Originally hailing from sunny Southern California, RinRin Doll is an American who now models Lolita clothing and j-fashion deep in the heart of Harajuku, Tokyo. Most associated with the brand Angelic Pretty, she also models for the Alice Age web store, and is a fixture in magazines like KERA. RinRin was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to sit down for an interview about Lolita fashion, life in Japan, and how to figure out if you are wearing your pants on backwards during a photo shoot (hint: check the label). Enjoy!
Crunchyroll News: How did you first get exposed to Lolita fashion?
Rin Rin: I was first exposed to it when I was in high school. My friend went to Japan and brought back one of the Gothic Lolita magazines to give to me as a souvenir. I looked at it and thought, “Oh my goodness, they all look like dolls!” (laughs). But I was actually more attracted to the Punk and Goth styles.
How did you wind up becoming a Lolita fashion model?
When I was living in LA, (Japan-based Lolita brand) Angelic Pretty wanted to do a fashion show at the Pacific Media Expo convention. They were looking for local models because they weren’t able to bring models from Japan. A friend of mine, who was an organizer for the event, submitted me without saying anything to me first about it (laughs). But I went along and was chosen! When I met the owner of Angelic Pretty, I asked them if they would be coming back to the US soon, and we started talking. She said that if I ever went to Japan, she would use me as a model.
And you just followed through…
Yes, I went to Japan on a study abroad program and I contacted Angelic Pretty and said, “I’m here!” and the owner said, “Ok! Come and work for us!” So that’s what happened. I’ve been in Japan about 3 years now.
Ok, can you describe what a working on a photo shoot is like?
For Angelic Pretty shoots, we just go in, take the photos, and then leave right away. Everything is well planned and scheduled beforehand. You’re not taking a ton of pictures and you’re only doing a couple of outfits. Each shoot is about 5-6 hours max, not including hair and makeup time.
For a catalog site, like Alice Age and Mansaiya, it’s a full day and it feels like 100 outfit changes! There are usually 2 or 3 models per shoot, so when one model goes out, that’s when you touch up your makeup, change your clothes, and get everything ready. You have 1-2 minutes before you’re out again. There are no instructions. The photographer just goes “click click click!” You go in for one minute, spin spin spin, pose pose pose and then you’re out. And then you throw on another outfit and go back in. The lunch break is only about 5-10 minutes. We work from the morning to the last train. Everything is very efficient. You just do your thing. You know what you’re supposed to do and you try to not be the one who trips up and stops the process. That’s really stressful.
One time, I wore my pants backwards! I already did my whole shoot for that set and only when I went back to the changing room to put on another top did I realize that my pants were on backwards. Usually there’s someone who checks for that sort of thing, but nobody knew what was the front and what was the back. But… I found the label in the front. Things like that happen...(laughs)
So what is your daily life like? I just imagine you having tea and eating macarons all the time…
I wish! Actually, I can’t resist macarons. It’s so stereotypical, but it’s true…the last time I passed by a macaron shop, I completely gave in and had to buy something. But yes, I work every day. It can be really stressful. Even on weekends there are no days off. I leave my house around 7am and I don’t come home until the last train. I sometimes force myself to take a day off to just sit at home and rest.
What are some of the challenges involved in maintaining that kind of schedule?
As a model, I think the hardest part for me is keeping up with my social networking sites: my facebook, my blog, my twitter, my instagram, etc. I’ve been working hard recently to keep them up. Every now and then I fall into a slump and everything goes quiet and I have to get my motivation back up.
I think you must have a big reach since you post in both Japanese and English. There aren’t many Lolita models that do that.
I thought that blogging in English would help everyone cross that barrier. People in the modeling world here aren’t that unreachable. I remember how I felt back in LA when I first started getting into Lolita fashion. You’d see the models, you’d see their blogs online, but they felt really untouchable; really far, far, away and perfect in every way. But it’s really only the language barrier that keeps you from finding out what they were writing about on their blogs. They actually write very personal and emotional things.
And now some of those people are your friends. What do Lolita models do for fun?
We go to lives (concerts), cafes, karaoke, shopping, dinner, walk around...
