Exclusive Interview: YUMI Opens Up About Music and Modeling!

YUMI is a 22-year-old emerging recording artist currently based in Los Angeles and a signed model under Wilhelmina Curve. Since signing to Dim Mak, YUMI has been steadily releasing a mix of alternative R&B and pop music over the years, and that has racked up millions of streams and gained fans worldwide through empowering songs and vigorous dedication to femininity and body positivity. The rising singer-songwriter and curve model grew up in a renowned entertainment-driven family, but she’s building an inclusive platform on her own merit.

YUMI‘s lyrics often focus on her own identity struggles but flip the script into messages of empowerment. YUMI, not only has the voice to sing anthems angelically, but also a voice that has spoken up for straying away from the norm and advocates for self-acceptance. In 2019, YUMI was chosen alongside nine influential female musicians to launch Forever 21’s International Women’s Day campaign and her single “Camouflage” was selected as the campaign’s official theme song which is no small feat.

Image: YUMI

Following her stunning debut EP ‘Ego Boost’, YUMI has returned with a bold, pop-forward sound highlighted across singles “Ghosted,” “Camouflage” and “Find You.” With her latest offering ‘Ghosted’ (out now via Dim Mak Records), YUMI remains original, authentic and unwavering with her warm, ethereal sounds, and heartfelt lyrics. “Ghosted” is a fun summer bop about being fed up with being ghosted where YUMI has flipped her emotion into a stylish anthem of resilience. The soul-bearing single sees the emerging young pop artist’s vocals shine over a shimmering production.

“Ghosted is about being overly into someone who gives you just enough of them to want to stay around, but at the end of the day doesn’t really care enough about you to prioritize you,” states YUMI. “It is a vulnerable and painful experience and I wanted to capture that emotion in a song.”
At CelebMix, we had an opportunity to talk to YUMI about her journey of coming to terms with her identity, body positivity, and representation in both the modeling and music industries, future plans and much more. Read the interview below to know more!
So let’s begin with your recent release ‘Ghosted’ which is indeed a lit summer jam. Where did you draw the inspiration for writing down this track? Can you tell us more about ‘Ghosted’?

Thanks! I wrote this song last March with my friends Kayhan Ahmadi and Mason Musso. I was crushing on one of my friends at the time that was being really flaky and I felt pretty frustrated with him when I walked into that session. So, we took the inspiration from that and dramatized it. I tend to be sensitive and store a lot of intense emotions. Sometimes, I feel the only way to release it is to organize my feelings into a song. That’s how Ghosted was born. :)

That’s good. Your previous hit track “Camouflage” became the official theme song for Forever 21’s International Women’s Day campaign which is huge. How did you feel about it?

It’s still absolutely surreal to me. When I submitted that song to the campaign, I had no expectation of it being picked. I was one of the smaller artists on that campaign and it was humbling even just being apart of it, let alone to have my song be the anthem.

As an artist, how would you describe your relationship with your music? What is your creative process to go through when writing and recording songs?

My relationship with music is therapeutic and at times frustrating, (as a creator). I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my art. I overanalyze everything until I don’t even like it sometimes. But, when I write something and it hits my heart in the way I need it to in that season of my life, there’s no better feeling. On top of that, when other people can say it is relatable to them or makes them feel some type of way, that’s golden.

YUMI, how did you discover your musical talent and decided to make a career out of it? Who are your major musical inspirations?

I remember my earliest memories were dancing and performing to my NOW7 CD for my grandparents and family when they would come over. I’ve always wanted to do this. I started taking singing lessons at 12 but when I started writing around 15, I really wanted to make a career out of it. BANKS has always been consistent inspiration. My favorite artists have changed over the years but her uniqueness in the industry is something I’ve consistently loved about her. Right now I’m currently obsessed with Clairo. She has the cutest voice and every song she makes is amazing.

Apart from music, your modeling career has really taken off so well! How were you initially introduced to the modeling world? What do you love the most about it?

