Until recently Sayaka Nitori had never even eaten in a ramen restaurant.

If you were making a list of jobs that shy people would choose, things like “restaurant kitchen staff” or “factory line worker” might come to mind, since neither one involves interacting with customers or other groups of new people every day. And yes, those are both jobs that 24-year-old Sayaka Nitori has worked in the past.

Much, much farther down the list, though, or, really, not on it at all, would be gravure, as Japan call models who primarily pose in swimwear, lingerie, or other revealing apparel. And yet, Nitori has quietly become one of the industry’s rising stars.

At the age of 10, Nitori transferred into a new elementary school in Fukuoka, but felt uncomfortable trying to make acquaintances among her classmates. So instead of going to class, she’d go straight to the nurse’s office and wait out the day there. Once she moved up to junior high, she was placed in a group with others who didn’t want to attend normal classes, and while she tried joining the tennis club, she soon quit, feeling she wasn’t welcome by her teammates who were in the school’s standard classes.

High school isn’t compulsory in Japan, and Nitori chose to end her education before graduating. From there, she worked various odd jobs, and describes her daily life as consisting of going straight to work, then straight home, with no socializing or other activities. Not wanting to be a burden unto her parents, she moved into a place of her own at 18, and says that virtually the only times she was outside her apartment were when she was commuting or working.

However, after several years of this lifestyle, Nitori created an Instagram account, hoping to connect with fellow fans of Japanese rock band Uverworld. Aside from listening to music, another hobby of Nitori’s was looking at photos of gravure models online, and she decided to try sharing some photos of herself, imitating the gravure selfie poses and techniques she’d seen online.

From there, Nitori began picking up more and more fans. Despite not being represented by any talent agency, she’s since made inroads into the ordinarily connection-driver world of professional gravure modeling, with clients contacting her directly with job offers.

▼ Nitori, dressed in the “virgin-killing sweater…”

▼ …and showing that she can be photogenic in less-revealing clothing as well.

Nitori has since been featured in a photo shoot for manga anthology Young King and has made multiple appearances in men’s interest magazine Weekly Playboy (which is actually a different publication than the American Playboy periodical), most recently in its July 9 edition.

Her success in her modeling endeavors has also brought more frequent ventures into the outside world. Nitori says she had never eaten in a ramen restaurant until very recently, but that’s now one near-ubiquitous Japanese experience she can claim, as is drinking popular soft drink Calpis, which she tried for the first time last year.

Unsurprisingly, Nitori has a large male fanbase, but her pre-fame interest in gravure modeling is reflected in her desire to take photos that women will enjoy looking at as well. She’s also still sharing selfies, even though she now has the opportunity to work with professional photographers.

Nitori says that to this day she feels nervous talking with other people. However, as her budding modeling career brings her into contact with an increasing number of people, she says she’s feeling more connected to the rest of the world, as well as being newly aware of aspects of it she was previously unfamiliar with. “I think that’s something really important,” she says, “so I’ll keep doing my best.”

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Weekly Playboy News via Otakomu, Seiya Soya na Hibi
Featured image: Instagram/uw.sayaka