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Jang Na-ra (장나라)

Don't let the youthful look, the wide eyes, and the naive exterior fool you. You are looking at one of Asia's biggest TV stars, one of the biggest Korean soloists, and one of the savviest entrepreneurs in music and dramaland all in one petite package.

GwenchaNoona | Actor's Profile: Jang Na-ra

Photo from HanCinema

Birthday: March 18, 1982

Instagram: @nara0318

It was no surprise to many that Jang Na-ra, hailing from a family of performers, would also find her way to the spotlight someday. She got an early start as a model and, as expected, ended up training to be an idol for SM Entertainment. Yet while she trained hard and debuted as a singer in 2001, she was dropped by the label as it did not see her as a potential draw. But like the feisty characters she plays onscreen, she persevered, and in the very next year, instantly became a household name with the release of her second single Sweet Dream. The song and her album were so popular that it won her the Grand Prize (Daesang) in music in 2002.

But ever the savvy and smart artist, she took her rising popularity and released an album in China and acted in mainstream Chinese dramas as well, cementing her status as a Hallyu force overseas.

Her breakout k-drama was the 2002 rom-com Story of a Successful Bright Girl, the first of four projects she would do over a 21-year period with Jang Hyuk.

An immensely successful career wrought over 10 years of singing, performing, and acting for large Korean and Chinese markets not only made Jang one of Asia's most recognized stars, but also a top commercial endorser for some of the biggest Asian brands. And if all of this wasn't impressive enough, she owns her own agency and gives massively to charity, especially to impoverished Chinese provinces and children in North Korea.

Fame did take its toll, and in 2014, Jang Na-ra took a hiatus when she developed ulcers, panic disorder, and even bulimia. But one can never keep a good woman down for long—especially one as talented and as strategic as she is—and she bounced back even harder, continuing to expand her range in high-rating dramas such as You are My Destiny (2014), Go Back Couple (2017), The Last Empress (2018), VIP (2019), and Oh My Baby (2020).

In her recent projects, she transformed into a modern mudang (shaman) in the fantasy action series Sell Your Haunted House (2021), reunited with Jang Hyuk in the Disney+ spy family comedy Family: The Unbreakable Bond (2023), and co-starred with Song Ho-jun in the mystery thriller My Happy Ending (2023). She and Nam Ji-hyun will both portray divorce lawyers in the office drama Good Partner.

Can you believe the youthful multi-hyphenate turns 43 today?

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