Always Look for The Best in People
Yasuo You’ve been working in the beauty industry for a long time. Is this where your career began?
Chitose Not exactly. I used to think I was more of the homemaker type, but I’ve had quite the career path. After graduating from college, I initially became a flight attendant. I grew up during the height of the economy (bubble) in Japan, when there were ample jobs and opportunities. I applied for all sorts of things, and ultimately chose to be a flight attendant because it paid well and was exciting. After that, I worked at an ad agency before shifting over to the magazine world and staying there for thirteen years. I worked at two publications before eventually going freelance.
Yasuo I understand why you took the flight attendant job. In youth, we often worry about financial security and the future.
Chitose It’s embarrassing, but I actually wasn’t thinking that deep. I grew up in a very rural area of Japan and moved to Kobe to attend a private women’s college where I was to major in the English language. On the very first day, I found out that I was the only person in class who had never gone overseas as a foreign exchange student. I cried that night from sheer embarrassment.
A few years later, I graduated from college with a degree in English, but I still couldn’t speak the language. I was jealous of my other classmates’ success. I think I’ve always had this tendency to envy people over things I don’t have. Yet, I kept pushing on.
When I started working as a flight attendant, I realized that I was surrounded by beautiful people that all looked like actors or models. It made me so insecure and miserable. But one day, and I’m still not sure what came over me, I began seeing things from a whole new perspective. I wondered if I was just a master at finding beautiful qualities in others, which is a much more interesting and enriching way of looking at things.
Yasuo Wow, what an amazing transition. You are indeed talented at finding people’s most beautiful qualities.
Chitose For example, I once bought a very expensive Hermes watch because it looked so great on my friend. Except when I wore it, it didn’t look good at all.
Yasuo Why do you think that is?
Chitose It was just way too fancy for me. I really thought that purchasing it would make me more like this friend that I admired. But I found that what really mattered was what made the watch look that way on her, what qualities she possessed that allowed her to wear that watch. I remember telling her this entire story and about how wrong I was. I ended up giving the watch to my mother, and she’s worn it ever since.
Yasuo Do you still find yourself feeling envy from time to time?
Chitose Yes, of course.
Yasuo But openly admitting this allows you to be more honest with yourself and accept that.
Chitose Yes, absolutely. I told her I wanted to be like her in my next life!
Yasuo Well, that’s great energy—to want something. That’s the art of living.
Chitose You are right. Losing that lust for life can make it so dull.
Finding Comfort in Silence
Yasuo I have to say, you totally defied my expectations when you showed up. I expected you to be much more formally dressed, yet you came in black top and jeans. Do you consciously choose strong or unexpected outfit choices to offset your delicate features?
Chitose Wow, you can read right through me. At first, I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing, but now I’m much more aware, and even make a point of it.
Just recently, I had lunch with seven other women. As I got up to leave, one of them asked me if I was alive and O.K. When I asked her what she meant, she told me that I didn’t talk at all, it was as though I wasn’t there. I was pretty stunned because I felt as though I was engaged. Another time, I was on a business trip with three other women, and one of them couldn’t remember if I was even on the trip with them. I asked my best friend how she feels other people perceive me, and she agreed that I don’t talk much—I might come off as invisible. If someone had told me this when I was younger, I might have lost all self-esteem. But now, I’m much more comfortable with this fact.
Yasuo How interesting.
Chitose Well, if someone asks me what I think, then I’ll say what’s on my mind. But generally, I’m not that outspoken. I enjoy listening to what people have to say, and I’ll agree with what I agree with. I’m much more comfortable that way.
With Age Comes Wisdom
Chitose Every month, I meet with the actress Haruka Igawa. She is so inspiring, absolutely beautiful inside and out. I’m always in awe of her.
Yasuo She is stunning. There’s something timeless about her. Similarly, with Yuriko Ishida. They still look so natural despite their aging.
Chitose I agree with that.
Yasuo They’re not trying too hard, but they’re not totally giving up, either.
Chitose Yes, giving up is different from accepting and embracing. With age comes character, and that adds to your appeal. Who I was at age 25 is totally different from the person I am today. When you tune up a piano, their sound gets very sharp. But over time, it becomes much milder, softer. These women remind me of that phenomenon, and I find it so inspiring.
The Joys of Aging
Chitose Do you know Yuka Itaya, the actress? Both Haruka Igawa and Yuka Itaya produce their own brand of clothing and they are really interested in fashion.
Yasuo Fashion can be so fun and even life changing. Knowing how to wear clothes can make a tremendous difference in the way that you look.
Chitose When I look at those two women, it makes me wonder if having a sense of style is more important than beauty.
Yasuo I think clothes, makeup and hair are all meant to help someone look better. I don’t think you necessarily need to separate beauty and fashion.
Chitose That’s an interesting philosophy that you’ve always held.
Yasuo Well, beauty plays a big part in all of our lives. You can have a ton of money, but if you don’t understand beauty in all forms, then life loses all of its richness. It’s important to teach what constitutes beauty early on in life. In contemporary Japan, I feel that so many people don’t understand how to enjoy life’s more beautiful moments.
Chitose We have to be role models and show how beauty and happiness come as a packaged deal. It’s important to enjoy each and every stage of your life.
