This article is about media personalities in Japan. For the planet Tarento in the Star Wars Universe, See List of Star Wars planets (T-V)#Tarento.

Tarento (タレント?) is a Japanese rendering (Wasei-eigo) of the English word "talent" and is used as a catch-all term for mass media personalities who regularly appear on television. Detractors of the phenomenon have referred to it in an English sense as "famous just for being famous" because many that fall into this career line have no discernible talent outside being featured on television.[1] Successful tarento craft unique public personas in order to cater to certain Japanese demographics. Script error: No such module "Unsubst". However, insofar as Japanese culture demonstrates certain extremes,[vague] so, too, tarento reflect these cultural fixations.[2]


Japanese television programs often feature these media personalities. Many, sometimes dozens at a time, are called in to take part in these prime time shows. Their participation in these programs varies greatly and includes performing, voicing opinions, mimicking fellow celebrities in a practice called Monomane (物真似), taking part in game shows, joking, or just being present for the entire duration of the show (known as being part of the "gallery").

While it is very common for tarento to appear in serious Japanese television drama or movies, they are distinguished from mainstream actors by the fact that, where an actor might go on variety television to advertise their latest venture, tarento often appear on variety shows with no apparent promotional agenda outside of a personal one.[citation needed]

Often, Tarento, whether men or women, have notoriously short career spans (around one or two years), and their earning capabilities are not as high as popularly imagined. The vast majority make just enough to maintain a middle-class lifestyle in Tokyo, Japan's media capital. This is because their talent agencies take a majority share of their earnings for the appearances that they make on TV. Part of the money given up by the tarento is to pay for initial support the agencies gave them in terms of free housing, financial stipends, and promotion of that person. These cuts can sometimes be as much as 90%.[3] That said, their work achieves social prominence (and all the associated benefits), and a successful tarento career can be the launching point for a career as movie actor or even political figure.[4] An example is Takeshi Kitano, a prominent director, who started out as a comedy tarento and still does weekly shows. Female tarento who are unable to leverage their career into something larger sometimes slowly fade away into eventual obscurity.

Important considerations for tarento include the degree to which their names are publicly known ("chimeido", 知名度) which is the Japanese equivalent of a Q Rating, the degree to which they are generally liked by the public ("koukando", 好感度), and the character or personality by which they are known (often just "chara" or "kyara", キャラ).[5] The distinction between the first two terms is an important one, as celebrities such as Egashira 2:50 might be widely disliked by audiences and still make a living; being disliked is a part of their character [1]. Other elements of a tarento's character may include their origins and other/former careers (e.g. author/illustrator Lily Franky), intelligence (e.g. Masaru Hamaguchi, a comedian who once misspelled his own name on a televised test), hobbies and skills (many female celebrities are known for how well or poorly they can cook, from the former members of Pink Lady on the high end of the continuum to race queen Yinling on the low end), or appearance (many non-Japanese talents such as Bobby Ologun use their looks to this effect).[6] The way by which a person becomes tarento can more often than not be categorized.

Types of tarento

Gimmicked tarento

These are people on programs that have a "trademarked" phrase, wardrobe, or mannerism that is used to elicit laughs from the audience. Their on-TV characters tend to be very shallow as they milk the comic device or neta(ネタ) that gave them notoriety and hardly ever expand on their character. It is these figures that tend to have the shortest shelf life on TV as they quickly fade into obscurity after the novelty of their act wears off. They are known in Japan as ippatsuya(一発屋), or "one trick pony"[7]. Recent examples include Yoshio Kojima, Dandy Sakano, and Razor Ramon Hard Gay.

Owarai tarento

'Owarai' is Japanese for laughter, or in this case a "comic talent". Owarai tarento are generally former comedians, often in manzai (type of stand up), who, after becoming famous, make appearances on variety television programs that are comedic in nature.

