text by Ryoko Kuwahara

Our Body Issue : 歌代ニーナインタビュー “自分の体は自分だけのものです。そして、他人の体は他人だけのものです。他人の体は自分のものではありません”

ーーThis month’s issue is themed ‘our body’. Throughout this interview there will be some questions that might be very personal. Please feel free to voice that you wish to not answer If you find anything uncomfortable. With that being said, I would like to ask you the first question. When you were younger, did you have any opportunities to learn about your body and sex from your parents ? If so, what kind of knowledge did you receive ?

Nina : In terms of my body yes, I did. If I asked, my mother always gave me all the information I needed, be it on what boobs are to how periods work. In terms of the subject of sex, I was really late to the game. I never developed any romantic nor sexual interest in anyone until my late teenage years and I kid you not, I thought that you can get pregnant by holding hands and praying to god with your soulmate until I was in the 9th grade or so. I was very naive and oblivious. When I was fourteen or fifteen, my younger sister started talking about sex at home which led to conversations on the topic being held in our household. I remember being very shocked when I found out what sex entails.

ーーDo you remember anything from school ?

Nina : I think we learned about the human anatomy in health class. I don’t remember being taught anything about sex though. I pretty much slept through school so I don’t remember much to be honest…

ーーWhen you had your first period, what was your initial reaction? Had you had prior knowledge that was helpful?

Nina : I was annoyed that I got blood on my underwear. I just wanted a heads-up you know? I also remember thinking it’s such a pain in the ass to be a girl. I was very late to get my first period and by then I had lied and used the excuse “I have cramps” to get myself out of so many things, so when it actually hit I couldn’t ask anyone what to do. So I googled the pros and cons of tampons and pads and went to the pharmacy to sort it out. I had basic knowledge beforehand but still, the experience was different from what I had expected and I think it takes some time for you to get used to it and to learn how to listen to your body’s rhythm.

ーーWhat about sex? What kind of knowledge did you have about it prior to your first experience? If you had any advice that helped you, we would like to know.

Nina : I knew that if someone sticks their dick in your pussy and ejaculates, you get pregnant. That’s about it. I didn’t know about foreplay or any other factors until I was experiencing it in person. I was never curious about sex so I never bothered to ask my non-virgin friends about how things were like either. I couldn’t understand why the world was so obsessed with sex at all until I experienced it myself. I wasn’t the type to watch porn either, so I think I seriously lacked prior knowledge.

ーーThis question is about creativity and the body. We know that you were brought up Catholic and you strongly resonate towards this religion but did your feelings and experience with sex ever contradict the beliefs of Catholicism and if so, how did you cope with those contradictions? Was there anything that needed to be compromised?

Nina : There were lots of Catholic people in my family/ extended family which resulted in me growing up Catholic but I don’t believe in any religion as of right now. My father’s side of the family were all strict Catholics but he was out of my life by the time I was exposed to sex so I never really had any Catholic influences on that particular topic. When I was younger and hadn’t developed a sense of self, I never really questioned the concept of god but when I became older and started forming opinions and beliefs of my own, I realized that I don’t actually believe in the religion. I was offended because I felt that I had been brainwashed for years which led me to find joy in blasphemy. That led to a phase I had where I used sex as a form to disrespect “god” just to know that I am being blasphemous. So yes, religion has influenced me as a person in many ways.

ーーHave those experiences impacted your creative process in any way?

Nina : Yes definitely. The feeling of guilt towards the human ego and lust, as well the want and need for ideological perfection seems to be strongly embedded in me. Also i feel that hypocrisy is more evil than evil so it urges me to destroy it whenever I see it. When I look back at my past projects, sometimes I think that I wanted to confess. I find in funny at times.

ーーYou used to dance ballet for a long time, but ballerinas have to follow a strict diet and face a lot of difficulties when it comes to how they look and perform. In a world where the feminine curvy physique is not accepted, how did you start to accept your body as is?

