Model + Activist
Phoebe: Ok. Here we go. Good morning, Naomi Shimada.
Naomi: Good morning Phoebe Lovatt.
Phoebe: How are you doing today?
Naomi: I am great. What a joy it is to be here with you today on this beautiful crispy New York morning!
Phoebe: It is a beautiful golden morning.
Naomi: I mean summer is obviously is always my favourite, but this is second favourite.
Phoebe: I think that people enjoy the season that they were born in the most. Do you think that that's a true theory?
Naomi: You know what? I'd like to say yes, I am born in the summer, but you love summer and you're not a summer baby.
Phoebe: But I prefer autumn. I feel much more myself in this time of year than I do in the summer. As much as I love summer.
Naomi: As much as you thrive on the Rockaways.
Phoebe: As much as I get my life on Rockaway Beach! Anyway, we digress. So, would you mind introducing yourself and letting us know what it is you do in this world?
Naomi: I mean, who knows?! Who knows what we're all doing here!
Phoebe: Not to throw you into an existential crisis!
Naomi: I'm Naomi Shimada. I was born in Tokyo, Japan. I live in London at the moment, but I know Phoebe because we've been in the trenches together, setting up in new cities around the world! I've been working as a model for the last 15 years of my life, longer than I've done anything else, longer than I've been in school. In the last 10 years I've been working as an advocate within the modeling industry, talking, complaining, shouting about the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. I'm moving into writing and I'm starting to do more TV and I have a brand new radio show in London. It's on foundation.fm. I don't know if you've heard of them yet. It's a brand new radio station in London, set up in Peckham Levels actually. It's founded by four women from different parts of the industry. Cause all those radio stations have always been such boy's clubs, as you know, for better or for worse, sometimes for worse. I think curation has so much to do with, you can get women to front shows, but a lot of those stations run by men can't even speak to women, you know? It's not only going to be female focused, but I think it just gives it a different underlying tone of, what are we about, what's the communal message we're putting out. So I have a new show. You know, I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that and navigating the whole new world of how we get paid these days. That's it.
Phoebe: It's a confusing world to navigate at times.
Naomi: Yeah 'cause it's new for everybody.
Phoebe: Indeed. And so one of the things that I wanted to do with this kind of podcast format is explore some of the foundations that have led people who are navigating this world, to what's informed them and their worldview. Like you said, you've been modelling long, longer than you were in school and I know that you kind of had quite an unusual upbringing in terms of living in a bunch of different places. So I just wanted to speak to you about some of the things that have informed your outlook on the world. Miss World, as your tattoo reads. Where did you go to school?
Naomi: I started school in Japan. So I was in a Japanese school initially. And then I did kindergarten, middle school, some of high elementary, some of high school there. I left Japan just before my 12th birthday and moved to Spain, where I went to a Spanish-English bilingual school.
Phoebe: That must have been a big transition.
Naomi: It really was, actually. Especially at that age when you're just finally set up, you know. You've got your friends and your community. I'd lived in Japan my whole life. My father passed away when I was 10 and it had a huge impact on my life...I mean up till now, every damn day. But it also changed my life geographically, which is why we also moved to Spain.
We were navigating not just a whole new culture, a whole new country, a whole new continent, but also a whole new family dynamic of life, without my father. I think it was a lot of navigating for all of us, to be honest. I've never lost the love of my life, but I think from my mother, she just wanted a fresh start. And I think sometimes you don't want to live in those apartments that you've gone through breakups in, you don't want to live in the same neighbourhoods. It was difficult but at the same time I am so grateful to her. I speak fluent Spanish. I can go to so many places in the world and just slip in.
I feel like that has helped me in a priceless way. It's helped me be able to connect with so many people. It's helped me be comfortable anywhere, just like being a part of a different culture. Because it was so different to growing up in a Japanese one. It was like so funny. Even when I got there, I was like, "Why is everything closed all the time?!" [Laughs] "Why are people taking naps?" It was a forced balance. Also learning how to completely adapt to new things. Still to this day speaking Spanish is a huge part of who I am. I try to speak it every day.
Phoebe: What do you see as your first language?
Naomi: English, Japanese, and then Spanish.
Phoebe: Japanese before Spanish?
Naomi: Well actually, now it's predominantly English and Spanish.
Phoebe: Just because those are the ones you use the most?
Naomi: Because they're the ones I use the most. But at my core, I feel still very Japanese.
