Ricky Samoranos: The New Face of J-Pop

by Madeleine Neuberger

Freshman’s infatuation with Japanese pop culture sets him apart from the masses

Imagine having such an intense passion for something that it prevented you from being able to consistently focus or have “normal” conversations with your peers. This is the case for freshman  Ricky Samoranos.  Ever since seventh grade, Samoranos has been captivated by Japanese pop culture, embracing it to the point where he felt he was no longer able to fit in in Orinda.

Many students at Miramonte have had the privilege of seeing Samoranos’ Japanese passion first hand in the form of one of his pop dances, or his eccentric attire. Yet the seemingly unique passion Samoranos portrays at school is actually a hugely diminished display of his hobby.

In 2008, while Samoranos’ seventh grade peers were just beginning to feel a fraction of a percent more comfortable in their still insecure skin, Samoranos was making a self-discovery breakthrough.

“When seventh grade started, I felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t,” said Samoranos. “I was hanging out with the wrong group.”

Samoranos became a part of a different social group, one that accepted him and his interests.

“At first I was extremely into Japanese and I spoke a mix of Japanese and English during class,” said Samoranos of his self-taught fluency in Japanese. “I guess you could call it Japlish.”

As Samoranos began to further embrace and build upon his passion for Japanese culture, he also began noticing his peers’ bewildered reactions to him.

“I once dressed up in a pink maid’s costume and danced for KOIS,” said Samoranos of one of the many elaborate outfits he would wear.

“I received lots of negative attention for it. I was too weird and disruptive.”

After the peak of Samoranos’ open expression of passion in seventh grade, the decline of his outwardly Japanese style was rapid. The suppression of Samoranos’s interest in Japanese culture has brought him to where he is now, still indulgent, yet what he feels to be “socially acceptable by American standards.”

“I don’t like constant attention,” said Samoranos pensively. “Right now I think I should be more in touch with my American friends.”

Although Samoranos no longer outwardly displays his obsession at school, he still is hugely devoted to learning Japanese dances, songs and Asian languages.

“I watch three hours of anime a night,” said Samoranos, grinning. “I’m usually a very frugal person, but when it comes to Japanese, I can’t help but give in. I’ve taught myself nine Japanese dances, the language, and my next goal is to sing in Chinese. I don’t take lessons. I also have choreographed my own dance, but it requires three people and I haven’t found anyone to do it with.”

Unfortunately for Samoranos, embracing his passion has become a struggle because of the looks and attention he receives from his peers, even at Miramonte.

“I’ve become a bit more conservative than I was before. I tried to seclude myself because it’s a hobby. If people are going to judge me negatively, why should I be a part of the negativity,” said Samoranos. “I am still weird though. I like being weird. It’s much more fun to be yourself, but also much harder.”

“I will probably live a simplistic lifestyle, working a normal job,” said Samoranos. ”Yet I would enjoy being a romantic story writer, I like to imagine.”

Hopefully next year, while Samoranos spends a semester as a foreign exchange student in Japan, his eyes will be opened to the energy and passion that he has failed to find at Miramonte.  Because of Samoranos’ love for language, his melting pot of Asian heritage and new Asian interests, Samoranos will likely find his personal niche in Japan.

Watch Ricky’s dance video: