If I were to start a movement, I’d like people to embrace a society where we can openly talk about ourselves with one another. I think that creating space for people to be vulnerable would really help us to get a better understanding of the problems we face in our everyday lives. I think this vulnerability not only helps people to be heard and understood, but as listeners we can also start to figure out ways to best support each other
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shinjiro Atae.
Since his debut, he’s had 8 albums in the top 10 of Billboard’s Japan Top Albums Chart. In 2022, Shinjiro released the book EVERY LIFE IS CORRECT, BUT INCORRECT in Japan. The bestselling book focuses on positive mental health which came as a result of his own personal struggles over the years. This year Shinjiro came out as gay at a fan event in Tokyo making him among the first API idols to share they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
It all started when I started dancing at the age of 10 years old. When I started dancing, I realized it was something that really excited me. When I was 14 years old, I attended an audition for a very large entertainment company in Japan. After passing their audition I was signed on and they trained to become singer and dancer. When I was 16 years old, I debuted as a member of a group called AAA. I was part of AAA until our hiatus in 2021, this is around the same time when I also went on hiatus with my solo career as well. This summer, I came out of hiatus and released a new single.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well I think the funniest mistake I made early on in my career was when my fly was down while I was performing. Fans pointed at my crotch and I felt so embarrassed from the experience. I now have the habit of always checking my fly to make sure it’s zipped up before I go out on stage.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
I think the biggest thing is to never give up on your dreams. Embrace the process of trial and error. That has been an important part of my growth. You should also create connections with people who you trust and feel comfortable around. These types of people are able to uplift you and help you be the best version of yourself.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
After I moved to LA, I found myself still struggling with my sexuality. I found it difficult to meet people to connect with. However, over time I met a person who has become a mentor in my life. This person also happens to be a gay and very successful in the career he works in. He proved to me that you’re able to be openly gay and also have a successful career. To me, I thought that you had to give up one for the other, but he proved me wrong through his story.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
In Japan, many people don’t talk very openly about their mental health and sexuality. I, myself have struggled a lot with my mental health and sexuality. I know that there are many people throughout Japan who struggle with both as well. I’d like to use my platform to bring more awareness to these topics. I think many people can benefit from a society that is willing to be more open about talking about these things.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I was personally struggling to balance my sexuality and my career. When I was young, I felt a lot of pain trying to balance these two aspects of my life. I felt that in order to maintain my career, I had to remain closeted. If I wanted to be open about my sexuality, I felt that I had to give up my career. I don’t want people to experience what I went through in the past.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
After I came out publicly in July, I received DMs from all around the world in so many different languages. Many people were telling me that they felt very inspired and positively impacted by my coming out. At my free event where I came out to my fans , there was a son and mother who attended the event. The son was closeted at the time but he had DMed me after the event saying that he found the courage to come out to his mother as well. He further explained that his mother immediately accepted him. He said that he attributed this courage and mothers willingness to accept him because they attended my event together. When I read that message I felt like it was all worth it. Of course, I received some backlash along the way, but I felt that what I had done positively impacted peoples lives and that made it all worth it.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
I think something people can do to support the LGBTQ community is to publicly voice their support for us. At the end of the day, people who are part of the LGBTQ community are the minority in society so the support of allies can really help normalize the fact that there are many types of people in this world.
Why do you think music in particular has the power to create social change and create a positive impact on humanity?
All people experience emotions regardless of the amount of success you’ve achieved in your life. Everyone struggles, everyone has happy moments, as an artist we use our medium to channel those emotions. Music is universal. Music has the ability to bring people together.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?
1)Don’t give up, there’s always light on the other end
2) Surround yourself with people who are able to uplift you and make you feel comfortable.
3) You’re not alone in this world.
4) Be nice to people and be humble.
5) Don’t compare yourself to others.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I were to start a movement, I’d like people to embrace a society where we can openly talk about ourselves with one another. I think that creating space for people to be vulnerable would really help us to get a better understanding of the problems we face in our everyday lives. I think this vulnerability not only helps people to be heard and understood, but as listeners we can also start to figure out ways to best support each other.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
We’re all going to die eventually, why don’t we try things that we want to do?
Of course it’s normal to get judged by people but it’s important not to get caught up in that negativity. I think it’s better to focus your energy on things that make you happy in your life. Embrace the concept of “ikigai”, a sense of purpose in life. All of us, including our haters will all one day pass away, no one will remember us. It might sound a little sad but this quote helps me challenge myself and do things I haven’t done before.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have some lunch with Tim Cook. He’s one of the most successful businessmen to be openly gay. There are many people who might be open about their sexuality, but I can think of many prominent openly gay executives. I’m sure that must have been a difficult experience for him so I’d like to talk to him about his experience.
I’d also love to have lunch with Elton John. When Elton John came out, it was such a difficult time to talk so openly about your sexuality. People like him really paved the path for me to publicly come out as well. Without the courage of those who came out publicly before me, I don’t think I would have been able to talk openly about myself.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Music Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Shinjiro Atae Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.