Japan’s poster girl for self-love and diversity wants us to embrace body hair choices.

The beauty industry is often criticised for promoting unrealistic beauty standards amongst young women, and here in Japan, where whitening skincare products, double eyelid tape and feminine clothing are a regular part of many daily morning routines, the pressure to conform can be overwhelming.

So when a giant ad showing a model with armpit hair appeared in Shibuya on 17 August, it got everyone talking. What was the poster about? Why was it there? And who was the model brave enough to display her hairy armpits to the world on such a giant scale?

Well, to answer the first question, the poster is an ad for Kai Group, a company founded in 1908 in Gifu’s Seki, a city renowned for centuries of blade production that can be traced back to the pre-samurai era. Kai specialises in sharp-edged utensils like knives and razors, and this poster aims to draw attention to the topic of body hair and hair removal in a very modern way.

In Japan, hair removal ads commonly refer to unwanted body hair as “mudage“, with “muda” meaning “pointless” or “waste” and “ge” meaning “hair“. However, the poster by Kai approaches the subject from a different angle, with large text in bold that says: “You decide whether it’s pointless or not”.

The bold statement goes on to say:

“I think girls who don’t care about body hair are cool, and I also think boys with smooth skin are great. We, who can choose our fashion and our way of life, could do with more freedom in shaving.”

The ad finishes with a hashtag for the body-hair-freedom movement: #剃るに自由を (“freedom in shaving“), which challenges people to rethink societal norms surrounding body hair and whether or not people should be getting rid of it.

It seems like an odd angle for a razor manufacturer to take with their marketing campaign, but it’s a smart way to get people on both sides of the hair-lined fence to support your brand. According to Kai, the decision to create an ad like this came after a nationwide survey of 600 15-39 year-olds revealed that 75.7 percent were concerned about body hair, but many of them were unable to discuss the topic with others. In addition, an overwhelming 90.2 percent of respondents said they wanted more freedom in choosing whether to shave or not, much in the same way they’re able to choose their fashion or hairstyles.

Helping to break the stereotypes surrounding body hair and beauty is the model at the centre of the campaign, who many will be surprised to find isn’t actually a real person. Her name is Meme (pronounced “me–me”), and she’s a virtual model who rocked the beauty world last year when she started an Instagram account with photos showing her freckles and facial birthmarks uncovered by makeup.

Meme openly shuns the idea of perfect beauty, instead promoting diversity and freedom of choice while telling the world she just wants to be “f*****g REAL”. Her unconventional beauty and unabashed self-acceptance booked her the hair-forward campaign, and now she’s the star model towering over pedestrians at the front of the MAGNET by SHIBUYA109 building in the hip neighbourhood of Shibuya.

Meme will also be appearing on Kai ads inside trains and at subway stations on the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line for a limited time until 30 August. Compared to models in the real world — and other virtual models like imma, who’s known for her beautiful symmetrical features — Meme is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the beauty industry, which often needs to be reminded that diversity is truly beautiful.

Source, images: PR Times
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