Amina Du Jean, stage name Aminyan hails from Detroit, but spends her days in Tokyo, alternating between being a university student and a pop idol. A native to Detroit, she claims to be the first full-blooded African-American idol in Japan, giving kudos to two previous half-black idols on her personal website.
In an interview with NextShark, she said of her interest in Japanese culture: “My family exposed me to a variety of documentaries, so I’ve always loved documentaries and various subcultures from elementary school.” She added, “That kind of mixed in with my fondness for the Internet and from there on I loved Japanese girls’ culture.”
Throughout childhood and adolescence, du Jean found herself being bullied by her peers, but she credits her love of Japanese culture and convention communities with helping her through the tough times.
While attending an academy in Michigan, du Jean often dreamt of trading in her school uniform for something from the Harajuku Girls’ wardrobe.
Du Jean admits that she has experienced plenty of racism in Japan, especially discrimination in the entertainment industry. She also encounters plenty of more benign racism in every day interactions. “In everyday life people assume that I’m ‘athletic’ (even though I don’t have single muscle on my body) or that I can dance well or some other bullsh*t. But that’s no different than what American people say to Black people.”
Still, despite these many struggles, du Jean has already made a name for herself as an idol. By age 18 she had already scored an entertainment contract, and even signed with a group called Chick Girls, though she is currently taking a hiatus from the girl group to focus on her studies. In her spare time, du Jean attends conventions in America, where she works on dispelling rumors and myths about her line of career.
On her website, du Jean has much to explain regarding her career. “The idea behind an idol [in Japan] is practicality, relatableness and growth. The reason why a non-Asian idol is awkward in Japan is because a non-Asian isn’t visually “practical”. Idols are supposed to be girl-next-door cute.”
She follows this up by saying “The next is relatable. If you’re doing events you have to speak with fans a lot, and that means having a good command of conversational Japanese. There are so many cultural references, nuisances and general things you won’t understand unless you grew up in Japanese society.”
Taking private Japanese lessons since age 12, du Jean claims “I can participate in group conversations with my friends, text, go to doctors’ appointments and understand TV, so that counts for something.” Still, she also admits she “can’t read books meant for ages 12 and up, though.”
To Japan Times, du Jean said of her racial identity: “I mean, I am Black and I’m proud of it. I just don’t think Black defines me. But people who are the first at anything are bound to run into these kinds of problems, so I don’t mind it too much.”
Watch her video here: