Rola, the Japanese Phenomenon with Dancer Nathan Mitchell

by James Blackthorne



Rola, the Japanese Phenomenon with Dancer Nathan Mitchell

Japanese culture can oft appear impenetrable to U.S. audiences. Think Bill Murray in

Lost in Translation

(2003), underpants in vending machines, a total of two gun homicides in 2006 (from a population of 126 million), or

Fast and the Furious


Tokyo Drift

(2006). Yet there is little that’s impenetrable about the jaw-dropping success of Rola. The Japanese social media phenom is a two-time triple-threat, with both talents as a fashion model, television personality, and actress, and with an eye-catching Bengali, Japanese, and Russian ethnicity. Rola has the fourth highest Twitter following of any Japanese person, with more than 3.6 million fans—a million more than Japan’s second richest man, and three million more than the Prime Minister.

Rola is loved for her frequent appearances on Japanese television, where she is famed for her cutesy special moves, like doing an ok sign over her cheek, or puffing both of them out in an adorable fashion. When asked by the AFP to describe herself in one word, Rola’s answer was unconventional, though typically endearing: “A salmon, maybe. They’re not just tasty, they swim hard up rivers, so they’re tough little critters.”

Behind Rola’s so-called ‘cartoon world,’ ‘baby-face effect,’ looks and mannerisms, is a hard-swimming work-ethic that has seen her become the face of major cosmetics brands, beer companies, fashion labels, and fried octopus balls. This year Rola will appear in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opposite Milla Jovovich. “Shooting for the Resident Evil movie exposed me to things I had never experienced before.” Rola told Flaunt, “It opened my eyes to a whole new world. On TV I can be my natural self, but for movies I have to really get into the role of the character that I am playing. Acting is not as easy as being on TV, but it’s more rewarding.”

Rola has recently taken on the enviable sobriquet of ‘Gucci muse.’ “I’ve been a fan of Gucci for as long as I can remember.” Rola told us, shortly after her notable appearance on the front row at the Gucci Westminster Abbey Resort Show, “I love the sophistication of the brand.”

Rola’s adventure to the fashion firmament began humbly, and she is notable in Japan for being of both mixed race, and foreign born—generally such origins are a major disadvantage in the country, given that non-Japanese make up less than 2% of the population, and as the Japan Times notes: “Being of mixed race was once looked down upon.” Yet Rola has bucked this trend, and achieved incredible fame and popularity.

“I actually moved to Toyko at the age of seven.” Rola explained, “At first I didn’t speak any Japanese, so I had to use a lot of gestures in order to communicate. But I feel I was very lucky because my classmates and teachers were very kind to me.”

Rola’s life in motion has not been without misadventure: “There have been a lot of traveling mishaps. There was one time I arrived at the airport and was told that I had missed my flight because the ticket was for the day before. Another time I was craving Shake Shack and grabbed a bite to eat and completely missed my flight. I thought to myself, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ But the more mishaps there are, the more fun it is.”

With cookbooks, myriad fashion opportunities, an opera singing career, and more acting roles on her horizon, Rola has plenty to look forward to, but wasn’t opposed to looking backwards either: “I would like to be reincarnated as Marilyn Monroe,” she told us, “I’ve never seen anyone with such a cute face.”

Written by James Blackthorne

Photographer: Ian Morrison for Opus Reps.

Stylist: John Pashalidis.

Hair: Takuya Morimoto.

Makeup: Ziima Yosuke Nakajima.

Videographer: Yudo Kurita.