Japanese, Swiss and Ukrainian-Jewish
Recording Artist Christopher Kenji
What is your blended heritage?
I’m a quarter Japanese, a quarter Swiss, a quarter Ukrainian-Jewish and I honestly forget the rest.
Where are your mother and father from?
My mother is half Japanese ––my grandmother was a young model from Japan who gained US citizenship after she married my grandfather, an older American pilot. He passed away long before I was born and I’ve only seen one picture of him but it looked like he at least had a whole head of hair so there’s that! Meanwhile, on my father’s side ––my grandmother was Swiss-German and my grandfather was Jewish and their families didn’t want them to get married because of the historical dissonance of their cultural backgrounds but they did anyway.
What do you love most about your blended heritage?
I think the world we live in can be very black and white sometimes ––you’re either this or that, but I think there’s something really beautiful about the in-between. My favorite part about my blended heritage is that people can’t put me into a box and that makes me feel special.
What is your response when people ask, "What are you?"
I tell people I’m a Japanese, Swiss-German Jew. It usually gets a decent reaction.
What was your experience as a blended kid?
I can’t say it was all sunshine and rainbows all the time. I remember other kids would make fun of my “Asian eyes” and call me names or tell me I looked like an alien. It wasn’t easy feeling different from everyone and I was embarrassed about being mixed. But now I realize that’s the defining thing that makes me look like me. As cliché as it is, just remember, the part of yourself you’re probably most ashamed of is also probably the most special part of you.
What were your family dinners like?
Family dinners have been delicious through and through. If you didn’t grow up on Japanese cuisine, you’ve been missing out. Even being that weird kid at school who ate Inari out of a bento box instead of Lunchables like the other kids, it was 1000% worth it. There was also Swiss Rösti which we would make for our holiday dinners and it would never fail to satisfy. Of course, just like other families, we would eat pasta, burgers, and pizza too but that was just one small pillar of the delectable acropolis that was dinner time with my family.
When it comes to your modeling career, have you experienced any positive or negative effects in being a blended model?
I’ve definitely experienced more positive effects than negative effects. I think people are intrigued by a touch of mystery. If you’re not fully one thing or another, I feel like subconsciously, people will spend more time looking at you to try to figure you out and I think that creates kind of a fascination. It’s actually crazy how many models I’ve met that are mixed ––more often than not in a lot of my experience. That being said, there are many times when people want that “classic look” and I don’t always fit that because I am slightly different looking.
What positive message do you have for blended kids?
I want blended kids to know that even if right now being different doesn’t seem like a good thing to you, you’ll realize that it’s a million times better than being exactly the same as everyone else. No one ever became extraordinary by fitting in. Just you wait, everyone will be jealous of how cool you are.