By Natalia Zurowski
Taylor R is a model, blogger, and YouTuber from Toronto, Canada. During her time modelling in Hong Kong, she fell in love with the city and made it her new home. After working successfully in the market, Taylor saw an opportunity to elevate her career. She adopted a kawaii persona that differentiated her from other foreign models in Hong Kong and became a huge hit among industry insiders and locals alike.
Early last year, she moved to Tokyo to take her career even further. We talk to Taylor about her start in the industry, and her kawaii influences. Behind the contact lenses is a bright young business woman filled with aspirations.
The Business Model (TBM): When did you first begin experimenting with the kawaii look you’re now so well-known for? Why did you adopt it as your on-duty look?
Taylor R (TR): I’ve been styling myself this way for a few years now. When I was little my mom often dressed me in very girly things, and I always loved dolls, pink, and girliness. In Western culture, you’re kind of taught to grow out of that stuff quickly and become more elegant/sexy, whereas in Asia cuteness is embraced. When I started modeling in Asia I often got the more cute/girly jobs, plus I was inspired by the cute dolly fashion around me so I just went for it. If I had to pinpoint a time when I really changed my whole look it was about 2 years ago when I transitioned to more of a blogger/YouTuber/model in Hong Kong.
TBM: Is your kawaii look a character, or an honest expression of yourself?
TR: My fashion and makeup is an expression of myself. I love all things kawaii and I’ve been really into that for a few years now. However, I’m always growing and changing. Lately, I just dress depending on my mood. Sometimes it’s more ‘western’ or ‘cool’ or other times it's more dolly - sometimes I’m in sweatpants too. Although I tend to favour a more girly look, I wouldn’t say I have only one style. I’m constantly influenced by people and things around me.
TBM: When did Japanese culture first pique your interest?
TR: I watched Japanese animations such as Sailormoon and Pokémon with my best friend as a kid. Japan was also my first overseas contract as a model and I instantly fell in love with it.
TBM: How has work changed since you took on the kawaii look? How did your bookers and clients react to the change?
TR: My work has become more of something I love to do and less ‘work’. My potential jobs have definitely narrowed because clients usually see me in one way, but I’m ok with that. I get to choose jobs that I want to do or that are more suitable for my image. I lost jobs as a model but I gained jobs as a blogger, such as attending events, product placement/sponsorship, interviews, and endorsements. My bookers reacted really well and were very supportive and encouraging.
It wasn’t really an overnight thing. There was the change in the fashion, the makeup, the contact lenses, then even bigger contact lenses, followed by bigger makeup so [my bookers] had some time to adapt. Life is too short. Do what makes you happy.
TBM: After working very successfully in Hong Kong, you decided to move to Tokyo. How has working in Japan been in comparison to Hong Kong?
TR: I feel that Japan is more complicated. Hong Kong was easier because I could get by with speaking English, since most people can speak it there. However, in Japan, I really can’t. Since I want to do more TV work now rather than modeling, I really need to speak Japanese fluently and well. In this sense, I need to work a lot harder to earn my success but I’m hopeful for the future and I’m excited to face this challenge.
TBM: What has been your biggest challenge in establishing yourself in the Japanese market?
TR: Language. Also creating content on my blogs and YouTube channel that is interesting and buzz-worthy for the Tokyo market.
TBM: Do you think you will ever model in Canada or the US?
TR: Would I go back to Canada? Yes, maybe. For modeling though I’m not sure. I always feel a bit torn because I miss my family, friends, and hometown, so I want to be there but I also want to be here. Maybe one day my heart will take me home. I have no idea what the future holds. A few years ago I never thought I’d be where I am and doing what I’m doing now.
TBM: If your modelling career ended tomorrow, would you stay in Tokyo, or would you move elsewhere?
TR: Yes, I would stay in Tokyo. Right now I’m really in love with this city. I love the energy. I love the respect people have for one another and the things around them. The creativity is amazing. Also, the fact that anyone can wear anything or do anything they want here and no one will judge you or care is amazing. People often won’t even look at you because they’re so used to it and I love that. You can be whoever you want to be and do what you want freely. It’s also my favourite place to shop and eat. I could go pretty much anywhere here and find something I want to buy. I'm not sure if that’s a good or bad thing!
However, Hong Kong will always have a special place in my heart and sometimes I go back there for jobs. I hope to go back there more often! If you’re reading this and you’re a model, you definitely need to get a contract in both Tokyo and Hong Kong, I promise you’ll fall in love with both markets!
TBM: Apart from modelling, you also run a blog and have your own section in the HK Edition of the incredibly popular, Vivi Magazine. What other business ventures might you pursue in the future?
TR: I’m really interested in health and nutrition so I’d love to have my own café one day - maybe even a health clinic! I’ve witnessed many eating disorders, models not eating, and I was overweight as a child, so I really want to help people with becoming healthy and having high self-esteem. I also want to give back more. I’d really love to do charity work with young girls and animals.
TBM: What is the next big project you're working on?
TR: Modelling wise I can't really name specific brands or clients until after the job is released, but I'm starting to work with one of my favourite Japanese magazines! Personally though, speaking Japanese fluently is a top goal so I want to tackle that on. I'm working on it!