On June 30, 2018, Time Magazine released the 2018 list of top 25 most influential individuals on the internet. In this list, standing next to superstars like Kanye West and Rihanna, was Naomi Watanabe. Besides being the only Japanese person on this list of influencers, Watanabe’s presence online is one that goes beyond Instagram likes.

Watanabe is one of the most well-known comedians in Japan, and she catapulted to international fame with her lip-sync performances and impersonations of Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Her engaging, distinctive personality was what caught the eye of countless viewers around the world, and she was able to expand her fame and influence online due to this posting. Now, she resides in New York City and landed gigs with shows such as X-Factor Japan. In addition, she currently boasts 8.9 million followers, where she posts photos from her shows, vlogs in New York, and the numerous photoshoots she has taken part in. 

Yes, these accomplishments are what made her famous. But what made her influential is her message to the world and herself. Watanabe uses her platform to confront long-held standards and stigmas around Japanese women. In a country where physical appearance is a significant defining factor for women, Watanabe became an advocate for body positivity and acceptance. Being a plus-size influencer, she wanted to show the world that a woman can love herself the way she is and that confidence comes from your inner self. 

Watanabe also desired to break standards of expected behavior for Japanese women. In Japan, women are expected to appear small, both physically and socially. They are expected to appear as a damsel, as one who needs saving.

This is why “kawaii” culture is such a significant part of Japan: It is better for a woman to present herself as almost child-like and helpless. Watanabe wanted to challenge these almost unspoken expectations and presented herself for who she is. She shows intelligence within her comedy, and her confidence accentuates her strength as a woman and as a person. She is not afraid to be herself, and criticism against her appearance or personality is irrelevant to her. 

Watanabe’s personality, advocations, and message have made her an inspiration for many across the globe. Her accomplishments both on and off social media have proven that being yourself can be her greatest strength, and she can continue to be a driving force in the true meaning of feminity today.