Racism in Japan: A Beauty Queen’s Battle

Ariana Miyamoto looking flawless. Photo courtesy of Facebook/ArianaMiyamoto.

Sometimes I come across news headlines that are just too awesome to swipe past.  Such is the case with 21-year old Miss Universe Japan, Ariana Miyamoto, who made headlines in March as the first biracial conetestant to win the prestigious pageant.  Well, she’s capturing our attention again, this time for leading a campaign for racial inclusion in Japan.

As you might imagine, Ariana’s racial background wasn’t always celebrated in a society that is over 98% ethnic Japanese.  She was often ridiculted by her classmates for having an African American father and Japanese mother, despite her identifying as Japanese.  In an interview with CBS news, she recounts how her clasmmates would throw garbage at her and told her not to touch them, for fear that her black skin would contaminate them.

Unfortunately, Ariana’s experiences with racism and being bullied were similar to many other biracial and multiracial Japanese.  After one of Ariana’s closest friends–who was also biracial– committed suicide after relentless bullying, Ariana decided to take a stand against racism.  She entered the 2015 Miss Universe Japan pageant.  And with her exemplary calligraphy skills, permanent smile, and genuine aura, Ariana killed it.

But after Ariana won the 2015 Miss Universe Japan, the internet blew up with criticisms that she wasn’t Japanese enough.  Many pigeon-holed her as “haafu” (half), not fully Japanese, and thus not fully deserving of the title.

Luckily, Ariana drew on her own adversity and even that of beauty pioneer Naomi Campbell, to fight her crusade against racism.  She’s also using the changing racial demongraphics of her Japan to propel her campaign.  According to the film, “Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan,” 20,000 biracial and multiracial people are born in Japan every year.  “I think there will be a lot of mixed-race children in the future,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg, “and we need to create an environment where they can grow up free from prejudice.”  And later, Miyamoto told AFP. “I can’t change things overnight but in 100–200 years, there will be very few pure Japanese left, so we have to start changing the way we think.”

Ariana will compete for the Miss Universe crown early next year.

Do your thing, girl!


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