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Pssst, Sabina, have your Mom read this pitch about why you should model in Tokyo.

19 августа 2014, 12:36

Come on, Mom, let Sabina model. I know just the place for her: Tokyo, where I had a great time as a model.

I recently called some former Tokyo drinking buddies – excuse me, I mean experts on the Tokyo modeling scene – about whether the glittering city would be the best place for Sabina to gain money and fame as a model and actress.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you all know the Sabina I’m talking about – Sabina Altynbekova, the 17-year-old Almaty resident whose good looks caused a sensation at last month’s 19-and-under Asian Women’s Volleyball Championships in Taipei.

Sabina has said publicly that she doesn’t want to model, but instead wants to concentrate on volleyball. But she said this after her unexpected fame prompted led to complaints from her coach and teammates and after her Mom said there was no way she would model. So I wonder what Sabina’s feels about modeling deep down.

Photo courtesy of Sabina Altynbekova.

Sabina Altynbekova. Photo from the athlete's personal profile in vk.com

The experts I contacted -- Dennis Falt and Mike Fleming -- and I came to the consensus that she should go to Tokyo. She’d have the time of her life, earn scads of money for her university studies and her future after uni, and pick up Japanese, which could be a big help in her career.

And she might even be able to practice with Japan’s women’s volleyball team.

I admit that the opinions of Dennis, Mike and I do not constitute a scientific sampling on the question of whether Sabina should model in Tokyo. But all three of us modeled there, so we do have some expertise – in fact, in my case, maybe the only expertise I have.

So, please, Nuripa Amrievna, consider changing your mind about your daughter being a model. Let her strut her stuff – uh, let me rephrase that – start her career in Tokyo.

Longtime Tokyo model and actor Dennis Falt played a Soviet submarine captain in Godzilla 1985.

Longtime Tokyo model and actor Dennis Falt played a Soviet submarine captain in Godzilla 1985. Photo courtesy of Dennis Falt.

Dennis, who continues to do television commercials and TV dramas in Tokyo, and Mike, who modeled for years there before heading back to the States, helped me come up with some good reasons why Sabina should model in Tokyo.

And here they are, Sabina:

Tokyo has always been one of the top five modeling venues in the world, along with New York, London, Paris and Milan.

A key reason is that it’s produced some of the top fashion designers, including Hanae Mori, Issey Miyake, Kenzo Yohii, Comme des Garcons, Keita Maruyama, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto.People from around the world attend Tokyo fashion shows. You never know who’ll show up.

In Tokyo you’ll get to do print and TV advertising for some of the world’s top companies – such as Toyota, Coca-Cola and Chanel – which means you’ll get some of the world’s top modeling fees.

For example, I once did a Budweiser beer commercial there. Hmm, I guess I shouldn’t bring that up, Sabina, given that you’re several years away from the legal drinking age and all.

I’ve been reading that Taiwanese modeling agencies have been dangling contracts and endorsements in front of you, but – begging your pardon, my Taiwanese friends – you’ll have a lot more opportunity in Tokyo, Sabina.

You’ve already got a built-in fan base in Tokyo. When Taiwanese journalists’ and volleyball fans’ enchantment with you led to your photos and videos going viral last month, a lot of Japanese became enamored of you.

Japanese groupies are the most adoring, puppy-doggish fans in the world, so if you were in Tokyo, you would be idolized everywhere you went.Dennis noted that the Japanese love both Western models and exotic-looking Asians – girls they can tell with one glance are not Japanese. There’s something intriguing about non-Japanese Asians to them.

“Modeling agencies would be standing in line to sign Sabina up,” Mike said. “They know that a lot of Japanese already adore her.”


Former American football player Mike Fleming’s sturdy build led to his often playing athletes in television commercials and dramas in Tokyo.

Former American football player Mike Fleming’s sturdy build led to his often playing athletes in television commercials and dramas in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of Mike Fleming.

The Japanese are the best anime artists in the world. I’ve seen anime of you that adoring fans have drawn in Taiwan, China and elsewhere.But Japan is where anime started, and its artists are still the champs. A few months in Tokyo and you’re guaranteed to have boxes of anime you can keep as souvenirs forever.

Photo courtesy of Sabina Altynbekova's fans.

Photo from the athlete's personal profile in vk.com

Tokyo is a safe city to model in. Japanese agencies have a reputation for watching out for their models. No funny stuff, no hanky panky.They keep an especial watchful eye out for guys like Mike, a former California surfer.

I did a television commercial for Gillette shaving cream in Tokyo that involved me, two other foreign guys and a hunky Japanese actor named Hiromi Go wearing nothing but towels around our waists. But I was shameless back then.

I still am, actually. You could put a clause in your contract saying you wouldn’t do provocative shots, Sabina.

As for whether it would be safe to live in Tokyo, Dennis noted that “you don’t have to worry about Japan. It’s a very peaceful country, it has a low crime rate and very friendly people.”

Modeling in Tokyo is a lot of fun. Dennis, Mike and I all have funny stories about modeling and acting jobs we’ve done there.

Here’s one of Dennis’s stories that Kazakhs -- because they were once part of the Soviet Union -- can relate to:Dennis played a Soviet submarine captain in the movie “Godzilla 1985,” but neither he nor the foreigners playing the sub’s crew spoke Russian.

So the director asked a Ukrainian woman who lived in Tokyo to coach them in Russian pronunciation.Neither Dennis nor the others were good at Russian, however. After two days of coaching, the Ukrainian woman’s parting words were: “I’m so glad this movie’s not going to Russia.”

Photo from the athlete's personal profile in facebook.com

Photo from the athlete's personal profile in facebook.com

You’d meet celebrities. “When you model, you get to meet famous people – both Japanese and stars from other countries,” Mike said.A number of Holllywood actors come to Japan each year to shoot television commercials. Music stars also come to do concerts. Japan is the second-biggest music market in the world – behind only the United States.

A lot of models in Tokyo these days are from the former Soviet Union, so you’d instantly have someone you could relate to. And when you were missing Kazakhstan, you could speak Russian.

The “Russian look” took the modeling world by storm a few years ago, and Tokyo is no exception. “There are so many Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian girls here now,” Dennis said. “When I go to a casting, they’re everywhere.”He has yet to meet a model from Kazakhstan, he said, but has met some from Azerbaijan and other CIS countries.

Sabina Altynbekova. © instagram.com/altynbekova_20

Sabina Altynbekova. © instagram.com/altynbekova_20

You’d learn Japanese. Both Dennis and Mike have excellent Japanese. Both found it helped with their modeling and acting careers.Not only does it help you talk with your model agent, but also the casting directors you’ll need to impress and the directors, producers, makeup artists and camera people you’ll work with.

Mike’s prowess with Japanese actually helped him land a job with an internationally renowned company based in Japan.

Models from the former Soviet Union work hard to learn Japanese, Dennis noticed. “All the ones I know speak really good Japanese,” he said. “This is very important – it helps you get more work.”

Dennis said he was surprised during a casting call to see models from Russia and Europe speaking Japanese with each other.

“Some could speak Russian, some English, but all could speak Japanese,” he said. “It was the common language they used to communicate. But I must say it was strange to see a bunch of blondes talking to each other in Japanese.”

So there you have it, Mrs. Amrievna, a fistful of compelling reasons why your daughter should model in Tokyo.

You know, sometimes I think I should have been a lawyer instead of a journalist and professor. I could have given stirring closing arguments.

Let me close by saying I’d be happy to help you line up a Tokyo modeling agency for Sabina.

As for remuneration, it would be reasonable – just 10 percent of everything she earned there.

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