We had the pleasure for a direct interview with Naho (thanks also to our translator Himi), she runs ZOOM Salon, one of the most famous transformation studio in Tokyo, Japan. Her transformations have translated into thousands of video views, online articles and local japanise TV features, you will soon understand why!
Note: since we used a translator we will report Naho answers indirectly from our conversation.
Who is Naho and how did you started?
Naho its originally from Chiba, her career started 10 years ago, working initially as hair stylelist. During her career she had many customer request to do some “strange” makeup and transformation gigs, but she didn’t took them too seriously initially. Only in 2014 when she opened her own studio, she decided to work on complete makeover transformations, men to woman but also woman to men, offering also counseling and support for her customers.
What is transformation to you?
Naho consider her studio not as a crossdressing salon but as transformation one open to everybody, men or woman. What she actually aim, is to release the woman inside her male customers and viceversa. It’s a concept that in japanise she called “Ri Ri Jyo” or “Ri Ri Men” which mean to “Release Woman” or “Release Man”, release something that is already inside of you. When she had her inital costumers, she thought they would like to transform just for fun, but it turns out something more deep was going on and some of them started to cry.. cry for happiness! that’s because for the first time they where able to their true self that was always hidden inside of them. Also her studio wants to change the current perception of “crossdressing/josou” which here in Japan is often seen as “creepy” to something beautiful and cute like “kawai”, thats why her studio strives for quality and high “passability” for all her transformations.
Can you tell us about your customers?
The majority of the customers are locals but also foreigners sometimes (you can see this link for the website in English), mostly male but also some female, in their mid 30 to 80+ years old, they come from every background but mostly office workers and even CEOs of big companies. On the very active Zoom blog you can see some of them, and it’s pretty remarkable that some of them are willing to share their before and after pictures, somethings that doesn’t happen too often in most of the studios in other countries. Of course privacy for the customers is always the priority but some of them had the courage to share openly on the web, where friends and colleagues could easily see their transformations. Not only some customers decided to be more open with their partners but also convince his working collegues to try and basically bring them to the studio for a company transformation experience!
How about LGBT perception in Japan?
There more knowledge and openess compared to when Naho opened the studio, today is possible to see on TV also LGBT celebrities and also advertising showcasing gender issues. Also written publications have been out on the market to educate more, like Diamond media, and also the future holds big changes as big events will be held here like 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Naho hopes that it will become even more mainstream and one of her dreams is to do a full transformation of the famous japanise actor and director Takeshi Kitano.
What advice would you give to a CD that has never tried your transformation service?
Naho: I hope you may have brave heart to knock on our door.
You are welcome to the salon and our staff can understand your deepest feelings from the bottom of your heart.
Our salon will leads you to open your heart during the transformation.
Once you enjoy the transformation, you wont ever have the shy feeling again.
I strongly suggest you that you have transformation, don’t close your feeling or you may hold your real self.
What advices you would give to other makeup artists?
Naho: The perfect makeover is not enough.
Communication is important and full and deep understanding what CD feels and thinks.
The makeup artist might be only person who understands the CD or your guest.
Please tell your guest, transformation is not something bad, you don’t have to have awkward or strange.
I wish you could be good artist for both techniques and help to open their mind for your guest.
Check out some video transformations: