Modeling can be a very glamorous life but it is also hard work. Long days rehearsing, endless costume changes, battling against calories and constant attention to skin care are all part of the game that top model Jessica Michibata knows so well. “I’ve been pretty lucky. I don’t seem to put on weight. Maybe I have good genes,” she says, chatting in English, something she rarely gets to do these days.
Born in Fukui to a Japanese mother and Argentinean father who is half-Spanish, half-Italian, Michibata has lived all her life in Japan, the last 10 years in Tokyo. She has two sisters who also do modeling. “I used to visit my older sister at her modeling agency in Tokyo, and when I was 12 or 13, they asked me if I’d like to try it,” says Michibata, 24.
As a child, she recalls dreaming of a very different career path. “When I was in high school, I wanted to be a coroner. That was my biggest dream. Everyone thinks I’m kidding when I say that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go to university because I was already working.”
For the past few years, Michibata has kept up a hectic pace of modeling and other projects. She had a segment on the TBS variety program “Cinema Style,” introducing the movie of the week and she was a movie critic for Soup magazine for four years. She was recently the main model for Peach John lingerie and currently has contracts with Lux, Samantha Thavasa, Evian and Seiko, as well as appearing in fashion magazines such as Glamorous, Classy, Sweet and VoCE. Most recently, she took part in the very popular Tokyo Girls Collection before 22,000 screaming teenagers. “That was fun but tiring,” she says. “You have to be there at 6:30 a.m. and rehearse for four hours. There is no time to rest. The show went for six hours.”
Standing 173 cm tall, Michibata says a typical day can sometimes start at 6:30 a.m. and she won’t get home until midnight. “I know a lot of girls who worry about their weight, skin and hair. Some of them fast or just eat snacks. In this profession, you have to be healthy and happy inside, otherwise it shows through.”
Michibata certainly seems happy inside. “I’m good at finding a balance in my life. I love chocolates and ice cream, for example,” she says. “I go to the gym whenever I get time, and I jog. The problem with Tokyo is that whatever sport you want to do costs a lot. When I was growing up in Fukui, you could pretty much do anything.”
Michibata attracts a lot of fan mail through her blog and MySpace. “Young women want to know how they can become models. They want to know my story. Guys send fan mail too.” And what is her type of guy? “I like older men, smart guys, guys who work really hard like me. My type is the actor Benecio del Toro. He is the best of the best,” she answers.
Having traveled abroad often for work, Michibata says she has become interested in a world completely different from the glamour of her profession—United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) activities. “I’d like to visit a refugee camp and meet children there,” she says.
While models used to have a short “shelf” life, Michibata says there are more opportunities for older women now. “There are so many magazines targeting all ages,” she says. “I’m not sure what I’ll do after modeling. I’d like to try something I haven’t done, maybe acting, or do fashion designing.” Her own style tends to be more casual. “My job is to wear other people’s fancy clothes, so I tend to keep it simple at home. The funny thing is so many people think we get to keep all the clothes we model. I‘d have to build another house just to store them all,” she laughs.