Nina: I don’t think I have completely accepted my body yet to be honest. Sometimes I wish I just grew to my hight now with a stick figured body, like a little kid. Visually, I find female curves to be sexy and beautiful and I visually like the feminine elements of my body as well, but it is another thing to be locked inside it. It can be annoying. Periods and bloating is just a pain in the ass and I often miss that lightness that was there prepuberty. Now I feel like something is constantly weighing me down.

ーー Has this affected your creative outlook in any way?

Nina : I don’t like that lethargic feeling you get when you’re full and this seems to come from my ballet dancing days. Ballet is all about expressing emotions through systematic movements with lots of rules. I’m sure that’s where I learned to enjoy breaking the rules while following them, which is a big part of my work.

ーーBecause of the change in our bodies we sometimes need to change our clothes and buy new underwear and I think some girls feel a sense of insecurity towards this change. Do you have any memorable experiences regarding this topic?

Nina : I remember when I was 21, I realised that my Supreme t-shirt in size medium started to feel tighter around my hips. I was really shocked about the fact that I had to wear something tight on the bottom for me to be able to wear a men’s size medium. I felt that I was changing into a “woman” rather than getting “fat.” I felt very scared for some reason. It’s just annoying when something that used to fit you no longer does. In terms of underwear, I don’t see the fuss. If anything it just gets more fun as you get older. Wearing a wired bra/wireless bra can really change your cup size drastically so you can construct your body depending on what you want to wear. As your butt becomes wider and curvier, you start to look good in lace and satin and stuff. Even if you are on your period, you can easily wear a thong as long as you use tampons so it’s not like you get forced to wear granny panties, it’s really not a big deal.

ーーYou also work as a stylist. What kind of advice can you give people who have insecurities about how they look as they grow older?

Nina : As time goes by, your bodies will change and evolve and there will be some parts you won’t like but if you wear clothes that fit your body properly, you can always make your body look flattering. The right proportions, and something that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin goes a long way. If you like how you look, it leads to self confidence. It is just as important to care about your outside as to care about your insides.

ーー You portray strength and class through your work despite showing a lot of skin. It never looks classless. What did you take into consideration during the creative process? This is only if you can express it in words.

Nina:Showing skin is not what makes you look classless. It’s the desire to be noticed and intention to deceive that is classless really. We all have bodies it is nothing special. The act of trying to use your feminine traits as a way to attract attention or “get with” a guy, which seems to be very common in Japan, makes you look classless. This is why the concept of “dressing provocatively=trashy” has settled itself down. Men aren’t as stupid as women think. On a subconscious if not conscious level they clock you. If you want to dress provocatively you should do so for the sake of yourself. Naturally, if your feminine curves are exposed it will attract attention so I feel like you shouldn’t go seek the attention nor should you deny it. If you have the time to weaponise your body, you might as well put on something that makes you feel sexy and admire your reflection in the mirror. If you don’t like wearing clothes or underwear that is considered “sexy”, there is not need to force yourself in that box of “sexy” either. I just happened to like provocative styling so I do so In my work and in my personal style to satisfy myself.

ーーWhen you first started out, you were modelling. Did you ever feel uncomfortable being asked to portray a type of woman that you do not agree with? Did you ever feel that you were being put in a box as a “young women”?

Nina : During my modelling days yes, I have been asked to embody a type of woman that I cannot relate to but it was a job and I was getting paid so it never bothered me. I never cared. However, there were times that make-up artists and photographers, in other words, people who weren’t he ones that were paying me would say things like “you look better with light make-up” or “you should dress more like a model” and gave their unasked opinion on what kind of women they think I should be, which used to annoy me a lot.

ーーDid that affect your personal work? For example, I was told that young female editors that had a passion for fashion could never be good at work and that made me drive myself to become a business women in order to prove them wrong. Was there anything similar that happened to you ?

