Singer AleXa is Breaking Barriers in the World of K-pop and Beyond 

After years in the K-pop industry, the Korean-American singer now has her eyes on the North American market.

After years in the K-pop industry, the Korean-American singer now has her eyes on the North American market.


(Photo: Choi, Jong-in De Leon)

by Samantha Lui
April 15, 2024

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Behind the intricate choreography, glamorous outfits and jaw-dropping visuals, K-pop can be a gruelling and competitive industry. But singer AleXa’s journey has been one of pure determination and never giving up on her dreams.

In 2022, she represented her home state of Oklahoma in the NBC reality series American Song Contest, becoming the show’s inaugural winner with the dance-pop song “Wonderland.”

AleXa’s finale performance of “Wonderland” played to the theme of the fairy tale Alice in Wonderland, with the singer falling from the top of a staircase and taking the stage dressed as the Red Queen. Her complex dance moves and vocals wowed the audience, in large part due to her years spent in South Korea training and performing as a K-pop idol. 

“I was nervous and scared every time I took the stage since I wanted to do [Oklahoma] and the Asian-American community proud,” she said in an interview with The RepresentASIAN Project

“I am forever grateful and happy to have been given the wonderful opportunity. I met so many wonderful people and friends through the show.” 

Winning the competition allowed AleXa to reach new heights in her K-pop career, but also helped her grow an international fanbase. Last November, she became the first solo Korean artist to perform at IHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball. While in 2024, she’s focusing on furthering her mark in the North American music market, releasing new songs, performing on The Kelly Clarkson Show and embarking on a U.S. tour. 

But the path hasn’t always been easy for the 27-year-old, who grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a biracial Korean-American with Russian and South Korean ancestry. 

Finding identity as a biracial Korean-American

Born Alexaundra Christine Schneiderman, AleXa remembers being singled out while growing up in a predominantly white city.

“Not even a joke, my nickname in my junior varsity pom team was quite literally ‘Asian,’” she said. “I was the victim of Asian racism my entire life.”

The obstacles she faced over her identity continued even into her career as a performer in a predominantly East Asian industry like K-pop — something she describes as “biracial erasure.”

“I am often told on the internet that I’m just ‘white’”, AleXa added.

“Many biracial people face identity struggles, being refused by one or both of the communities to which they belong for not being ‘enough’. I wish more people were vocal about this.”

It’s a personal issue for AleXa, who has made a point of speaking out against racism because of her mother. AleXa’s mother was adopted at the age of five by American parents from an orphanage in South Korea. 

“Invalidating my Korean heritage, you’re erasing all the struggles and hardships my mother faced growing up as an immigrant in middle white America.” 

Being the child of a Korean adoptee meant AleXa had no knowledge of the Korean language or culture growing up. 

“Many biracial people face identity struggles, being refused by one or both of the communities to which they belong for not being ‘enough’. I wish more people were vocal about this.”

But K-pop later became a source of connection for the singer to get to know her Korean side more.

Connecting to her roots through K-pop 

Growing up, AleXa says she always wanted to pursue a career in performance. As a child, she took dancing lessons, competed in show choir in high school and participated in theatre while at Tulsa Community College. 

But K-pop opened up a new world to AleXa. In her teens, she became a “superfan” of the group SHINee. 

So in 2016, she decided to give a career in K-pop a shot.

AleXa participated twice in the online audition competition Rising Legends, which was organized by South Korean labels JYP Entertainment (behind mega-acts such as 2PM, TWICE, Stray Kids) and Cube Entertainment. Failing to make it into either label’s K-pop trainee programs, she eventually signed with ZB Label, becoming their first and only in-house artist.

In 2018, AleXa competed on the reality competition series Produce 48, but failed to make it onto the final lineup that would form the girl group Iz*One. Still, AleXa worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming a performer. In 2019, she made her official debut as a solo artist with the dance-pop single “Bomb.” 

In between performances and making music, AleXa has also used her time in South Korea as an opportunity to try and find more information about her mother’s biological parents. But due to South Korea’s strict laws around adoption, AleXa admits she still has yet to produce promising results. However, she hopes her burgeoning career can help bring more attention to her mother’s story, and lead her down the right path. 

Still, AleXa remains grateful for the chance to get to know her Korean side better. 

“I finally understand the culture and speak the language. I am proud of my roots and where my mother comes from.” 

Focusing on the U.S. music market

Five years since her debut and two years after winning American Song Contest, AleXa is now focusing on breaking into the U.S. music market. 

Her latest single “sick” is a departure from the dance-pop bangers and tight choreography she’s used to in her K-pop tracks. Instead, “sick” has AleXa taking the pop-rock route. 

AleXa, a longtime fan of Avril Lavigne (“She is THE pop-rock queen”), emo and punk-pop, says she wanted to try out the genre to bring “nostalgia” to fans who grew up listening to the same music.

The song “sick” is angsty and vulnerable. It is about what it’s like to fight through your inner demons in a toxic relationship with a person you’ve romanticized in your mind while being blinded by rose-tinted glasses.

The music video is gritty and visually aggressive. It shows AleXa confronting an idealized version of her lover in a head-to-head fight. It’s a risky move for a female singer in K-pop to make, as music videos are known to feature typically clean-cut, innocent, bright and cute concepts. 

It’s about “killing the idea, the concept of the perfect person you feel lesser than in love,” AleXa said of the song “sick.” 

“It speaks to a universal message that I feel most people have experienced at least once in their lives.” 

How K-pop has shaped her as an artist 

In April, AleXa wrapped up her tour, which included a stop in her home city of Tulsa. 

But while AleXa is focusing on her North American career right now, she owes her experiences in K-pop in helping her get to where she is today. 

“You need strong mental fortuity to stay afloat in such a physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging industry,” she said. 

“I’ve come very far, but there’s still so much farther for me to go. There are many things I would still like to try and accomplish.”

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