Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely excited to feature Yuyu Kitamura, an emerging Japanese actor and writer based out of New York City!
Born into the bustling financial city of Hong Kong, Yuyu Kitamura is no stranger to the hustle of a big city. Having spent most of her adolescent life in a sprawling metropolis, Yuyu’s educational transition to New York University’s prestigious acting program only helped her hone and establish her personal and artistic identity: “Figuring out my identity while simultaneously bettering my artistry was so exciting.”
Yuyu’s exploration into her unique cultural identity continues to persist: “Even though I am Japanese, I don’t feel fully Japanese since I spent a lot of my upbringing in Hong Kong. But I’m not Chinese, and my mind thinks in English. I’m a cultural potluck!” It is with her unique international lens that she hopes to influence the modern American TV and Film industry.
Since her recent graduation from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Yuyu has acted in a variety of independent shorts, worked alongside companies like Kiehl’s, and recorded scripted podcasts. She is currently in the process of writing her first feature film.
What inspires you and your creative process?
I’m inspired by writing and performing unique stories. Whether they are about people, experiences or certain communities that aren’t portrayed often. When we bring those stories forward and highlight them, we are acknowledging that it matters.
Looking back, the times I’ve felt the most creatively empowered and proud of my ideas have been when I felt immense emotions. I think that is when I unlock an idea that’s been sitting in my head or feel that there’s enough to begin. I like to drive my work from how I feel because those are the moments where I realize how passionate or inspired I am.
What is the connection between your art and social justice?
I think that art is very personal. It’s you putting a stamp on how you feel about a topic, theme, issue whether you realise it or not. What you offer to the world matters. It has weight. That being said, I want to develop those two circles deeper and I think it goes hand in hand with understanding yourself and your values.
Being Asian, I recognise that the strides made by our Asian actors before us have paved the way in the industry. They walked so we could run and continue running. As my acting career continues, I aim to one day write, produce and star in a piece that exemplifies my artistry and social issues.
What inspired you to pursue acting, writing, and filmmaking? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
I can’t pinpoint an “a-ha!” moment. I just found myself finding real joy in performing. The whole process of being an actor is exciting, and hard.
Writing came out of intimate thoughts and feelings that were never intended to be shared. I never considered myself a ‘writer’. But one summer, I interned at a company and met an amazing, kind and smart woman who became someone I highly look up to. She encouraged me to publish my poetry and fast forward a couple weeks and my book was on Amazon. ‘Circles and Lines’ by y.k was the first time I felt extremely vulnerable as an artist. These poems were never meant to be shared but the process of publishing a book outweighed my ego. It was so rewarding because the point of putting together that book wasn’t to make any sort of profit. It was to show myself that I can do anything if I truly wanted to and now I can say that I published my first book at the age of 20. Since then, I’ve been dabbling with other forms of writing. I hope to finish writing my first feature this season.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
The most rewarding part is meeting so many talented artists. It’s amazing to have met writers, actors, producers who have a vision and aim to bring great content into the world. From being on set, to meeting others through mutual friends, it has truly been a blessing to learn from them just by being around them.
Advice? Be kind and do what EXCITES you. Hopefully you’re doing something that already makes you happy in some sense, but life gets more interesting when you do things that excite you.
Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging international artists like you?
This has been one of the hardest questions that I have been constantly thinking about during this pandemic. Most people probably don’t know much about the international artist experience (and it’s okay to not know) but there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding staying in America. I can’t speak for others, but it hurts when I think I have to leave New York, because my visa is up as I’m not American.
Over the five years I’ve lived in New York, I’ve learned that many people react when the word “visa” or “foreign” come up. There seems to be a negative connotation attached to being international. The number of times I’ve had people ask me “How is your English so good?” or “I thought you were American!” It’s close minded to think that or assume that because of the way I look, I should sound a certain way.
Be open to collaboration. Be kind.
Thank you for your continuous support and kindness in this extraordinary times. Stay safe! Lots of love, #Team IVA
Interview by conducted & written by Veronica Velez