Growing up in Sweden, Yohio stuck out from other boys his age. "Once, when I was nine years old, I got on the bus and the driver said, 'Here's your ticket, sweetheart!'" he remembers. "Another time, I was kicked out of the boys' bathroom in the library, because the man thought I was a girl."
Since he was smaller in stature and had what he calls a "feminine" facial structure, it was hard for him to feel like he belonged. Perhaps, this led to him becoming obsessed with Japanese culture, poring over books and even teaching himself the language. His friends took notice, and one passed him a record from a J-pop boy band. "I thought the song was cool, so I looked the band up, and I was like, Whoa! Are these guys or girls? But, then I thought, That doesn't sound like a girl."
A bit more research introduced him to "visual kei" — a style that originated in Japan characterized by lots of makeup, eccentric hairstyles, and outlandish costumes. "I immediately thought that it suited me so well. I've always been mistaken for a girl, so why not take it to the extreme and use it to my advantage?"
And so, Yohio was born — combining the look of a pop star with the young man's rather impressive voice. "When I first started, I was younger and my face hadn't fully developed, so I could really look just like a girl. I thought it was interesting to see how you could change your face so much, and be two different people in your real life," Yohio says. "It's funny — when I'm not working, I like to be on my couch with a book... I'm a private person. My artist life brings me out of myself, makes me see people, and allows me to be the center of attention."
His discovery of beauty and fashion as forms of self-expression ignited headlines, especially when he wore a dress on Melodifestivalen, Sweden's American Idol. But, defying convention is exactly what he's good at, and it's doing him favors: He's working on his next Japanese album, has signed multiple artists to his record label Keios Entertainment, and is continuing to attract followers on social media. "I like the rebel spirit," he says. "The people I've met on the underground scene in Japan, they don't make excuses for how they look, what they do, or how they sound."
Or, it turns out, how they smell: The cult Swedish beauty brand Face Stockholm recently tapped Yohio to create a namesake fragrance, which is best described as an explosion of cotton candy. "I was actually inspired by a very cheap perfume that I found in Sweden," he says. "I don't remember the name, but it smells just like bubblegum. I like more of a sweet scent for myself, so I wanted my fragrance to be like that — sweet, but unisex in some way."
Undoubtedly, it will be a grand-slam hit among his legions of loyal fans. But, that's not the only beauty tip worth picking up from the star: "In place of foundation, I just apply a Lancôme liquid concealer all over my face with my fingers," he says. "Then, I set it with powder, and it's perfect. I do that before I go live — it looks even more natural and it holds for hours."
Although, now that he's a much bigger star, he saves makeup for performances. (You may even see a bare-faced selfie on his Instagram.) "In school, I'd use makeup to express myself," he says. Having spent much of his young-adult life playing two characters, it seems he's finally fused them into one. "Now, I express myself on stage, so I don't feel the need as much to do it in my spare time."
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