Popstar LIA LIA created an alter ego and then became her

This story originally appeared on iD Japan.

During the last years, LIA LIA underwent a transition from fictional character to real person. Since the very first concert of the Berlin musician Lia Wang, a DIY show for an audience of bikers, the shy half-Chinese, half-German artist has been on stage in disguise. “It takes courage to expose yourself to others as you are, so I decided to play a character on stage,” she explains. “The real me isn’t super confident and I’m not super sexy or cool. But LIA LIA doesn’t care what other people think. She’s like a superhero to me.

The contrast between Lia’s natural appearance and her early aesthetic was so great that, as she explains, “if I took my wig off at a live concert, the staff wouldn’t even notice me!” She compares the power of the bold blond helmet to that of Hannah Montana. Since dying of her own blonde hair, however, she has been able to reveal herself more on stage. “Lately, I feel like LIA LIA and my real self are gradually coming together,” she says. “I’m not as afraid of being vulnerable as I used to be and I’m gaining confidence. It’s great to have your own superhero, and that’s why I am who I am now. But if you really want people to feel something, sometimes you have to peel back the layers and be vulnerable.”

EMMA HASSELBLAD KNIT FLOWER. MAGLIANO VEST. DRESS AND SHORTS (WEAR BELOW) SIA ARNIKA. FALKE SOCKS. OTHER STYLISTS.

His last single “I am a butterfly !“, is a fitting homage to this turning point. Unguarded and imbued with punk energy, it was written as LIA LIA was recovering from contracting a parasite on a trip to the tropics. “It’s a real joke I was supposed to be in heaven but I got sick and had to recover for two months,” she says. “I was stuck in my room writing songs every day. I felt frustrated because no matter how hard I tried, I could only find sad and gloomy songs; so I picked up the guitar and screamed at the top of my lungs as loud as I could.”

LIA LIA describes the song’s lyrics – about an absent father and his potential to be a butterfly, if only someone noticed – as autobiographical. Having grown up between the German countryside and her father’s hometown in the Chinese metropolis of Chengdu, she poses her fight as an eternal “outsider”. ” I am no one ; nobody cares about me,” she said, “but I wanted to make a statement that I’m here.

Since leaving home several years ago, LIA LIA has moved from city to city, including Tokyo, Shanghai and Los Angeles. “Maybe it’s because I grew up in an extreme environment, but I don’t have a place to call home. I feel like an alien wherever I am,” she says. “That’s also why I haven’t spoken much about my past. however, it’s not the place that matters, it’s the people.” And LIA LIA found its people in Tokyo.

portrait of LIA LIA

LIA LIA WEARS CLARA COLETTE MIRAMON PUFFER WINGS. VEST EMMA HASSELBLAD. FALKE SOCKS. MAGLIANO SHOES. OTHER STYLISTS.

In the spring of 2020, she packed up her things in Berlin and booked a flight to Japan. Shortly before boarding, she was informed that the impending pandemic meant entry restrictions had now been implemented. She had no right to steal. “I had just got my visa and left the house I was living in, then I had to come back from the airport. [The situation] was really desperate. She had lived in Tokyo the previous year; a time she remembers as full of excitement. “I was so broke that convenience store rice balls were my staple. go out to parties with friends, drink melon sodas and have a lot of fun. I hung out with the rapper Tohji and DJ Elena Midori – there’s a real community in the Tokyo party scene, so it was a lot of fun for me.

But LIA LIA’s love affair with Japan is not new; for starters, she’s been watching anime since she was a kid, when her father used to bring her DVDs as souvenirs from China. “I used to watch Studio Ghibli movies with Chinese subtitles,” she says. “I’ve always liked the feeling of entering a different world. By the time I was a teenager, I started delving deeper into Japanese manga and anime on my own. I get more emotionally involved with anime characters than western drama characters. Maybe because they look more like me.

portrait of LIA LIA

SIA ARNIKA SWEATER. THE SHIRT BELONGS TO THE STYLIST.

She quotes shōnen mangaas Hunter X Hunter and A piece, as having had a major influence on his career. “The main characters never stop perfecting their craft,” she says. “They each have a strong mentor, and even they or they keep working hard every day. I had never been exposed to this kind of work ethic anywhere else, so it was very inspiring.” The appeal of shōnen manga lies in its message, she continues: “Never be afraid of be yourself; never forget your goals and beliefs; work hard and cherish your friendships. It’s really powerful! It also makes me want to work hard.”

And LIA LIA certainly seems to be. Having already supported Doja Cat during her German tour, the determined artist has just announced that her first EP, city ​​of tearswill be released on the LA label Next Wave Records (Jimi Somewhere’s house) on May 6th. Along with the announcement came the project’s title track, a dark, melancholic ballad with a cutscene self-directed visual which perfectly captures the loneliness and isolation she felt when she wrote it – and perfectly soothes those exact feelings in the listener. By becoming the superhero persona she created for herself, and with the words of her manga mentors ringing in her head, LIA LIA is well on her way to realizing her dream of being a vulnerable pop icon.

portrait of LIA LIA

EMMA HASSELBLAD KNIT FLOWER. MAGLIANO VEST. DRESS AND SHORTS (WEAR BELOW) SIA ARNIKA. FALKE SOCKS. OTHER STYLISTS.

portrait of LIA LIA

SIA ARNIKA SWEATER. THE SHIRT BELONGS TO THE STYLIST.

portrait of LIA LIA

EMMA HASSELBLAD KNIT FLOWER. DRESS AND SHORTS (WEAR BELOW) SIA ARNIKA. FALKE SOCKS. OTHER STYLISTS.

Credits


Photography Rita Lino
Styling Max Jolivet
Hair Masayuki Yuasa
Direction and text Makoto Kikuchi
Manufacturing assistance Jee Hye Lee

About Bernard Kraft

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