Phoebe: Do you feel like you have different identities when you speak different languages?
Phoebe: That's so interesting. How does that work for you? Like how do you feel when you Japanese versus when you're Spanish?
Naomi: I do feel like I have different identities, but at the same time I feel like they're all a part of me. In Japanese culture growing up, especially as a girl, you're taught to – you know, the Kawaii culture of women – to be seen as beautiful you need to be seen as cute. So I feel like my body language probably changes a little bit, my tone, how I use words because it's just in me, that aspect of, you gotta be cute, got to be cute! But I feel like they're all equally a part of me, so we just flex differently, you know?
Speaking Spanish is just comforting to me. It reminds me of being young and learning all these new things. It reminds me of coming home.When I moved to New York, the fact that I got to do that every day was such a big incentive for me to stay here. There are a lot of Spanish people in London, but I'd never really experienced Latin culture [there]. Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, Columbians – in the neighborhoods I was living in in New York, I always had Hispanic neighbours. Just being able to have that exchange felt so rich to me.
I think a lot of the times we do live in these cities and we talk about how we think of success and happiness, what that looks like, you know? And I think the older we get we want to we challenge that more because we suddenly have the things that we supposedly should be yearning after, and you realse those are not things that are making you happy. And for me, those exchanges with people are the richness of life. Nothing replaces how they make me feel or that they are my never-ending source of inspiration. I want all my work going forward to be about people and curiosity and asking: What are the things that bring us together? What are the things that set us apart? Ideas of belonging. For me, the street is the biggest inspiration and New York always had that for me in abundance.
Phoebe: We've talked about having issues with New York as a city but I think the thing that we fundamentally can we connect on our love for it through that – I feel exactly the same about the humanity of New York. It's so dense, it's so diverse.
Naomi: And we walk everywhere. We take the subway and there's these egalitarian spaces that we're forced to share through lack of space, just because we have to know which city. There's a lot of other cities, for example, LA or whatever, that it's more difficult to do that.
Phoebe: Right. LA is an incredibly culturally rich city of course, but it's harder to feel that.
Naomi: It's definitely there, but it's just a little bit harder to navigate.
Phoebe: Absolutely. So just to rewind a little bit, you were in Spain from 12 until how old?
Naomi: Until 18, 19. Then I moved to the UK when I finished school, to model. I've been there on and off ever since. I was there solidly till 25, then moved here for almost four years, to New York, where we are now for around three and half years. And then moved back to London. And so I'm in London right now.
Phoebe: But you're not English on any level?
Naomi: No, I am. My grandmother's English, Irish and French. I moved there to model, but also like at the time, the economy in Spain was like – young people had been leaving Spain for a long time. Especially like after the recent kind of depression that they've just gone through. It was always seen as like we had to figure out somewhere else to go afterwards. So, a lot of people from my school also went to England for university, and that was initially my intention.
Phoebe: I was going to say, had you considered alternative career paths? When you were at school what did you enjoy and what did you envision yourself doing?
Naomi: I was actually really into school. I was really good! I loved school. Where I thrived the most was probably languages, English, History. Things I wasn't good at, am still not good at, were math, sciences, etc. My grandfather was a big maths professor. But you know, I didn't get the strain!
I really loved school. I've always been a curious person so school was good for me. But I think at 18 I also didn't know what I wanted to do. Of course now I'm like, of course I didn't know what I wanted to do, but the idea of having to choose... I didn't qualify for student loans in the UK. Yeah. I mean this is back in the day, guys! When university cost £1,150 a year. I'm going to cast everyone's mind back to a time where that was real. So I could get my academics paid for, but not my living costs. And I was like, "I can only live in London." I wasn't like, going to go live in Sheffield. It's no shade to Sheffield! But I had my eye on wanting to be in London cause I'd been a city girl then left and was living in the south of Spain. So I was like ready to be back in that city mode.
Everything I wanted to do, I wanted to do a bit. I wasn't 100% sold on anything. My UCAS application letter was like: "I would like to do..." – I mean I only just found out now that apparently you can write different ones – but my letter was like, "I'd like to do History! English! Journalism!" The state of my mind was like, I just didn't know. Of course now when I look at 18 year olds, I'm like, of course baby, you don't know! You have no context! So whatever I would've wanted to do, I'd have had to work two jobs to do. I just couldn't commit because I just wasn't ready to do that for something I wasn't sure about. So I took some time off, and then I was kind of working and in that stream of work.
