La Carmina’s alternative Goth fashion, travel and pop culture blog – http://www.lacarmina.com/blog – has led to international TV presenting, press trips and appearances, including New York Fashion Week. She’s a Huffington Post Travel journalist,
author of 3 books (Penguin and Random House), and hosts TV shows for Discovery, National Geographic, Food Network, Travel Channel and more. Visit her site for spooky-cute Harajuku fashion, Goth nightlife, youth subcultures, theme cafes and Scottish Fold cats. Wicked Spins Radio had the honour to interview La Carmina.
WSR – Thanks so much for giving Wicked Spins Radio this interview La Carmina, first can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
La Carmina – I’m a fashion blogger, subculture journalist and travel/ culture TV host. I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and currently fly around the world for my work.
I started La Carmina blog (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog) in September 2007. I fell in love with blogging as a way to express my passion for fashion and alt culture, especially in Japan. Gradually, the site built a following and led to projects I never dreamed were possible,
including writing books, “Cute Yummy Time” and “Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo” (info at http://www.lacarmina.com/books.php) and hosting TV shows for worldwide networks. All reels are on my TV page, http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates
When I started out, I had no connections in the entertainment industry. Producers found my videos and work on the net, and invited me to be the guest host on shows about Japan, underground culture and young travel. Everything grew from there. To date, my TV presenting work includes: Travel Channel “Bizarre Foods,” Discovery TV “Oddities”, National Geographic “Taboo”, “The Doctors,” “Today Show,” CNN. You can see my film clips at http://www.lacarmina.com/bio.php
WSR – We have seen recently the European alternative style being very much influenced by the J-Pop style, what do you feel it is about the J-Pop style that has become so popular over here in Europe?
La Carmina – I think J-pop style feels like a breath of fresh air. The cute decora accessories, candy colours and Visual Kei makeup are a world apart from what you’ll find in Western malls. A lot of young Europeans grow up watching anime and reading manga, and identify with the Japanese fashion depicted in these works. Japanese Gothic style is also more elegant and modest (long, decadent aristocrat gowns, for example), with an eye for layering and workmanship, which is a welcome alternative.
WSR – You look amazing in the way that you dress and are also a very beautiful woman, what was it that attracted you to the gothic style?
La Carmina – My family is from Hong Kong, so we frequently travelled around Asia when I was a child. From an early age, I felt uplifted by Tokyo’s Harajuku Goth style and street wear. I began playing with subculture styles, and this led to the spooky-cute pirate looks I do
WSR – I myself am a model and I love to model all aspects of alternative modelling especially the industrial style. What is your favourite style of modelling and what is it about that style that you like?
La Carmina – If I’m hosting a TV show or doing a magazine cover shoot, I put thought into the styling and presentation: hair, nail art, makeup, accessories. I strive to always go forward, keep evolving and try new, inspiring looks. I love mixing styles, and doing my own take on fetish, Gothic Lolita, steampunk and more. I’m drawn to the creative visual aspect: how you can transform yourself and build a new world through photography, makeup and expression.
WSR – Reading your website I came upon the bagelhead body modification to which you have done television programs about in various countries. Can you explain to our readers what is involved in the bagelhead modification and also is it becoming a trend in Japan?
La Carmina – Japan’s underground has wonderful creativity and imagination. Many of these expressions, such as extreme body mods, are misunderstood and misrepresented in the Western media. Bagelheads, or saline forehead inflation, is a perfect example of this. The look is shocking (see my article for details –
http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2012/10/bagel-head-trend-japan-truth-japanese-bagelheads-website-saline-forehead-inflation-donut-taboo/) and unfortunately, led to much misunderstanding. Many people have a false impression of how it’s done, and how widespread it is — it’s certainly not a trend. Keroppy Maeda pioneered bagelheads in Japan,
and this niche community performs about 10 saline inflations a year. They’re a form of play, body-morphing, and individual expression. My company, La Carmina & The Pirates (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates/), works closely with this group, and arranged four TV shows about bagelheads to date.
WSR – To date what is the most extreme form of body modification that you have seen?