Nepotic tarento

Sometimes, Tarento are given prominent air time on TV and are promoted heavily due to their association or relationship to an established celebrity or politician, and not because they possess any discernible skills for entertaining audiences. One of the bigger examples of this phenomenon is Kazushige Nagashima, the son of the legendary Yomiuri Giants player and manager, Shigeo Nagashima. After failing to become a successful baseball player, he turned to the entertainment circuit and used his father's name to make inroads. The son of controversial Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, Yoshizumi Ishihara, has also achieved a measure of exposure due to nepotism as well as Kotaro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.[8]

The beautiful people, a.k.a. "dumb idols"

Additionally, Tarento, both male and female, may be discovered and be given considerable exposure due to their perceived physical beauty and endowments, but the way they are promoted is different from being strictly a fashion model. This is because they spend time making music CDs, star vehicles, and television appearances that capitalize on their physical beauty, with little stress put on their actual ability to entertain or otherwise add to the production. These people are referred to as obaka-aidoru or "dumb idols". Many of the men that fall into this category come from Johnny & Associates, a male talent agency which is the backbone of the music and television industry.[9] Female examples include Norika Fujiwara and Waka Inoue.

Foreign tarento

Foreign, often non-Asian, tarento often exploit stereotypes and caricatures to gain notoriety. Carolyn "Caiya" Kawasaki, a former American model, exploited the Japanese stereotype of American women being noisy and domineering on her husband, singer Mayo Kawasaki. Bobby Ologun, a Nigerian comedian, uses both stereotypes and caricatures in his act when he flubs lines in Japanese to play off the "foreigners have trouble with the language" stereotype as well as contort his face in the golliwog "Sambo" style to gain laughs, even though it can be seen as offensive.

A gaikokujin tarento (外国人タレント), also known as gaijin tarento (外人タレント) and abbreviated gaitare, is a foreign celebrity active exclusively or almost exclusively in Japan. The phrase literally means "foreign talent." Having at least a conversational level Japanese, combined with European or other foreign looks as well as a standout personality, they are often chosen because they meet the Japanese stereotypes of foreigners (for example, the notion that Americans generally look rugged and have blond hair and blue eyes). Gaikokujin tarento are seen as curiosities by the Japanese, just as other tarento, and are cast differently depending on their ethnicities.

