Name: Mayuka Thais
Occupation: Singer-songwriter, artist, actor, motivational speaker for youth
Likes: Kindness, the color blue, elephants, nattō, “Star Wars,” chocolate, Disney films
Dislikes: Cream croquettes, wakame seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, horror films
1. When you think of Japan, you think of … my late father, food, convenience, service, safety, the four seasons, seasonal food, art, fashion, neon lights, walking, transportation, food and more food.
2. Whom in Japan do you most admire? Hayao Miyazaki for his genius work as an animator and storyteller. I also admire him for creating strong female characters as well as the fact that he is an anti-nuclear activist.
3. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? Shiawase (happiness). You really have to understand Japanese to truly get what this word means.
4. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “There is no time for anger” from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book “The Land of the Blue Flowers,” because there’s nothing stronger than love.
5. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? Coming face to face with a baby Asian elephant at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The site was in the jungle and showers consisted of using buckets of cold water.
6. If you could have dinner with any- one from history, who would it be? Michael Jackson. He was an inspirational and multi-talented artist who gave so much to our world through his art, music and humanitarian work.
7. Your website notes that you started your entertainment career at the age of 5. What first inspired you to get involved in the “edutainment” industry? I grew up in the “edutainment” industry. My mother valued the opinions of children whenever she created children’s products, and so she always consulted my sister and I for advice and input. She knew that if kids didn’t like it, it wouldn’t work and it wouldn’t sell.
8. What inspires you now? That there’s no expiration date for creativity. Creativity is freedom. Freedom is inspiration.
9. Any memorable moments as an “edutainer”? Singing, acting, dancing and using my bicultural expertise on “Shimajiro,” a hit children’s television show that inspired Japanese children.
10. What’s the one thing that adults can learn from children? Adults need to remember the heart of a child, and to look at everything with wonder. Always ask yourself: What would a child do?
11. What song best describes your work ethic? “Smile” sung by Michael Jackson. This song reminds me of my grandmother who has always told me to “pull up your socks and smile.” Isn’t that life?
12. Your website describes you as a singer-songwriter, artist, actor, art educator and motivational speaker for youth. What do you tell people you do at parties? I say I am a “creative,” and that I dabble in many different artistic professions.
13. Is your work as an artist an extension of your work as a musician, or do they exist independently? They are co-dependent. It’s like theater — you can’t have a production without the cast and crew. Life is like theater and we all need each other to make life work.
14. You have won numerous awards as an artist. Name one award you are especially proud of. At age 10, I won the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Art Award. At that time I was being bullied for my mixed-race background at a Japanese elementary school. My art teacher at the time stood up to the bullies for me, so this award helped bolster my confidence.
15. You have worked hard to promote awareness of the plight of Asian elephants. What’s the greatest thing that humanity can learn from these creatures? Without elephants the Earth would suffer, as well as other species that are dependent on them.
16. You were one of two finalists on the U.S. TV show “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint.” How did you get into body painting? “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint” was for artists who had never body painted before. The competition got me interested in body painting.
17. What did you take away from your experience on the show? I was paired with a mentor named Dutch who had been on the original “Skin Wars” show. Dutch had amazing technical and teaching skills, and I was able to take away skills that I would never have known.
18. We hear that you are coming to Tokyo soon? I am scheduled to be a body painter for a music video for an artist in Japan. While I am there I am offering body and baby bump paintings, and photo-shoot packages.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? I really want to act in a feature film. I believe in possibilities and am still going to shoot for the stars.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Believe in your dreams, be patient, ask questions and ask for help when you need it. Each and every one of us can make a difference in the world.
For more information on Mayuka Thais, visit www.mayukathais.com.