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Who is MRSHLL? K-Pop’s First Openly Gay Artist

MRSHLL, the gay k-pop star, has made a musical move with his two new singles. Born as Marshall Bang, he is the first-ever androgynous and gay k-pop idol. This new age musician has already broken norms in the somewhat strict society of South Korea. This young role model became a worldwide sensation from a church show choir singer. Seems like a modern fairytale.

Whether you are a fan of K-pop or not, the journey of MRSHLL, the gay k-pop idol, is unique that everyone needs to know.

Who is MRSHLL the gay k-pop star?

MRSHLL is the stage name of Marshall Bang. He was a part of an evangelical Christian family that migrated to the US from Korea. He originally hails from Orange County in California. Like any other simple young boy, Marshall was also full of energy and curiosity.

Breath Official Cover

His childhood in the US

In an interview with verygoodlight, Marshall described his childhood- “As a toddler, I was a ball of energy. I was quite large for my age and pretty much laid out on my parents by the end of the day. I was what you would call in Korean a, “청개구리” or “Tree Frog.” It’s a traditional Korean fable about a frog who did the exact opposite of what his mother wanted. I was obsessed with ballet, fireworks, and the Little Mermaid as the firstborn. Apparently, I was a hyperactive child in the traditional class setting and would entertain myself by dancing on the side of the classroom, which usually ended with me getting some sort of disciplinary card or warning for distracting the class. Was it my fault that other students were more interested in me than the teacher?

He started to show interest in music in sixth grade. But, being a shy Asian kid, he was at first a little confused about his skill. But,  his parents sensed his talent and encouraged him to come out of his shell with music. To battle his initial shyness, he started to participate in choirs. As a traditional and faithful Christian family, his first-ever exposure was with church and school choir teams.

Even though Mrshll was shy at first, he started to open up and took singing seriously during high school. After finishing school, he went to Biola University, a Christian Theological school. It was quite common for the mother to be a children’s pastor with deeply religious values.

MRSHLL the gay k-pop star had to almost give up his music career due to laryngopharyngeal reflux. This syndrome causes the gastric elements to move inside the larynx, which results in frequent coughing and sneezing alongside headaches. MRSHLL then decided to change his career and attend a cosmetology school in Los Angeles.

This career change opened a new path in his life, making him the first-ever open gay K-Pop start of Korea.

MRSHLL’s initial struggle and the reaction of his parents and family

In his words, he first hesitated to acknowledge his feelings and his different sexual inclination. For him, his faith and belief, and lifestyle were regularly causing him to have contradictory feelings about who he really is. MRSHLL said,

Growing up in church, I think I was hoping that the feelings would eventually go away, that I would grow out of it, that it was a phase. But hope and wish as I might, “praying the gay away” did absolutely nothing for me.”

He also added a few emotional stories about how he was frantic about his queer nature and how he decided to ignore it- “I literally prayed every night before I went to bed, “Lord, I don’t want to be gay. Why did you give me these feelings, and why can’t I get rid of them? Lord, help me to not think these thoughts of other guys. I know it’s wrong, and I know it’s Satan testing me. Help me to overcome them.”

Marshall first came out to his brothers in 2012. He wrote to VeryGoodLight, “I started with my brothers in 2012. Both are very much typical boys. I told my middle brother in passing and he was really chill about it. My youngest was also going to Biola University and in that entire Christian world. I told him over Facebook Messenger one day. I don’t think he was able to really grasp the concept of me being gay and it took a few questions going back and forth. But because of me and my gayness, we were able to move forward and have conversations about it, and he came to his own conclusion and asked own questions. He’s not in the Christian bubble anymore.”

But, his mother still refuses to recognize his status and has not acknowledged it. He opens up his struggle when he comes out to his mother in this open interview- “Then, it was my mom. My Korean was very rudimentary and I could hardly put sentences together. My mom speaks Korean and a little English. One day, I sat her down and told her directly.

“Mom, I like boys I don’t like girls,” I said in a very elementary vocabulary. She was confused, like, what do you mean? I don’t think she fully understood what that was about. “

In another interview with Newnowntext, he again recalled the traumatic experience- “I’m gay, gay, gay, gay, gay,” MRSHLL recalls telling his family. “Can we please move on now and learn what that means?” He describes his mother as ”an incredible, strong woman”—but also says that she can still not accept it.

