Rila Fukushima remembers the day she crossed over from full-time model into the acting world. It was her final audition with Hugh Jackman, after years of pursuing the part of Yukio in The Wolverine, but something big was in her way: “The Gay Pride Parade was happening on Fifth Avenue, and I needed to cross to get to the audition place. There were so many people!” Fukushima recalled when VH1 asked her how she got her start.
After the audition, she faced another awkward challenge. “I wasn’t sure how I should call him. I’m Japanese, and we never use first names. So I said, ‘Thank you so much, it was such a pleasure to meet you Mr. Hugh Jackman.’ He said, don’t call me Mr., you can just call me Hugh.’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir!’ ”
Nope, the cheerful, enthusiastic young woman we spoke to on the phone hardly matches the fierce warrior chick she portrays on screen. She’s more interested in inviting us for her personalized tour of Tokyo than in showing off her sword. Come to think of it, she doesn’t sound much like a stereotypical fashion model, either, though she’s been in the business for 10 years.
After starting in Japan and doing some editorial shoots for British magazines, Fukushima says a New York agency came calling and asked her to move here. But things didn’t work out as well as she’d hoped, and in 2011, she moved back to Tokyo. “I tried to do some work, but I was too short. Asian models can’t do catwalk a lot. In one fashion show, there’s only one or two Asian girls on the catwalk every season.” To be clear, she wasn’t exactly NOT working — Rila’s face is all over the place in ads and editorial. And you can see her in this Lenny Kravitz video.