Asia falls for a girl band of former boys

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But in one crucial respect Lady, the hottest music act to come out of South Korea in years, are not your average girl group. They may have looks that many women would die for - but none of these four singers was born as a lady.

Shinae, 29, Sahara, 25, Binu, 22, and Yoona, 21, have all undergone sex change operations and used their new, curvaceous physiques to propel them to stardom. Earlier this year, to a frenzied fanfare of television appearances, newspaper interviews and even the odd nude photo shoot, Lady became Korea's first transgender pop group.

"We love chocolate, shopping and gossip. Mentally we were always women, the only difference being that we changed something physical, simply we are women with an extra scar," one of the girls told Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

And with their debut album Attention flying off the shelves in their native country and concerts lined up in China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Lady's risqué dance act is blowing a breath of fresh air into the traditionally conservative world of Asian music. The girls are seeking to follow in the footsteps of Harisu, Korea's most successful transgender singer, whose song "Foxy Lady" is popular from Bangkok to Beijing.

But the group's path to stardom hasn't been entirely smooth. Lady have come in for scathing criticism from the media, who accuse their record company of trying to cash in on the novelty of "sex change stars" and of manufacturing a pop act whose selling point, they claim, lies in sexual status rather than in musical talent.

The girls, however, remain defiant.

"Soon," they proclaim, "we'll show everyone what we've got on stage."

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