Friday, 24 February 2012

#FindOutFriday with Beckii Cruel


If you know Charli-Anne and I, then you know no-one does a theme, like we do a theme. NO exaggeration. And if you follow all things Deer Oh Deer Ltd., then you will also know that we've been in overdrive lately; preparing for a 3-day SUPER Exhibition starting at Earls Court this afternoon. HYPER JAPAN SPRING 2012 is the biggest Japanese Cultural event to hit London in recent times; where The Herd Family will exclusively launch our 'Doe so Lovely' collection.

As part of the planning, I of course had to ask my favourite Kawaii-lover what exactly, one wears for such an occasion? I was told in her most Diva-like accent: "Dahling, you HAVE to find your individual J-Style!" Well of course, thought I, with the blankest of expressions...Too embarrassed to enquire further after my recent little Sanrio faux pas (I thought it was a place); I departed my Kawaii-mentor's counsel more confused than ever, but bound for a few hours vacay in the Narnia better known as my wardrobe. A styling consult via BlackBerry messenger followed, but still nothing to my mind, captured 'the appropriate degree of quirk required'. Clearly it was time to seek the advice of a professional, so to Google I went...and that is how I chanced across 16-year-old Wonderkid, Beckii.

This young lady knows a thing or two about creating personal style from an unfamiliar culture. At the age of 14, she became an overnight Japanese sensation after posting a number of dance videos on YouTube. 2 years later and she's still going strong with music, television and most importantly for today - fashion, down to an exact Science. I sat down with the Isle of Man's teen sensation to talk about her whirlwind tale...

1. So Beckii, thank you for taking the time out to give me a  crash course in 'J-culture' ahead of Hyper Japan! I think if we start at the core, I'll get to grips with it. So can you explain to me what exactly 'J-culture' is, how you got involved and what it means to you?
'Beckii' Manga artwork by Stevie Burton
Well how I got involved with it, was when I was doing my dancing, I originally got hooked into the Japanese culture through Manga, which I picked up in Waterstone's about 4 years ago now. Just because it was different, you read it back to front. So I read more into that and I looked online for more things like it and it was just sort of my gateway into the whole world. It all evolved from that really! It means an awful lot to me because of all the opportunities it's given me in my life so far...I've had the opportunity to go to Japan about 8 times in the course of one year, which was phenomenalAlso having the BBC3 documentary was really big for me as well...just all sorts of things that normal people don't tend to get to do, that I did because of my love for Japan!

2. Being recognised, asked for photos and autographs everywhere you go - that's quite a big culture shock that you wouldn't necessarily receive in the UK. Was there an inspiration or example you used to ease you into that transition of becoming more and more known in the spotlight?
Beckii onstage at Manchester's MCM Expo, July 2011
Not particularly, to be honest! There wasn't really anybody I could look to, because it was a very unique thing that happened to me, so there wasn't anybody I could connect to and ask for advice. I had to learn quite a lot of things along the way and just go with the flow a little bit. But I think that in itself did help me; it would be nice to have somebody to turn to for a bit of advice, but I think learning for yourself is probably the best way.

3. You seem to have acclimatised quite well to becoming something of a role model yourself, at a very young age. Do you find that a lot of young girl's reach out to you who are also interested in the culture?
I think that they do, especially after the documentary, it was a lot of British girls who wanted to do what I've done. I think for the Japanese girls, because of the difference in where we live and also cultural differences, they sort of looked up to me as an 'Idol'; but  the girls in the UK look up to me as a role model, which is really nice! I've got a post box where everybody can write to me. I feel like the written letters tend to be the more heartfelt ones, because it takes a lot more effort. Especially nowadays, when you can just send a tweet and it's only 140 characters; compared with writing a letter and taking it to the Post Office. They really mean a lot. It's just lovely to hear from people who want to do the same thing that I've done.

