over the last year in Los Angeles.
Introducing herself at the press event, Lara said, “Hi, I am Lara Raj. I’m 17 and I’m Indian from LA.” In 2019, Raj was also part of former first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign Global Girls Alliance “Day of the Girl”.
Ezrela, 20, introduced herself as an Indian from Australia.
The contestants will be trained for a year and the whole process will be the subject of an upcoming untitled Netflix documentary series.
It will be directed by award-winning filmmaker, Nadia Hallgren, who was at the helm of the Netflix documentary, “Becoming”. The series produced by Hybe, Interscope Films, and Boardwalk Pictures, is set to premiere in 2024.
The audition program will begin airing on YouTube from September 1, and run for nearly three months before the final group is decided during the audition’s finale on November 17.
The global girl group will also be integrated into the South Korean social media platform Weverse, allowing fans to closely follow the transformative journey of the 20 contestants in the audition program.
“I have wanted to form an international group based on K-pop methodology for a while. To do this I believed we needed a capable partner. When I met John (Janick), from the first moment, we both felt instantly that we had a connection, musically and creatively.
“I am very proud of the rich history we have made and the tremendous talent we have found. I am proud of the opportunities we have created within the K-Pop universe,” Hybe Chairman Bang Si Hyuk said in a statement.
John Janick, the chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M, said he is hopeful the competition will bring to life a first-of-its-kind experience in music.
“Since we began our partnership two years ago, Bang and I have often spoken about our shared beliefs in artist development, music, and creativity. To develop a global group with Bang, with the best of K-Pop methodology, and our Geffen team, is truly special and will bring to life a first-of-its-kind experience in music.
“Each candidate is incredibly talented, dedicated, and driven, making this an exciting moment for music fans around the world,” he said.
Alongside fan voting, a panel of experienced evaluators will offer valuable feedback and guidance to the contestants, playing an essential role in shaping the growth and development of these talented young women, a release said.