Timeless beauty

NEWLY-CROWNED Miss Universe Japan 2018 Yuumi Kato was recently in Malaysia for an exclusive preview of Uniqlo Autumn/Winter ’18 collection.

I had the opportunity to chat with the lovely model-actress, who previously lived in Malaysia between the ages of five and 16.

She spoke about her upbringing, and her journey to becoming Miss Universe Japan.

As she sat across the table, she flashed an infectious smile that, coupled with her genteel personality, showcased her natural charm to perfection.

Her individual style effortlessly embodies Uniqlo's code of aesthetics – casual yet universal, trendy yet timeless, functional yet comfortable.

Kato herself values simplicity, preferring thoughtful and modern details over extravagant ensembles.

Now, she wants to show the world that beauty isn’t just all about appearance.

Why did you start modelling?

I started modelling at the age of 19 in Japan because of my mum. She used to be a model when she was younger, and she suggested that I try it out.

What is your definition of beauty?

Everyone can be beautiful if you don't give up. Before involving myself in Miss Universe Japan, I was deemed to be a very ‘boyish girl’, I like to be in the great outdoors and spend time amongst nature.

Right after I was selected to be a part of the beauty pageant, I realised [I could not afford to] get lazy ... Every time after I shower, I have to moisturise my face and slather some lotion on my skin, but if I ever get lazy and stop doing it, it’ll be the end of my beauty.

How does a beauty pageant find a place in society?

Everyone has to know that having the title – Miss Universe Japan – isn’t just about the physical looks, it’s the inside that counts. It’s about how strong your mentality is, how intelligent you are, and what kind of story you can tell the audience.

What do you wish more people knew about you?

Having lived in Malaysia for 10 years, many think I know nothing about Japanese culture.

But when I was 16 years old, I went back to Japan to learn about Japanese traditional culture and tea servings.

During my stay at a tea ceremony house, I had to wake up as early as 5am to clean the house and prepare everything.

With the title of Miss Universe Japan, I realised my mission is to serve as a bridge between Malaysia and Japan ... I want to tell the world of the charm of Japan.

How would you describe your style, and what does it say about you?

The truth is I don’t actually like all the sparkly dresses [that I wore during the pageant]. I’m more of an outdoor person, so I always like to be in comfortable clothing.

What is your first memory of Uniqlo?

I remember when Uniqlo first opened in Malaysia at Fahrenheit 88. That time I was just about to go back to Japan, so I felt really glad that Uniqlo had finally expanded into Malaysia.

I wanted to buy something, but after seeing the ridiculously long queue outside the store I decided not to. After all, I can always buy it in Japan.

Luckily, there was a Uniqlo store just 10 minutes walk from my house [in Japan].

I love its AIRism clothing, because I tend to sweat a lot during summer. And because I’m so used to tropical weather and not used to the winter season in Japan, I’ll always wear HEATTECH to keep myself warm. I find it to be [light], and extremely comfortable for everyday wear.

What was the best advice someone has given you?

My life changed when I was 14 years old. I got bullied in school, and I couldn’t go out from the house to attend classes most of the time.

My parents always told me not to give up in that situation, or in anything I do. They showed tremendous support [and helped me become] who I am today.

[Even] a person like myself, who did not receive enough education [about pageants] can still become Miss Universe Japan.

Whatever you do, don’t give up, because that’s the most important thing in life.