4. What about your friends; how have they taken to what's happened to you and how you've taken off?
They always knew that I liked the dancing online and the J-pop thing, then when I became famous they were just like "Wow, ok!" They've just been really supportive all the way through; when the people from the documentary wanted to interview them, they were more than happy to do that. I don't think it's changed our friendship at all to be honest; they still stayed the same and I've stayed the same for them. I think they appreciate that and I appreciate them a whole lot.

5. I think it's fair to say that you've gained quite a bit of experience now, so I can ask about the differences between the way you're received in Japan and the response you get in the UK. Which audience are you more comfortable with and why?
Beckii live on SANKEI TV, February 2010
The Japanese audiences, definitely! I prefer performing to them solely for the reason that it's a different kind of relationship. I think because of the language differences? In Japan, you don't necessarily know what's being said about you but in the UK, you can understand those comments...not all of them are going to be good of course, you do get those bad comments...but I think it's easier to perform to people in Japan because I don't really tend to worry about that. Also because the audiences in general, they're very energetic and really supportive of their Idols. Like, if you see AKB48, who are a very popular girl group, you see their audiences and they're jumping in the air with glowsticks and everything! it's really high energy, so I love that aspect of the Japanese culture. But of course I also like performing in the UK, because it's nice to see people who like the same things as me, enjoying what I do. I think that's really fun to see and it's nice to connect with people that way.

6. We talked about the reception of J-culture by British audiences. Is there a particular area that you think the UK needs to be more aware of?
Beckii covers Shonen Magazine, July 2010
The whole of the Japanese culture in itself is very powerful, they're all level to me, they all match up to each other? I don't think there's  any specific one that need more attention. But I'm really into the Japanese Idols and I feel like that's something that's really interesting, just because it's like nothing we have over here. When you have an Idol, they're on a pedestal and you buy everything that they make; all the keyrings, the DVDs, photobooks, CDs, you watch all of their TV appearances, that fanbase is really, really so powerful. I think that the only things that I can compare it to over here, I guess, are the Korean boybands, they have massive followings and I think it's kind of similar to One Direction over here, because I think they're trying to model themselves around that. I mean it's different because it's British music and British people; but at the same time, it's those similarities that I think are interesting.

7. So what you're doing right now, with your music and the fashion, all of the many endeavours you've engaged in so far; is this officially a career choice now? Where do you plan to take 'Beckii Cruel' in the future?
I kind of already have made a career out of it, I guess! But I'd love to continue it onto bigger things. This year especially, I'm trying to work more on the fashion side of things. I've paired up with a really great designer called Faye and she's been working on some designs for me. She's designed the outfit which I'm going to be wearing this weekend, which is exciting. It's a sort of reinvention of my original 'Danjo' outfit, which was in the video that 'launched me to fame', I guess!

"My life is amazing because of these 2 minutes and 20 seconds." - Beckii

Beckii was the face of Lotti Fit's Gum in 2009
She's also designed the dress for a collaboration that we're going to be doing with NHK, which is a Japanese broadcasting company, who want to do a feature about me and the OlympicsSo  she's designed a dress for that and it's really gorgeous! I'm looking forward to working more with her. We're also going to be appearing at London Alternative Fashion Week together as well, which is just amazing. So I'm looking forward to just exploring things with her and seeing how we can expand in other ways that we haven't yet tapped into.
'Beckii de Eigo Mimi' (2010),
released through ACSII Media Works

I paired up with a popular book author called Mr (Kiyoshi) Matsuzawa for my language DVDs called 'Beckii de Eigo Mimi'. It was really fun to be able to work with him and also do the DVD side of things which was talking with another girl, doing these conversations. Because it's for a textbook it's got to be very specific, so it's not as natural, but it was interesting to see how I could do with that, I worked very hard on it. Hopefully I'll get more opportunities like that in the future

8. How did you get involved with the HYPER JAPAN event?
Beckii under Press Siege at Doki Doki, November 2011
I've heard of HYPER JAPAN before and I've always wanted to go to be honest, because it looks like it's really nicely put together. It  would be a nice experience just to see how everything goes. We got in contact with them to see if they'll have me, and they did, they were really interested! It will just be really lovely to go! Aside from MCM and Doki Doki, which is  a brand new one in Manchester, this will be the third type of event that I've done in the UK, which is quite cool! 