There's so much more to say about the inbetween of what I was doing, I worked for one of the biggest promoters in the UK. Now he does like every festival in the world almost. At the time he was setting up The Warehouse Project. I worked on loads of music things. I worked at a record label.
Modelling is a weird thing. Once you're in the rat race, you're in it because you know there's nothing you can do to really make as much money with in the little amount of time you actually are on set. But then the time going to castings, taking care of yourself, meeting clients, working on your book, all those things. It is a full time job. It's like a drug, you know. You won't work for like seven months and then you'll work once and then...
More than money, I always favoured the freedom of being able to have a different day all the time and being in charge of my own schedule. If I wanted to take two weeks or a month off to disappear somewhere, it was more important than money. Having that flexibility to be able to do what I wanted with my life. I was never diehard wanting to be some kind of supermodel. I just like my time. You know, this is how I value my life. The richness I have in between and to be able to be in charge of my own schedule. So I need to do this is what works for me right now.
Sometimes I think back after all this time I'm like "Damn, you know I always had a lot of responsibilities to my family, to other people, that like I was always like: "I wish I would have saved more money by now. What have you got show for it?" Those used to be the voices inside my head. Or like "You haven't been on the cover of Vogue, you haven't done this or that."
But actually, I'm like, who cares? I don't really care about it anymore. It's so hard to think of yourself as having an impact but I've received like the craziest messages from people from all around the world saying that they felt better in their bodies since they found me. Or I gave them the confidence to do something they couldn't do before – put on a bathing suit and take their kids swimming.
When you get so many of those messages, it's kind of overwhelming because this isn't necessarily the position you've ever aimed to be in. You don't put yourself there. Reframing how we think – that now seems like a bigger change to me. That feels more impactful. Who looks at those covers and feels good about them? If you made five people feel better in the bodies that they walk in every day, or one person even, that's great. That's made a huge difference to someone's life, you know? I just look at these things a little bit differently now even though that wasn't what I primarily set out to do, because I didn't even set out to do that for myself.
Phoebe: A lot of that transition that you made in yourself and you've talked a lot about your journey from being a – how do you call it? Straight size model? Awful terminology, but that's what it is, right? To being whatever you're considered to be now. Let's not even put labels on it, but you're a nonconventional model and presumably a lot of that transition happened through life experience. A lot of your work now is sort of much more centered in a kind of activism. What are your references for that?
Naomi: I have a funny relationship to that word activism because I feel like I don't necessarily feel like I'm being an activist in any way. I just feel like I'm openly discussing things that I feel. I don't feel like I'm on any kind of front line. And I think we use that word almost too casually now. Like, what are you activating? What are you influencing? Especially those two words. When something becomes such a buzzword, does it start to mean nothing? I feel like it's almost disrespectful to the people who've come before us. Who have literally fought for our rights to be able to live the way we live now. I understand that.
I think my references come from myself. Figuring out things that just didn't work for me or didn't feel good anymore. And also searching for things. What I do now, what I've been doing, it hasn't existed before. So when people, ywant to talk to me about, you know, who paved the way, who are the inspirations, who are they? I feel like I had to also dig a lot deeper into myself to be able to honestly admit to myself what I didn't want to be or didn't want to do anymore. But it's based on such instinct, I have to say I just don't see it. So maybe I have to be that version. Or step into that. Because I don't see who I want to be seeing. So much of everything I do comes from that.
In terms of references and reading, I guess I've only been really doing that in the last few years of actually having reading context to how I've been feeling, you know. Whether it's bell hooks New Visions or thinking about what radical love looks like out in the real world, for ourselves, for others. What that, what that means in practice. How we practice compassion in real life.
Phoebe: Radical love - when you use that term, what does that mean for you?
Naomi: When we live by love first. For me, it's being kind to myself and thus being able to be kind to others. I'm forgiving myself for things. I don't have to be sorry. You know? I'm always apologising for my existence when we don't have to actually be apologising for our existence. So I think by me figuring out that relationship to myself, being able to make decisions from a better place and also narrow down my relationships. Like, who do I want to be spending time with? Does this feel good? Where do I want to be putting my energy?
I think when you are able to find more balance within yourself, it leaves you in a better position to be making choices of how you want to be spending your time. Whether that's work, whether that's friendships, leisure, everything. I feel a lot more whole right now than I used to.
