By MYVAWNY COSTELLOE
What on earth could prompt a bubbly, bright eyed, shiny haired, happy young woman to go from this:
Shame. Anxiety-inducing, mind blowing, self-esteem crippling shame.
The woman’s name is Minami Minegishi and she’s a member of hugely popular Japanese girl group called AKB48. AKB48 are enormously successful in Japan, so much so that they are more than just a pop group – they’re a phenomenon. Like The Spice Girls. Like One Direction.
There are 88 members in the band (yes, 88) and they’re divided into three ‘teams’ and one trainee group. The teams take it in turns to perform daily at their own special theatre in Tokyo. The aim being that the girls are more accessible to their fans than normal pop stars.
It’s an innovative approach that works; AKB48 has made over $200 million in 2011 through record sales alone.
But here’s the catch.
Members of Minami’s band AKB48 are forbidden to date boys. This restriction is part of maintaining the pop star’s illusion of accessibility and normality. The members of AKB48 are just regular girls, who boys their age might aspire to go out with.
Their image is one of virginial, well-behaved propriety. The ‘ideal’ in Japan.
Last week 20-year-old Mianmi stayed the night at a man’s house. She was photographed by paparazzi as she was leaving the next day and the photos were printed in a local Japanese newspaper.
After seeing the pictures, Minami was mortified. To show her contrition, she shaved her head and posted a tearful apology video on YouTube.
“It’s my responsibility to always behave as a good role model to juniors,” she says. “It was a thoughtless deed and I was completely lacking self-awareness.”