At exactly six feet tall, with 34-26-36 stats, it could go without saying that top fashion model Midori Amae has walked runways for some of the biggest name designers and appeared at some of the most prominent events in the fashion industry, such as those staged during the semi-annual New York Fashion Week. Fans of America’s Next Top Model can look forward to seeing Midori on the show’s upcoming Cycle 22. She’ll go into that competition as the number two fan favorite. She tells me she wasn’t planning on auditioning for the show, but did because she happened to be at home and have the day off when auditions were being held in nearby Arlington, Virginia in January. (As of this writing, no air date has been announced for Cycle 22, but the show’s Facebook fan page will post it as soon as it’s set.) She was also recently named creative director for i-Fashion magazine.
Despite her hectic schedule and frequent traveling, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to Midori at length earlier this month. And to dispel a sort of myth about high class fashion models; I found her to be very down-to-earth with a great sense of humor and not pretentious at all. Besides her modeling, our topics included sports, food, one of her favorite charities, and her mild obsession with wearing glasses with no lenses. Above photo by Steve Bennett.
Audio excerpts from Midori’s March 11, 2015 interview. Full transcription below.
CHRIS CHARLES: It’s a pleasure to be talking to you this evening, Midori. I’ll start off with a pretty generic question: How and when did you get started modeling?
MIDORI AMAE: I started modeling probably about the age of 14, maybe 15. My mom took me to a couple of those people who think they can teach modeling classes in their garage sort of thing (laughs) ….and I ended up actually being offered a position with Barbizon and I passed it up, but I kept my interest because I really wanted to break into the modeling industry in a strong way, and I later on met up with a photographer who really just took me under his wing and he was the best guidance I actually ever had.
CHRIS: You were an America’s Next Top Model contestant for Cycle 22, which is the current cycle, correct?
MIDORI: I was the fan favorite for the competition that happens before the actual filming of the show. The show (Cycle 22) hasn’t started yet but the competition that happens before the show is the fan favorite competition, and everyone from all over can vote for whomever they want to be the fan favorite. I am in the top two, that’s me; I’m number two.
CHRIS: I see. So, you auditioned in January in Arlington?
MIDORI: I sure did.
CHRIS: And that’s very close to your home town, or that actually is your home town, right? MIDORI: Yes, Northern Virginia is my home. I absolutely love it. I’ve lived there for the majority of my life, and it was so funny, I wasn’t even supposed to go to the auditions. I tried to go one year and it was the year that they were doing all the short girls (laughs). So of course, I’m discouraged and I didn’t want to go back, and then I just happened to have the day off. I happened to have free time. I was supposed to be in New York, some things changed and there I was. The producers pulled me out of the line, they sent me all the way through and they absolutely loved me. I did my reading in 10 minutes and I was in and out.
CHRIS: Tell me about your progression in the competition after your audition, so far.
MIDORI: Sure. So, after the actual audition for the show, which was a big open call and 1,500 people were there, they take a couple of months and they’ll get back to you on whether they choose you for the show or not, and I’m actually waiting for my official phone call this month, but the competition just ended maybe a month ago and it’s a culmination of everyone kind of voting in and people kind of campaigning. I didn’t actually know I was in the competition throughout half the competition I had no idea I was even there (laughs).
CHRIS: Now, this competition is Cycle 22, correct?
MIDORI: It is for Cycle 22, yes, and the producers do take into account the sort of fan factor is really big on this season’s show. They’re doing a heavy emphasis on social media, of course. It definitely looks good to the producers that I got where I am.
CHRIS: I understand singing was your first passion?
MIDORI: It was! It’s still a small one ….it’s in the background, I’ve had to shift some things around (laughs).
CHRIS: So it’s now taken a back seat to modeling?
MIDORI: Definitely, yes. I’m fully pursuing my modeling. Singing is a hobby I do for pure enjoyment. I used to sing for making music and actually songwriting, and now I’ve put them on the back burner. It’s more something I can enjoy and not so much work at.
CHRIS: I read on one of your bios that you have two college degrees?
MIDORI: I sure do. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013, actually. My first degree is Spanish literature and language and my second degree is studio arts, and my thesis is graphic and web design. So, I did everything. I been trained in painting and ceramics, also 3D motion, graphics, filmography, I mean, everything. I absolutely love Photoshop, which is like hilarious to me. I’m quite nerdy on the inside (laughs). CHRIS: Wow, and are you fluent in Spanish?
MIDORI: I am! Si, hablo muy bien el españo.
CHRIS: On some bios I’ve read, your height is 6′ even, on others, it states 6’1″. How tall are you exactly? I mean, in your bare feet being measured at the doctor’s office.
MIDORI: (Laughs) 6′ tall. Even.
CHRIS: Okay so at your height, it’s only natural that I ask if you ever played basketball or volleyball when you were in school?
MIDORI: I had interest in sports, but I’m not coordinated in that way, at all actually. Just because I had to say that I could do it, I have been able to dunk, and I can palm a basketball (laughs).