Happening RIGHT NOW! Running ALL WEEKEND!

9. We'll be seeing you on the Hyper Japan stage this Sunday morning (10:30). How are the preparations going, what can we expect to see and who are you most looking forward to seeing this weekend?
It's been kind of bad, because I've been ill for like, two weeks so I've not had much time to prepare! But I'm kind of on the mend now, so I'm rushing, trying to fix it all up which is kind of stressful, I'm trying not to think too much about it! I've got a whole reserve of dances in my head which I know so hopefully, I'll be able to do something! I usually tend to just do my dancing at my live performances, with a bit of a Q&A between people. I've only got a half hour up on the stage so just sticking to that really, what people know me for, best! 

I think for me personally, who I'm looking forward to seeing most are my friends because a lot of my friends live in England, these conventions are the only time I ever get to see them, so it's lovely to meet up with them again. Also I'm looking forward to just seeing who's there to be honest! I've not looked at the setlist too in-depth; but I think a lot of Internet people, people I look up to as well, not just my friends, I'm looking forward to seeing...Living here just kind of shuts me off from the rest of all my friends so it's nice to go and see them. Also I just want to go and see all the sellers and see what's going on and the performers...everyone really!

10. Now this is the part where you can help me. The Fashion and Jewellery label that I work with DEER OH DEER, will be showcasing a specially designed collection. When I asked what to wear to Earls Court, I was told to "find my individual J-Style". Can you help me find mine, by telling me how you found yours?
At 14, Beckii was the youngest model in Spring of 2010
I feel like over the years, going from 13 to 16 - which I am now; I've gone through quite a lot of different styles. I think initially, when you first discover Japanese Culture, it's a massive culture shock. you get into things like Visual Kei with the massive hair; they're all these really visual styles which is amazing to see. I think especially when you come from over here where our rock bands aren't necessarily so extravagant with their style; just having that big influence of culture and fashion, seeing all the magazines with all the different niche's just amazing how diverse it is.
So for me, I was very much into the Rock/Punk style and that influenced how I used to dress; but for now I'm more into the florals and the really girly styles. It's interesting because all these different styles have a different area in Tokyo; like the girly styles are from Shibuya, the extreme, high fashion styles are from Harajuku...there's all these avenues by which people express themselves and I think it's lovely. It just takes a lot of getting used to all the different kinds of variations and choosing which one you feel expresses you the most.

Many thanks Beckii! I think I have an idea of where to start now!  I would just like to take this opportunity to say how very impressed I am with the way this gracious young lady handled herself.

Over the course of my research, I was truly saddened by the online abuse I witnessed across every, single forum I visited - including Beckii's personal accounts. I saw numerous posts asking why she is famous? From what I saw, the reason is simple; she is extremely astute and enterprising, with an initiative that belies her years. She works hard whilst many devote their time to posting harassing statements. Each day, her actions contribute to the increase of her portfolio (and bank balance by extension); I would like to know what results the 'keyboard warriors' achieved in the same duration?

Back to the fun part - I'll get this inspiring young lady's assessment of my attempts this Sunday; but if YOU want to see how I fared, make sure you check out this week's Sunday Sauce and LIKE Deer Oh Deer on facebook, to see the pictures from our biggest showcase yet, as SOON as they are posted!

Better still, why not come down and see us, the one-off 'Doe so Lovely' collection and Beckii's performance for your self?

Keep up to date with all things Beckii!

Facebook / Twitter / Weibo (Japanese Twitter Equivalent)

Thanks for reading, hope you all enjoyed this week's J-culture twist as much as I did. See you next time!