Nina : People have been calling me the word “kebai (= over the top) and I realised that this word for some reason links to “being stupid” here in Japan. Also I think half Japanese people are usually expected to lack the ability to speak proper Japanese nor use “Keigo(formal Japanese)” correctly, but this made me work on my talking skills, utilising Keigo on a high level, writing business emails, and using proper old school Japanese manners so that nobody can complain. Only when you have the options, you can make a choice. I don’t necessarily agree with the way things are but I still wanted the options. However, everything is a matter of perspective. People naturally assuming you are stupid has its own benefits. You can project yourself to be non-intimidating. There have been times that I was given jobs because I exceeded their expectations by using certain Keigo that the client didn’t expect me to know or taking off my coat before ringing the doorbell (a traditional Japanese form of manners that most millennials do not know). If they are superficial enough to judge you by a stereotype image, then they are usually superficial enough to win over by surface level polite gestures. It is important to know how you are perceived and figure out how to use it to your advantage. If you go by the formatted rules no one can complain can they? It is a dog eat dog world, and there is no mercy. The weak and the strong is subjective, and it is a matter of perspective. And whether or not you are the weak is your choice.

ーーComparing the person you are now and who you were when you first started out, do you feel like your beliefs towards certain female rights have changed in any way?

Nina : I think so. I feel like the #metoo movement resulted in sheding light on female issues, but I don’t necessarily think that things have gotten better.

ーーHas your perspective changed throughout this time? Has your work progressed in relation to the change in beliefs you have towards female issue in society?

Nina: Before this movement started, I personally had never felt like I experienced any discrimination from being a woman so I never payed attention, until I experienced it first hand about a year ago. I never really had a lot of ‘girl’ friends, and I never crushed on girls, so I have never really felt a strong connection to another women except maybe my mother, and I generally lack the feeling of “belonging” whether it be race or gender so it was never any of my business. I realized that I had been serving as a bystander and felt ashamed. So from then on, I have been trying to be more aware.

ーーHow did you feel when you first heard that a bill to ban abortion in Alabama was passed in the United States.

Nina: Being that this is a country under the wings of Donald Trump, I wasn’t really surprised. However, I was surprised about the fact that I wasn’t surprised at all. I am baffled that today, in the year of 2019, this is happening and I really have no words to describe how idiotic this is. I never thought that a first world country at the centre of the world like the US would turn into modern dystopia.

ーーDo you have any opinions about the bill itself ?

Nina:I think this is a scenario that proves how dangerous the theory of life supremacy can be. Life does not always equal happiness. I personally believe that a child should only be born into a loving environment. There are various reasons as to why women want abortions, mostly being a result of unprotected sex or rape. If you can’t be responsible enough to be on birth control or use a condom, and fail to make your partner pull out on top of that, you are definitely not mature enough to be a parent, and rape is just a whole other story. The amount of physical and mental trauma the maternal body must be under is beyond what anyone who hasn’t been raped can possibly imagine, not to mention it is an unwanted pregnancy. For society to force life on an embryo under such harsh conditions is absurd, and to force a woman that is carrying that embryo to give birth violates the most basic of human rights. No body has any right to do so. Your body belongs to you, and yourself only. Other people’s bodies belong to them, and them only. Other people’s bodies do not belong to you. You have absolutely no right to control other people. This bill legally justifies abusing power. Just as it is wrong to force a woman into abortion, it is wrong to force women to not get an abortion. If you really have a problem with the concept of abortion, make sure you don’t have to get one. Period. People just love to stick their nose into what is none of their business. Everyone seems to be under the impression that their beliefs are undoubtedly correct, and tries to push their ideas of “good” onto other people way too much. When these type of people gain power and start playing god, this kind of tragedy happens.

ーーLastly, what kind of world, would you like future generations to live in. How would you like to influence these people through your art?

The world will always be a scary place and I hope that the next generation will be made up of strong individuals who are able to hold their ground under the filthy wold that we live in. In all honesty, the whole “world peace” or “let’s make the world a better place” thing is is a bit unrealistic to me and I have never really been able to take it seriously, all though I do hope for this idealistic fantasy. Realistically speaking, I think it is important to help the next generation find their true voice and provide them with weapons and armour to help them believe in themselves and live their truth in this dystopian world. It is so important to know how to fight with both good and evil, and to know which power to use when, as well as the ability to pick and chose your battles wisely. I sincerely hope this on the future.

Nina Utashiro

text Ryoko Kuwahara

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