Daniel was born as Kang Euigeon (강의건) on December 10, 1996 in the coastal city of Busan as the only child of his family. After spending his childhood up to adolescence with his birth name, he later decided to legally change his name due to his family and friends having difficulties pronouncing Euigeon, thus adopting his current name Daniel, with a biblical hero as the source of his inspiration.
During Daniel’s childhood, his family went through financial problems after a business his father ran failed, and they were forced to move into a basement for a week. On the March 22, 2018 episode of MBC’s show Radio Star, Daniel was asked about his habit of smelling things. He revealed he had a trauma from the time he lived in that basement commenting, “The bathroom was right next to the room. The smell of mold and sewer was disgusting, and I smelled it while eating. I became sensitive to smells after that.” Some time later his parents divorced, and Daniel was raised by his mother on her own.
Although dancing is currently his passion, Daniel actually started dancing as a medium for self-healing. On September 4, 2017 during an appearance on KBS Hello Counselor, Daniel revealed that he was bullied in elementary school due to his looks. It was then when his teacher suggested he start dancing, and this became a medium for him to cope with the problem and build his self-esteem. To pursue his passion in dancing, Daniel attended Peniel International High School of the Arts where he majored in modern dance and also Nataraja Academy (나타라자 아카데미), a dance academy in Busan. As a teenager, he was also active in the b-boying community in his hometown and used to perform under the name FLAC.
Setting his dream to become an idol, Daniel decided to move to Seoul and start a life full of uncertainty as a trainee. For a while, he was a trainee under B2M Entertainment until management separation and later moved under MMO Entertainment. During this training period, Daniel had almost given up on his dream due to the problems faced by his agency. The company was very lacking in facilities, as it was only a house with an underground practice room. It also struggled financially and hence could not afford dance or singing lessons, forcing Daniel to learn them by himself. At that time, Daniel thought that he would never get a chance to debut and planned to move to Canada where his aunt lives. However, just before that, a sudden opportunity came by, and he decided to give it one last try.
A breakthrough in Daniel’s quest to become an idol came in early 2017 after his fellow MMO Entertainment trainee, Yoon Jisung, suggested to him and other trainees of the agency to join Produce 101 Season 2. During the promo period of the show, Daniel gained some attention due to the pink hair he sported and his bright image. Fans quickly linked him to the fictional character Baby Apeach from the KakaoTalk chatting app. Yet, despite this initial recognition, Daniel did not immediately become popular, starting the show in rank #23 on the first episode and keeping the same rank for the following one.
This started to change, however, on the third and fourth episodes of the show during the airing of the first Battle Team Evaluation round. His team, joined by Kim Jonghyun, Hwang Minhyun, Ong Seongwu, Kim Jaehwan, and Kwon Hyunbin, was then dubbed as Justice League by fans of the show due to the members’ combined talent and stunning visuals. It was the team’s rendition of Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry” that prompted the popularity of all the members and went on to become one of the most iconic stages of the whole show with the group’s and Daniel’s focus videos going viral. The viral sensation of his focus video on Naver TV helped him rank 5th during the first elimination that aired on the fifth episode. But this was only the start of his rise in popularity, as in the same episode the image of a pink-haired Kang Daniel with his bunny teeth smile and 60cm broad shoulders became a hot issue among viewers. It was the contrast of his baby face and manly demeanor that raised even more attention and solidified his popularity furthermore.
Since then, Daniel had always been included within the top 11 ranks of the show, despite some ups and downs. His fans (known as Peaches) started to envision him as a contender for the 1st rank position, and this vision started to become a realization after the ninth episode of the show. During the episode, Daniel was assigned to the “Open Up” team for the Concept Evaluation round, where he gained massive buzz from the iconic “thigh dance” move that he did for his solo part. That performance seemed to be the seal that cemented his fate, as he unstoppably reached the 1st rank on the tenth episode. During the final episode, he maintained his 1st rank position with a total of 1,578,837 votes – something that was never predicted at the beginning of the show. Thus, he was declared as the overall winner of Produce 101 Season 2 and also as the center of Wanna One, a group the final top 11 trainees of the show would debut in.
Kang Daniel debuted with Wanna One on August 7, 2017 during a special event Wanna One Premier Show-Con held at the Gocheok Sky Dome. They released an extended play 1×1=1 (To Be One) with its title song “Energetic” as their debut mini-album. The extended play was later re-released under the title 1-1=0 (Nothing Without You) with title song “Beautiful” on November 13, 2017. This debut mini-album became a commercial success, with the combined sales of the first album and its repackaged edition reaching more than 1,500,000 copies as of December 2017, giving Wanna One the distinction as the first K-pop group to sell a million copies for their debut album. Their debut was also critically acclaimed, with the group going on to score 23 music show wins in the span of 5 months and winning several music awards, including Best New Artist at the 2017 Melon Music Awards and both Best New Male Group and Best Male Group at the 2017 Mnet Music Awards. This led to the soaring popularity of the group, earning them various television show guesting and endorsement offers (an astounding amount of 16 commercials for a 5 month rookie group), and landing them the sixth place on Gallup Korea’s annual survey for most favorite artist in 2017.
