- Naomi Shimada started modelling at 13, has a large Instagram following, and social media is a big part of her daily life
- In her new book, Mixed Feelings, she looks at the social media phenomenon and its side effects
If, lately, you've found yourself hitting the 'unfollow' button on social media to improve your mental health, then welcome to life in 2019.
"Oh, we all have!" says Naomi Shimada over the phone from her home in East London. "It's unhealthy. There comes a point when you have to recognise what is triggering you and you have to separate yourself from that."
And while it might seem counter-intuitive for someone with 76k+ Instagram followers to advocate for a social media detox, that's exactly what the model, host, and newly published author does. "Social media completely changed the scope of my work. It's completely changed my industry, and it's changed the communities that I'm a part of. It's the thing that's had the biggest impact on all of our lives.
"To have a smartphone and be on social media is to have mixed feelings " especially when it comes to the millennial bracket. (My book is) called Mixed Feelings because there are just as many good things as there are bad things. We have access to the whole world now, all of us, from our phones. There's something really amazing about that, but with that comes new feelings that I was just trying to process."
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we're v dorky & v windswept but happy cuz our babies are here! we can't wait to share with you! click the link in bio to pre-order now #mixedfeelingsbook
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Co-authored with her friend, journalist Sarah Raphael, the book discusses the emotional repercussions of existing online. Through a combination of personal essays and interviews, the pair explore the impact of our digital habits on our work, on our notions of beauty, on leisure, and on fashion.
"For me, going to Hong Kong, going to Tokyo, going to all these places used to really mean something in terms of style. But now Instagram has homogenised style. The stylish kids out there are wearing what all the kids are wearing everywhere in the world. That's the saddest part about it. It's lost that individualism. Everywhere you go, kids are still wearing, like, Off-White."
"But it also means that we can now have access to different types of body shapes wearing different kinds of clothes. That's one of the positives about (social media)."
Born in Tokyo, Shimada grew up in Japan before moving to the south of Spain, where she spent her teenage years. As a result, she speaks an impressive four languages (English, Spanish, Japanese and French). She started modelling when she was 13, before making the switch to plus-size modelling when she got older.
"When I was a teenager, I used to shoot more in Asia " especially in Japan. They love using half-Japanese girls, so that was a good market for me when I was younger and super skinny. I think the tides are starting to change in terms of casting. The last time I was in Japan, I started noticing, with celebrities like Naomi Watanabe, that their perception of beauty and size is slowly, slowly, slowly starting to change."
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green for growth, harmony + health
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"I mean … there's just an Asian beauty ideal, isn't there? And we talk about this a lot, actually, beauty ideals and the way that we think about beauty are so affected by the places that we grew up and the family that we're surrounded by."
Speaking of family, Shimada credits her parents for her innate confidence when it comes to dressing for herself and not following trends.
"I come from a family where personal style was something we lived by. My father opened one of the first vintage stores in Tokyo, so I grew up around people who weren't wearing what anyone else was wearing."
It's clear that fashion is fun for Shimada. When asked if she would have worked in the fashion industry even if she hadn't become a model, she replies: "I've actually never thought about that. The business of fashion doesn't really interest me " I'm more fascinated by style.
"Maybe I would have had my own shop, like my parents did. I like making people feel good and that's definitely what my parents did. My father helped people find their own style, and I hope that's what I continue through my work.
"I encourage people not to necessarily dress like me, but to dress like themselves. To find the fearlessness and the confidence to just wear whatever they want. I think if people look at my pictures, that's what I want them to take away."
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