Like every travel story; you set off on a new adventure that sometimes bursts you out of your comfort zone yet somehow that new adventure always ends up becoming memorable and invaluable. The people you meet on your adventure, the incomparable flavours that titillated your palates, the distinctive and sometimes cultural music that made you unknowingly sway your hips or the laughter you shared with strangers while reminiscing on old times lost – all define memorability. All these and much more make travelling extremely worth it. I met Tokio James by chance during my visit to Thailand. For black female travelers, it is sometimes difficult to find other independent black female travelers specifically in areas where almost all beauty products promote fairer skin. However, finding a sista with the same colour always becomes a dilemma, you either get along or act like strangers and move along. This was how a friend and I met Tokio James, whom we immediately connected and clicked with by the front desk of the Western Union kiosk inside the Siam Square mall in Bangkok, Thailand. After meeting Tokio, the slender and ebony skin coloured 6-foot girl, I knew we would instantly become friends. She approached with such humility, grace, and fierce beauty that oozed and radiated warmth. She discussed that she was in Thailand on a modeling contract and would be re-locating to New York very soon. Like every non-model person, I immediately fell in awe of her personality, and I was happy to admit that I surmised she was a model. We talked about our heritage, our various countries of residence and mostly about keeping in touch after that chance encounter. We did keep in touch, and sitting here on my worktable back in Canada, I knew I had to feature her on our website. So, I formally reached out to Tokio, as other previous correspondences had been informal. She took time out of her busy schedule of walking runways and shooting editorial work, and from a taxi cab in Bangkok on her way to a Chanel fashion show, she humbly answered all my questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Tokio: My name is Tokio James. A 20 year old, 6-foot tall girl from Australia. I have been living in Melbourne since 2004 with my brother and paternal uncle. I completed secondary school but differed my post secondary school education for 2 years. Nonetheless, I hope to graduate with a double degree in commerce and applied finance in the future.
How did your modeling career begin?
Tokio: I was discovered by an agency called Darley Models in Australia when I was only 16 years old but I was unable to proceed with modeling because I wanted to finish my secondary school education. However, once I completed my secondary education at 18 years old, I contacted Darley Models again and they hopped me right on board. I was immediately sent to South Africa for the South African fashion week and then after that I travelled to Singapore for some editorial work. From that moment, my travelling and modeling life began with one location leading to the next one. Right now, I am in Thailand and loving it. I work everyday in all fields of modeling; runways, editorial catalogs, look books, magazines, and advertisements and so much more.
What has been your favourite/memorable moment of your career?
Tokio: To be honest, I don’t have one memorable moment. The way I see it is that everyday is memorable because yesterday, today and tomorrow are not the same. I meet new and incredible people each day and because I find that I am very approachable, I connect with every person I meet and converse with. Perhaps if probed again, I’d reply that some of my favourite moments from my career would be any down time I get to go shopping and dining. I love food. I might be one of the few models that would admit to eating as a hobby. But I have a body, which requires very little maintenance, in addition to a very fast metabolism, so I get away with eating just about anything. I also very rarely exercise, but do whenever I remember to stay healthy. However, one thing is for sure, I generally do not starve myself, on the contrary to what most people perceive about modeling and models.
What is your overall view on the negative perception of the modeling industry?
Tokio: First of all, I treat modeling like a “job” separate from my personality and myself. So, the negative views don’t really get to me because my job doesn’t really define me as an individual. Secondly, for every career in life, I believe there are always negative sides just like there are positive sides. However, we all know the negative side of modeling is often the facet magnified in the media and in households. The only way I get through all the pessimism is by focusing on all the great things modeling has made me accomplish and experience in life. I travel constantly, and I meet new people everyday. The trick I often use is to carry on with each day, smile, appreciate how much fun I am having, and then look forward to how much fun I’ll be having the next day.
Do you have any advice for people willing to become models?
Tokio: Modeling is not easy. It is also not a difficult job. For some people, a passion for modeling is acquired and for others, it is innate. You have to determine what side you fall, because that will determine how to move on with modeling as a career. It is also difficult on personal relationships, especially when you have to travel constantly, but once you are ready for the ride, it truly can be fun, and everything else can be worked out. However, my advice for black females is that; when you visit a new country to begin your modeling career, believe in yourself and stay focused. Before I came to Asia, I was told that black girls do not work here, specifically in Southeast Asia. Now, I look at myself as a strong black model with a strong walk, admirable statuesque and a warm personality. So, when I go to a casting, I exude professionalism and I try to avoid seeing myself as a coloured model standing there in line waiting for casting with the possibility of whether I will get the job based on my skin colour or not. So, colour is definitely not in my preference as a model and that is what I will advice all coloured females that aspire to become models. Professionalism and a warm personality are also key when working as a model, as well as ensuring that every encounter with a possible client or agent is devoid of any negative vibe or energy.
What is next for you?
Tokio: My life is always very busy, but I will be spending the next 4 weeks in Australia, celebrating the Christmas holiday with my brother and best friend. After that, I will be relocating to New York to begin another modeling contract.
Follow Tokio on her official instagram page, and to see some great photographs of Tokio taken by her agency, Darley Models, click and view the slideshow below: