Brianda Millsaps says that she is asked daily if she is of Asian descent, especially since moving to Japan. “A lot of locals will look at me and speak in Japanese and I’m just like ‘no, sorry, I can’t speak Japanese.’” She is actually Latina, born in North Carolina. When she lived in the United States she even got a modelling callback due to her unique appearance.
But that was before she and her husband, Dustin, and their young daughter upped roots. The moved to Okinawa, Japan to live on the Air Force Base there. It’s been an adventure for the family, one that you can see in-depth at her YouTube channel here. And despite their transnational transition, Millsaps still actively works as a model there. She says it can be a bit of a challenge to find work though.
“It’s hard to model here having as many tattoos as I do, since a lot of people are still really conservative in Japan.” She is referring to the traditional association between tattoos and organized crime in Japan. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have signage against visible tattoos, with some hotels even refusing to allow guests to use the pool facilities if they are inked. Despite this stigma, Millsaps doesn’t regret her tattoos.
“I’ve always loved piercings and tattoos,” she says. “I first started getting small tattoos with meanings to me, such as my daughter’s name and bible verses. From there it grew into me getting small pieces that I liked and now my arm is about full.” One particular tattoo visible on her arm references Philippians 4:13, a line from the bible which reads: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
“This tattoo basically just reminds me that I can still reach all of my dreams,” explains Millsaps. She goes on to say that religion definitely shaped her into the person she is today. “I grew up with really conservative catholic parents so religion was always a huge part of our lives.”
While the Philippians tattoo is important to her, it perhaps pales when compared to her first: her daughter’s name, Bella.
“I had my daughter my senior year of high school.” While this provided challenges, it was nothing Millsaps could not overcome. The young family is happy and strong, and she has time to focus both on College and on continuing her modelling career. In fact, you might even have seen her in a recent music video.
“I received a message on Instagram from one of the artists (iamciti) asking if I wanted to be part of an upcoming music video,” Millsaps recalls. “I loved actually experiencing the whole ‘behind the scenes’ aspect.” The video was for iamciti’s song The Weekend, and the video heavily features Millsaps. “I’ve actually had someone recognize me from the video and ask to take a picture with me. That definitely caught me by surprise.”