CHRIS: Wow, really?
MIDORI: Yeah, A couple of fun things I have been able to do, but I’m not really coordinated that way, but for 12-plus years ….actually I think about 13 years, 14, I danced. I was classically trained in jazz, tap, a little bit of pointe, contemporary and lyrical. At the university that I went to, I helped start a hip hop dance group, and that was the first time I started doing hip hop dance, but outside of that, yeah, I definitely danced all my childhood.
CHRIS: Were you always tall going through school?
MIDORI: Yeah, all the time. It was so funny, I was in middle school, I remember clear as day, I used to get picked on by this girl who was taller than me ….and I’m looking at her like; “Why would you pick on me? (laughs) like, what is it about me? You’re taller than I am.” CHRIS: So were you ever approached by the coaches of the girls basketball or volleyball teams saying “Hey, why don’t you try out?”
MIDORI: Track and volleyball. They pulled me, and I wanted to go volleyball but I didn’t have the time, my schedule was so intense. But, I did do track for one year, my best friends can say I was not that good (laughs). CHRIS: What were your events? MIDORI: I ran 300 meter hurdles and high jump ….and actually spiked myself with my own shoe while I was high jumping. That was the end of that career (laughs). So, I have a nasty scar from it. CHRIS: Ahh I see. So, shifting back to your modeling; last month during New York Fashion Week, you hosted the “Open Seen” event, which was part of The New York Fashion Charity Showcase.
MIDORI: I sure did. The iCu network hosted that and it was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
CHRIS: Tell me a little about that and the charities that were supported.
MIDORI: Sure! The main charity and one of the co-sponsors of the event was OneMama, who have a beautiful, absolutely beautiful concept of creating clothing that can be worn by basically any woman of any shape and each garment saves a certain number of lives. So, what they’re doing is they’re taking that donation money they you’re giving them and they’re using it to create birthing centers and maternity wards and womens centers in Africa. So as the girls walk down the runway, they say “this outfit saves 150 lives. It’s made from scraps of old t-shirts, wooden beads, paper beads that are hand made by these beautiful women.” It was so touching to see their movement and how you could buy one dress and save 250 lives. That was the most touching thing. They really infuse fashion with a beautiful organization and a great idea and it can really make a global impact in a simple way. It was beautiful. So; OneMama.org. They’re beautiful people.
CHRIS: They do sound amazing. So, this is something I’m dying to know. Have you ever had any mishaps on the runway ….broken heel, wardrobe malfunction, PETA protestor throwing flour on you? MIDORI: (Laughs) I wish. Ah, my first season with Couture Fashion Week, which was last September actually, I had a slight swimwear malfunction (laughs). I was modeling some beautiful colors, bright fun swimwear and you could just see a slight underboob, but it was cute ….but it was definitely out of place! (laughs) And I think last season I stumbled when I was coming off the runway but hopefully everyone’s attention was diverted to the next model coming on and not to me so much at the very end. I almost hit a camera guy (laughs). Yeah, but that’s about it. I’m pretty graceful, I have to say. I’ve been working very hard on it. CHRIS: Don’t you ladies often use double-sided tape of some sort of adhesive to help keep the outfits in place? MIDORI: If the designer allows you to, definitely. You do a lot of pinning. You never know. I mean, sometimes the garments come much larger than the actual model and things are pinned and clamped in and you’ll never see the hems and stuff. We have to create the day of the show and minutes before, people are sewing themselves in the dresses. Sometimes they use tape but I’d say definitely use pins and basically sewing to keep the girls in there (laughs). CHRIS: (I tell Midori of how Avery Misuraca told me how she relied on double-sided tape to keep from falling out of the Vampirella outfit. Midori quickly searches for Vampirella as I’m telling her and interjects; “Oh, I’m looking at it right now …oooh, that is hot!”) So, moving on; what have been some of your most enjoyable photo shoots as far as location, theme, photographer? MIDORI: I’ve been working with a lot of different photographers in the past year. I’ve been so blessed, absolutely blessed to see some really beautiful hidden gems, such as locations.
One photographer took me out to ….we were somewhere on the Potomac River and it turned into a beautiful sort of tropical vibe, the way the shrubs and trees and everything just came together and the water was coming down, cascading like a waterfall, and I’m sitting there thinking; “I’m somewhere either in Maryland, DC, or somewhere on the Potomac right now.” I’m in my backyard, but I have this whole scenery of just Tropicaal and just everything’s so beautiful, and that’s probably on of my favorite locations I had in a while. It hasn’t come out yet, but it will be a nice shoot when it comes out.
CHRIS: I’ll definitely look forward to that. So, on the other side of the coin; have there been any shoots you’d love to forget about?
MIDORI: Oh gosh, I think ….I’ve definitely done one where I was just like; “I hope that never resurfaces ….and honestly if it does, it’s no biggie (laughs). I mean, there’s always that one in the background that’s like; “Uhhh!” You know, the lighting was off or I’ve felt I could have done more, and those are more from my younger days when I was just getting into it and really learning more. So, I look back at those pictures and I’m like; “Okay ….delete, delete, delete” (laughs)
CHRIS: I’ve seen some photos of you modeling furs. What are your feelings about groups who protest the wearing of fur?
