Nearly two years after first announcing a partnership to develop a new girl group made up of performers from around the world, Universal Music Group’s Geffen Records and Hybe — the influential Korean label behind K-Pop superstars like BTS — revealed the contestants for the project on Monday. The 20 girls were introduced as part of a streamed audition process set to air online starting later this week.
The girls who made the audition program, called The Debut: Dream Academy, were selected from 120,000 others who sent in submissions for the group. The companies introduced them during a buzzy livestream event aired from IGA Studios on Monday.
Contestant ages range from 14 to 21, and they come from both the United States and South Korea as well as several countries across the world in Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America. The audition begins airing on YouTube this Friday, September 1st, and will run for nearly three months before the final group is decided during the audition’s finale on November 17th. By then, the group’s name will also be introduced, the companies said.
During the livestream, all 20 of the contestants introduced themselves and said where they were from both in English and in another language, depending on their location. The companies also showed a film (shown below) introducing the contestants.
Hybe and Geffen are touting the partnership as the first time a U.S. record label has partnered with a K-Pop company to develop a new group. Along with the competition itself, the companies said a Netflix docuseries detailing the group’s creation will air sometime next year. Nadia Hallgren, who directed the 2020 Becoming documentary on Michelle Obama, is directing the series.
The group will not be a K-pop group, but Bang Si-Hyuk, Hybe’s chairman who helped form BTS over a decade ago, said in a statement that the K-Pop development process will influence the way the group is made.
“I have wanted to form an international group based on K-pop methodology for a while,” Si-Hyuk said. “To do this I believed we needed a capable partner. When I met John (Janick, Interscope Geffen A&M’s chairman and CEO), from the first moment, we both felt instantly that we had a connection, musically and creatively.”
As Janick said: “Since we began our partnership two years ago, Bang and I have often spoken about our shared beliefs in artist development, music and creativity. To develop a global group with Bang, with the best of K-Pop methodology, and our Geffen team, is truly special and will bring to life a first-of-its kind experience in music.”
A full list of the contestants, their ages and countries of origin are below.