Tuesday, December 14, 2010

African-American actor a huge hit in Japan

How to stand out in a crowd? It's no easy task if you're living in a city of millions. That's unless the city is Tokyo and you're not exactly Japanese. Meet the New Yorker who, as a minority, is finding appeal among the majority.

The Japanese mobile phone ad features an average Tokyo family with some quirks. Dad is a dog, the eldest brother, not Japanese.

Meet Dante Carver. An African American actor and New York native who according to Japans' top marketing research company, is Japan's number one TV commercial actor. A stunning achievement for a non-Japanese.

His image is everywhere, billboards, and television; an unexpected face in Japanese pop culture. Three years in the running, Carver's Softbank ad campaign remains wildly, if not curiously, popular. Dante says, "That's another reason I came (to Japan). Because it's something most people wouldn't expect."

The Virginia Commonwealth University International Business graduate uprooted to Japan five years ago, looking to boldly change his American path and try acting.

With no family or connections in Japan, friends called him crazy. But he taught himself Japanese, started auditioning and landed the role that turned him into a familiar household face. He's even found love, marrying this year.

What explains his success? Dante says, "Being different, but being open. I say being different, for one, what people would expect, blatantly obvious."

Japan is 98.6 percent ethnically Japanese. Anyone who is non Japanese is treated differently says Billboard Magazine's Tokyo reporter Rob Schwartz. He says, "Here, they come here and feel a certain amount of racism, but it's the same for every non-Japanese person. Black people aren't singled out where they are in western cultures, European cultures, American culture."

Does it change Dante's perspective of what it's like to be an African American in America? Dante says, "Yes and no. I would say no because America still needs more time. In some ways we still have those basic rocks we have to break and get out of."

Schartz says, "I think that's a huge lesson right there. I think that's something people need to think about. Why would someone face as great a challenge in their home country as a place as place as foreign as Japan?"

Carver eventually dreams his career will be in Hollywood movies. A road he anticipates will hold a host of new challenges that he hopes, as he has here, to conquer.

(Source: CNN)

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