Yuri “Ebichan” Ebihara, Japan’s most prominent model, has gone past her “use-by” date and finds her career at the crossroads, according to Shukan Gendai (8/18-25).
For only the second time in almost four years, Ebichan’s countenance will not grace the cover of fashionable OL bible CanCam.
Ebichan’s effect on young Japanese women can’t be estimated. She has built up legions of fans — called the Ebichan OLs — and sparked incredible sales of magazines and clothes, especially among the hundreds of women who buy CanCam to see what she’s wearing in the monthly and then promptly go out and pick up the complete kit.
But she’ll no longer be the face of CanCam.
“Last year we were selling over 600,000 copies, but this year sales have dipped below half a million. We got a new chief editor in July and figured it was a good time to re-start the magazine. One of the features of those changes will be Maki Nishiyama appearing on the next cover,” a source from Can Cam publisher Shogakkan tells Shukan Gendai. “Ebichan is going to be 28 in October. CanCam targets women in their early 20s, so we want to make the magazine a whole lot younger all around.”
Though being dropped from being the cover model of a magazine would seem like a mere trifle, CanCam is a different matter because of its impact among big spending OLs.
“When Ebichan got her break as a big model, her market value skyrocketed and she got an incredible amount of TV commercial work come her way. For the networks, having Ebichan appeared guaranteed an extra 1 percent higher rating at least and she led the way for programs to obtain more young woman viewers. Sponsors want to tap into the young market. And the more exposure Ebichan got, the more offers she got to do commercials. But she owed everything to the fact that she was the CanCam cover girl,” a producer at a production company says. “She’s got her age to think about, so if she wants to continue being a model, it’s important for her to bring about some changes. But having created such an impression so far, it’s going to be hard for her to change her image.”
Other top models have moved on from the front of the camera to the rear, with Yu Yamada now reporting for TV on Formula One racing and Moe Oshikiri working on an English language lesson program. Ebichan’s foray into TV hasn’t been too successful, though.
“She’s appeared in several dramas and the evaluation of her performances has been pretty much unanimous: she can’t act. Her most recent role was playing a model. What that means is that she’s only getting parts where she doesn’t need to act. Even Ebichan said she had no idea what she was doing on the show,” a Fuji TV drama production source tells Shukan Gendai. “Even when it comes to variety shows, one of the people in charge said Ebichan’s voice isn’t high enough and lacks energy and that the only thing she knows anything about anyway is fashion so she can’t be of much use.”
Not everything is doom and gloom for Ebichan, though.
“She’s at her peak with TV commercial work at the moment and she’ll start getting fewer and fewer offers,” the production company producer says. “While she’s still a big name, I figure she’ll shift over to becoming a fashion designer and retire from modeling.”
Retire? It’s not the first time such a whisper has followed Ebichan. Those in the fashion world wouldn’t be surprised.”Ebichan is already doing some deign work and wants to do more. She said she wants to take on a broader role in the fashion world, which means she probably wants to create her own label,” a fashion magazine source says. “During meetings with a major fashion label, she’s shows off the designs she’s drawn herself and offers some pretty sharp advice. A bag she designed is actually selling fairly well.”
So, Ebichan’s passion for fashion may help her carve a career, but will she really give up modeling? Not a chance, according to her handlers, who quickly quash whispers of her exiting the catwalk for good.
“Those rumors are totally groundless,” a spokesman for Ebichan’s talent agency tells Shukan Gendai. “She’s got absolutely no plans to retire.”