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Interview: SexyMandarin's Kaoru Kikuchi Tells All

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Last week we brought you the story of the online school based in China that uses lingerie-clad models to teach Mandarin. In an exclusive interview, founder Kaoru Kikuchi talks ostrich farming, the perils of catered accommodation and her plans for SexyMandarin.com. 

Kaoru on setHi Kaoru. How are things?

Good, we’ve been busy casting girls for the latest video. I’m excited! 

What are your memories of Nottingham?

I was actually an architecture student and as you know we had shower rooms in our studio space. So you can imagine how tied down we were there! I did enjoy my time a lot but it wasn't really the student life I had expected with lots of fun parties. Mainly it was making deadlines for the crit and plenty of sleepless nights from working! As for fond memories, I’d have to say the occasional cook-outs I had with my housemates stand out the most.

How did you find hall life?

The day I arrived at Lenton and Wortley, students had already settled in and were having their freshers party. My first impression was of a hall full of frat boys and sorority girls. The more I spent time there though I found a lot of interesting people. The fact we had set times for our meals and all these rules and regulations was frustrating – especially when I thought I was free as a bird living in a foreign country away from my family. But honestly I miss those times as I feel much older now!

I’m glad you mentioned that because the experiences of international students don’t get a lot of press. If you don’t mind, on a personal note, telling us what was it like studying in England? Did you learn anything new about yourself? 

My time studying in England was a great time to reflect on what I wanted to achieve and what I really wanted to pursue as my career and in my life in general. Despite being my degree choice, it was at Nottingham that I decided becoming an architect was not for me. And you know in hindsight, I think if I had gone to a U.S. university, then I would have gone down that path – especially with all the classes and course materials spoon fed from morning to evening classes. I had the freedom at Nottingham to make my own decisions.

So you leave university with a degree in architecture. When did you decide you wanted to become a model/entrepreneur instead?

I was offered a scholarship to study Mandarin at a university in Shanghai after I graduated. This really changed my career path because it was during this time that I realised I wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I got back to Japan, I became depressed because all my former classmates were set in their career paths and were interning and applying for RIBA Part II [Royal Institute of British Architects diploma]. Then I saw a reality show starring a Japanese celebrity/model who was also a successful businesswoman. Since then I have been keeping her as the role model!

How did you come up with the idea for SexyMandarin? You have to admit, it’s a little out there...

Honestly, it was over a glass of wine! I came up with all the random dialogues and scenes of these Chinese girls in lingerie asking for the time, and the close ups of lips to emphasise the pronunciation... Pretty soon, we booked the domain name "sexymandarin.com" and all other possible languages with the word "sexy" in it! The idea simply grew from there.

On set
What are your current plans for the website?

We have gotten 1.4 million overall views and half a million for our teaser clip "Lesson 1: What time is it?" since Christmas last year.  Now I am continuously recruiting people and building a real business around it. Our models can also apply through our website. One idea is eventually to have a virtual class room. I’m confident some of our 10,000 subscribers would be willing to pay for those kinds of services. We are already accepting suggestions from our viewers for new video ideas and want to make the service even more interactive. 

Some people have questioned the efficacy of your methods. Not to mention what women’s groups have had to say about your use of suggestive imagery...

I love it how people are criticizing. It makes the clip known more by people in the world. The biggest criticism we get is from the feminist movement in Hong Kong. They say that we are making the girls look submissive. But what we want to say is that these girls are known models and actresses in Asia and they chose to be in the clips and so you cannot say that they are “submissive” in any way. And if the feminists don't like it, then don't watch it!

What's it like working with [partner/director] Mick Gleissner? 

Mick Gleissner is inspiring and he is the co-creator of this project, as well as the voice of the cartoon character, Mr. Fung. He is a movie director by trade and it is really interesting to see how he portrays things and really helps make SexyMandarin sensual and not slutty.

You recently did a photo shoot with FHM Singapore. You really seem to be going places.

Actually the FHM shoot was a feature about me and SexyMandarin. The theme was a sexy teacher, and I had to do all these poses in front of a white board with a stick. I was a bit embarrassed at first as I was wearing a thong on set as well, but then I kind of got into the mood as a teacher and had no problem! I started talking to the people from FHM and now we might be planning to do a big casting drive with them, and a possible feature in other FHM magazines around the world.

Does that mean you’re planning to return to the UK? 

I would love to if I had the chance! I would go any minute if I am offered to do something there. Watch this space.

What would your fantasy photoshoot be? What would it involve?

Hm... I love beauty shoots. I was looking through a magazine in Miami and saw this inspiring shoot with a model and she had cracked quail's egg shell in her mouth. It sounds really disgusting, but it was so beautiful and memorable! I am actually scheduled to shoot this next week!

We certainly look forward to that. On that note, what advice would you give aspiring models? 

I started modelling at 23, when I was still at uni. That’s about the latest you can start – most models begin around 16 or so. I was 13 kg heavier at the time, and also it's not like I am super tall... Most people think that models are "discovered" and the agency finds you all the jobs, and one day you just happen to become famous. In reality, you just have to be committed in creating a good portfolio and work your way up there.

What does the future hold for Kaoru Kikuchi? 

Well, we’re looking to expand SexyMandarin and, as you know, we’re responding to fan requests with new videos. We are starting production next week with 4 Chinese girls, which should be exciting!

On a different note entirely, I just opened an Ostrich Farm in Palawan, Philippines and have started promoting and distributing Ostrich meat as a substitute for beef. We have 150 ostriches now and are expanding to a farm with 1000 ostriches so that's my upcoming project so far. We supply a number of restaurants and promote sustainable farming in the Philippines. Our website is www.ostrichcompany.com and we’re also on facebook.

Since finding success in modelling, what is the craziest party you’ve gone to?

I am not much of a party girl unfortunately! But the craziest party I went to was this place in London. I showed up and had no idea that it was a gay/transvestite party and everybody there was interested in men! It was so weird to be surrounded by these glamorous she-males. I felt so unattractive!

What is the strangest/weirdest fan request you've experienced?

I got some weird love letter from a widower recently who started being very personal about his life in a bid form some sort of emotional connection with me. He even called me a Princess and said that we will surely have a more meaningful relationship than we could have with our current partners. It did not make any sense!

Kaoru Kikuchi is a model/entrepreneur. Originally from Hong Kong, she currently resides in the United States.

Follow Kaoru’s progress at www.kaorukikuchi.com and via her twitter account @ KOZOtokyo




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