Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

Multi-hyphenate Eric Nam reflects on his identity and sense of belonging

Being a “third-culture individual” is a distinct experience familiar to those who live in a different place from their parents’ country of nationality. As a proud son of immigrants, Korean American singer-songwriter, podcast host and multi-hyphenate Eric Nam reflects on his identity and sense of belonging. What does it mean to be everywhere and nowhere at once? 

During his brief trip to the Philippines in early August with NYMA, we had the opportunity to speak to the global star about being challenged by this reality for years. Eric tells Wonder, “I think as a Korean American, the struggle was always that you’re not American enough in America, and you’re too American in Korea—that kind of thing. I think it was a long time of struggling with how I identify. [Who] is my tribe? Who claims me as part of their own? Maybe it was more feeling like I didn’t have a place to belong, and that can lead to a sense of getting lost.”

Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

Eric now describes growing up amidst diverse cultures as a “superpower.” It is only fairly recently that he started acknowledging the need to change perspectives so he can flourish and show up for other people. “Coming from so many different backgrounds is actually more like a superpower and a gift than it is anything that should hinder anything. So, I have a distinct perspective on being creative, a distinct perspective on being American, and then being Korean American is also different. I like to think [of it] as, you know, the glass is half full, and if not more full, than empty. And that allows me to think and work across languages, across cultures,” he discloses.

Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

Growing up, Eric never really saw himself in Western media; this allowed him to be more purposeful about what he created and which spaces he occupied. As a creative, he has made it his life’s work to show up for other people and, essentially, show up for himself. “It’s every day [that I show up]; choosing to do what I do is showing up. I think there are so many talented Asians and Asian Americans—not only creators but also artists, fine artists, entrepreneurs, doctors—people with so many talents. Unfortunately, a lot of that has not gone represented the best in mass media, and so we have to make the case and be louder and  bolder. If they are not going to put it on for us, we have to put it on for ourselves within our community.” 


Many things have changed in the past few years, but there is still so much work to be done for future generations. “As a community, we need to work hard to lift each other up…and that’s kind of how I like to think we show up for each other.”

Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

In this new chapter of his life, Eric Nam introduces a soon-to-be-released album House On A Hill, where he displays his artistry and style evolution that “transcends boundaries and connects people through the universal language of music.” He chronicles his growth, mostly reflected through his writing process and lyrical content. “It’s almost like an existential crisis in music form…just really asking some hard questions of what makes us happy, what makes us tick, what makes us get up every morning and say, ‘I’m gonna survive and choose to be here,’” he reveals.

House On A Hill is like a “home for your heart and soul.” The eight-track album mirrors where Eric is at this stage of his life and reflects what he’s learned and outgrown in the process of showing up. And, ultimately, it’s an offering to his loyal listeners who have grown with him. He notes, “Sonically, I like to think that we’ve progressed from younger pop sounds to a little bit more mature pop, indie-pop kind of vibes. Some of it [flows naturally] as we get older and life touches us, but some of it is also intentional. When I think of artists and growing with fandoms—my listeners—I like to think they are also maturing with me and [we are] going through life together.”

Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

Eric looks at everything with grace; he acknowledges his past self and his reality at the time. “I think [about] everything with grace. There are days when, like, ‘Oh man, I sound so young’ or [I see] a young lyric or a naïve perspective, but at that moment it was the full truth,” he notes. “It was my reality at the time, which has to be respected and taken for what it is.” For the most part, he looks at these memories fondly.

This September being Fashion Month, we can’t help but highlight how Eric Nam has evolved into a prominent style icon. Lately, he’s become more experimental with his fashion sensibilities. At New York Fashion Week, he was seen donning a beautifully pleated skirt with a matching jacket by Thom Browne. He reflects on his personal style and shares with Wonder, “I like to be pretty fluid between different styles, and that’s the really fun part of fashion, in general. You’re visiting all these different shows and different designers and putting on parts of their world. I think every time I do it, I walk away a little surprised and go, ‘Wow, I guess I can pull off a skirt’ or ‘I can pull off this really interesting shoe’ and that’s what’s really fun.”

Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

The global star adheres to gender-fluid fashion (after all, he does like shopping in the women’s section) because he loves how these pieces have less structure and they’re more fun. It also allows for better creativity, especially when he’s on stage performing. On a regular basis though, he does love a good ol’ pair of flip-flops and comfortable sweats. 

If he can recommend ways to upgrade any outfit, he believes shoes are very important. He doesn’t even shy from wearing a boot with a pretty solid heel! A good jacket can also elevate any look. But if he has one style tip, it’s to not shy away from customizing your clothes! “I do a lot of…reforming and recutting of clothes, so that’s the other thing that I don’t think people really think to do. But when you get a piece of clothing, particularly when it’s a nice one, you should wear it the best way that fits your body. Taking it to a tailor for a few bucks, getting it adjusted just a little bit…the smallest things can make a big difference in terms of how things fit,” he reveals. 

Eric Nam holds a special place in his heart for the Philippines. Nothing compares to the warmth of Filipinos, and he describes being here as a “great big hug.” He tells his loyal fans, “Even though I don’t get to come often, whenever I do, it’s just such a good time. When I’m not here, my fans are just so active online, always staying in touch, so I always feel a connection to the Philippines. I love being here, thank you for having me, and I hope to be back very often.”

Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines
Eric Nam on Identity, Showing Up for Others and Blurring Gender Lines

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Photography Keit Rivera

Art and Art Direction Matthew Ian Fetalver

Interview and Story Elisa Aquino

Location Seda BGC

Special Thanks NYMA and EN Management


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