#9 Tao Okamoto
Tao is an international fashion model who represents Japanese models. She has been popular not only in Japan but also in the world through fashion collections in Paris and New York and foreign fashion magazines. Her passion to social activities made her become the organizer of a charity sale in New York after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, and she succeeded in collecting donation of more than 13,000 dollars. We asked Tao about her involvement in charity activities, reasons for going abroad, and tips to succeed outside of Japan as a few Japanese models who are actively working in the world.
Interview with Tao Okamoto
– You have been living in New York for four years. Please tell us about what made you to go abroad and live in a foreign country.
I stayed in England when I was 17 years old, which was my first experience to live in a foreign country for a long period of time. I studied English there, and later on visited various places such as Paris and Asian countries.
I came up with an idea of going to England while I was struggling to think about my future, which was typical to adolescents. I started to have an interest in working in England as a model while I was staying there and applied for a position because I had already had a career as a model in Japan. Becoming a model is not something that I had been dreaming since I was little. I happened to be scouted by a model agency when I started to have a complex about myself.
–Please tell us about your recent activities.
I have been working as a model for 13 years since I started to work at the age of 14. The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 made me try something new since I felt I had already gone through many things in my career. Although I had an interest in charity or volunteering through my friends, who were involved in them, I did not have a chance to do it by myself. However, I felt I had to do something after the earthquakes, and was desperate to do anything I could. I found four other women who had successful careers in New York, and had a meeting with them to support Japan from New York. Since we could not go to the disaster sites by ourselves and help people directly, we decided to do what we can do in New York, and that is how the idea of holding a charity fashion sale was came up with. We got in touch with our fashion industry contacts, and had them bring items they were no longer wearing. Then we invited people to come and buy these items.
It was important to us when planning the event that it was not over overburdened with the concept of “charity”, but rather it was a shopping event. There were those who came to support the event and those who were serious about shopping. That all the money raised in this way became donation to Japan was really wonderful. It was a lot of work but it was successful. It is important to continue to work on these activities, and I already started to have regular meetings for the next event.
I created my own website, http://savejapanofamerica.tumblr.com, whose proceeds from the selling of pictures and photos go to donation. It carries my wish for not forgetting the earthquakes rather than collecting money. I have never thought of reasons of my senior international models being involved in charity activities. Ten years later, I finally realized why by looking back the meaning of my luxurious life as a model such as wearing gorgeous clothes everyday and being invited to parties. I would like to devote my passion to what I really want to do including our charity activities to support Japan.