Phoebe: Again I understand very much what you're saying, of course it's almost a moot point to sort of like push this because I know so much of it is just about self-inquiry, but I know that when I'm trying to go through what you're describing there are things that I find help me navigate it.
Naomi: You know, for me majorly it's podcasts because honestly when I'm in not a good place, I find reading even difficult. Definitely when it comes to work, books like The Beauty Myth, books like Vagina by Naomi Wolf. There's loads of like there's loads of like heavy theoretical books that have given me context to my work, but they don't necessarily make me feel better! Honestly, I have to say On Being with Krista Tippett is life-changing.
Phoebe: It's amazing. Krista if you're listening - we love you! [Laughs]
Naomi: I feel like being able to hear experience, being able to hear emotion in someone's voice, being able to hear wisdom, just that relatability when you hear pain in someone's voice or something that they've gone through in their voice. I feel like there's just something about listening to that that gives you hope. It reminds you that actually everyone goes through stuff. This is the human experience.
Phoebe: Not only goes through stuff, but go through the same stuff. You feel like you're having these incredibly specific personal emotions. I'm reading a lot of ancient philosophy at the moment and people were talking about this shit 2000 years ago because the human experience and the human condition has like kind of come with the same struggles since forever.
Naomi: Since forever. And It's like, it's not all about you babes! Get over yourself. [Laughs].
Phoebe: You're not, like, the deepest thing on earth, babes. People have been grappling with this shit forever.
Naomi: Yeah. So I feel like in terms of practicality and tangibility like of immediate effect, honestly, this year especially, I've found podcasts were really helpful.
Phoebe: Right? Yeah. I like listening to podcasts as well when I can't read and then vice versa, sometimes I don't want to listen to people's voices because you know, it is much more emotive and closer. And it's like being in a room with someone, you know, you've gotta be careful of that energy.
Dance has been a big thing for you, I think as well?
Naomi: Yeah. Huge. I think in a world where we've never spent more time on our phones and on our computers and not actually looking at each other, not touching each other – you know, on average, the human being needs seven hugs a day to feel good, like seven real hugs. To be touched, to touch, is an important thing that we're not doing nearly enough of, you know. Honestly, when I hug people I try to sink into it, you know. I have friends who are into hugging now, but they were not before!
Phoebe: You've taught them about hugs.
Naomi: My friend said to me the other day – I nearly burst into tears – she was like, "You know what, I just realized through hugging you, I've never been hugged properly in my whole life." And I was literally like "Wahhhhh!" You know, let's just sit for a sec. Why are we rushing? Let's just hug for a bit. So physicality, dance, is like using your body for something that puts you back into your body, you know? It's also something that's very meditative for me. Those two hours or however long I go for – you can't do anything else. This is it. If you want to commit to it, you have to stop thinking about all the other shit that's going on.
That's the thing with choreography. You've got to concentrate. So I turn my phone off. I walk into the space, you gotta be present. It forces you to be present in a way that like when I go to yoga, I feel like I'm suddenly in a prison of my thoughts. I can't go and chill there.
Phoebe: I think a lot of people don't like yoga for that reason. Maybe this is reflective masochistic streak, but I like it for that reason. I like going in and being like, OK, you're going to have to be in your head now for an hour and a half or however long it is. Because sitting with your thoughts is like the hardest thing about it, you know?
Naomi: Definitely. For me, it was also an interesting way of growing my practice and evolving my work without even thinking about it. I've been talking about the body for a really long time. How to have healthy relationships to it, how we use it, how we learn to be comfortable within it. Even posting initial dance videos when I started years ago. It really has become a part of my practice and part of my work because it allowed me to be able to speak about using the body in a different way and explore what being in my body meant to me. Explore showing it more than just in a photograph or in a campaign – what it looks like for the body to be out in the world and how we use it in a nonsexual contexts. Especially when we talk about female sexuality. Outside pure sexual penetration, what is it good for?
You know, it's actually good for all of these things, and this is how we express it. To be able to express ourselves in safe spaces that aren't out here in the rest of the world. Also dancing is, I see it now as a real act of resistance out in the world. You know, it brings joy. You connect with people on dance floors, using the body in this way. I know I see you come alive in a way that I don't, you know, you're like a different person.
Phoebe: On the dancefloor? Yeah, I am!
Naomi: You're like a different person.
