All About Japan

How Amateur Models Reach the Top of the Pops

J-Pop Beauty Music Fashion

With their thick, glossy pages, Japanese women's magazines are fun to flip through. They're colorful, informative and energetic, which brings the readers closer to the magazine. And one of the main aspects that attracts so many young women to continue to buy these magazines is the strong presence of so-called “dokusha models.”

Dokusha moderu, which literally means "reader model," refers to an amateur fashion model who will pose for a certain fashion magazine in parallel with her day job as a university student or company employee. The term is typically abbreviated as dokumo (読モ), and while these models are referred to as amateurs, they may well be more popular than professional runway models.

Japanese runway models like Ai Tominaga, Tao (Tao Okamoto) and Mona Matsuoka are actually much more popular abroad, where they appear on Fashion Week runways and advertisements for high-end brands. On the other hand, dokumo aren't necessarily tall, long-legged or skinny: they're the representatives of the readers of a specific fashion magazine, and act more like advocates for the readers and fans. As a result, readers feel much closer to the dokumo girls, and they'll try to coordinate their style according to their favorite model.

Some of the most successful dokumo are called “charisma dokumo,” and many will appear in popular women's magazines of any genre, including hair magazines, where they might be called “cut models.” Apparel shop staff also serve as dokumo, with many fans visiting the store not just to shop for clothes, but also to get close to the dokumo staff.

Dokumo who've made it big include Kaela Kimura and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (above). Read about how they got where they are at Tokyo GIrls' Update below!

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