BtoB’s Peniel, KARD’s BM, and former Ladies’ Code member Ashley Choi recently sat down to talk about struggling as beginner idols for their new podcast, Get Real. During the course of the podcast, Ashley made a confession that shocked fans: she didn’t receive any payment for the seven years she was a part of Ladies Code.

Ashley left Cube Entertainment to join Polaris Entertainment, the parent company of LOONA‘s BlockBerry Creative, as a trainee. Ladies’ Code debuted as five members in March 2013, but after a tragic car accident took the lives of EunB and RiSe in September 2014, Ashley, Zuny, and Sojung continued together as three. After seven years together, the trio parted ways with Polaris Entertainment in February 2017.

ashleyunpaid7years_1

Now, Ashley has revealed that during those entire seven years, she never received any payment from the company.

ashleyunpaid7years_2
| @ashleybchoi/Instagram

Honestly, it’s hard to make a comfortable living with music… I didn’t make any money for seven years.

— Ashley Choi

While many people assume K-Pop idols make a lot of money from their careers, it’s actually common for idols to wait years to receive their first paycheck. This is typically due to “trainee debt”—the company’s cost of training and supporting pre-debut idols. Many bigger companies wipe off trainee debt for debuting idols, but it seems Polaris Entertainment isn’t one of them.

ashleyunpaid7years_3
| @ashleybchoi/Instagram

However, it’s relatively unheard of for an idol to receive no money whatsoever for their entire seven-year contract period. EXID and AOA, for example, received their first paychecks after three years, while GFRIEND got paid after two years.

ashleyunpaid7years_5
| @ashleybchoi/Instagram

Despite working tirelessly as an idol without financial reward, it seems Ashley took it all in her stride. When her co-hosts asked whether she would’ve preferred to spend her seven years at a big company making a lot of money, she admitted that she wouldn’t. She also said she didn’t need money at the time, since Polaris Entertainment provided Ladies’ Code with all the housing and food they needed.

ashleyunpaid7years_4
| @ashleybchoi/Instagram

I feel like the experience balanced it out.

— Ashley Choi

Back in April, Ashley uploaded an emotional video to the Adulting Series on her YouTube channel, Ashley B Choi, revealing that she’d finally received her first paycheck since beginning her career in Korea.

ashleyunpaid7years_6
| Ashley B Choi/YouTube

In the video, she tearfully explained to fans that while Ladies’ Code did make money, it all went straight to the company to pay off their debts.

ashleyunpaid7years_7
| Ashley B Choi/YouTube

After earning her first paycheck at the age of 28, Ashley said she was planning on sending her parents some allowance—something she’d been hoping to do for a long time.