“They come from a community that doesn’t talk or want to know about this topic. But I get where they are coming from, and I’m going to continue to have conversations and try to get through.”

His debut as a K-Pop star

Eventually, his life changed when he made people from the LGBTQ community in his cosmetology school. Then, finally, this confused young man understood that he also had the right to have love and intimacy like any regular guy and his queerness was just a part of his life.

This realization helped him understand that God is probably not against the LGBTQ community and everyone has equal rights in their lives. So, with new zeal and enthusiasm, MRSHLL moved to Seoul to kick start his music career. This young man chose to start his career in K-Pop!

His initial struggle was over when a Korean agent asked him to appear in the Korean reality show “Star Audition: The Next Big Thing 3”. In  MRSHLL’s own words, he “took it as a sign” that his career was finally going to get a dream start.

MRSHLL, the gay k-pop star debuted in June 5, 2018 with his mini album “Breath”. He than released a mixtape “Alein Issa Mixtape” in the same year.

This young man has openly stated that his music is quite different from traditional K-Pop music due to his upbringing in the US. In an interview with NBC, he shared how his creations are different despite being K-pop- “A lot of my musical influences are black musicians, and I feel like a lot of the music that’s popular today has been paved for us by African-American or black musicians”.

In other words, this young man wants to blend K-pop with modern Afro-American pop music to create his distinct style.

In 2017, MRSHLL, the gay k-pop star appeared in another Korean reality show, “Show Me The Money 6”. In one episode, he was seen singing wearing a pair of heels, quite uncommon for a young man. His performance with K-Pop idols Tiger and Bizzy in the music “Woo-Again”. He performance  has earned him a contract with the famous K-Pop music label, “Feel Ghood Music ”.

He also thanks Tiger and Bizzy to help him start his career in K-pop. His next release with Feel Ghood Music will feature Kim Chi, RuPaul’s Drag Race star.

His life as a Gay K-Pop star in Korea

Despite being a confident young human, MRSHLL, the gay K-pop star is still confused about his image. But, in his own words, “I’m forever grateful to be able to do this music. I will forever pay homage to them for paving the way for a little gay Korean kid to be able to do R&B music.”

Even now, singers from the LGBTQ community often face the hardship of coming out in the US. Hence, MRSHLL still finds it difficult to create his image in a more conservative Korean society that faces oppression from different political parties and a large section of the common people.

His struggle with his image continued even after his relocation to Korea. His parents still did not understand his feelings, and often it came up as an awkward subject of Skype conversation-” I would be like, “you know I don’t like women, guys.” For me, it was almost like having to come out again and again for them because they just didn’t understand. They were in heavy denial and they’d shut down the topic and not talk about it. “

His friends warned him about the danger of coming out. But, this young man decided to take the leap of faith and publicly opened up about his feelings in an interview with Time Out Seoul.

In an interview with Forbes, he shared his dilemma of being typecast- “I was worried that I might be typecast as the resident gay artist…But at the end, I was like, ’I’m gonna do me, beau.’

 MRSHLL openly stated his confusion about his image as a budding K-pop artist with his column in VeryGoodLife. In his words, “Even now, as I am getting ready to debut in South Korea as an artist I don’t know what role or image I should put out there,… Since image is everything in entertainment, my record label is strategizing. Do I play the nice, the everyday friendly, relatable gay man a la Sam Smith? Or do I play the moody, keep-to-myself, uber artistic gay, like Frank Ocean? Or something in between?”

Besides that, he also said that the Korean LGBTQ community might need more time to accept him as their representative due to his upbringing in the US. In the interview with NBC, MRSHLL exclaimed, ”It’s kind of like, ‘So who made you our representative?’ “

MRSHLL’s music journey till now

MRSHLL has realeaed singles and colleberations since 2019. He has also featured in many videos since the start of his career-

Participation releases

Circle, Home- FeelGhood(2017)

Mini Albums

 Digital Singles



Alien Issa Mixtape( 2018)


Signing off…

In the end, this young man is very optimistic about his upcoming journey. He believes that despite his upbringing, he is Korean and heart. And after living in Seoul for nearly five years, he is finally ready to show the world his take on K-Pop. He signed off saying, “I feel like all my experiences in my journey so far have led me to where I am today,…I’m so grateful and thankful that I’m where I’m at. … At the end of the day, people can say whatever they want about me, but they can’t touch the music.

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