5 Former Idols who Succeeded in Their Own Passions
When they’re in a shimmering costume dancing across a stage to bright pop music, it seems like Japanese idols will always remain in that starry universe with their adoring fans supporting them from a distance. But the reality is that it doesn’t always last forever—idols graduate and go on with their lives. Where do they go after leaving the world of idol groups? Many of them realize that they have another dream that they want to accomplish somewhere else; graduation is inevitable for the pursuit of their new ambitions.
Former idols typically remain in the entertainment industry in some way, often as actresses or models. This could stem from the activities they had as an idol; as multi-faceted talents they frequently take on other activities such as appearing in films and dramas or modeling for magazines. As Morning Musume.’17’s Haruka Kudo revealed at her graduation announcement, her experiences acting in stage plays during her time in the group inspired her to pursue it fully.
Let’s take a look at 5 examples of former idols who graduated from their groups to follow their own personal ambitions.
It isn’t easy to go from one field to another, but that one leap of faith in a different direction can sometimes prove successful. Matsui is one case where she may be even more recognized than ever before—the model and actress was once a member of idol group Sakura Gakuin before graduating in 2012 to continue her career as a model. Now she’s a regular in popular fashion magazine Ray, and making a name for herself on the silver screen. The 20-year-old starred in the high school romance hit “Aozora Yell”, and also appeared in “Flying Colors” alongside actress Kasumi Arimura.
After entering Morning Musume at the young age of 15, Takahashi Ai went on to achieve massive popularity during her decade-long stint in the famous girl group. Having such recognition as an idol, it was easy to wonder if the former Morning Musume leader could continue to succeed outside the group. Yet nearly six years later at 30, Takahashi is still going strong and carving out her own brand image. She models for several magazines and has even published her own lifestyle books, the latest being released in 2016 to commemorate her 30th birthday. With over 650,000 followers, there is no doubt that Takahashi’s popularity is still soaring.
When Akari Hayami decided to graduate from Momoiro Clover, the group had been steadily climbing the ranks of the idol industry and growing in popularity. Once she left, they rebranded themselves as a five-member Momoiro Clover Z—starting over, just as Hayami did. She devoted herself to acting, going on to appear in dramas and feature films, as well as commercials. For Hayami, it was a return to her original ambition. It is difficult for many girls to break away from the strong “idol” image they had come to be associated with, but the former Momoiro Clover sub-leader pressed on in pursuit of her own individual path as an actress. “I’m not suited for the idol route, but I want to act,” she declared in a bold statement at the time of her graduation.
Not all idols quit to pursue acting—former SKE48 member turned to another industry and joined the fashion world, becoming the producer of girls’ fashion brand Honey Cinnamon in 2014. Having studied media production in university, the talented creative was equipped and ready to leave the group and make a new, unique image for herself. To be able to convey her individuality in a different kind of passion was her dream, according to Hiramatsu, and she’s become a role model for girls in her own right. In 2017 she started her own lifestyle and fashion-themed YouTube channel, once again leading the charge in trendsetting.
As another 5th generation Morning Musume alumni, Asami Konno is no stranger to longtime fans. She went from singing in music videos to being a newscaster on TV, another rare career change for an idol. When Konno left the group to focus on her studies and got accepted to the prestigious Keio University, it was evident that she was making a bright future for herself. She went on to become a successful television announcer at TV Tokyo for 6 years, hosting numerous programs and even doing her own dance covers on television. In January 2017, she married professional baseball player Toshihiro Sugiura, and announced her decision to focus on her family life.
The graduation of an idol is always difficult—for the person herself, for the fellow members she worked hard with, for the fans who supported her. But as they go their separate ways toward new goals, it’s uplifting to see them flourishing on a different stage whether it’s in back in the public eye or their own personal interests. At the core of it, idols have dreams that eventually lead them to where they want to be.
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