Phoebe: It's one of my purest joys in life.
Naomi: Exactly. It's such a pure joy and it's such a liberation. Obviously we still have the party in us but we're not going out every night like we used to. To be able to explore that on a day to day basis without having to be at a party, without having to drink alcohol and also remember why we like to do it in the first place, you know, as something we do for us.
Phoebe: Your dance studio has just opened in New York.
Naomi: Shout out to At Your Beat.
Phoebe: Like many people, I've watched your videos and, and I love to dance as well, but I've never found an outlet for it outside of the club –
Naomi: Exactly. I just want you to do it because I know it makes you happy.
Phoebe: I'm gonna do it! Like many of your fans – and I do very much count myself as one of your fans! – I've watched those videos. I'm like, Oh my god, I wish I could do this. And I've even looked for places, like I know a lot of people have, off the back of watching your videos, looked for places, and literally your studio just opened here a few weeks ago.
Naomi: I think there's also something interesting about me documenting my journey with dance because I had danced as a kid but not in class for a really long time. And I think there's something fascinating about watching. Some of those videos get so many hits. I've had ones with 30,000, 50,000 views. I think there's something fascinating about watching someone who isn't a professional as well. There's something about watching that journey, about watching what that freedom actually like looks like.
Phoebe: Pure joy. I think, like a lot of people, I watch it mostly just because I vicariously feel your joy from how happy you are doing that.
Naomi: And it's something I do for me, which has cleared my head more than anything. I've also like found a way to express myself. It has changed my work. It has actually changed my jobs. Like all the big jobs I did last year, for better or worse, have dancing in them. Literally like, "Dance, bitch!" Which I still get mad about, cause that's a different thing. It's the trendy thing this year or whatever, you know? That's commodifying the thing that you do as a person. Like, I'm not a dancer. Do you know what I mean? This is what I do for myself for fun and for my wellbeing.
Phoebe: Which is one of the unfortunate things about the time we're living in. You try to share something for whatever reason you felt compelled to share it, and then someone is like, "Hmm, this looks commercially viable." "Great activity, great engagement."
It's very interesting to me that you've learned so much through a physical practice. You know that you say this has really informed your work and this is the kind of thing that I'm interested in... Most people would never think a physical practice could become a tool of education and personal development. But for you it seems to be the biggest thing that's happened in your life.
Naomi: Totally. But I couldn't have known the effect it was going to have. That's why you just have to keep trying new things. Stay curious and and educate yourself for you. Try those things that you've always wanted to try, because something could really be coming out of that. That's the only way. You can't premeditate any of these things. If you want to be happy in your job or happy in your life, you've got to do the things that make you happy, to equate that happiness, you know? It seems like such a basic thing, but like it's so often ignored. Like, what are the things that make you feel good? Dancing takes a priority in my life, where I'm like, "I'm going to catch that earlier flight so I can get home and go to class in the morning.
Phoebe: How often do you go?
Naomi: It depends because my schedule varies so much, but if I'm at home I'll go like three, four times a week. If I can, you know. And also I do realize that, you know, I'm also in the financial position to be able to be doing this much. But if I can't, then I'll do it at home. I might not be learning a routine, but like, honestly you're blasting music in your house, like it's going to make you feel good and like dancing around your room.
Phoebe: What are you dancing to?
Naomi: It just depends on how I'm feeling that day, to be honest. If I'm a bit like emo, it could be a Cumbia moment, if I'm in need of a little light pick me up. Then if I'm like ready to turn up, it might be a little Afro beat moment. A dancehall moment. But you know, it's like private to me and no one can take that away from me.
Phoebe: Which is the beautiful thing about dancing. You can just put some music on and change your day.
Naomi: I listen to music all day. All Day, every day. And it's such a big part of who I am and like enhances my mood to like every level. And you know, almost to the point where I'm like missing on podcasts cause like I'm putting music first sometimes.
Phoebe: I thank all the musicians in the world in my head every day. Like I'm so glad you can do this because aside from dancing I'd say music is my purest joy. I'm quite a heady person, I'm in my head a lot and like I feel a lot of my work and my skills are rooted in cerebral things. I think what you're saying about the importance of reconnecting to the body and how much that's missing and bereft in our culture and how that's leaving us all with these blind spots in terms of how we experience being in the world. You can only know so much in your head.
