Keiko Kitagawa graduation article in “Seventeen” 1 October 2006 issue (English translation)

Keiko Kitagawa’s Beauty Honey Final Volume “Graduation Special”:

“I, Keiko Kitagawa, am graduating!”

Chosen as Miss Seventeen in 2003 and having appeared in many of our issues on fashion and hair, Miss Keiko Kitagawa is about to graduate from Seventeen magazine! While crying, Keiko told us all her thoughts about her time with Seventeen, so read ahead!

Keiko, tell us your memories of Seventeen

“It really was a long time. But even though it’s been a long time, it’s gone by in a flash.”

“When I was chosen to be Miss Seventeen, I was 17 years old. It’s been three years since then and I’m 20 years old now. Seventeen is a part of me, and everyone else introduces me as “Seventeen’s Keiko Kitagawa”, and that’s really how it is. The staff of Seventeen has been like parents to me, and a lot of my seniors have been like big sisters, it’s really like a big family here. For the last three years I basically lived at Seventeen.

“Reviewing is important for models too.”

“I’ve always been the type who wants to show that I’m strong, so I always tried not to show my feelings even when I was uncomfortable. I did this even though I used to tell myself, ‘You’re better off being yourself’. But one day my manager noticed my habit and said to me, ‘You know, you don’t always have to try to be so strong’. I didn’t start modeling until I was already 17 years old, and I knew that I didn’t have a lot of time left in my career. So I thought I should just listen to my superiors and the more experienced models around me. Whenever I did photoshoots, I was able to perform precisely and accurately because of everyone’s advice. I saw all of the staff members around me working hard and doing their best, and I decided, I need to be more like them too, and smile more while I’m doing it. And I started to say to myself, ‘You should smile, even when you don’t feel like it, that’s a way of being strong too’. It improved my mood and my habits too, it’s a better way of handling stress than to think that you’re just no good compared to the people around you.

“And since I wanted to get better, I decided to give myself challenges and reflect more on my own behavior. Every time I used to look at the latest issues of the magazine, I used to think to myself things like, ‘Oh, this time you did okay’. Or ‘Oh wow, I look really fat in this issue’. Or ‘I wonder why I did so badly that day’. So instead I tried to think about how I could react better. I didn’t want the readers to wonder things like ‘Why does she look like she got in a fight today?’ or ‘Why did you look bad today?’ You can improve your life just by how you decide to think.”

“I will never forget some of the praise I received, for the rest of my life.”

“One of the reasons Seventeen became my home base was because of the outpouring of love I received from everyone. I don’t think I would have had the temperament to go into filming movies if I hadn’t had my time at Seventeen. I’m glad I was able to work at Seventeen, because it shaped who am I as an adult. I’ll always be Seventeen’s Keiko Kitagawa.

“It was a rude awakening from the beginning.”

“I used to read Seventeen back when I was in middle school, so I was thrilled when I passed the first audition! But when the work actually started, the only thing I could think about was how different it was from what I imagined. I thought the photography would be more natural to achieve. I couldn’t laugh about it. And I thought, is modelling supposed to be this difficult? I was shocked. I had to take so many bad pictures that I never wanted to see and it took a long time before a good one of me was taken, it was really hard for me. I was scared of how I was performing back then.

“Back then, the senior models and my manager were a huge encouragement to me. ‘You’ve got to give it your best. It’s part of growing up,’ they’d say. The more I worried and the more I panicked, the harder it was to get photographs done. At first it was a huge struggle. When it wasn’t perfect the first time during a shoot, I got really frustrated. And I’d remind myself, ‘It’s always hard at first, just hang in there. You can do better than last time’, and being positive helped me in my work. I used to tell myself, ‘Just get through one more shot, don’t give up, this will look great on paper’, and that’s how I got through it.

“When I first started, I was surprised the first time I saw myself on the cover of Seventeen. My friend Emi Suzuki did a lot of photo shoots with me, and we were only a year apart in age, and she was an incredible big sister to me. She used to say, ‘brush your shoulders off’ and reminded me to keep my head high.”

“I’ve passed the baton.”

