I want to start a revolution. 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, Miyamoto said.
The first ever mixed race Miss Universe Japan was met with a horrific barrage of racial abuse after she scooped the crown earlier this year.
Ariana Miyamoto, 21, the daughter of a Japanese mother and black American father, has revealed that she entered the beauty contest after a mixed race friend committed suicide.
Far from being put off by the backlash, Miyamoto resolved to use her new-found fame to help fight racial prejudice – in much the same way British supermodel Naomi Campbell broke down cultural barriers in the fashion industry a generation ago.
In an interview with AFP, Miyamoto explained: ‘I was prepared for the criticism. I’d be lying to say it didn’t hurt at all.
‘I’m Japanese, and stand up and bow when I answer the phone. But that criticism did give me extra motivation.’
Miyamoto, who was bullied as a schoolgirl growing up in the port town of Sasebo, near Nagasaki, added: ‘I didn’t feel any added pressure because the reason I took part in the pageant was my friend’s death. My goal was to raise awareness of racial discrimination.
‘Now I have a great platform to deliver that message as the first black Miss Universe Japan.
‘It’s always hard to be the first, so in that respect what Naomi Campbell did was really amazing.’
Social media lit up after Miyamoto’s victory in March, many critics complaining the title should have gone to what they called a ‘pure’ Japanese, rather than a ‘haafu’ (the Japanese pronunciation of ‘half’, a word used to describe mixed race), and that Miyamoto wasn’t ‘Japanese enough’.
Some point to the success of mixed-race celebrities such as Rola – a model of Bengali, Japanese and Russian descent – and half-British singer and actress Becky as proof of Japan’s openness to change.
Miyamoto argues that any shift still favours Caucasian or Eurasian lineage in an overwhelmingly homogenous country, where multi-racial children make up just two percent of those born annually.
She said: ‘In Japan there are hardly any black models or TV personalities.
‘Most celebrities are like Rola or Becky. Hopefully I can help create a Japan where anyone can make things happen.’
Miyamoto, who turns heads in Japan with her caramel skin and height of 5 ft 8 in, admitted she has had to toughen up.
The model, whose first language is Japanese, said: ‘I used to get bullied as a kid but I’ve got mentally stronger, to protect myself.
‘When I was small I stood out and always felt I had to fit in with everyone. I’d try not to bring attention to myself, but now I say what I feel. I do things my own way.’
Miyamoto added: ‘I want to start a revolution. 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.’
The hostility Miyamoto faced sits at odds with a government-sponsored drive to promote the country overseas as ‘Cool Japan’ and entice foreign tourists for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Psychologist Yoko Haruka, a regular on Japanese TV, admitted: ‘It’s possible that some conservative people might feel Ariana Miyamoto doesn’t fit the traditional Japanese image to represent the country.’
‘It’s just the shock of the new. But she certainly has the chance to be a pioneer, and it’s an excellent opportunity for Japan to become more globally aware.’
Should Miyamoto win the Miss Universe finals later this year, she would spend a year living in splendour at New York’s Trump Towers.
Her influence over issues close to her heart, which also include gender identity disorder, would be greatly enhanced.
But despite her noble intentions, Miyamoto has no plans to run for political office just yet.
She admitted: ‘I’d like to use my position to become a leader.
‘I’m like a sponge – always absorbing new things. But I haven’t thought too deeply about politics yet. It’s still a bit early to think about becoming Prime Minister!’
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