Priyanka Yoshikawa
executive impact

Priyanka Yoshikawa: From Miss World Japan to entrepreneur in the wellness world

13 Comments
By Lucy Dayman

From moving from Japan to the States to India all before the age of 10, to being picked on at school for looking different to winning the 2016 Miss World Japan title—and being the first half—Japanese contestant to do so, Priyanka Yoshikawa is the definition of resilience.

While she’s been a staple of the modeling world in Japan and abroad since finishing high school, Priyanka has used her media attention to shine a light on how important it is to embrace diversity in a nation as homogeneous as Japan.

In May she launched an ageless, genderless, and ethnically diverse CBD wellness and beauty range to help solidify her message, inspired by her experience as a multi-racial woman growing up in Japan and her excitement for aging. 

You had a pretty exciting childhood, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mom and Indian dad. My mom has an incredible passion for learning, so when I was in the first grade, I moved to California with her so she could broaden her studies. 

Going to school in the States was so eye-opening, the diversity of my classmates was something that opened my eyes to the world and was such a formative experience for me. It was the first time I’d really seen peers that looked like me. I really think while I didn’t know it at the time, this set the foundations for what my life’s ambitions would later become.

But by the time I was in 4th grade [nine years old], my Mom was completing her studies, and my Dad was out of Japan a lot on business, so my parents asked me to decide between moving back to Japan to live with my grandparents, or going to India to live with my father’s family. After so much time outside of the country, I couldn’t imagine going back to life in Japan, so I chose to move to India. I moved to Calcutta to live with my cousins and get in touch with my roots, and I learned basic Bengali in a month.

When did you come back to Japan?

In the 6th grade, I moved back to Tokyo. It was a massive culture shock. I had the darkest skin out of anyone in my class, and I couldn’t read or speak Japanese that well. While I think now in hindsight, it’s made me a lot stronger, at the time I was outcasted for being different. My classmates would make comments about my body hair, and if they touched me, they’d try and wipe off the ‘germs’ that they thought they would catch from me. 

I quickly learned that in Japan, nobody wants to stick out, while the US is a very multicultural country. India isn’t super multicultural, but the country has a lot of internal diversity. The culmination of these experiences made me question identity, and my understanding of that concept means.

How did you first become involved in Japan’s beauty industry?

After school, I was doing modeling; I think my attraction to the beauty world was an act of defiance to all the kids in school who made comments about how I looked. I believed in myself and thought it was a way to show people that what makes me different makes me beautiful.

I got scouted for pageants and decided to compete in the Miss World Japan 2016 pageant because its mission is “beauty with a purpose.” I was the first “hafu” (half-Japanese) crowned Miss World Japan and the second to win a pageant in all of Japan after Ariana Miyamoto, who had previously won Miss Universe Japan in 2015.

Through winning the pageant, you became a key face of diversity in Japan, something that you lean into heavily, you even did a TEDx Talk on it two years ago. Have you noticed Japan become more progressive in the years since that?

Yes, being half, and especially half Indian garnered a lot of attention both in Japan and in India. The move to use my newfound platform to talk about diversity was an organic transition, and one I was happy to embrace. 

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

13 Comments
Login to comment

Awesome!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Picked on in school?!?! If she were my high-school classmate back in the day, that would be the last thing I'd be doing toward her, if you catch my drift. I'd be doing the exact opposite. Phroarrr!!

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

She’s beautiful and strong.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

and being the first half—Japanese contestant to do so

Here we go again... It is impossible to be "half Japanese". Japanese is a nationality, which means you either are Japanese or you are not Japanese. If she holds a Japanese passport she is Japanese, end of discussion.

Half is a negative and derogatory expression.

It would be correct (and positive too) to refer to Priyanka as having dual or double nationality / ethnicity.

Anyway, good for her and I wish her every success in her career and future.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

„I was the first “hafu” (half-Japanese) crowned Miss World Japan and the second to win a pageant in all of Japan after Ariana Miyamoto, who had previously won Miss Universe Japan in 2015.„

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Half is a negative and derogatory expression.

I've never felt that. Two halves make a whole.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Half is a negative

I kind of agree with you here. “Half” implies that something is incomplete. And if Priyanka has kids, what would they be labelled? “Quarter”? “Three-quarters”?

I’ve never really liked the term, although it doesn’t bother me when people say it. But I prefer that people don’t refer to my kids as half.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

JeffLee:

If she were my high-school classmate back in the day, that would be the last thing I'd be doing toward her, if you catch my drift. I'd be doing the exact opposite. Phroarrr!!

Take a leaf out of quercetum's book and at least say something more gentleman-like. It's disgusting and demeaning of you to say something like that. If she were my daughter, I tell her to steer well clear of you.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I wouldn't mind trying CBD, though maybe not if priced like other supplements in Japan. Simple vitamins and the like can be super expensive here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A real credit to her parents and herself. Well done. A double, not a half.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Many people want to find a way to be offended. The term halfu is simply a word that simply explains the fact that her parents come from different countries or ethnicities, thus she is half of each, which equals a whole. It's not meant to offend. Would it be more palatable to say she is "mixed"? I think not. I hate to say it this way, but people or curious and observant. Even the simple game taught in elementary school of can easily tell something that doesn't belong or is not quite like the other? Apple, Apple, Apple, Grape. Hmmmm, I wonder which is different? It's just human nature, not something outrageous or hurtful. She is a hottie, and will do well in life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Pukey2 

t's disgusting and demeaning of you to say something like that. 

Haha. So clearly you don't what the opposite of being "picked on" means. It means making a person feel like they belong and treated with kindness.

If she were my daughter, I tell her to steer well clear of you.

I pity your hypothetical daughter.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

For those not living in Japan, nor speaking Japanese the ‘hafu’ term might cause consternation.

However, the word does not have the meaning of ‘half’ as 50% is less than a whole.

When learning that a child is of international parents the Japanese reaction is if more interest and a little envy!

The term hafu applies to children of mixed parentage and does not link to nationality.

The very fact that Priyanka can use Japanese terms whilst speaking English as part of her narration shows how truly multicultural she is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites