More than just a pretty face: Model Emiri puts talents to good use

JAPAN - Emiri is a woman of many talents. Not only is she a sought-after fashion model, she was selected as Miss Universe Japan for 2009, made her debut as an actress in a TV drama the following year and even spent a year in the United States to brush up her English.

Born in Tokyo in 1984, Emiri did not set out to work as a model and actress. While studying at Seijo University, she spent one year in Palm Springs, Calf., because she wanted to "do something with English, such as trade-related work."

After returning to Japan, she worked part-time as a model at fashion events.

"Doing my best as a member of a team, I felt united with the other members," she said. Unable to forget that sense of unity, she decided to become a professional model and after graduating from university.

But Emiri has a fundamentally serious mind, and she felt some kind of "qualification" would be necessary for her to be taken seriously as a model. She decided to seek the Miss Universe Japan title.

Before the contest, Emiri, who is 1.71 meters tall, intentionally gained weight and worked to maintain a voluptuous body line. Ultimately she was selected as Miss Universe Japan in 2009, but she was even more gratified that she had improved herself through rigorous effort.

After that, Emiri established three personal mottos:

* Don't be satisfied with the current situation; try to improve myself.

* What I put in my mouth is the source of a healthy body and mind, so meals should be managed properly every day.

* How I present myself to others is very important, so be careful in this area.

This was the moment Emiri went from a part-time model to a professional. Also in 2010, Emiri debuted as an actress in the TV drama "Hammer Session!" on the TBS network.

Strong work ethic

Emiri is a dyed-in-the-wool athletic type. She was very involved in basketball club activities from middle school through university, which involve rigid discipline and relationships between senior and junior students.

While filming a TV programme, Emiri stood up and politely bowed to each of her costars every time they entered the studio. And that's just one of the ways I've seen her display her guts and focus.

On Aug. 5, a photo session was held in Omotesando, Tokyo, for the October issue of the fashion magazine "Baila," published by Shueisha Inc., under scorching temperatures over 30 C. Emiri must have been broiling in the autumn clothes she wore, but she never raised the white flag.

She worked without a break from 5:50 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day, showing no trace of fatigue even during down times. She concentrated on talking with the staff, her back unbowed.

I only watched her work for an hour or two, but I felt dizzy in the hot weather. I take my hat off to her professional dedication.

On Aug. 20, Emiri appeared live on the programme "Pon!" on the NTV network. She conversed animatedly with TV personality Goro Yamada, giving witty answers about everything from the white curry noodles popular among gourmets to the Shiki Theater Company's production of "Little Mermaid."

After the broadcast, I asked actress Chiriko Sakashita, who also appeared on the show, what she thought of Emiri. Sakashita said with a smile: "Emiri is refreshingly frank and always pays careful attention to others. She gave me a present on my birthday. Although we naturally expect it of a model, she's really fashionable. I secretly check out her belongings and sometimes buy the same things."

Through her work as a model, Emiri has been expanding her interest to various spheres, including healthy food.

"To maintain a beautiful body line, I have to eat properly and exercise," she said. "So I read a lot of books concerning food, and I learn a lot on my own through trial and error as well."

In the future, Emiri is interested in developing something related to food, such as a new smoothie drink or a regimen of eating healthily between meals.

"I'd like to help women who want to make themselves more beautiful," she said with a smile.

Emiri's favorites

Emiri frequently travels overseas to the United States, France, Italy and other countries, and she always visits art museums abroad. Her favourite artist is French Impressionist Claude Monet. She is also interested in architecture, such as the Omotesando Hills complex designed by Tadao Ando. "I want to always have a strong interest in art that stimulates my sensitivity," she said.

Her ideal of beauty is legendary actress Audrey Hepburn (1929-93). Emiri admires Hepburn not only for her good looks but also for putting her fame and influence to use for many years as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. She often watches "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on DVD.

Emiri's favourite city is San Francisco, as she feels refreshed by the rich seafood and other fare, and the beautiful townscape with many slopes stretching directly to the sea. In Japan, she often visits the relaxed atmosphere of Kyoto.

"I enjoy visiting my favourite temples and walking along Kamogawa river," Emiri said.