Naomi: Totally. Going back to how it ties into my work, I've been talking about body image for so long and we're always talking about what the body looks like instead of what it feels like, and our bodies feel good when they're moving. Yeah. And I think so much about replacing that hatred we have for our bodies that actually do so much for us is about seeing them in practice and seeing them do stuff. Having endorphins run through your body and being like: "Oh my God, I feel good. My body feels good, you know?" Being able to give practical advice and practical context to how to make people feel better in their bodies instead of it just being like a thinkpiece or just saying: "Those images are airbrushed!"
Like we all know that, but they still cultivate that self hatred even though we have the facts and research. But like, because we're inundated with 5,000 images on the daily, I think being in our bodies and doing these kinds of activities with them is a real way of being able to create healthy relationships to them. I couldn't repeat myself in interviews anymore, Phoebe. You know how click-baity lazy journalism is, and all that kind of shit. I don't think of myself as a plus size model. I get interview requests every single day still, with the same fucking topics and I'm like: "Guys, I've moved on."
Phoebe: What you want to talk about now?
Naomi: I mean this feels good to me because it's tangible. It's real. Like you can step outside your door or go back in your bedroom and like we can do what we're talking about right now. You can like skip around the block. You can go to a class, you can go to a party like. I'm like: "Remember what the body does for us." It's such a big part of that healing process I think, and how to be kinder to it when you're like, you know you I walked 10k today. Your body does a lot. Let's not hate on it all the time. It's a complicated, beautiful machine and I think we take it for granted a lot.
Like you said, when you go through injuries, when [the body] doesn't work anymore, you're like, "Fuck, I'm sorry I've been so mean to you. I used to be able to get up the stairs and I can't right now." Everything else really seems to be so petty.
Phoebe: It is. Having the back injuries I've had this year really put shit in perspective. Not only your own experience but also that there so many people in this world who are not able-bodied, of course. Having even a small understanding of what their experience of life is like is just important.
Naomi: Yeah. So, this is definitely one of the things I want to talk about. I just want to stay curious, you know. There's so many other things that I'm interested in as a person and I hope I always stay that way. People. Travelling. The stories that I find. That's what I want to keep exploring, you know?
Phoebe: Where do you think that your curiosity is going to take you next?
Naomi: I'd really like to do more work in Japan because I think Japan always gets talked about in such a fetishistic manner to me. Like: "Japan. It's such a cool place. It's so cute. Oh my God! I'm obsessed with Japan!" I can hardly ever describe to people where I'm from without it coming with the: "Japan, I've always wanted to go there!"
Which is like totally cool, people should go there and I understand why it is. But there's so many kind of deeply layered cultural, social intricacies that have not been explored, that have their own problems. Whether they're generational, racial, gender politics. The body. It's been voted one of the worst first world countries to be a mother and that hasn't changed for the last however many years. So there's a lot that I would like to speak about as someone that understands both ends of the spectrum. It's still so conservative, even some of my family are, but I really experienced both sides of it.
So I would like to do a lot more work there when it comes to telling stories and doing more research. A lot of it, especially when it comes to people not really being in relationships anymore, people not really having sex anymore, letting work and technology take precedent – I think that's a view into what's starting to happen all over the world. So, exploring that there is almost a way of looking into the future of what's starting to happen everywhere.
The internet is creating equal ground, because we're experiencing things at the same time and seeing things at the same time. So I would love to do more research about what it really means to be a woman there. Like you, I don't want to do just gendered work anymore either, but I think just specifically in Japan as the birth rate is disappearing. People describe it in Japanese as "Mendokusai", which translates to "I can't be bothered".
Phoebe: To have sex?
Naomi: To do all of it. For connection. Placing Capitalism over connection. Money and things, which is happening everywhere. Everyone's on their phones looking at what other people have but they're not connecting cause they're on their phones and thus the cycle continues.
But you know, it's cool. At least we're having these conversations and trying to remind each other. I love stuff too! You know, like I love a look. I love a great handbag. I'm part of the problem too. But also being able to pull yourself out and be like, let's sometimes have these little reminders to ourselves of what actually is important. You know, like, I don't want to be taking out a loan for a Louis Vuitton handbag, which is like when people do in Japan all the time. It's part of the culture, you know?
And so I think there's so many interesting things happening there that I would love to explore as well as so many other places. But I guess it's just like on my mind at the moment.
Phoebe: And just before we round this can you tell us a little bit about your book and what we can expect from it?
