Anyone who has ever glanced at the covers of such magazines as JJ, Classy, More, Voce, Figaro Japan, Miss, Baila, Very, Maquia or Marisol will no doubt be familiar with the vibrant face of Hawaii-based model Brenda. The multitalented Brenda has also done an extensive number of commercials for companies such as Coca Cola, Kao, Wacoal, JAL, P&G, Subaru, Onward, ABC Mart and Kirin Lemon.
“I never thought I would get into modeling,” Brenda says. “I wanted to be a reporter. I used to do these mock interviews with every single member of my family, complete with tape recorder, note pads, and pencil in my ear. Before that, I think I wanted to be a hair stylist or designer. I used to cut the hair on all my dolls and I would make them clothes out of old scarves or rags. I had the ugliest, worst dressed Barbies on the block.”
When she was 10, Brenda moved with her family from Seattle to Hawaii (“rain to rainbows,” is how she puts it). “I was a senior in high school when a model scout requested to meet with me after viewing my photos at my agency. He wanted me to leave for Japan as soon as possible, but I was not interested in dropping out of school, so I waited until after graduation. I was a very curious and impressionable teenager and there was always something about the Japanese that fascinated me. Going to Japan was mainly to indulge that curiosity. The plan was to stay for the length of my summer break, because I was to attend college that fall. But I fell in love with the city, the people and the perilous adventure of being on my own.”
Brenda started modeling for JJ while studying at Temple University Japan, then returned to Hawaii to finish her education. “A few years later, I came back to Japan and resumed modeling for more mature high fashion magazines,” she says. “One thing that stands out in my mind about working in Japan is the way they treat you. Often in this line of work, you are handled like an object and many times denied an opinion or voice. In Tokyo, whether you are a supermodel or on your very first job, you are so well-looked after and treated with the utmost kindness and respect.”
Unlike many models, Brenda says it wasn’t a battle keeping her weight down. “Actually, it’s only recently that I control my portions and make a conscious effort to eat healthy. In my youth - I ate guiltlessly and never gained weight. There were times when I was stick thin, and then there were times when I was an average weight. I never really liked being too thin (which many models are) because I didn’t feel very feminine and didn’t like the way certain clothes fit, though the magazines seemed to like it. I never really denied myself one of the best pleasures in life - food. The key is moderation and a little exercise.”
Among her other endeavors, Brenda came out with a book, “Aloha to Zen” in 2004, and since 2005, has produced and designed for Japanese clothing brand mimi and roger. From April, she will appear each month on the cover of Marisol magazine for one year.
She is currently living in Hawaii but visits Japan regularly. “I knew that if I stayed in Japan, I would have prioritized my work first and my personal life second. I wanted to try to switch those two things around for a time being and see how things would turn out. When I’m not traveling to Japan, I am working from home. I write a monthly lifestyle column for Baila magazine. But my main job these days is working as creative director for mimi and roger to keep the cool styles coming.”
When she is not working, Brenda indulges her passion for photography and making jewelry which she gives away as gifts. “I also enjoy hiking, running, tennis and biking,” she says. And what does she miss the most about Japan? “I’d have to say that Japan has the best customer service. The level surpasses that of any other country … and you don’t even have to tip. That blows me away.”© Japan Today