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New Global Group VCHA Debuts as the 'Girls of the Year' and Reveal 'How Far We've Come' (Exclusive)

The six-piece girl group from the competition series A2K prove that they're now 'Ready for the World' with heartwarming debut

There’s something about a dream that’s exciting, but intimidating. And whether you’re a “Go Getter” or not, a dream can often feel far out of reach — especially when the seeds of self-doubt take root.

However, the six girls of the newly debuted global girl group, VCHA (pronounced Vee-cha), prove that their inhibitions can never bring them down. And as the first-of-its kind group trained through the K-pop system, they officially begin the journey of a lifetime — and have much to tell PEOPLE about their excitement on an early morning in Seoul.

“It just doesn’t feel real a lot of the time, so I always say it hasn’t hit me yet,” Florida-native Savanna says of their debut. “I don’t know when, [but] it definitely will.”

The release of their debut single, “Girls of the Year,” and its second track, “XO Call Me” showcases how the girls — Camila, 18, Lexi, 18, Kendall, 17, Savanna, 17, KG, 16, and Kaylee, 14 —  embrace their new lives in the practice room and on stage with stunning confidence and synchronization.

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> VCHA

JYP Entertainment

VCHA

Perhaps one of the most endearing moments in the music video happens when the oldest member of the group, Camilla, gets a chance to witness her past-self looking up to her in the audience. With a look of self-assurance at the version of herself who bravely left nursing school to pursue her singing dreams, she sings the chorus:

“Baby, tonight’s like a dream / Oh, I bet you never thought you’d see / Girls of the year / Yeah, that’s we / Something that you never thought we’d be”

The young idols acknowledge how they weren’t always “Ready for the World” like they are now. In fact, just less than two years ago, they were complete strangers to each other, spread out all over the country as your normal, girls-next-door. However, fate dealt them a lucky hand when they were brought together by music industry leaders JYP Entertainment and Republic Records to participate in a new competition series called America2Korea.

Over a series of 22 episodes in 2023, millions of viewers tuned in on YouTube to watch the girls audition, train and aspire for a coveted spot in the new girl group. From the start, it was clear that they weren’t only being judged on their singing and dancing, but their “potential” as well.

Potential is the key word here, as most of the girls had little to no training coming in. But as they advanced to a week-long Los Angeles bootcamp and later made it to a bootcamp in Korea, they also had a chance to demonstrate more than just raw talent: Their ability to work as a team, their character and their star quality.

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> VCHA

JYP Entertainment

VCHA

Related: K-Pop Entertainment Platform HYBE and Geffen Records Launch First-Ever Global Girl Group Competition

All those criteria were pushed to the limits as each of the contestants battled criticism, self-doubt and frustration. Take Kaylee, who admitted at the onset that she wasn’t confident in dancing, or Lexi, who never had vocal training before. They knew the stakes were high — just one mistake, and that could mean the end of their budding idol dreams.

But at last, the six girls made it to the end when they were announced as the final group members in September. Shortly after, VCHA released their two pre-debut singles, SeVit (NEW LIGHT) and the A2K theme song “Ready for the World,” which hinted at all the vibrant energy they had in store.

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> VCHA

JYP Entertainment

VCHA

There’s something about being labeled a global girl group that may feel like a big calling, as opposed to being just a pop star or a K-pop star. The word “global” in particular, has a special nuance. In order to resonate with the world, they’ll have to transcend borders and become a uniting force — a tough bar to reach.

However, they use their different backgrounds to rise above that challenge. In fact, it’s part of their artistic ethos as a group, where the name VCHA is based on a Korean word meaning “shine the light.” Their key pillars? Authenticity, togetherness and “the idea that we are all special because we are all different.”

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> Camila

JYP Entertainment

Camila

Indeed, their geographic and ethnic diversity also translates to their different strengths. The “Y.O.Universe” music video takes this idea one step further, giving fans glimpses into the girls’ past lives, with Camilla’s academic pursuits, Lexi’s 12 years of ballet dancing, Savanna’s gymnastics, KG’s guitar and songwriting hobby, Kendall’s artistic passions and Kaylee’s auditioning journey. When filming, Savanna says they drew from their experiences on the show, when their emotions “were all over the place.”

“But now, we’re here with each other, is kind of what I pull my emotions out of,” she adds of their next chapter ahead.

What perhaps rings most poignantly with their fans, named the VLIGHTS, is their authenticity and relatability. The girls don’t need to convince the fans that they’ve also experienced the self-doubt so commonly felt in girlhood. The fans have watched as the girls improved and fully registered the message that believing in yourself can be so hard, but so worth it, from the very beginning.

In fact, fans have already been able to witness the girls perform on stage before their debut at a Korean music show called Music Bank.

“There’s so many emotions that we felt in that moment,” Wisconsin-native Lexi recalls. “For me, it was mostly very passionate. It motivated me more for the future personally, and it was a lot of fun and a lot of happy feelings because we finally got to do what we had been wanting to do for a really long time.”

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> Lexi

JYP Entertainment

Lexi

Despite the milestones the girls are beginning to surpass, they’re still given time to adjust to idol life and grow as teenagers. For instance, Kaylee says she and several others are still going to school, starting early at 7 a.m. and ending at 10 a.m. From there, they continually train until around 6 p.m.

“And on special days, we have Pilates,” the Washington native adds.

Training in Korea was not only a first for Missouri-native KG, but her first time in the country, period. Filming music videos outside of their residential city area allowed her to witness the “pretty” nature in Korea, like the mountains, she says. Being immersed within Korean culture also gave them all a chance to find their favorite Korean foods.

“For me, it’s raw marinated crab,” Lexi quickly says.

“Kimchi jjigae!” Kendall pipes in.

“I just like the convenience store,” Camila says after some thought. “And also anything that has rice cakes in it.”

“I’m so indecisive,” Savanna simply says with a laugh.

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> KG

JYP Entertainment

KG

According to Kendall, the training period wasn’t “too hard to adjust to,” as being in A2K already helped them get used to the lifestyle. Even though the initial “long hours” were the “hardest” in the beginning, it was something they were eventually able to overcome.

The same could be said about growing accustomed to a wider public perception under the spotlight. And while not all of it is constantly positive, the girls say they’ve “grown a tougher skin.”

Related: ITZY Is 'Born to Be' Resilient on New Album: 'Think About How Strong You Are' (Exclusive)

“I’ve learned to realize that I myself, and that we as a group, are very skilled people who are good at what we’re doing,” Lexi says as the leader of the group. “So as long as we just listen to the feedback that we’re given and improve ourselves with time, then that's the most important thing to us.”

“We've grown to a place that is, as long as we do our best and we're working as far as we can work, then there should be no reason for us to be hard on ourselves,” Kendall adds.

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> Kendall

JYP Entertainment

Kendall

In that sense, the show has helped them “find” themselves by testing their boundaries and what they’re comfortable with. That also comes with the ability to see how much their current selves have changed since their first audition in front of J.Y. Park, the JYP Entertainment founder who picked the VCHA members.

“When I look back on videos, especially for A2K, Music Bank or other performances, it doesn’t feel like I’m watching myself,” Texas-native Kendall muses. “It just kind of feels like I’m watching maybe a performer on stage. The comments, they don’t seem to be about me — I just kind of think of them like they’re toward someone else.”

Their growth in skills also mirrors their sisterly-like bond. They have an unserious, goofy side to them that they’re not afraid to keep to themselves, evident in their many humorous social media videos. In particular, Savanna got an idea for one video after seeing some online responses to a “funny move” from their “Y.O.Universe” single.

“Honestly, I think everything is pretty chaotic,” Savanna says of embracing their “funny” side. “I don’t know if this is portrayed to the outside audience, but we’re kind of really, in my opinion, crazy with the six of us together. I think that’s a lot of our true selves, so I think we like to record those moments so we can share them.”

“That was kind of an inside joke for us as well, because when we were learning to dance to help get the balance of it, we would actually jump up,” Kendall adds of the move.

It turns out that J.Y. Park also has a “funny” side as well, despite being first perceived as a “big scary person,” Savanna says. Even Camila has grown to see the founder as a “wise man” after initially being the most nervous, “more than any other mission,” to audition in front of him that first time. Kendall also says she was able to see Park as more than just a judge.

“He would also talk to us just personally about our lives and how we felt and now we can have a comfortable passing with him,” she says. “For example, we actually saw him in the hallway yesterday and had a short conversation and it’s because he’s just a good person in general as a company leader, as a person to us.”

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> Savanna

JYP Entertainment

Savanna

Now, as a newly debuted global girl group, there’s a new kind of pressure — but one that’s far more exciting, rather than make-or-break. Without the risk of being eliminated, the girls say they will be able to enjoy themselves more on stage.

“It’s nerve-wracking for sure, but I feel like for us, it is way more exciting to be looking forward toward the future because I feel like as we gain more experience, we become more comfortable and more seasoned performers that don’t have as much like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a mistake,” Kendall says.

“It’s more of, ‘Yeah, let’s perform. Let’s do it,’” she continues with resolute confidence. “And so looking forward to the future to be able to do more performances, we’re very excited.”

<p>JYP Entertainment</p> Kaylee

JYP Entertainment

Kaylee

Luckily, the girls won’t have to wait long to show the world why they’re the girls of the year. Come late March, they’ll open up for K-pop superstars TWICE in Las Vegas for their first-ever U.S. performance. And shortly after, their talents will shine internationally, where they’ll continue to be the opening act in Brazil and Mexico for TWICE’s fifth World Tour, “Ready to Be.”

Related: The Next Queens of K-Pop: TWICE Drops 'Addictive' English-Language Single 'The Feels'

For now, the girls have moved back to their new homebase in Los Angeles, where they’ll continue to rehearse and make new memories together. And even though they’re debuting a new chapter in their journey, KG imagined that returning to California would feel more like a homecoming.

“It’s definitely going to bring back the déjà vu of us being in LA and meeting for the first time,” she says with a sense of nostalgia. “I think it’s a moment that we’ll probably look at each other and feel proud of each other and ourselves for actually realizing how far we’ve come.”

“We came there without realizing if we would win or make it,” she continues with a smile. “And now being there and knowing we did it is going to be a really amazing feeling.”

Their debut single, “Girls of the Year” is now available to stream.

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