La Carmina – The list goes on… self-amputations, sewing one’s eyelids shut, eyeball tattoos. I recently interviewed Steve Haworth, inventor of subdermal implants, about the future of extreme body mods. Here’s what he is currently working on: http://huff.to/ZqXkIx
WSR – As well as fashion and culture you also have written a book about food, what inspired you to write your book Cute Yummy Time to bring great cute food to the masses?
La Carmina – I am fascinated with the intersection of Japan pop culture and cooking. My cookbook Cute Yummy Time(http://www.lacarmina.com/cookingcute.php) was influenced by the adorable bento-decoration trend I saw in Japan. I gave it a Western twist, so there are recipes like tiramisu shaped as a coffin, and pig-faced bread. My other book, Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo (http://www.lacarmina.com/tokyorestaurants.php) is full of stories and photos of Japan’s wildest theme restaurants, from monkey waiters to cosplay maids. All my books are available on my La Carmina site: http://www.lacarmina.com/books.php
WSR – What is the greatest accomplishment so far of your production company La Carmina and The Pirates?
La Carmina – Since we kept getting TV offers, my First Mate Naomi and I began a “TV fixing” company, La Carmina & The Pirates (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates). We’re arrangers and consultants for travel, culture and food shows film in Japan and worldwide. As
fixers, we do local production coordination, translating and presenting for shoots. Last year we worked on shows for Food Network, Pro Sieben Germany, National Geographic, Discovery and more. It’s impossible to name a single accomplishment, but I loved eating bloody brains in a monster-themed restaurant with Andrew Zimmern, for Bizarre Foods Tokyo (Travel Channel)!
WSR – You have hosted a few travel programs, what are the best and worst places you have visited so far?
La Carmina – I’d say all of my travel experiences are positive; I always end up learning something new. I had fun shooting travel videos at Leipzig’s Wave Gotik Treffen (the world’s largest Gothic festival), and in Mexico for Day of the Dead. Last year, highlights included
press trips to Prague, Berlin, and Maui.
WSR – You list of talents is huge but what do you feel is your one true talent?
La Carmina – My ultimate mission is to portray alternative/dark cultures in a fair and understanding light. There is so much prejudice and misunderstanding that goes on today. I try to tackle misunderstandings and show the positive side in my books, TV programs
and journalism. Hopefully, this helps to educate people about extreme body modifications, fetish culture, Goth lifestyle and “weird Japan” — or at least start an intelligent conversation.
WSR – You have accomplished many things and become very successful. What is the one best piece of advice that anyone has ever given you and what one piece of advice would you give someone who was looking to advance in their own creative passions?
La Carmina – Be smart about it. It’s tough to turn a creative pursuit into a full-time career, so I suggest starting out as a hobby or part-time, and getting a degree if possible. To stand out, aim to be the “go-to” person for a specific niche — whether it’s Japanese food, fashion blogging, or young female travel. Show what you can do; release quality content regularly, and build up a strong social network. Blogs are a great way to showcase your work. And don’t ignore the business side — it’s key.
WSR – What is the one thing in this world that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face?
La Carmina – My earless Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow! He’s like a fuzzy teddy bear come to life. You can see his cuteness in action on our YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/lacarmina) and photos on my La Carmina blog: http://www.lacarmina.com/blog
WSR – Thank you so so much for giving Wicked Spins Radio this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
La Carmina – I hope you’ll join me on my journey! I love interacting with my readers and I get inspired by the people around me. I’ll be continuing my TV hosting work, especially in the travel genre. Coming up, I’ll be shooting episodes in Miami, Florida for Art Deco Weekend. In Feb, I will be in Tokyo to appear in a 1-hour documentary. You can always find my latest spooky-cute adventures and TV clips on my site, http://www.lacarmina.com
– and on my social networks @lacarmina
All photos courtesy of La Carmina at http://www.lacarmina.com
You can find La Carmina’s blog at http://www.lacarmina.com/blog
You can find La Carmina’s YouTube channel here http://www.youtube.com/user/lacarmina