The characters who dot the popular culture landscape of Japan never cease to amaze me. Unlike Overseas where only the rich and fabulous are idolized on TV and in magazines, in Japan anything goes and people like Gyaru Sone (Gal Sone), an almost 100 pound 22-year-old girl who eats like a champ, share the spotlight with more predictable celebs, like actors and models.
I love Gyaru Sone. I don't know if it's the way her bangs have an annoying way of falling over her sparkly eyelids or her ridiculously long nails that are adorned with 3D art, or just the simple fact that she can eat so very much and be so very small, but I love watching her put back plate after plate and then gasping at the grand tally: Gyaru Sone just ate 20 plates of curry rice totalling 100,000 calories in one sitting! It's fascinating stuff.
Gyaru Sone first became popular after winning an eating competition when she was 19. Since then she has entered and conquered numerous other ones but most recently she has become a fixture on Japan's variety shows, each time amazing us with how much she can eat while continuing to smile and proclaim it all delicious! Often shows will do a small feature on her where she travels overseas or to a region of Japan and then proceeds to eat a truckload of the food famous in that particular area. I saw her travel to Canada last year where she went fishing for a giant octopus. Once they had snared one a chef prepared it in 5 or 6 different ways and Gyaru Sone ate around 10 plates of each, in fact she ate right up until her manager came and collected her to go to the airport.
I think the charm of many celebs here is that they have a niche or something by which they became famous. Sure it may be eating a lot or running around with only a speedo for cover but unlike the recent celebrity of people in the States who became famous by virtue of their money or being at all the right nightclubs (think P. Hilton), these bizarre celebs in Japan are famous for a reason. People love to watch people. Preferably if those other people are "kind of" like everyone else but with some quirk. I think it's admirable that celebs here can laugh at themselves, especially while making fools of themselves on TV. I've never seen more variety shows featuring "diet specials" in which chubby celebs are put through eating regimes and training, all the while wearing too-tight active wear circa 1985 and enduring embarrassing close-ups of their bare stomachs and spandex-covered asses. Many people criticize and write-off Japanese TV as being wildly immature and downright stupid, but I will venture to say it is no more mature or stupid than pitching people on an island against each other or following a group of moronic girls as they compete in a modelling competition. It's simply another brand of it.
Anyway back to Gyaru Sone. How does she do it? I think part of her appeal (OK a large part) is that she looks so damn cute while stuffing her face and is not the image you would first conjure up when given the words "eating competition champ". No the public would probably not be as enthralled if her body betrayed that which makes her famous or if she didn't embody a sweet and less scary version of Shibuya girls, and maybe that's part of what is wrong in Japan but I think she is tops. One program featuring Gyaru Sone took us to the grocery store with her where she selected some ingredients to make curry (she is also very good at making food not just consuming it) and then back to her house to prepare it. The whole time I kept thinking, how is she even cooking with those nails?! But they really are an integral part of her appeal for me. The way she manages to cook and eat with those jewelled claws and look completely natural doing it makes me want to laugh. Like so many other gyaru with impractical hair, clothes and nails, she makes it look so easy. Almost natural. Really though, it's not so much her nails that appeal but the fact that she clearly enjoys everything about food and always manages to smile her way through 10 steaks and afterward humbly thank the chef for such a spread. If you want to check out her nails or the food she is eating, check out the Gyaru Sone blog.