We had the good fortune of connecting with AYAKO and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi AYAKO, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Although I was born and raised in Tokyo, I grew up listening to and watching American music and TV, which inspired me artistically, but was not very diverse in the early 2000’s. There was no one that looked like me on TV or in magazines that I could look up to. That being said, I was lucky enough to grow up in an international community that accepted me for being a Japanese-American girl that wanted to be like Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears. This acceptance has given me the confidence to proudly represent both my cultures in everything that I do. Hence my artist name, AYAKO, my Japanese middle name, which translates to ‘culture child’. I have learned to leverage my bicultural background as a strength in life, and hope to inspire others to embrace their roots.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am excited about all the new music I am about to release this year. I am looking forward to sharing my upcoming single called “Shame You”, which is a ballad-inspired song about my experience with sexual harassment and the power of speaking out about it. It can be scary to get so personal and vulnerable with the art we put out, but it is also just as empowering and healing to share these stories with the world.
Besides my music, I am most proud of a feature film I shot last year called “Ike Boys”. I play a Japanese exchange student who speaks in both English and Japanese throughout the film. I also wrote and recorded the theme song for the movie in English and Japanese, which I’m super excited to share as well.
Entertainment is not an easy career to pursue. However, I’ve realized that most of the challenges I have faced as an artist stem from insecurities and self-doubt. I’ve learned the importance of having a strong support system to overcome these challenges. I am where I am today because of my friends, family and partner who have continuously supported and advised me through the ups and downs of being in this industry.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Places to eat: (I’m vegan btw) Nat’s Thai (my favorite Hollywood hole in the wall Thai spot), Nic’s On Beverly (favorite bougie vegan spot), Locali (favorite vegan breakfast spot), Little Tokyo for ramen and Pasta e Pasta for Japanese style pasta. And of course my favorite taco truck, Chorizo Taco Truck 🙂
Places for drinks:
I’d get two iced oat milk mochas from my favorite neighborhood coffee shack, Lily’s Coffee. For cocktails, I’d take my bestie to Sassafras Saloon, Pattern Bar, Davey Waynes, and Black Rabbit Rose for some live jazz music.
Places to visit:
I’d bring blankets, fruit and drinks to my secret Malibu beach spots. The venice drum circle is always an interesting, very LA experience. We’d walk around Silverlake/Echo Park to thrift shop and explore new food places along the way. I’d want to go to the Getty with my bestie because I actually haven’t been there yet… (I know, shameful). I’d want to go to the Rose Bowl, which I also haven’t been to yet… (I know). Oh and my favorite plant nursery called Mickey Hargitay Plants.
Places to party:
We’d probably go to warehouse parties where the lineup is subjectively fire. But most of all, my friends and I like to DJ, dance and party in the comfort of our own home, and end the night with a movie & popcorn marathon 🙂
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my brother and manager, Jona Higa. My earliest memory of writing music was probably when I was around 5 years old, sitting on the piano bench next to him. While Jona improvised complex jazz progressions on the piano, I sat next to him humming melodies and writing lyrics in my diary. The rest is history. Jona has been by my side, supporting my dreams as an artist ever since I can remember, and today he is a big part of my team not only as a business partner but also as a creative collaborator. He’s my rock and helps me stay grounded and true to myself.
Anastasia Velicescu Jamie Rosenberg