japanese multi-hyphenate ayami nakajo misses flip phones

Ayami Nakajo is a Japanese model whose role extends into the world of acting. What’s on the mind of this 20-year-old as she overcomes difficulties with love?

by i-D Japan
23 May 2017, 8:15pm

This article was originally published by i-D Japan. 

After making her modeling debut at 14-years-old, Ayami Nakajo's career has expanded to include acting and working as an MC. She recently made her front row debut at the Chanel spring/summer 17 haute couture show, and her role in the Japanese movie Setoutsumi earned her the Sponichi Grand Prix Newcomer Award at the 71st Mainichi Film Awards. Her appeal comes from her tall and slender appearance, which contrasts with the boyish and playful personality she exhibits as an Osaka native. Nakajo made her silver screen début when she was 17-years-old and her modeling experience helped her navigate the world of acting.

"The most helpful experience I had when I started acting was [an awareness of] how I appeared in front of the camera, [which comes] from my work as a model. Recently, my work as an actress has helped me with the ability to change my expressions instantaneously and it's been benefiting my modeling work. Unlike modeling, where I focus on the job for a short period of time, acting in movies and dramas often requires that I make some unsavory expressions. So when I'm acting, I don't think about how cute I look onscreen."

In the movie Let's Go, Jets! (2017), which is based on a true story of a Japanese cheerleading-dance club that competed in the USA championships and won, Nakajo tried her hand at dancing for the first time. She took lessons for eight to nine hours a day for six months to prepare for the role of a good looking and smart cheerleading squad leader. She'll also showcase her singing skills in the forthcoming film Anonymous Noise.

"I was in the middle of asking myself 'What can I accomplish by the time I'm 20-years-old?' and 'What [have I put all my] energy into?' when I was offered the role in Let's Go, Jets! I usually march to the beat of my own drum, but when I was given the role of a squad leader it challenged me to face some of my own insecurities. Having spent so much of my time with people in their 20s when I was still a teenager, I learned that people could enjoy life at their own pace. Coming to the realization that each age group had their own way of enjoying life put me at ease, because I was able to tell myself that I didn't have to be in such a rush; that progress comes in incremental steps. To be frank, singing and dancing were two things I wanted to avoid doing the most, but somehow I ended up with these roles this year." She chuckled. "I wasn't sure why things turned out this way, but it's been a great confidence-builder. It's the very fact that I wanted to avoid dancing and singing that gave me the ability to approach these tasks with [such determination]. I realized there was nothing to fear once I'd done it."

After overcoming major personal hurdles (and making it look easy), Nakajo celebrated her 20th birthday this year. "I know I can no longer use my immaturity as an excuse, but I'm excited to transition into becoming an adult. I've overcome taking on roles that I was afraid of, so I'm actually ready to take on [anything] from here on out," Nakajo said with confidence. Her role models are Coco Chanel, feminist artist and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, and actress Charlize Theron. She's drawn to their maturity and the depth of character they exhibit. She says she looks up to anyone that lives freely by expressing themselves, whatever their surroundings may be.

"It doesn't matter if it's a man or a woman, I like people who advocate for change. The other day I went to the Mori Art Museum to the N.S. Harsha: Charming Journey exhibition, where I was introduced to Indian expressions of religion and peace through art. I thought it was marvelous, since it takes a lot of courage to express these ideas. And that's what really drew me to this exhibition. If that task was up to me, I wouldn't have the [same] kind of influence the exhibition had, so I was a bit envious," she said, laughing.

Even during her busy schedule, Nakajo sacrifices sleep in order to make time to read books, watch movies, and visit art museums. She's keen on picking up new information, but she dislikes using social media. But she admits that she does her best to keep connected. "I feel like we live in an era where there's very little value placed on the information we encounter, since it's so ubiquitous. And that information is often glossed over. Japan, as a society, is a peaceful and insular place, so there aren't many platforms where an individual can make informed decisions about the state of world affairs. It's important to make a conscious effort to make these choices, otherwise we'd be at a loss of what's really happening in the world. I think it's important to express our own feelings over the things that we read. I feel like smartphones are so convenient [that they're] making me more dull. I really miss the days of the flip phones — I want to focus on flipping pages rather than spending my time typing on keyboards."

Even though she's part of the digital generation, she's partial to the analog lifestyle. When asked what she believes her role in society is, she responded with, "I think that as long as you have love, things move in a positive direction. That's why I try to embrace love in my acting and fashion and I want to have that same love for each project I work on. I want to highlight the importance of love in [my work]. It's often in extreme situations that I'm able exert my best efforts. And obstacles can be overcome with passion — I believe it's important for like-minded people to stick together in times like these. The first step for me is to think outside of myself and put myself in the shoes of others."


Photographer: Bungo Tsuchiya
Assistant photographer: Masaki Nagahama
Stylist: Chiharu Dodo
Assistant stylist: Mika Kobayashi
Hair: Taku For Cutters
Makeup: Tomohiro Muramatsu
Text: Tomoko Ogawa
Translation: Keiichi Matsumoto
All clothing by Chanel 

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