Naomi: I've just signed a deal to write a book about how we look at different things. How our work has changed. How we think about love, relationships, friendships, how we think about sex, and how we think about mental health in post-Internet world. How social media has changed the way we think about these subjects.
It's funny because I have to write my quote for the announcement today. It's been such a long process. For the last year and a half, the book idea has really evolved. I originally got asked to write it as a memoir and I worked on that for a few months and I was like: "Oh my God, I just don't want to only talk about myself." All the alarms bells went off. I'm now working on the book as a project with my friend Sarah Raphael. She's the Editor at Large at Refinery29 in the UK. So I'm kind of front-end media. She's backend media. So, exploring how the Internet has affected both of our lives. There is a lot of personal experience in it, you know? The we interview other people and how they cope.
I think for both of us - for all of us - the problem with the Internet is that the pros and cons are almost equal. I wouldn't be sat with you doing this. We wouldn't be in the positions that we are. I built my own ecosystem, my own career, independently, because of it.
Naomi: Exactly. A lot of the gatekeepers that used to hold all the power, it's kind of taken that aspect away. But now that fact that we have to think of ourselves as brands, the way we date... It's just being able to share experience. It's not necessarily about having the right answers, but just people feeling less alone in their own isolated experiences. Everyone's going through it.
For me, it's also a longer form reply to everyone who has written to me over the years. People have shared such deep experiences with me. For me to be able to sit down and reply to them by also contextualising my thoughts in a way that is more concise. We're trying to make it really beautiful. We're interviewing all kinds of people and just like sharing and creating a space for people to be vulnerable and also take away that mystique. I think the problem with social media is that we forget that it's a curated version of other people's lives. All of our lives. Definitely, mine does feel authentic to me, but it's also like my work, you know?
Phoebe: And it's authentic to one side of your life.
Naomi: To one side of my life. If anything, I just want to take away the pedestals that we put each other on. Cause so much of that anxiety is induced by that thinking that everyone has it figured out except you. And it's just a complete fallacy. No one does. And I think the more we just talk about that... We're not making mistakes because we're learning, and it's fine. We're just trying different things out and that's how life is, you know? So I think if anything, I want it to be just a reminder of that. The good, the bad, the ugly, the LOLs, and everything else in between. If people just walk away from it thinking, feeling like: "Oh, I'm not alone and this is interesting", then I feel like then I'm happy with what we're doing with it, you know? I don't want it to be anything that makes it sound like we have it all figured out because I think that's the whole point of it: we can't can't. Also just tailoring how we use [social media] and our relationships to it. I'm curious to know.
Phoebe: Just to close out with a big question, not to put you on the spot, but what do you feel like it's one of the most important lessons that you've learned in life to date? Or even just something that is really essential for you right now in the way that you're living? A key learning?
Naomi: To trust in the journey. I think as a society we're so conditioned to have beginning, middle, end, results. We really are. And all the best things aren't anything to do with that. We just can't plan our lives out like that. You know, the idea of like five year plans...you know like I've always been a bit averse to that because like it just didn't fit into my life. I was like, "Wow, I'm not an organised person." I think it's healthy to have things that you want but also figure out what is it that you want to be feeling. I think we should be questioning what success and happiness actually looks like and not just be following the narratives that are sold to us of, "This is what it looks like. This a healthy bank account, a nice house and a big ass diamond on your finger and a big job title."
I think, especially with the way that we look at each other's lives on the internet, it's easy to forget that there's so much else going on in between those experiences and that the complexities of being human are also the most beautiful things.
Going through stuff makes you beautiful. People I magnate towards, we've all had struggles and that's why we're friends. That's why we relate to each other. Don't feel bad about yourself because you're having a hard time. Change is uncomfortable. You're shedding skin. You're shedding skin and that's just like what we do as people. I think we just need to remind ourselves that that's okay. That's how we figure out. It's like trying shoes, you know? That's how we figure out what's not right for us.
Trust your gut. As humans, we're born with such strong, natural instinct, but we're conditioned to not listen to it. We're taught to follow this narrative, through our education, our families, societal constructs to do things according to plan and it's interesting. I've always thought I was a person that didn't really follow the rules, but now I'm really putting that to the test. Like, OK, is this what you're actually about as a person?
Phoebe: I think you are. And I love you for it, and I'm glad to know you. Thank you, Naomi.
Naomi: Of course. You're so welcome.