In addition to his commitment with the group, Daniel also had several solo activities throughout 2017. He was signed as an exclusive model by Think Nature (a brand of body and hair care lines) in September 2017 and The Spring Home (a brand of various plushie-themed home bedding products) in November 2017, both resulting in a huge boost of sales and expansion for these brands. He landed his first solo fashion magazine cover and photoshoot for the InStyle October 2017 edition, marking the first time ever InStyle Korea featured a male celeb for its cover. He was confirmed later for another solo fashion magazine photoshoot for a cover and a 27-page spread in GQ Korea, which was due for publication in January 2018. He had various guest appearances on multiple variety shows both with his group mates or by himself. Daniel was also selected as the main cast member for MBC It’s Dangerous Beyond the Blankets (where he appeared in all 3 episodes) and SBS Master Key (where he appeared in 8 out of 13 episodes) alongside fellow Wanna One teammate, Ong Seongwu.
Daniel ended the year on a high note and with tremendous acknowledgement of his work and popularity. Among them, he won the Rising Star category for the 2017 Fashionista Awards conducted by fashion magazine Celeb’s Pick and the Male Idol of The Year category for the 2017 CJ Awards conducted by entertainment company CJ E&M America. South Korean entertainment journalists voted him as first place among the 10 Best Rising Stars of 2017. His work on Master Key also earned him the Best Male Rookie in Variety category at the 2017 SBS Entertainment Awards. On top of all that, he took second place on Gallup Korea’s annual survey for most favorite idols in 2017, signifying the ever important public recognition on his impact in the entertainment industry throughout his debut year.
In 2018, Kang Daniel was included as one of the 5 people in the entertainment field for Forbes 2030 Power Leaders (Korea), a list consisting names of individuals within the age range of 20 to 39 considered as rising stars in their respective field. With this accomplishment to start the year, Daniel continued to make strong marks throughout 2018 for both his individual and group work. His work with Wanna One includes the release of 2 mini albums, one of which is a special album for their unit project (Daniel was a member of the Triple Position unit which won Best Unit Award at the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards), and one full album as their final comeback. The group also embarked on a world tour titled One: The World from June to September which comprises 20 concerts, 14 cities, and 11 countries. On November 6, Wanna One finally won their first Daesang for Song of the Year with “Beautiful” at the 2018 MBC Plus X Genie Music Awards, their first one in 456 days since their debut. This was followed by other Daesangs for Record of the Year with 1¹¹=1 (Power of Destiny) at the 2018 Melon Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the 2018 Korea Popular Music Awards, both in December.
Among his most notable individual works this year, his participation as a fixed cast member for the regular season of MBC’s It’s Dangerous Beyond the Blanket awarded him the Male Rookie of the Year in Variety at the 2018 MBC Entertainment Awards. He also became one the highest paid celebrities in the advertisement field through his individual work with several brands. He continued to show a strong sales effect with both his aforementioned brand partners – Think Nature and The Spring Home – and the new ones – LAP Korea, Hite Jinro, Bokuk Electronics, Kissing Heart, and his collaboration with French luxury brand CHANEL as its latest muse for their fine jewelry and watches in a pictorial for Elle Korea’s July issue. Reaching a rare high of 100,000 copies sold in a week, it was not a surprise when Daniel’s July issue won Best Cover at the 2018 Elle Style Awards on November 2018. His status as a star in the advertising world was further cemented with the record of topping Brand Reputation Ranking for Individual Boy Group Members for 13 consecutive months and winning Daesang for Best Male CF Model at the 2018 Brand of the Year Awards. Furthermore, Daniel made use of this high status to spread a positive influence with philanthropic activities throughout the year, such as taking part in the last Letter From Angels campaign created by renowned photographer Cho Seihon to foment domestic adoptions and support single mothers, and as part of his 23rd birthday celebration on December 10, he donated 12.1 million won to the Miral Welfare Foundation to help children with disabilities.
Kang Daniel closed the year 2018 with the end of Wanna One’s contract on December 31st, 2018, although Wanna One would still attend award shows and their final concerts in January. To commemorate this moment on the group’s fancafe, Daniel expressed, “Wannables, think of it this way. Rather than the word ‘disband’, it’s a graduation! After graduating from school from a long time, your heart doesn’t close. With fond memories, let’s wish to meet and greet each other again.”
At the start of 2019, Kang Daniel opened his personal Instagram account thisisdaniel_k, gaining 1 million followers in 11 hours 36 minutes and breaking a Guinness World Record previously held by Pope Francisco, who got 1 million Instagram followers in 12 hours back in 2016. This impressive achievement gained Daniel immense media attention from international outlets such as the BBC, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair Italy and Times of India, which is India’s most widely read English newspaper, among many others from around the world. On January 21, his company then announced the opening of his official Daum fancafe, breaking another record for the fastest idol to gain 100,000 fancafe members in 39 hours.
Daniel officially ended his activities with Wanna One on January 27 after 4 days of concerts (titled Therefore) charged with emotions and amazing performances. The 11 members of Wanna One bid their final goodbyes as a group and welcomed the beginning of a new chapter in their careers. For Daniel and fellow member Yoon Jisung, whom both belonged to MMO Entertainment, their new chapter started on January 31 with the announcement of a change in their management company. From now on LM Entertainment would be managing their activities, starting with the opening of their official websites and other social media accounts.