Yumi | "Find You"

by Paulette Ely

Being a breakout artist really holds far more value when you’re breaking every barrier on your way up. Pop star and plus-sized model, Yumi, not only has the voice to sing anthems angelically, but also a voice that has spoken up for straying away from the norm and advocates for self acceptance. Growing up in the social media generation, Yumi has always found it crucial to use her individuality to make the world a celebration for people and plants alike of all shapes and sizes and styles. Yes, Yumi has been blessed by blood as the niece of Steve Aoki and apart of his dance music empire Dim Mak Records, however she exemplifies what it means to be a badass young woman with a personal narrative in which her character is the sole reason behind her blooming success, not the help of anyone else. I wanted to sit down and get to know Yumi for who she is and speak a little about what she has offered the world all on her own. 

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

“Summer of 2016 was a major turning point for me. I heard of body positivity from a lot of plus models that I follow. I’ve been plus modeling since I was 12, and the industry has changed rapidly. It’s completely different” Yumi says about the roots of her narrative of body positivity. 

“There was no community for us. That made it so that I didn’t believe when plus models would speak out about it all, like how can you be bigger than that size and love yourself? It didn’t make sense to me.”

Yumi follows this with an extremely strong point, “It’s kind of like when you’re in a toxic relationship and you think that that’s standard- that it’s life. I had a toxic relationship with myself and I was overwhelmed by all this information and all of these stories in front of me from older women who I looked up to. So I was just exhausted and over hating myself all the time, and I wanted to go in the ocean and not be 80 years old and look back and know I didn't go in the water because I didn't want to be ugly and looked at like that. I could never put into words what really changed for me until I got out of a toxic friendship myself. I didn’t understand that it was toxic, and I was like ‘Oh, that’s kind of like the relationship with myself…’ It’s like Maria Kondo, ‘Does this speak joy? No? Bye! Throw away everyone! Thank u, next.’”

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

Earlier this year, Yumi was not only one of the few girls chosen to be apart of the Forever 21 Forever Female campaign in honor of women in music, but her song Camouflage became the anthem of the entire thing. 

“I was such a small artist in that campaign and I was just happy to even be on the campaign at all, and I think I was inspired by the people that I follow on social media and getting amped up and feeling the energy of women’s day coming,” Yumi says about her writing process for Camouflage. “All of my songs are about the same stupid guy situations that I blow out of proportion, but the most important relationship that I have is the one with myself and I never wrote about. Modeling and social media have helped me be vocal about self love, but music was something that was untouched in that way. So yeah, the campaign definitely inspired me to write the song, but it’s also the women that I’m surrounded by and read about that brought that desire out of me.”

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

As if that wasn't enough, Yumi just recently released her new single, Find You, and she shed some light on what it was like to write such a vulnerable song. 

“I am a hopeless romantic. I don't have a crazy love life, I take a lot of inspiration from other relationships and rom-coms. I just started putting myself out there, but I just never feel like I can win with guys. I just want to find the person that I want to be with, so the song came from a place of hopeful singleness. The longing is there, but I’m at a place where I’m not going to stress about it anymore because I know what I want and I’m not going to settle for anything less.”

Photo by:  Paulette Ely

Photo by: Paulette Ely

So what’s next for Yumi?

“We have 6 songs coming out this year with a few shows here and there and are also planning an event this summer. I’m starting to make youtube videos again and being more vocal about body positivity. I also wanted to be more vocal about being Asian as I recently started embracing that, and just being more vulnerable and transparent online because I don’t want to just be another model or artist.”

Yumi leaves us with one more point that shows the kind of woman, artist and grounded human being that she truly is, “I have a voice and story and I want to share it to connect with people. THAT’S the money for me. Yeah, cool if i play at Coachella or Madison Square Garden one day, but if someone comes up to me and is like “Dude. Find You. I felt that” that's more important. I want to feel that connection with people because it's artists that I listened to in high school that helped with translating your own pain into someone else therapy.”

Be sure to check out her new single Find You below!


Photos and Interview by: Paulette Ely