Idols Win Big Against Management That Ordered Them to Get Thinner

Idols Win Big Against Management That Ordered Them to Get Thinner

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Idol freed - aidoru (idol) article
Picture: KID_A; EKAKI / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Four former idols have triumphed against their management, whom a court found terrorized the group and hounded them to lose weight.

Despite their immense popularity, a dark cloud often hangs over the seemingly upbeat world of Japanese pop idols. They are routinely subjected to inhuman, unrealistic demands on their lives, bodies, eating habits, and relationships, imposed by management, industry, or societal expectations. But a recently concluded court case in Tokyo offered the 4 members of a disbanded idol group a measure of justice and closure.

Origins

SKY GIRLS’ (apostrophe included) was a KPop idol group with an all-Japanese lineup. Korean singer and composer Yang Sungjeung established the group in 2019. It was under the management of SKY Entertainment and ONE TOP Entertainment.

Members Runa, Mirai, Saya, and Karina signed for a 10-year contract in October of that year, at the management office in Tokyo. The group debuted in Korea the following month.

But in July 2020, the members requested contract termination. An attempt at negotiation proved fruitless, and in October, they sent a written request for contract termination by certified mail.

Following the performers’ mass resignation, the management cited now wasted money on an unreleased single and music video, and sued the women for ¥15 million in damages.

The group had barely lasted a year before its demise. So what prompted this sudden resignation?

Abusive Management and Impossible Demands

Idols performing onstage
Picture: makoto.h / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

The pandemic began shortly after SKY GIRLS’ formation. Like so many worldwide regardless of location or occupation, work and life grew challenging for them. But even while working remotely, SKY GIRLS’ troubles had only begun.

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Required to report to the management day after day, the performers were subject to intense verbal abuse over video calls. Management reportedly called them “pigs” and harangued them for not losing weight fast enough. They were also constantly yelled at during dance and singing practice sessions.

The result was an increasingly stressful environment which eventually pushed the four women to the breaking point and the demand to terminate their contract so soon after having signed. They were also pressured to undergo plastic surgery. On top of all this, management also withheld their pay.

Despite an attempt at negotiating termination, the two sides were unable to find a mutually agreeable solution. Thus, rightfully impatient and facing very real concerns including their livelihood, the four women requested contract termination by mail and ceased further activity as a group. The management responded in short order with a lawsuit.

The Decision, and a Measure of Closure

SKY GIRLS' Twitter
SKY TOP Entertainment is still trying to make SKY GIRLS’ a thing. (Source: Twitter)

Lawyers from Bunkyo, Tokyo-based Rei Law Office represented SKY GIRLS’ former members. A court held that the performers had a right to quit, noting the “strict chain of command” under which they labored. It also batted aside management’s arguments that the four violated their contract by not losing weight. The court said management didn’t give the group enough support to make that contract stipulation realistic.

The organization made the announcement in a press release on 24 July 2021. Rei Law Office is an organization with broad experience including in entertainment law and labor law.

“I remember the fear, and how I was so anxious. I was reminded of how unusual our circumstances were, how abnormal,” one former SKY GIRLS’ member was quoted as saying, following the decision from the Tokyo District Court.

Opinion among the four women as to where to go next has been divided. Saya was quoted as saying “I loved the fans and the other members, and I’d wanted to continue as SKY GIRLS’, so I was disappointed. I’m sad to have had to stop our activities without any notice.”

Meanwhile, member Runa stated “Our parents had great expectations, and we even borrowed money from them, but then we had to quit and things escalated to the point of even a lawsuit! And while I wasn’t able to meet with management in person because of the pandemic, when we did meet with them [over video], it was scary. I felt like the stress was destroying my health.”

But with the lawsuit concluded and the court’s recent decision finding in their favor, the group has a measure of closure. As member Karina put it, “I feel like I’ve been set free.”

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Sources

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Nyri Bakkalian

Dr. Nyri A. Bakkalian is an author, recovering academic, raconteur, and Your Favorite History Lesbian. Her PhD thesis focused on the Boshin War in the Tohoku region. She is the author of "Grey Dawn: A Tale of Abolition and Union" (Balance of Seven Press, 2020). She hosts Friday Night History on anchor.fm/fridaynighthistory and the secret to her success is Arabic coffee. She misses Sendai daily.

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