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How Naomi Watanabe turned a one-minute skit into a Japanese entertainment empire

The most followed person on social media in Japan sits with REVOLT during her first world tour, and it all started with a Beyoncé impersonation.

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It’s been 10 years since Naomi Watanabe, a Japanese/Taiwanese comedian, took Japan by storm by impersonating (lip-synching and dancing) Beyoncé. It was the golden age of comedy; a slew of television shows featuring short sketches performed by comedians were in high demand. One of the more popular shows only allocated a minute for each comedian or group to perform their skit in order to fit more acts per episode; this resulted in many one-hit-wonder comedians.

But Naomi Watanabe not only stayed, she slayed. Fast forward 10 years, and Watanabe was sitting in a REVOLT conference room in New York, two days before her sold-out world tour kicked off, nervously talking with her staff members about how Margaret Cho might come to her Los Angeles show.

Watanabe expanded her resume during her career. Her fashion line PUNYUS, despite only two years in production, has gained so much success it’s a fan favorite in the Tokyo Girls Collection fashion show. PUNYUS is known for its range of size. Going all the way up to 6L (US 4XL), it paved a way for plus-size fashion. Watanabe said she started the line because most of the clothing in Japan is made to fit only skinny girls, and she wanted plus-size girls like herself to be able to enjoy fashion as well. “I want the young people in Japan to love themselves for who they are,” she told REVOLT.

Naomi Watanabe wearing PUNYUS.
Naomi Watanabe wearing PUNYUS.

Watanabe’s bold sense of fashion and her unapologetic attitude about her weight shines through her social media. She has more than 5 million followers on Instagram, which makes her the most followed person in Japan. Her goals don’t stop in Japan though. She wants to be able to perform her skits throughout the world, which is why she decided to embark on her first world tour.

“Since it’s been 10 years since my debut, I wanted to challenge myself to perform overseas,” she said. “I wanted to perform Beyoncé here [overseas], the skit that started everything for me.”

Watanabe will finish her world tour October 18 at Taipei.

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