Talking with Fake Star USA’s Rubab About the Impact of COVID-19 on Events
Miyavi, Seann Bowe, LM.C—sounds like a pretty decent line up for a live show. Well, they’re just a few of the artists who work with Fake Star USA, an event production company that is bringing your favourite Japanese talent to a convention near you! Their founder, Rubab, started out as a fan and is now running the show. But in-person events being a near impossibility, Fake Star USA have had to turn to online platforms to preserve the connection between artists and fans. Will online events replace in-person events? Will we ever be able to see Miyavi shred the guitar again? We sat down with Rubab to get the scoop.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Rubab and I’m the President and founder of Fake Star USA. My full-time job at the company is booking agent and event producer for mainly Japanese talent and creators.
Tell us about your event production company Fake Star USA.
We work with events like anime conventions to bring them talent, organize tours, and work on other creative projects to promote our talent. Events are one of the main scopes of our work, but we also use our creative network and resources to help develop our talent, especially for the global industry. Our talent roster is broad and includes anime music artists, rock bands, DJs, fashion designers, models, producers, and now voice actors.
How did you get into event production?
I originally got into events as a freelance gig to practice my Japanese, and then went on to study fashion show production at FIT in NYC when I decided to do events more seriously. I’ve always been a fan of J-Pop, J-Rock and Japanese street fashion. It’s pretty wild to think that I’m now working with some of the same artists whose posters I had on my walls as a teenager!
Image courtesy of @glassmachina.
Have you had any interesting encounters with the community while working?
Sometimes, with our music artists, a fan will ask the band members to sign their body for a tattoo. The bands always get nervous when they get asked to sign for a tattoo and try extra hard to not mess it up, it’s pretty charming. I think this happens the most with LM.C, they tend to have a lot of tattooed fans!
What is the best part of managing tours and attending conventions?
Getting to travel and eat the best local food with the crew! I have so many wonderful memories of places like Honolulu and their community (poke and malasadas and late night Zippy’s with the fashion team!) Dallas: more late night trips to Salsa Limon and taking our bands to eat Whataburger! Portland: sightseeing and coffee shops and every cuisine! Milwaukee: THE CHEESE PARTIES… On the Europe tour with the Miyavi crew, we got some kind of illegal “forbidden outside of France” cheese and we ate it on the road to the next stop.
Juggling several artists while organising large-scale events can be very stressful. How do you cope?
I’ve definitely struggled with this due to high functioning anxiety and it’s really not easy when multiple groups are relying on you. There’s also a lot of discrimination that comes with being a minority woman with a “foreign” name in this industry, so I’ve had to rely on my partner to handle particularly difficult situations. I also really appreciate the quality of the staff at the events we work with who make everything run smoothly.
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, large, in-person events are now a rare occurrence. How has Fake Star USA coped with the change?
This has been a tough one since a majority of our business was live events, but we diversified by opening a web shop and participating in online events in the meantime. I spent the entire pandemic in Tokyo which did allow me to develop our business in other ways I can’t talk about yet, but you can be sure we will have some amazing announcements for this fall!
Image courtesy of @glassmachina.
You recently held an online tea party with Minori and RinRin Doll. Do you think virtual events will replace in-person events?
I don’t think in-person will ever truly be replaced by virtual events, but I do see them complementing each other moving forward. We organized online concerts for 2 conventions last year (V-CRX and DigiKumo), but the model for online concerts without a live audience is not financially viable unless the demand is very high.
Virtual events have allowed accessibility for anyone to participate from anywhere in the world, which can more easily be implemented now that the industry has adapted to this possibility. If the demand is there and the budget works, virtual events will continue to stay.
What do you think is lost in the online experience?
The rules have changed in Japan so audiences can attend shows while masked, but they are not allowed to talk or scream during the performances. Despite this, the artists still said that they prefer that to an empty room with a live stream. That interaction really can’t be replaced.
What do you personally miss the most about being able to attend events?
I always feel so welcome returning to different events. It’s really great to see so many people evolve their style over the years too, especially since many of the now-popular instagrammers in our scene have been modeling in my shows since the very beginning. So, I also really miss seeing the stunning coordinates!
Image courtesy of @katherinejoycephoto.
What is the long term impact of COVID-19 on Fake Star USA?
We’ve definitely diversified our offerings, so be ready for us to come back bigger and better than ever! You can look forward to larger-scale Fake Star-produced events and tours in the future. We’re gonna keep doing what you already know us for, but things will only grow from here!
Any last words?
The Harajuku scene has taken a huge hit due to COVID-19. Many brands have been put out of business or are forced to take a break until the situation gets better. Things may continue to change drastically, but we are committed to bringing the best of Japanese street fashion to our events. The same goes for music as well. I hope you can continue to support us as we strive to bring the best creators to you!
Introduction and questions by Choom.
Featured image courtesy of @katherinejoycephoto.