Naomi Watanabe is the most-followed person in Japan, but so far she's fallen short of hitting it big in America. Now that she's been on Queer Eye, Naomi Watanabe finally has that global reach. The comedian guest starred on the third episode of the Queer Eye: We're in Japan special season. In the episode, she helped a young manga artist named Kae come out of her shell a bit and learn to embrace her self confidence. It's a message that Watanabe has long been spreading.
As Refinery29 previously reported, Watanabe is a staunch supporter and champion for plus-size women, especially in Japan, which is not known for its size inclusivity. That's been slowly changing over the years, thanks in large part to Watanabe pushing the envelope. She's worked her way onto the covers of fashion magazines, onto shows like X-Factor Japan, and Saturday Night Live Japan, and she has her own plus-size clothing brand called Punyus.
Watanabe originally rose to fame in 2008 when she began doing Beyoncé impressions, which have earned her the nickname "Beyoncé of Japan." Ten years after she first wowed the world as Beyoncé, she was named one of Time magazine's "Most Influential People on the Internet." Nearly nine million people follow her on Instagram — and that number is likely to rapidly rise after audiences find her on Queer Eye.
Even without Queer Eye, this is an exciting time for her. The Cut reported in August that she'd recently moved from Tokyo to New York City where she still enjoys a semblance of privacy; in Japan she has to wear a disguise because so many people recognize her. She's gotten to experience both massive fame and relative normalcy based simply on location.
And through it all, she's worked hard not to change herself to fit others' expectations. Usually, that self is bubbly and positive, but she told The Cut that she doesn't prioritize that exterior above what she's really feeling. "I don't always believe in being 100 percent positive. Even the brightest people have a darkness — that's just the balance," she said. "When I see someone who is 100 percent positive, I want to be like, 'Are you okay? Just be yourself.'"
And that's exactly who she was on Queer Eye. The downside is, it may not be long before she has to wear a disguise on the streets of New York, too.