If you’ve never heard of YUMI, you need to get her on your radar, and fast. The plus-size model (who you’ll recognize from Forever 21’s Women’s Day campaign) is also a singer-songwriter currently specializing in heartfelt, relatable lyrics. In fact, she even got the chance to connect both sides of her professional life in Forever 21’s “Forever Female” campaign since “Camouflage” was the campaign’s official theme song, which is no small feat.
In the anticipation and excitement of YUMI’s brand new track, “Ghosted” (which dropped today, June 14th), I received the opportunity to talk to her about her new music, songwriting and her platform in general.
Your modeling career has really taken off! How did you get into the modeling world?
I was a baby model so I technically started when I was two years old, then I came back to the industry again at 12 years old. I was too big to be considered a normal model in 2010 so I was in the “junior plus” category. At the time, the plus industry wasn’t really formed so I didn’t work much.
What did it feel like having your song “Camouflage” become the official theme song for Forever 21’s International Women’s Day campaign?
That whole experience was absolutely surreal. When I wrote that song I never expected it to reach where it did. It was such an incredible honor to be apart of the campaign along with so many talented, diverse women and then on top of that, to have my song be the anthem of the whole campaign – that was insane.
You’re not just a model/musician, but your platform has allowed you to become a role model for many girls and women as well. Is that type of stuff important to you? How do you like to use your platform?
It is extremely important to me. As creators in the public eye, we have to think about the impact we have on the people watching us. It’s amazing to be an artist or a model but if we’re not positively impacting the world, then it’s a waste of a platform. I’ve really started to connect to the plus size Asian community and having that encouragement and communication with them has positively impacted my life more than they know.
What made you want to try your hand at songwriting?
It came very naturally. When I was younger I would journal and write poems down whenever inspiration would strike. I was uploading YouTube covers in high school and a songwriter from Nashville found me and asked to do a writing / Skype session. She taught me the bones of songwriting and how to take my pain or inspiration, organize it and put it in a song. It was the best feeling. Sometimes I can only get closure on something once I write a song about it.
Is there a particular process you go through when writing songs?
I like to brain dump everything I’m thinking in a document first, then I choose chords and start humming and playing around with different melodies. Once I find a melody I like, I’ll start trying to fill in the melody with words and then I can create the structure of the song from there.
As an artist, how would you describe yourself and your music?
I grew up with my dad playing R&B and my mom playing indie rock so those influences along with newer age undiscovered artists on Soundcloud have shaped my sound into a warm ethereal blend under the pop umbrella. As an artist, I’d like to say I’m pretty vulnerable and honest.
Congrats on “Ghosted”! It’s a pretty relatable jam – did you draw any inspiration from your own experiences or just internet culture in general?
Thank you so much! I’d say it was a good mix of my own experiences and internet culture. People usually refer to being ghosted when they’re using social media or dating apps but in the situation, I was writing about, it was referring to a flaky friend that I was crushing hard on.
If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Definitely Japan. I feel very connected to my culture these days and performing in Japan is high on my bucket list.
Who (and what!) is on your favorite playlist at the moment?
I’ve been loving Postcard Boy, Ama Lou, and Mahalia. I stumbled across Postcard Boy on Soundcloud and freaked out because I’ve never heard anything like that before. He puts his own stamp on each song and I’m so inspired by that.
What can we expect from you (with regards to music and modeling) in the near future?
You can expect some big changes. I’ve evolved a lot as an artist and model in the past year and sometimes I feel like the world doesn’t see a proper reflection of who I am and who I want to be as an artist. I’m working on a lot of new music and it’s not going to be like the things you’ve heard from me before.
Featured Image by Margaret Bienert, courtesy of Dim Mak