Globe-trotter Kouka Webb spent her formative years in Tokyo before settling in New York and signing a modeling contract with The Lions. Whether she’s in front of the camera for Anna Sui or covering the Cannes Film Festival as a correspondent for ELLE Japan, Kouka balances her modeling responsibilities with her studies at New York University, and if that wasn’t enough, she fills her spare time with travel. I spoke with her via email as she made her way across eastern Siberia on the Trans-Mongolian Express.

Tell us about your childhood.

My formative years were spent in Hong Kong running around on the Star Ferry and eating dim sum for breakfast. My family then moved to Tokyo, where I went to school and spent time running cross country and eating sushi (running and eating being the recurring themes in my life). After graduating high school, I moved to New York at age 17 and signed with The Lions.

How you were discovered?

I was discovered in a flower shop in Japan when I was 12. I didn’t start modeling full-time until I was done with high school, but I’m still with the same manager who scouted me, and her son is the cutest.

How do you balance modeling and studying at New York University (NYU)?

I am always much more productive when I’m busy. Having worked in Japan from a young age, I find that I learned to juggle my commitments early on and the crazier my schedule is, the better my grades are. Although striking the right balance in work and play is difficult sometimes, I cannot complain as I really enjoy what I am doing right now.

Why did you choose to major in Nutrition and Dietetics?

Nutrition allows me to combine my love of food with my favorite subject. It is a fascinating field that is constantly evolving and is important because it applies to all of us—we all need to eat to stay healthy. I love reading the food labels in supermarkets and understanding what I eat. I truly believe that we are what we eat. The adage I live by is: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

A lot of the forums online praise your personal style. How would you describe your aesthetic?

My love of colorful clothes was instilled in me by my mother, who never liked to dress me as a child in black, gray, or navy. I would say that my aesthetic depends very much on my mood. Some days I like to pair my Nike sweatpants with my best grandad sandals, but other days I adore getting all glammed up.

What’s on your radar at the moment? 

My upcoming semester abroad in Ghana with NYU. My plan is to intern with a charity working with HIV patients in hospitals. I am looking forward to going to Africa for the first time and immersing myself in a completely different culture and environment.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am currently writing this piece on a cramped bunk bed aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express from Irkutsk in eastern Siberia to Ulaan Bator in Mongolia. It is admittedly very shaky, but there is nothing like the open steppe to get over the stress of my finals.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to complete my 4-year degree at NYU and become a registered dietician. I would love to continue working in modeling alongside this and traveling the world in between. Another goal for me is to climb Kilimanjaro, as I have been bitten by the adventure bug.

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