What’s it been like adapting to life in Japan in general?
It’s a lot of hard work. You have to have your life together. Being a gaikokujin (foreign national) you really have to be careful about your visa, your working status, everything. You always need to be on top of that.
Do people even realize that you’re not actually a Japanese citizen?
Sometimes I will go for a job and talk for a while and then I’ll say, “Sorry if my Japanese is terrible.” and they’ll say “Oh What? You’re not Japanese? Where are you from?” I don’t know if they are just being nice and complimenting my Japanese or if it really is a big shock. But I don’t think it makes a difference either way. (laughs) It does make a great conversation starter; it breaks the ice to make a fun working atmosphere.
Do you miss America at all?
Yes, of course! My whole family and most of my friends are back at home, but I do get to visit them on holidays so it helps a lot.
Do you plan to stay in Japan for the long term?
Right now, I don’t know. I want to see where everything goes.
Ok, so to ask a big question…why Lolita fashion? What is it about this style that attracts you?
Personally for me growing up, I didn’t wear a lot of dresses. But now, I get to be really, really girly. (laughs) I don’t really know what else to say! Getting the chance to be “kawaii” and living in a kind of dream world is really appealing. I don’t know why. Maybe ask me in another year or two. (laughs) With some people, I’d say they are meant to wear it. It really matches them and everything fits: their image, the way they live, everything just fits. But there are other models who just treat it as another style that they wear and model for.
How do you think Japanese Lolita compare to American Lolita?
With Japanese Lolitas, there is this trend to pair or to be twins; to wear completely the same outfit...maybe in a different color sometimes, but the same clothes, accessories, everything down to the last detail is the same. But when I go to the US and do tea parties and shows, I see people who are trying to create their own original styles using what they have. That is really interesting to me. It’s more like an artwork that way. But in Japan, being twins is really, really cute too, so there’s no downside.
What are your impressions on the current state of Lolita fashion? Is it changing or evolving in anyway?
I do think that it is evolving. Before, I think it hit a plateau and nothing was really changing for a while, but now you have Kyary Pamyu Pamyu bringing Harajuku to the very front of Japanese media and all over the world. I see a lot more colors now. People are a lot bolder to try new things.
Is there a downside to Lolita fashion? I’ve heard stories about people being harassed and bullied for wearing it in the USA.
For me, I never really had that kind of experience. I did hear about those experiences before and it’s really awful, but I’m not sure if it was done on purpose or if was accidental because someone didn’t know how to approach them. What is that saying again? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If you think that it’s pretty on you then go for it. I think that’s fine. What other people say...they just want to bring you down or they’re not feeling happy about something. But I never really felt that someone shouldn’t be wearing something.
Lolita is kind of an extreme fashion to begin with…
You’re already targeted no matter what you do when you’re wearing these clothes. You’re definitely going to stand out (laughs). I always feel nervous when I wear full-out Lolita. A lot of times, I’ll think, “Nooooo, maybe this isn’t right for me,” and I’ll be scared to walk out the door. But if you want to wear it, you just wear it. You know what I mean? I never really thought that no one shouldn’t wear Lolita… you could wear Lolita, too (laughs).
I don’t think I could!
Well, you could if you wanted to!
As an outsider, it seems like it would be stressful because I think not only would normal people be judging you, other Lolitas would be judging you as well.
If you chose to wear something like this, of course there’s going to be a lot of judgment coming your way. But if you want to try something new, just try it. I’m always for the “be creative” approach. You set your own restrictions in a way. If you think, “This is a no,” then don’t wear it. To me it’s actually even more stressful to listen to everyone else saying, “No, you can’t wear that!” All the fun and creativity is gone!
What other Japanese brands and fashions are you into right now?
Right now I really like jouetie and NADIA. I like retro things a lot, like sixties style. The retro theme is all over the place, everyone is really into the cherries, the reds, the comic book style. ‘80s anime style is also really cute. And I always check out Milk and of course Angelic Pretty. I also like E-hyphen W0rld Gallery, for a more normal style.
Finally, would you like to plug anything?
I’m currently working on a big project, TBA!