Rendez-vous with Hanako.
19 January, 2017
Presenting our first Rendez-vous in a series of meetings with influential women from varied backgrounds and discipline that embody the Death in Paris girl, each showcasing pieces from the latest collection, New Work. Embracing her cross cultural roots, Hanako talks about growing up in London, pursuing her dreams and romance.
M: How old are you and where did you grow up?
H: I am 22 and I was born in London and grew up here.
M: What is your background?
H: I’m quarter Irish, quarter English and half Japanese.
M: How did your parents meet?
H: So my mum came here, to England for holiday and she was given a man’s number just in case she got into any trouble at the airport. Her bags ended up getting lost and she went to a phone booth, because obviously you didn’t have mobile phones at the time, and she phoned the number and this guy picked up, and it was my dad. He told her to stay there and that he was coming to the airport to collect her and then he would take her the next day to the airport to get her bags. So that’s how they met.
M: How long ago was that?
H: Oh god…. I don’t know. My mum is in her 60’s and my dad is in his 70’s, and they’ve been together for their whole lives. My mum met my dad when she was 20 something.
M: So your mother moved to England after that?
H: Well, she went back to Japan, because she was just here for a holiday. They sort of both presumed that they’d meet other people, but they never did. They were writing love letters to each other the whole time, across the sea, and one day my mum received a letter and in it was a ring, and my father asked for her hand in marriage.
M: That’s really, really romantic!
H: It’s not Tinder, that’s for sure!
M: No far from it! Do you feel more English or more Japanese? How did you feel growing up half Asian, quite traditional and growing up in London? Did you ever feel different? Do people perceive you as extremely exotic?
H:I get that word a lot: exotic. Actually the definition of exotic is when something grows in a place where its not meant to- so actually its quite offensive! I think its so ridiculous to call someone exotic because its exotic to who? It’s exotic to what? I only became aware of the… prejudice is a strong word, but let’s say the difference in how people perceive you, when I went to secondary school. The neighboring boys school were a little bit racist and would call me a Jap Jap. Thats when I realized, oh ok, this is a thing. And when I go to Japan people don’t recognize me as half Japanese or Japanese at all.
M: What are you doing for work at the moment?
H: Right now I’m doing a hybrid project called Modern Love that involves film and theatre. For all intensive purposes it is a play, on a stage, but there’s also a screen as a backdrop. Intermittent between scenes, and as a prologue and an epilogue, there is film. The film is very heightened, hyper-real but also very naturalistic in terms of the acting and the events. What you see on the stage is very minimalistic and pulled back and we are all wearing grey, genderless clothing but the play, the writing, is also very naturalistic. So its an interesting project because you are juggling two things; you are juggling film acting and theatre acting and then you also have to combine the two in order to complement each other. It’s a four-hander, so two guys and two girls and its set in Oxford, during the second year. It’s all about love and friendship and coming out and relationships and consent and mental health.
M: How long have you been acting?
H:I signed with my agent when I was 18, just as I left high school.
M: Were you studying before that when you were younger? Did you always know that was the direction you wanted to take?
H: I think secretly I knew, but I never felt like I had the confidence. i remember in primary school they were auditioning for Annie and my friend came up to me and she said “Hanako, you should really audition for Annie!” and I said, “No, there’s no way,” because the idea of getting up on stage in front of a load of people was absolutely terrifying to me. Then I went to high school and I remember singing a song from Grease on the school bus and these older girls saying to me “You’ve got a really good voice.” That all of a sudden gave me this confidence and self-assurance, and I was able to perform in front of people. So that was really useful. I studied it in school as a subject, but it was done so badly that there was nothing supportive or encouraged about that so I really I had to find it for myself.
M: Do you have a female role model who inspires you?
H: I think its the small things, its the daily things that my friends tell me about. Its my mother, its my sisters. I don’t have someone in the public eye that I particularly look up to, I know there are a lot of actresses that I love and respect but I think I get my inspiration from my friends and my family. For example, my friend Helena, she was at work the other day and she was told she had to put on more makeup and she said, “No fucking way.” And she walked off. I’m pretty certain that if I were in her place I would have just said, “Ok, yea sure.” But now the next time someone says that to me, I’m going to say, “No, fuck you, part of my job isn’t how I look but how I connect with people.” Its things like that inspire me, really.
M: Is there something like an object, for example clothing, or makeup, or a gift, that you really care about, or that you couldn’t live without? Something that you always have on you, apart from your phone?
H: Yea, there are a couple of things. I’m not wearing my rings right now, I usually wear my rings every day. I stopped wearing them because at rehearsals they just get in the way and I don’t want to lose them. Normally I were a set of rings every day and there is a particular one that my mom got when she graduated from high school in America and its beautiful. The idea of losing that breaks my heart, so I treasure that immensely. I also love Tom Ford’s contouring kit!
M: Tell me everything about your beauty routine because your skin is amazing.
H: Well, I will tell you a little bit about my makeup obsession. When I was younger I used to watch my sisters do their makeup- there is 10 years difference between my closest older sister in age so I would always watch put their makeup on before they would go out.
M: It is fascinating, I used to do the same with my mum. I used to watch her.
H: It’s so engaging and beautiful and its a form of self expression. It was mind-boggling to me. So I always got their hand-me-downs, their makeup hand-me-downs, you know. So if they didn’t like an eyeliner anymore or a nail polish they’d give it to me. Then I would get my friend in primary school to come round, and I would ask them to knock on my bedroom door, and I’d be like “come in,” and I’d sit them down like “Oh, what sort of look do you want today?” And I would do their makeup.
M: What’s your favorite drink?
H: I love a whiskey sour.
M: Do you like Japanese whiskey?
H: Yea, of course! I love whiskey on the rocks as well.
M: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
H: How old will I be? 26? Hang on, 27! In love….. I mean, I’m in love now, but to still be in love haha. And doing what I love doing, which is acting.