TOKYO (CNN) — A biracial beauty queen in Japan is facing criticism for not being ‘Japanese enough.’ She’s half Japanese, half African American.
Some say her race doesn’t represent Japan’s demographic.
CNN speaks with the 20-year-old beauty queen, who is overcoming racial hurdles and helping expand the definition of what it means to be Japanese.
In a culture that prefers pale, where white skin is a symbol of beauty, a revolution on the runway.
Miss Nagasaki, Ariana Miyamoto, is the first ever mixed race Miss Universe Japan.
Walking through Tokyo’s fashion district Harajuku, this 20-year-old model stands out and stands above pretty much everyone.
She’s almost 6 feet in heels.
“Have you always been the tallest person in the room, growing up in Japan?” CNN asked.
“Yeah, I’m tall (laughs),” Miyamoto answers.
With a Japanese mother and African American father from Arkansas, Miyamoto is “hafu/haafu” – meaning half-Japanese.
In a country where around 98-percent of the population is said to be the same race, this beauty queen was bullied for being different.
“In school people used to throw garbage at me. They also used racial slurs,” Miyamoto said.
“People encounter discrimination and prejudice here,” Temple University professor Jeff Kingston said. The Asian studies professor says Japan has embraced mixed race entertainers, even athletes.
But Miyamoto is the first to break this beauty barrier.
“It sends a very positive message about the changing Japan to the rest of the world,” Kingston said.
Some feel Miyamoto, who was born in Nagasaki, shouldn’t represent her homogenous homeland.
“No, she doesn’t even look Japanese,” Ishiko Komagawa woman says.
“Why not accept her as a Japanese?” CNN asked.
“Because half is not 100% Japanese,” says high school student Tomoki Nogami. “If someone is chosen as Miss Japan, both her parents should be Japanese.”
Miyamoto says the criticism of her crown only makes her train harder for Miss Universe in January.
“By you winning this title, do you think it will change the definition of being Japanese?” CNN asked.
“Yeah. I want to tell the world, even a half-Japanese can represent Japan,” Miyamoto replied.
The new face of Japanese beauty, preparing to compete on a global stage.
Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto (Photo: Instagram)