It was a typical warm summer afternoon in Johannesburg and the Previdar team had found itself on location at Luminance, the high end luxury store. We spent the greater part of an hour in the Aladdin’s cave of couture, dancing from one end of the store to the other selecting from their exclusive pieces for a Previdar cover star – a woman who sashayed her way to national fame largely thanks to a stint on Strictly Come Dancing.
For many, this was their first encounter with Lalla Hirayama. But she could easily have used her other assets to achieve fame. Her sex appeal is face-slapping. Which straight, red-blooded man didn’t want to be on that motorbike with a half-naked Lalla Hirayama in her FHM shoot? And the name itself sounds like a tempting Anglo-Japanese cocktail – Hirayama (think kimonos and cherry blossoms) and Lalla, (sounds like a thirties screen siren) – two parts exotic fantasy, three parts sex.
But is that all there is? In the world of reality TV is Lalla yet another in a long line of what we like to call “The Fleeting Beauties”? Here today, gone tomorrow “It Girls” unable to hold on to the spotlight for more than the time it takes for the public to reach for the remote and start flipping through the channels looking for the next big thing. Celebrity is a hard commodity to hold on to and even those who seem to have the goods can quickly drift from view. But a lot has to do with what happens once the camera lights are turned off, when the make-up is removed, when the hit series is over.
And then there’s the other quick path to fame – controversy.
But with Lalla there has been no scandal – not even the usual celebrity feud. So what is it that will take her to the next level? It’s only when we begin to photograph her that we start to realise we are dealing with someone different.
As we watch Lalla nonchalantly slip on a pair of Jil Sander boots, we somehow get the feeling that this is a woman who would be as happy sitting on the floor with a bucket of chicken wings as she is in Luminance, trying on the “champagne and oysters” of designer outfits. Her excitement at the prospect of wearing Alexander McQueen is as genuine as the excitement we saw when she was putting on the fantasy, Cinderella-esque ball-gowns that made up her Strictly Come Dancing wardrobe.
Lalla Hirayama was born to a Japanese mother and a white South African father. In Madiba’s rainbow nation this is not even mildly unconventional. Her Japanese mother introduced Lalla to the best bits of Shintoism and Buddism while her Jewish father answered his African ancestral calling and became a white sangoma. She constantly refers to her multi-cultural upbringing as having been balanced, spiritual and loving. Perhaps Lalla is a prime example of the kind of New South African that Nelson Mandela wanted us all to be.
Lalla went from appearing in music videos to Rhythm City & V-Entertainment before SCD made her a household name.
Then there is her career. Having dreamt of being a dancer, Lalla ended up in the world of television seemingly by accident when, at the tender age of 13, she was selected to present a TV program in Japan. This probably means she has been presenting since long before some of her younger fans have even been on this earth. After settling in South Africa and donning her dancing shoes once again, Lalla went from appearing in music videos to Rhythm City and V-Entertainment before SCD made her a household name.
If its “entertainment domination” you want then there is no time to waste and getting to the next engagement is crucial.
A few hours and four clothing changes later it’s time for us to wrap up the shoot. There are hugs all round and off she goes. If its “entertainment domination” you want then there is no time to waste and getting to the next engagement is crucial.
Clearly Lalla Hirayama knows she must capitalise on her fame. We are told V-Entertainment (the television programme she presents on DSTV’s Vuzu channel) will still be a major part of Lalla’s life but this year she will also be joining the Top Billing team. There’s talk of Lalla returning to acting in the near future and there is a lot of industry buzz about some really big campaign this year. And all of this without resorting to headline-grabbing antics – no desperate image revamps (and no twerking). She just gets on with it. Mom and dad taught her well. And many others in the celebrity stratosphere could learn a thing or two from Lalla Hirayama.