Yasuo Especially when playing with fashion, it’s crucial not to try too hard.
Chitose Right, you don’t have to succumb to trends. Just being you is enough.
Yasuo Trends can be challenging, especially if they don’t work for you. Trying to incorporate every single one can be hard to pull off well, and also a lot of extra work.
Chitose Instagram definitely influences trends. While I don’t dislike it, I truly feel as though the only “like” one needs is from their close family and friends.
Yasuo I agree. The idea of “liking” something is incredible but can also be so dangerous. I often wonder about this issue particularly in the context of my younger daughter and her self-esteem. Even adults struggle with it.
Chitose Yes, it’s a dilemma because many people do not have the emotional intelligence to handle it.
Yasuo Especially children, who are often naive and don’t understand boundaries.
Chitose It’s easy for me to detach from social media because it’s not really a part of my generation. But I feel bad for people who are so addicted to it and can’t let it go.
Yasuo I wish people would reinvest in human connection and use social media mainly as a secondary form of communication.
The Multiplicity of Beauty
Chitose While I love working in the beauty industry, I sometimes find myself questioning my role and the advice I’ve given. I spent years writing about how to look attractive, fixating on specific ideals such as having bigger eyes. I regret saying some of these things now.
Yasuo Personally, I think the entire industry’s attitude needs to shift. Social media definitely changes the ways we can communicate with real people and is also transforming the ways that we view beauty. All types of people are now represented in such positive ways.
Chitose So much needs to be done to change attitudes. Because I’m a freelancer, I typically work at home all day and then go out for dinner at night. In order to refresh myself, I’ll get dressed and put on makeup. But going on a commuter train during evening rush hour made me realize how tired people look. Women will get right off of work then go home and cook and clean for the rest of the evening. It’s an exhausting way to live, and I really respect and admire them. They remind me that you don’t need perfect nails, hair, or makeup, and that it’s O.K. to be perfectly imperfect. Doing the best you can is fine.
Yasuo Yes, there are definitely all kinds of beauty. So, what you’re saying is that real beauty comes from within?
Chitose Absolutely. That is the message we have to spread.
A male editor I once worked with told me about how women often become obsessed with the latest beauty trends and follow them to great lengths even if they don’t suit them. After hearing this information, my industry friends and I started doing self-checkups where we ask each other if we look O.K. without trying too hard.
Yasuo I think that real women want professionals to be honest.
Chitose Well, in my opinion, I think you have to be self-aware and not too influenced by what’s mainstream. Hold your own and focus on what works for you. Otherwise, you become a fashion victim.
Finding the Perfect in Imperfect
Yasuo What are some of your favorite products?
Chitose Today, I brought with me a cleansing lotion and a Suqqu sunscreen.
This Shiseido cleansing lotion made me love my skin. I refuse to go out without sunscreen—not only does it protect me from UV rays, but it also prevents blemishes and wrinkles. I use it as a preventative measure. I also love Sisley Paris’s face and eye creams.
Yasuo Your skin looks moist and well hydrated. Do you normally have dry skin?
Chitose I used to have problematic skin, but it’s improved as I’ve aged.
I cherish things that age with time and keeping them around reminds me it is a natural process. I adore these ceramic pieces. The reds are supposed to be mistakes from the firing process. But I love it and I bought it because it’s one of a kind.
Yasuo Who says that imperfections aren’t good?
Chitose Right? That’s what I say. I’ve been wearing this necklace a lot more frequently because of how many ways you can style it. There’s no wrong way to do it, which I feel exemplifies my feelings on personal beauty.
Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life
Yasuo What made you choose to work in beauty over fashion?
Chitose I sort of fell into it. When I worked at the ad agency, I was in charge of cosmetic branding. Then as an editor, I was mainly assigned articles about beauty. So, it was a natural path. At a certain point, I came to appreciate the power of beauty.
Yasuo How so?
Chitose I once interviewed a researcher for Shiseido. He told me that for many years, he considered his job in cosmetic research and development to be inferior to medical researchers, until he saw a TV commercial for the company. It was about a woman struggling with depression, and how applying lipstick brought light back into her eyes and smile. After seeing that, he realized his work is as meaningful as that done in the medical field. Although his job doesn’t save lives, beauty matters just like life or death. It made me realize how lightly I was taking my own work, and that I actually have a responsibility to present products as healers for the soul rather than just photographing them and nonchalantly introducing them. It changed my entire mindset about the role.
Yasuo For many women, cosmetics are a way of living. They’re about self-care and self-enhancement, and ultimately embracing the life you want. I believe that all women are pure at every age, and I want them to accept getting older and just adapt to whatever comes their way. It would be amazing to stop seeing anti-aging advertisements in our world. That’s just one of the ways that the negative mindset around age can truly stop.
Chitose Beauty is about embracing life. I’m also disturbed by the negative tropes that the media often promotes.
Yasuo We have to collectively send out positive messages in order to change people’s attitudes.
Chitose And I think that is possible with today’s youth. I’m inspired by this new generation of young women who are embracing their individual beauty in so many different ways, because at the end of the day, that’s truly most important. I look forward to continuing that conversation.
Photos / Interview : Yasuo Yoshikawa
Text : Mikako Koyama