I first met Chiyo at Snowglobe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe back in 2012. Although we had only just met, her contagious good vibes, openness, and ability to connect with everyone around her were all qualities that I admired immensely. Since then, she’s made a name for herself in the fashion industry both in and out of the proverbial spotlight, having spent five years with Brandy Melville as a senior buyer, designer, and stylist, and now with her recent modeling debut with the LA-based agency, Photogenics. All the while, she’s remained her truest, incredibly down-to-earth, kind, and generous self. She’s one of the faces of the new Hollister Holiday campaign and has been featured on Jeffrey Campbell’s Instagram showing all of us how to rock some seriously rad and gutsy footwear. In short, Chiyo is a walking, talking, dancing, loving example of what happens when you genuinely pursue what sets your soul on fire–you light up the room and inspire everyone around you in the meantime.
- Age: 23
- Location: Tokyo, Japan
- Education: Bachelor’s in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University
- Field of Interest: Lots! Lots! I am really interested in Social Justice and Environmental Health so I will probably end up with a career in something involving those matters. Fashion! Although I don’t follow designers very closely. I do love thrifting because instead of shopping what everyone else is shopping, you get an entire store of unique items and then you can really find something that is perfect for you! Plus, that feeling that you get when you do find a gem is SO awesome. Also, I’m very interested in having fun and spending time with friends! I like to keep busy. I am almost never alone unless I am sick.
- What Is Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? I can’t hold a grudge (alllllmost always). It’s great, cause I just kinda brush my shoulda off real quick and snap back. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I ignore things, though. I just can’t stay upset for very long.
- What Are You Currently Listening To On Repeat? “Choices” by E-40! I went to the Burning Man festival with a bunch of friends this year and our awesome friend had built an art car that was essentially a huge sleigh bed so we could mob around the playa and that was our theme song. It’s great, I highly suggest it.
- What Are You Currently Involved In That You’re Really Excited About? I just tie-dyed all my whites which was exciting! I also just moved to Japan to live with my family here, specifically my grandparents, aunt, second cousin and her three cute badass little daughters who are all under 12 years old. I am hoping to get fluent because I have been half-assing being able to speak Japanese my whole life. This trip is something my sister and I have talked about doing for a long time and she was about to do it without me, but then I decided to join the party last-minute and bought a ticket a few weeks ago! 🙂 Also, I recently got into modeling which has been super fun and different. For five years I was working on the other side of the camera so it has been interesting to flip the script. I literally get to walk in the other person’s shoes.
Questions + Answers
You’ve just arrived in Tokyo, Japan on an adventure of a lifetime. How did you find the courage to take this leap so spontaneously?
Honestly, that is all thanks to my sister. She was the first to take the spontaneous leap and I just followed, so I guess you would have to ask her! When I was younger, I wanted to do everything she was doing. I guess that attitude stuck a bit. My schedule just happened to open up and I wanted to be able to share this experience with her, so I went for it!
I am so grateful to have an older sister who is so awesome. I would not be who I am at all if it weren’t for her. She’s always showed me the way and has been a crazy strong and respectable person to look up to.
Like many of the women we feature, you are a superwoman. You juggle multiple careers, a vibrant social life, and continue to travel and learn. We want to know not only how you do it, but why you do it, and how you knew you were ready.
Honestly, I get bored really easily. This is a blessing and a curse, but I choose to focus on the blessing side of it! I also find a lot of things interesting so consequently, I find myself juggling a lot because I want to! I love my family, I have loved all of my jobs, I love my friends and I love exploring.
I think there are two options: to be bored or to be busy. I choose the latter. I find it depressing to be bored. And in terms of going after what you want, I don’t know if anyone will ever feel totally ready. You kind of just have to carpe diem!
What has been your most perspective-shifting experience during your work in the fight for social justice?
I was volunteering with School on Wheels, which provides tutors for children living in shelters and foster care. My student was incredibly smart and sweet, but because many of the students’ living situations are so unstable, they often move away without any notice. That happened to me right when my student and I really started bonding, so it was a bit sad for me. But I imagine that it is much more difficult for them to have to leave their friends and adjust to completely new schools.
I am still just trying to figure out my stance on everything and all of these different issues. I find that it can be difficult because there are so many different social groups and unless you are a part of one and have truly experienced what they encounter on a daily basis, then how can you really confidently say how they would feel or want to be treated? Even with the best of intentions you could be totally off. For example, some of my friends who are heavily involved with social justice have completely different views on racism than I do, although we both feel that we have the same good intentions.
At the end of the day, I think it is just important to show love and acceptance and be more of a listener. It is so much easier for people to preach their own thoughts and ideas rather than listening to others.
Outside of your involvement with social justice, you’re quite involved in the fashion industry, not only as a model but also as a buyer and designer. It seems like the fashion industry can be so brutal – at least, it has that reputation. You seem to glow with positivity and genuine spirit. How do you steer clear of the obsessive superficiality, especially in such a demanding industry?
It does seem that way. I am so grateful that I have a great group of friends in Los Angeles that I met outside of the industry, although some of them are involved. I don’t feel like I am that socially involved in the fashion industry, but everyone that I have met has been super nice and awesome.
There are always going to be superficial people in the world. I think it’s important to focus on the positive and not waste your time with the other stuff. If you let it get to you then you are just feeding the dragon.
One of the biggest issues facing the fashion industry in general is this public sense that there isn’t enough diversity or inclusive representation. Do you feel like you’ve had a different experience or different response as a Japanese-American?
When it comes to modeling, you really can’t take things personally. Every client is looking for something different. Sometimes, people aren’t sure what they want and you’ll see so many different looks at one casting. Other times, they know they want one Asian girl, one blonde, one mixed, etc.
There are definitely more castings for blondes than for Asians, but that’s just how it is. If you saw more Asian girls than blonde girls in campaigns across the U.S. that would just be odd given American demographics, wouldn’t it?
It’s an interesting game, but it isn’t rocket science, so I try to keep a loose grip on it. It’s like the saying goes, don’t hate the player, hate the game. I am obviously choosing to play and if I decide that I have a problem with it, I’ll just stop.
It’s cool to represent my background and I am so proud to do that. If someone isn’t into it then I don’t focus on that. I try to focus on the positive and remember that at the end of the day, it’s all a bit superficial and I don’t need to waste my time worrying about superficial things. There are much more important things to worry about.
We love how vintage fashion is not only an amazing way to find unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, but it’s also environmentally friendly! What other small acts do you undertake to contribute to environmental wellness?
I think trash is a huge issue in the world so I try to create as little of it as possible, which can be very difficult. I just moved to Tokyo from Los Angeles and had to get rid of most of my things. It would have been really easy to throw it all away, but I took the time to sort things out for donation and give things to my neighbors and friends. It was fun but also a lot of work because I had A LOT of stuff.
Also, I am not a vegetarian but at home I don’t eat much meat and I try to cook a lot. The meat industry and animal farming are the absolute worst for the environment. I think it’s pretty crazy that all of these cows and pigs wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for us. We literally breed them just to eat!