Notable gaikokujin tarento

  • Adeyto (アデイト, Adeito?)
  • Jasmine Ann Allen (aka Jasmine Marika) (ジャスミン茉莉花, Jasumin Marika?)
  • Diana Alfaro (ディアナ・アルファロ, Diana Arufaro?)
  • Robert Baldwin (ロバート・ボールドウィン, Robāto Bōrudowin?)
  • Peter Barakan (ピーター・バラカン, Pītā Barakan?)
  • Francesco Bellissimo (ベリッシモ・フランチェスコ・喜広, Berisshimo Furanchesuko Yoshihiro?)
  • Jeff Berglund (ジェフ・バーグランド, Jefu Bāgurando?)
  • Thane Camus (セイン・カミュ, Sein Kamyu?)
  • Chadha (チャダ, Chada?)
  • Agnes Chan (アグネス・チャン, Agunesu Chan?)
  • Chen Qu 陳屈 (チェン・チュー, Chen Chū?)
  • Rola Chen (ローラ・チャン, Rōra Chan?)
  • Kent Derricott (ケント・デリカット, Kento Derikatto?)
  • Florent Dabadie (フローラン・ダバディー, Furōran Dabadī?)
  • Leah Dizon (リア・ディゾン, Ria Dizon?)
  • Robert Dunham (ダン・ユマ, Dan Yuma?)
  • Péter Frankl (ピーター・フランクル, Pītā Furankuru?)
  • Sunny Francis (サニー・フランシス, Sanī Furanshisu?)
  • Marty Friedman (マーティ・フリードマン, Māti Furīdoman?)
  • Delcea Mihaela Gabriela (デルチャ・ミハエラ・ガブリエラ, Derucha Mihaera Gaburiera?)
  • John Gathright (ジョン・ギャスライト, Jon Gyasuraito?)
  • Kent Gilbert (ケント・ギルバート, Kento Girubāto?)
  • Vincent Giry (ジリ・ヴァンソン, Jiri Vanson?)
  • Maria Theresa Gow (マリア・テレサ・ガウ, Maria Teresa Gau?)
  • Edith Hanson (イーデス・ハンソン, Īdesu Hanson?)
  • Patrick Harlan (パトリック・ハーラン, Patorikku Hāran?)
  • Vivian Hsu (ビビアン・スー, Bibian Sū?)
  • Daniel Kahl (ダニエル・カール, Danieru Kāru?)
  • Carolyn Kawasaki (aka Caiya Kawasaki) (カイヤ川崎, Kaiya Kawasaki?)
  • Kin Mei ling (金美齢, Kin BiRei?)
  • Konishiki Yasokichi (KONISHIKI, Konishiki?)
  • Kane Kosugi (ケイン・コスギ, Kein Kosugi?)
  • Anna Lee (アンナ・リー, Anna Rī?)
  • Brad Lesley(aka Animal Lesley) (アニマル・レスリー, Animaru Resurī?)
  • Template:Country data BENAdogony Lolo (アドゴニー・ロロ, Adogonī Roro?)
  • Agnes Lum (アグネス・ラム, Agunesu Ramu?)
  • Marcia (マルシア, Marushia?)
  • Maryanne (マリアン, Marian?)
  • Françoise Moréchand (フランソワーズ・モレシャン, Furansowāzu Moreshan?)
  • Mark Musashi (マーク武蔵, Māku Musashi?)
  • Template:Country data IRNRandy Muscle (ランディ・マッスル, Randī Massuru?)
  • Michelle Miki Nakajima (ミシェル未来, Misheru Miki?)
  • C. W. Nicol (C・W・ニコル, C W Nikoru?)
  • Bobby Ologun (ボビー・オロゴン, Bobī Orogon?)
  • Judy Ongg (ジュディ・オング, Judī Ongu?)
  • Girolamo Panzetta (パンツェッタ・ジローラモ, Pantsetta Jirōramo?)
  • Template:Country data IRNSahel Rosa (サヘル・ローズ, Saheru Rōzu?)
  • Template:Country data BENZomahoun Idossou Rufin (ゾマホン・ルフィン, Zomahon Rufin?)
  • Template:Country data GINOusmane Youla Sankhon (オスマン・サンコン, Osman Sankon?)
  • Bob Sapp (ボブ・サップ, Bobu Sapp?)
  • Janica Southwick (ジャニカ・サウスウィック, Janika Sausuwikku?)
  • Dave Spector (デーブ・スペクター, Dēbu Supekutā?)
  • Jason Straatmann (ジェイ, Jay?)
  • Tim (ティム, Timu?)
  • Wang Xuedan (王雪丹, Ou Settan?)
  • Anton Wicky (アントン・ウィッキー, Anton Wikkī?)
  • George Williams (ジョージ・ウィリアムズ, Jōji Wiriamuzu?)
  • Charles Kent Wilson (aka Chuck Wilson) (チャック・ウィルソン, Chakku Wiruson?)
  • Yinling (aka Yinling of Joytoy) (インリン・オブ・ジョイトイ, Inrin obu Joitoi?)
  • Yoon Son-ha 윤손하 (ユンソナ, Yun Sona?)
  • Younha 윤하 (ユンナ, Yunna?)
  • Rosanna Zanbon (aka Rosanna) (ロザンナ, Rozanna?)

Maintaining relevance

Occasionally, people will become tarento as a result of a directional shift in their career. It is especially common for musicians to become tarento. Some examples include Kiriko Isono, who debuted as part of a singing trio and made a name for herself based on a rapid wit and willingness to put herself down for a laugh; Mari Yaguchi, the third leader of Morning Musume who left the group in 2005 due to a scandal but has continued to appear on variety shows and Japanese television drama since leaving;[10] the late Ai Iijima, a former porn starlet[11]; and Yuusuke Santamaria, who fronted several bands before moving into acting and being a tarento. Fashion modeling can also provide an entry path, with such examples as Rinka and Aya Sugimoto.[12]

See also

  • List of Japanese celebrities



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