PEI

P.E.I. YouTuber wins international competition, trip to Japan

Jillian Vessey loves to share her love for Japanese fashion and culture with her more than 160,000 YouTube followers. Soon, she will be sharing her love for all things cute and colourful with an even larger audience.

Jillian Vessey will share her love of Japanese culture on international show

P.E.I. YouTuber Jillian Vessey is the winner of an international competition which will send her to Japan. (Submitted by Jillian Vessey)

Jillian Vessey loves to share her enthusiasm for Japanese fashion and culture with her more than 160,000 YouTube followers. Soon, she will be sharing her love for all things cute and colourful with an even larger audience.

Vessey — known online by her YouTube name Pixielocks — was announced this week as winner of a competition run by Japanese broadcaster NHK, on its show Kawaii International.

Vessey won the competition to be this year's Kawaii leader —  a role she describes as "kind of like an ambassador of culture."

What is Kawaii?

As the Kawaii leader, Vessey will be flown to Japan sometime this year, where she will appear on at least one episode of Kawaii International, an English language show that explores different aspects of Japanese and Kawaii culture.

Kawaii is the Japanese word for cute, but Vessey says it means more than just that.

Vessey describes her style as colourful and .hyper-feminine.' (Submitted by Jillian Vessey)

"It's also this whole culture and this whole concept of hyper cuteness. And it's also kind of a way of life. Japan has some amazing, very unique, and out there street fashions," Vessey said.

"Definitely hyper feminine, very colourful, sparkly, like ultra-cute."

Showcasing her style

More than 300 people entered the competition, and 10 finalists were selected. The winner was chosen based on a combination of votes from the public, as well as the opinion of judges.

I feel like it still hasn't quite hit me yet. But I'm just so, so excited.- Jillian Vessey

Vessey describes the other finalists as strong competitors, and "hard core fashion bloggers."

Each contestant submitted an outfit photo, and a personal blurb. For her photo, Vessey said she wanted to showcase her personality.

"I actually wanted to use two pieces that I had designed and sewed myself. Because I think a big part of me and my kind of online identity is that I want to go into fashion design and I'm going to Fredericton for school for it in the fall. So I really wanted to kind of highlight the fact that I don't just wear clothes, I also make them."

In her contest entry photo, Vessey wears a skirt and top she sewed herself. (Submitted by Jillian Vessey)

From her understanding, Vessey said judges look at things like social media following, style and personality.

"They select people who they think really represent this cute Japanese culture and that they're like spreading it throughout the world," Vessey said.

Support from followers

More than 55,000 votes were cast this year — a record for the contest, now in its fifth cycle. Vessey said she was amazed by the support she received from followers.

"Oh it was ridiculous, people were so sweet. I had people tweeting me that they had set a daily alarm to remind themselves to vote for me every day."

And she said after she was announced as the winner, she woke up the next morning to see Twitter full of congratulatory messages.

International audience

While her style is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, Vessey's audience is from around the world.

"In YouTube you can see your analytics, you can see where people are from who watch you. And actually I don't have that many in Japan. Because, of course, I speak English on there. But it's definitely a global phenomenon."

Jillian Vessey runs her YouTube channel from her room in her parents' home in Charlottetown. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

The global reach was well represented in the 10 finalists for the competition, who came from around the world — including the United States, Sweden, Turkey and Australia.

Vessey said it's extra exciting to have won the title, coming from "such a small place."

"It's amazing. I feel like it still hasn't quite hit me yet. But I'm just so, so excited. I'm so happy."