“After my second year, I was shooting alongside many of the senior models. Among them, I was the only one with no other career. I felt so overwhelmed by it sometimes that I wanted to go home. I felt that there was a huge difference between myself and everyone else, and I was losing a lot of my confidence. Then Miss Ogachi (Seventeen’s Sayaka Ogata) noticed that I was struggling and said to me, ‘Keiko, nobody has a face like yours, and you look fantastic, you just need to learn to be more comfortable in your own skin’. She also said, ‘If hundreds of thousands of girls all over the country see you lacking confidence, do you think that’s going to inspire them? They’ll notice it too, and their confidence won’t get any boost from you’. That really resonated with me, so I knew I needed to learn to be more self-confident not only for my own sake, but for everyone else’s too. I learned to hold my head high, and I’m really glad that I did. I was saved.

“There are traditions at Seventeen that are handed down from the senior models to the junior ones. Of course, everyone including the seniors take attendance and politeness very seriously. When you’re new to modeling you don’t think a lot about the different kinds of poses and what they all mean, but the senior models have thought of everything and have a lot of good advice to share. There are so many graduated senior models I’ve learned a lot from, and I’d like to give thanks to Miss Ogachi, Miss Kaela Kimura, Miss Hitomi Nakahodo and Miss Emiko Koizumi. It’s thanks to them so that I learned so much, and I’m carrying on the tradition of helping the junior models with their work. When I received the baton from my seniors, I knew that I was going to carry on the tradition and ‘pass the baton’ someday. It makes me feel nervous that it’s already my time to pass the baton, but I’m happy that I can share my experience.”

When I was running alone, I always knew my time would be up soon and I worked hard.

In running, even if someone else runs faster than you, you’ll still get faster with practice. And that’s true with the rest of life too. I became friends with one of my seniors and we became close, and I knew that I wanted to learn as much as possible from her. While we were together I was always working hard. I wanted to learn from my colleagues, and to get better at the things I wasn’t great at. At first it felt a lot like being a copycat, but eventually I did learn a lot from my seniors and it was valuable.

What’s important to me now are the people around me.

I think it’s important that I stay open towards other people. Because I can’t live all alone. Recently, I’ve been listening to many people’s stories. Sometimes I think you can hear God through other people’s mouths. I think everyone has a good story to tell. And there’s a lot I don’t know about other people, and there’s a lot people don’t know about me. Even though I’m a model and I’m always standing in front of a camera, I’m only there thanks to the efforts of so many other people. There are many people who have supported me who I’ve never even met in addition to the ones surrounding me, and I’m grateful to them all. Nowadays, it’s hard for me to consider someone a “stranger” because I owe a lot to people I don’t know.

I don’t just want it, I have to be it.

Since I won the reader’s choice award and was selected as Miss Seventeen, I decided, “I’ve got to do this for everyone who voted for me”, but feeling that way also put me under a ton of pressure. But it also helped because it instilled a sense of responsibility about my work that made me stand up straight. I didn’t just want to be a good model. I wanted to be an amazing model. And I didn’t just “want” it anymore – I knew that I had to “be it”, because I was grateful for being chosen as Miss Seventeen. Even after I graduate from Seventeen, I’ll still feel that way. Even ten years from now, if I see some of my junior colleagues still active in their careers, I’ll be so happy for them.

There are things about myself and the world I don’t like. But now, I’m looking at myself clearly.

When I’m being photographed, it’s like I become a different person. And now I want to just be myself for a while. After I graduate from Seventeen I plan to pursue my career as an actress. We all have dreams and goals we are trying to reach. No matter how hard it seems, don’t give up on your dreams! It takes a lot of hardship before you succeed. There are days I still feel uneasy, but I’m facing every day with courage. I’m full of hope. It took me a long time to learn to think this way, but it was worth it. The last three years have been a treasure to me. It was wonderful to be a Seventeen model. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart!

Translation by Fandom Services. The Keiko Kitagawa Seventeen Heritage Conservation Project seeks to digitally preserve and make accessible Keiko’s significant appearances in “Seventeen” magazine. It is made possible with the generous support of MB.

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