Tokyo: The newly crowned Miss World Japan is hardly a typical Japanese woman. Being half-Indian is only a part of it.
Priyanka Yoshikawa, crowned on Monday after outshining more than 6,900 other applicants, has a certificate in elephant training, teaches English to children, enjoys kickboxing and volunteers as a translator at medical meetings.
The 22-year-old is preparing for the worldwide pageant in Washington, D.C., in November.
Being fitted for a couture gown is part of the program, but fashion plays a small role in Yoshikawa’s life.
And she doesn’t want to fit into any stereotype.
She told The Associated Press on Wednesday she has ambitions: Go to Bollywood, while pursuing her goal of building a children’s home in India.
A national debate was sparked in largely homogeneous Japan last year when Ariana Miyamoto, a half-American of African descent, was chosen Miss Universe Japan, another international beauty contest. Miyamoto faced criticism that she doesn’t look Japanese enough, even though she mostly grew up in Japan.
So far, Yoshikawa has faced less criticism. She says her victory is perhaps a sign that Japan is becoming more tolerant of diversity.
Yoshikawa, who has an Indian father and a Japanese mother, grew up mostly in Japan but spent one year in India and three years in America. She says living overseas gave her a broader perspective, but that she still calls Japan home.
What struck her the most was a year in Kolkata. As a 9-year-old girl, she saw her peers living in poverty, up close.
Then when she returned to Japan with her family, she was struck again with how clean and safe it was. She says the stark difference inspired her to work for change.
To help send her message out, Yoshikawa hopes the elephant training license on her resume will catch attention because, she says, there will be more mixed-race people in Japan and that will no longer be a way to stand out.
Beyond Miss World, she wants to achieve her ambitions in India — in Bollywood’s film industry and Kolkata.
“I would like to go into that industry. I need to learn dancing and Hindi but yes, of course I love to try anything,” she said.AP