Thank you! Most of the women in my family were models and so I grew up around it. The industry has come a long way and hasn’t always been as progressive. What I love about the space we’re in now is that there is room being made for all sizes, races, sexualities, disabilities, etc! We’re still working on this representation but it is coming along.

“Camouflage” is all about your journey to body positivity and accepting being Asian. How has your relationship with your body changed over the years?

My relationship with my body has done a 360. I think it’s important to understand that it is in fact a journey. We all still have good and bad days. Before I reached this point, every day was a bad day. Every day was a day where I wasn’t good enough. Now every day is a day where I choose that I’m good enough even if I don’t feel like it.

Sounds impressive. Did being signed to Wilhelmina change your mindset and help you adopting an outlook of body positivity?

I’ve been with Wilhelmina for most of my modeling career. I signed with them in 2010 when the plus industry was in the beginning stages. Only a few models were working at the time and there weren’t that many clients ready for our sizes. Wilhelmina always told me that I was beautiful as is and when I was super keen on losing more and more weight, they told me I looked great.

And what about your issues with being Asian? How do you feel about the lack of representation of people of color in both the music and the modeling industry?

My acceptance of my race is a super recent journey for me. I actually didn’t see it as a problem, I needed to face until a year or two ago. A lot of insecurities were coming to the surface and a lot of it stemmed from feeling different from all of the other models in a room or artists in this space. There’s a massive lack of representation in the entertainment industry and the media and because of that, it means a lot to me to stand up for it, being one of the only forms of Asian representation.

Well YUMI, you come from an insanely talented and influential family. What’s your favorite part about being surrounded and guided by such multitalented people like you Uncle Steve Aoki?

My family’s energy is impossible to ignore. My favorite thing about them is that even when I’m far away from them, I am constantly inspired by the work ethic and heart of them. My uncle Steve (Aoki), in particular, has really brought me under his wing like a mentor and made me feel like I have a home at his label, Dim Mak. He’s always promoting my music on his socials and supporting me in any way that he can. I adore him in so many ways as a niece and as a fan.

Were there such moments of insecurity harder to deal with under the pressures of a famous family?

There’s definitely an unspoken pressure in our family to be a hard worker. We don’t just pursue anything, but we pursue it strong with passion. Everyone in my family – famous or not has an incredible work ethic. We all want to move 5000 miles per hour.

For anyone who’s struggling with their relationship with their body when it comes to embracing their uniqueness and flaws and is being bullied for the same, what advice you want to give to overcome that?

I would say be careful what you are feeding your mind. Who are you following on social media? Do you compare yourself to them? Do they empower you? A lot of things we feed ourselves have a lot to do with how we see ourselves. Surround yourself with healthy-minded people that make you feel good and strong. Positive affirmations in the mirror are another great way to overcome insecurities. It’s a constant battle with yourself. Even the strongest, most body-positive influencers have it. You have to tell yourself beautiful things even when you don’t believe them. I’m still learning to master this myself.

You have a great grip on both your platforms- music, and modeling, and people look up to you as their role model. Does it feel like an important responsibility to be able to use your platform for the betterment of society?

I definitely feel a responsibility to those who look up to me. I don’t want to be just a model or someone who makes music and not leave a footprint on this world. If you’re not using your life for something positive, what are you really doing? I don’t want to be here and just exist.

Lastly, what’s next in the career bucket list of YUMI? What can we expect from you with regards to both music and modeling in 2019?

I’m taking some time off of releasing music to just write and create. I want to really solidify who I am as an artist. At times I’ve felt so lost. It’s been a bumpy ride finding my sound and voice this year but it’s slowly coming together and I want to wait for the right time to show people who I am.

Well, it was a wonderful chat session with YUMI about music, modeling, body positivity, lack of representation in the industry and much more. We wish YUMI good luck with her future endeavors!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us on the latest track ‘Ghosted’ by YUMI on Twitter at @celebmix.

Written by Khushboo Malhotra

I was born a dreamer | Onwards and upwards | Have a story or tip? Reach out: khushboomalhotra24@gmail.com