“I’m not really good with words so I express myself with my body”
Julia Abe is a Brazillian/Japanese model and artist based in Tokyo, Japan. At 21 years of age, Julia has found success working with brands from Uniqlo to Adidas Originals to Valentino and being featured numerous times in magazines like Japan i-D and Vogue Japan.
But don’t be fooled by her cool demeanour and alluring gaze she effortlessly pulls, Julia is grounded, a deep thinker, and, at times, just dorky and silly. Making her first trip as a model to New York in December and January, Christopher Quyen chats with Julia to see just where she is in her journey.
Hi Julia, can you introduce yourself?
I’m Julia Abe, I’m 21 years old and I model, but I also do art… I paint… and I draw.
How did you get started in modelling?
I originally was found on Facebook. I had so many Japanese/Brazillian girlfriends that were all modelling in Japan for some reason. I just found that so interesting. Why are all the mixed girls in Japan modelling? Like, does that give them money? laughs. When I scouted I originally thought it wasn’t for me, but I thought I may as well give it a shot.
And what do you think of the journey so far?
I’m not really good with words so I thought expressing myself with my body could be a good opportunity to be more open. I’m such a shy person that I’m always in my room drawing and I’m never interacting with people so modelling helped me out with being more open with people.
“Modelling helped me out with being more open with people.”
What about your art? What are you inspired by?
My two biggest inspirations for my art are Tim Burton and Murakami Takashi, but people say my art is very weird in a way that it looks cute, but is also gross, and my biggest inspiration beyond them is myself. I try to portray how gross I think I am on the inside or how creepy or how cute or however I’m feeling at the moment.
How do you feel after you’ve finished an artwork?
I have this thing where I don’t ever finish an artwork, all of my paintings are incomplete pieces because I feel like my life is still incomplete and I thought it was only fair to portray that side of me in my art.
“I have this thing where I don’t ever finish an artwork, all of my paintings are incomplete pieces”
So working in Tokyo as someone who is mixed what sort of challenges or opportunities have you found?
I’m not going to lie it was really difficult at the beginning. There is still racism in Japan. I actually moved out of Japan to Brazil when I was young because I couldn’t deal with the other kids telling me I’m a f**king foreigner and I look so different. But since I moved back to Japan, things are different. Maybe it’s because I grew and now I’m a girl and now I have boobs. laughs. It’s kind of weird, because on the inside I still feel like a kid and it makes no sense that people treat me different from when I was a little kid there.
And what about now?
It’s been good recently because people are starting to really appreciate girls with different features. They like seeing me on the cover of magazines because I still look Japanese, but I may have bigger eyes. There’s a long way to go still. The industry, not just in Japan, but everywhere else has to incorporate more diverse models. They say they’re doing it, but I feel like it’s so slow – that shit should go faster. laughs.
“… Since I moved back to Japan, things are different. Maybe it’s because I grew and now I’m a girl and now I have boobs (laughs)”
You ready for some quick-fire questions?
What’s your drink of choice?
What do you listen to in your spare time?
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Crystal Castles and Alice Glass. Just music with a lot of noise that gets you high. laughs. Music that gets you high, I like that kind of music.
“I listen to music with a lot of noise that gets you high”
Night-in or night out?
I prefer to stay in.
What’s the next language you want to learn?
I want to learn French since it’s so similar to Portuguese, but I feel like I can’t take anymore languages in my head. I know four languages and… no. laughs.
Who would you most like to meet in your life?
I was going to say Natalie Portman, but I already met her… so I got to say Angelina Jolie. Personally, I feel like I would like to do what she did where she started off with modelling and then did some underground movies. I feel like we’re on similar paths so I’d like sit down and ask her some questions.
What photographer or artist would you most like to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with Trevor Andrew, the artist who drew the GucciGhost stuff. I thought I was going to see him here, but he just went to LA. His art incorporates strong brushstrokes which is very different from mine so if we did something together it would be an interesting contrast.
What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?
I would like to see myself be as successful as I am in Japan here in the States and start acting!
Photographer/Stylist: Christopher Quyen – www.christopherquyen.com
Make-Up Artist: Mika Omura – www.instagram.com/make_mika.o
Hair Stylist: Rena Kobayashi – www.instagram.com/____ponr
Videographer: Redscope Films – www.instagram.com/redscopefilms
Model: Julia Abe – www.instagram.com/juliasumire