MIDORI: You know, honestly I’m such a fashion forward person, and when it comes to stuff like furs and leather, I see the luxury behind it and I understand the appeal. My grandmother bought me a fur from a cute little catalog, and this was way back in the day, and it was a faux fur and I had no deal with it. No deal using faux fur and that to me was just great knowing it was made without having to harm animals. I have no hard feelings toward the ladies who love a nice fur, but I just don’t necessarily need that luxury in my life.
CHRIS: Mmm, well said. So, moving on; do you have any plans to branch out to other avenues of show biz such as acting?
MIDORI: Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve actually been approached by a couple writers in DC about a screenplay that was produced and people are looking at me for different roles. I’m definitely trying to expand myself and really give myself a reach to other horizons. I would really like to go into acting hardcore. I did a couple plays when I was younger and I got the bug and I was ready, but the modeling really took me off in a different direction and I’m kind of circling back around to acting through commercials. So, I did a couple of spots for a designer from Brooklyn and I’m looking to basically push that out more in the future. I’d love to host a TV show. Love to host a talk show or segment, and that’s just my personality; I’m just so bubbly and bright, and I love talking (laughs). So, I could definitely see myself on TV.
CHRIS: Switching gears again here; I’ve seen a photo of you preparing Cornish game hens. Are you a good cook?
MIDORI: (Laughs) Darn right! That was my first Cornish hen, and I tell you, I called my mom. I was like; “Mom, I can do this like a regular chicken, right?” I swear, I asked her the most elementary questions (laughs). I just ….I wanted to make sure it was perfect. But I do love to cook when I have time but I’m barely home and my roommate, she’ll cook and I’m like; “Thank you soo much. you’re so great” (laughs). I’ll come home and there’ll be food and vegetables and fruit out and I’m like; “You’re the best!” (laughs). So I try to give back to my friends and entertain at my house when I can. I just had a bunch of girls over for a ladies weekend and I made a really bomb brunch. We had fried fish, beautiful French toast and crepes and fruit and all sorts of fun stuff so I do love cooking when I have the time.
CHRIS: Do you have any hobbies or interests that most people don’t know about? I’m mean something you don’t include on your bios. MIDORI: Something I don’t include …. gosh, I mean, being in the deal all the time, it’s always on my resume but ….singing in the shower should definitely be it (laughs). CHRIS: (Not quite catching what she said, she was laughing so hard) Singing in the shower?
MIDORI: (Still laughing) definitely!
CHRIS: Do you collect anything? (Mentioning Tammie Baird collecting Pez and how I thought that was so cool.)
MIDORI: Okay, so I’ll tell you this, it’s something that’s kind of awkward, how it’s been following me over the years, but people who know me know I have a large collection of sunglasses ….and I have a large collection of glasses with no lenses. So, I’ll go to thrift stores and I’ll see what I like, and I’ll pop the lenses out and I’ll wear them without the lenses, and that to me, is my own fashion statement because I wear contacts (laughs), I have an actual prescription but whenever I wear something funky and and I want something to add a little extra to my look, I definitely pick up a pair of glasses that have no lenses ….and I probably have about 30-40 pairs. Now that I think about that, that’s kind of obsessive! (laughs)
CHRIS: Yeah, I’ve seen quite a few pictures of you with glasses. So none of those glasses have lenses?
MIDORI: For the most part, none of them have lenses, but if you see a black pair, a rectangular pair, those are my actual old glasses ….and those were even a thrift store find. I mean, somebody had no idea what they were giving up and I found a pair of really nice glasses and I put my prescription in them and I fell in love with them.
CHRIS: Well, that’s unique. So, what shows and events do you have upcoming in the near future?
MIDORI: I have a big global initiative coming up. I can’t talk about it too much, but that’s on the horizon. Anyway, a fun thing. I’ve got a couple of shows, one in Maryland, it’s “Fashion at the Mansion II” at the Newton White Mansion, an absolutely beautiful location and that will be at the end of March. I’ve got big plans for Fashion Week coming up in September, and I plan to be traveling to Miami to meet with a couple people for producing a show, and yeah, a few things coming up but everything will be posted online so everyone will be able to find out when they come up.
CHRIS: With that I’ll say it’s been a pleasure, Midori, In closing, any shout-outs? MIDORI: Sure, I have a lovely shout-out to William (Harris). He’s actually amazing, The sweetest guy I’ve met. A really big, big thanks to the photographers, the wardrobe stylists, the hair stylists, the makeup artists who have just helped me all along the way and have really been a support. I’ve got to give much love to Steve Bennett, Yarde Noir, and Keena Queen, my favorite makeup artist. You guys are really amazing!
Recent spot Midori did for See Thru Vision Entertainment’s Spotlight series
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.