Model Kiko Mizuhara on karaoke, gay clubs and her passion for travel

Updated 8th November 2018
Model Kiko Mizuhara on karaoke, gay clubs and her passion for travel
Written by Stephy Chung, CNNHong Kong
This article was originally published in March 2017.
A rainbow-sequined "LOVE WINS" top, circus pants, shutter shades and a disco ball are all 26-year-old model Kiko Mizuhara needs to channel one of her favorite pastimes: finding a gay club in every city she travels to.
"It's safe. Nobody will care about me, no guys will come up to you, and you can just do whatever you want," she says, vogueing to camera on a shoot with CNN Style.
Avoiding attention may become increasingly difficult. Mizuhara's star power as a model and actress in Asia is already cemented (she starred in the film adaption of Haruki Murakami's "Norwegian Wood" and the Japanese action film "Attack on Titan"), and she's becoming an increasingly familiar face internationally.
In recent years, she's walked the runway for Jeremy Scott, been photographed by Karl Lagerfeld, and graced the pages of the world's top fashion magazines.
"Because the Chinese market is really huge, being an Asian model is better now than before," she says. "A lot of people know I'm well known in China, so they book me because of that."

Struggles with identity

Beijing photographer Zack Zhang, who regularly works with Mizuhara on campaign shoots and editorials for Elle China and Cosmopolitan China, describes her as "a girl on fire."
"Kiko has her own style. Not everyone would appreciate her beauty, but she knows how to show her strength in front of the camera."
But Mizuhara hasn't always been so confident. Growing up in Kobe, in the Japanese countryside, she often struggled with her mixed-race identity. (Her father is from Texas, and her mother is a Japanese woman of Korean decent.)
"When I went to school, I felt really embarrassed," she recalls. "My dad is American. He looked so different -- blond hair, blue eyes, super tall. And I also didn't want anyone to find out that my mom was Korean."
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Because of this, Mizuhara avoided speaking English (to the detriment of her fluency) in an effort to fit in.
"I told my dad to stop coming to school. I started wearing the same clothes as other kids. I tried to hide myself -- my real self."
When she moved to Tokyo at 16 to pursue modeling, she met other mixed-race models and began "opening up."
"I felt stronger. I started to explore my roots, to try to understand my parents," Mizuhara says. "Being original is sometimes difficult in Japan, but there are a lot of original people in Tokyo."
Kiko Mizuhara's interest in experiencing other cultures has taken her around the world. Watch the video above to learn her top rules for traveling while riding the Hong Kong Observation Wheel.
Herbert Chow, Sai Ho, Hidetaka Sato, Zahra Jamshed, Stella Ko, CNN contributed to this report.