I scheduled a meeting with Mikiko to talk about her experience and happened to be running a few minutes late. I am happy to say she stuck around, even when an interesting individual pretended to know her, going as far as to lie about his name. Once we were settled...and calmed down a bit, we chatted in a café by Antón Martín about her La Modelo del Mes modeling experience.
First of all, how are you?
Well, now I am doing well, still a little startled even though no one is following me anymore. Beyond that, I'm great!
So what are you doing in Madrid all the way from Japan?
I work as a Japanese language teacher and sometimes as a translator. I first lived in Valencia and Zaragoza in 2009. It was there I learned Spanish. I thought, "I can't really work here if I don't know the language." I made it to Madrid in 2010 and I love it here, although who knows where I could go next!
And how did you meet Shimada?
It's a funny story. His name is a surname in Japan, it's Shamada-san. One day I was passing by his salon and I saw a sign that said Shimada Kemp peluquero y estilista. At the time, I was looking for a hair dresser. I have had a few bad experiences here in Spain, I am often seen as the typical Asian. One time I went to a place and they cut my hair like an Asian doll. It was horrible. I was on the verge of tears and I didn't have the language skills at the time to explain myself. I told a neighbor of mine I was looking for a place to get my hair done. She said, “Go to Shimada!” That was the start of it.
How did you become June's Modelo del Mes?
Well I have been going to him for a while now and we always chat when I am there, to see how things are going. He's professional and I like to hear his opinion. I feel like I can always learn something from him. He told me about his project, that he wanted to use his clients as models, and eventually he asked me if I was interested. I said, “Why not?” I have never been a model. I trust him so I knew he wasn't going to make me look bad in any way.
What were your thoughts when he asked you?
We had talked about his project before so I wasn't nervous. I think it is important to have confidence and every time I go to his salon, he helps to boost it a bit. He always tells me I'm “fabulous” and “beautiful.” No one really calls me pretty or good-looking in my country, I think it has to do with a difference of culture. Just this morning, someone called me "guapa" in Spanish. It means lovely in English. When Shimada asked me, I was really excited.
So you haven't modeled before, have you ever done anything similar?
I did an advertisement once for the Community of Madrid about three years ago. I had to dance in a tourism video. They wanted a lot of Japanese people to be part of the ad. I think they may have found it a bit difficult to find Japanese people. We're here, but I think we're a little bit more hidden. Occasionally, I still receive things about castings.
What were your expectations?
Well, I don't know. He didn't tell me much. I asked him what he needed, he said, “I'm not sure yet.” I stopped by the day before, but he still hadn't told me what I was going to do. As I said, I really trust him and when I arrived the day of the shoot, my outfits were waiting for me and he had everything ready.
What surprised you?
Just the makeup, there were so many products I had never seen before, let alone used on my face. When he was working, it was as if he was using the makeup as paint and my face as a canvas. It was really interesting to seem him work in this way. It was beautiful, but it took a while. We started 11:30 in the morning and we finished the first set at around 3:00. Then, we had to take off everything. At 5:00, we started the next set. He said, “I told you it would take a while.”
With the long day, did you feel tired?
Not really, I love to watch people to see how they work. I wasn't bored, I just watched him work on everything.
How was the actual shooting process?
We spent about 30 minutes looking for a place, the weather was nice so I didn't mind. He brought along his friend Pablo to help. One would tell me to do something, I would do it. The other would follow. I thought I may be confused at first, but they were pretty easy to follow with the directions they gave me. One of them told me to dance, so I danced. After the first part, we drank vermouth a Spanish dry martini. It gave me a bit of energy and I was just excited to do more, I was having so much fun.
Was it embarrassing shooting in public?
Well, the good thing is I went to the session with my glasses and not my contact lenses. I told Shimada that I can't see without them. He said, “Better!”. It's hard to be embarrassed when you can't see anything or anyone.
What are your thoughts about the photos?
It's a whole other person. I really liked the whole process and I love the photos. They're just so different from each other. I just felt elegant and like a pop star.
Have you shown the people back home the photos?
Back from Japan, I got a lot of comments. “Look at how pretty you are!” and “I didn't know you were a model in Spain.” My father couldn't believe the photos when he saw them. Most people don't know what I do here so they are very curious. This project really gave me a lot of confidence, I really felt beautiful. This is why I tell everyone about Shimada.
Do you think he brought out another side of you?
He brought out my confidence. It's difficult for me to say I'm pretty, and back home, few people tell me that. Maybe some of my friends or people will focus on the clothes I'm wearing but not me. I'm shy but I really want to express myself so things like this help. In Japan, its more difficult to do something like this because we try to maintain harmony. But I have always been a black sheep, living in Spain for example. I'm just so happy here. And doing this project, I had confidence as a woman. I felt beautiful, inside and out.
What would you call your photos?
Hmm, “An Elegant Woman” and “Pop Girl.”
Any ideas to help out future people doing “La Modelo del Mes” or anything like this?
Honestly, just have a good time. With Shimada, you really have nothing to worry about. I have all the confidence in him, and he can do what ever he wants...I obviously only mean for modeling.
Anything else you are working on?
Well, I work as a Teacher but also a translator. I love literature and I am actually in the process of translating a book from Japanese to Spanish. It's a long project but I like to do things that connect people, and I am able to do this through language.