Kasia Mecinski. Officially the Head of Business Development and Project Management in Tofu Media.
Privately, a killer in the Karaoke department. We met up in Solec 44, Powiśle, to talk about daily vlogging, nostalgia and what it feels like to be Polish-American. Born and raised in Chicago. Before she began introducing us to Japan alongside Krzysztof Gonciarz on The Uwaga Pies channel, she managed to take a closer look at Italy, France, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Bali, Taiwan and Lipnica Murowana, where her grandmother lives. She first appeared in Doge selling tobacco in Tokyo, which was featured in a Mashable.com article within 24 hours of publishing. Since launching the channel in August 2014, Kasia and Kris have gained 52 480 subscribers and still going.
Follower: Why a daily? It is demanding, you’ve admitted it yourself. Aren’t you afraid of a scenario where you get so tired it might take a toll on content or quality?
Kasia: That’s why we travel. We are both in this together, and if one of us is burning out the other will take the reins for the day. I guess we’re not as concerned about it (the Daily) because ideally in the future it is going to work a little differently yet just as interestingly, but let’s not talk about it just now.
Follower: Has the daily gotten you any clients? As in people reaching out to you because they have seen it and therefore would like to work with you?
Kasia: Yes, we’ve had had that happen so far once or twice.
Follower: How international are Tofu media clients?
Kasia: Right now they are Japanese, but we resource videos for them internationally, so basically the work we do is very international for Japanese clients.
Follower: Have you ever said “no” to a deal?
Kasia: Yes, but I don’t think I can talk about it…
Follower: Except for the one time you guys lost a phone, have you ever had a day when everything went wrong and completely not as planned?
Kasia: I can’t remember… I know there were days when everything went wrong… Oh! When I climbed Mount Fuji, we knew that it was going to be tough, but still it was more so than I expected. We couldn’t get any internet, anywhere! None of the internet on the mountain was working, and when I asked why they just said, “Well, sometimes it just doesn’t,” which is NOT something you say in Japan. Everything is supposed to work. I just rushed and made it back in time for Kris to edit everything within one hour and upload it on the internet…This stuff happens but we knew it was going to be a challenge and that’s what we like about the Daily. Also, do you remember the manga café day? I spent the night ther
Follower: I remember Gamma not wanting to go there because sleeping was too… boring I guess?
We are both in this together,
and if one of us is burning out
the other will take the reins for the day.
I guess we’re not as concerned about it (the Daily)
because ideally in the future it is going to
work a little differently yet just as interestingly,
but let’s not talk about it just now.
The reason I did that was that I was so burned out. I couldn’t get myself moving or do anything for that matter, so I chose a topic that would allow me to sleep again. I had the day planned; I was just too tired to do any of it. With Tokyo being so diverse and having so much stuff, doing a back-up is quite easy. At the same time, the topic of Tokyo is exhausting. Everything is so interesting and out of the ordinary, so what’s the difference between all the fascinating things? What makes one place more impressive than the other?
Follower: Who are your influences for the Daily?
Kasia: Hmmm…My problem is being really serious on the vlog and I’m not a serious person in real life. What you see is the opposite of what’s behind the lens: Kris is the more serious one. So I see PewDiePie vlogging and I would like to be funny like him while recording. He seems so…relaxed, whereas I get really stiff as soon as I turn the camera on. I also like the laid-back cheeriness of some American vloggers, but I can’t recall who off the top of my head…Who am I thinking about…? But speaking of PewDiePie, I’d really like to somehow steal this part of his personality that makes him seem like he is the same person on and off camera. Or perhaps he is way cooler on; we don’t know.
Follower: I think we can both agree that PewDiePie is the ultimate business goal for anyone. Have you brushed up on Polish humor yet?
Kasia: What do you mean? Starting from when? From what I mentioned in the vlog?
Follower: Yes, in one of them you said you like Polish YouTubers, but the humor just goes over your head.
Kasia: Yes, like pop culture references still do, but I do have a Polish sense of humor, though. It’s very bad, but great for old people. Old people love me! It’s because the only times I’ve really regularly used it was with parents and parents of friends. I always liked to make them laugh, so it’s really corny stuff.
Follower: Old people jokes?
Kasia: Old people jokes, yes.
Follower: Citing from the vlog, how is the “soul searching” on Polish ground working for you? Any shift in perspective from what you used to know from corny jokes?
Kasia: I was expecting it to be cool, but it is still much better than I thought. I’m impressed with how hip Polish people are. At the same time, there are a lot of things that I have expected, like folks getting really upset about me speaking English, which is a funny thing because now we are using English, but when I’m with friends I’m usually using Polish unless they want to use English. If I’m having a hard time, I’ll change back to English. Sometimes other people who are near us get really upset and start… swearing.
In the US I was always very comfortable
identifying myself as Polish-American,
but in Poland it seems people don’t have
the same idea of who I am as I do.
They decide that I’m either Polish or American,
depending on the conversation.
Follower: Probably because they’re having a hard time understanding and know no other way to deal with their frustration…
Kasia: So it seems that older people who want to be angry With younger people I’m really impressed with how cool they are about it. In respect to the perspective I was expecting.
Follower: What was Poland for you before you began travelling? You said that everything you know about this country previously were memories of the countryside where your grandmother lives, and whatever you knew from Chicago Polish – Americans.
Kasia: In that respect Poland was church, John Paul II, and a resistance to move forward. A lot of the Chicago Polish community is very traditionally right-wing in the political spectrum and they are very much against the progress that the rest of Europe is seeing. You know what I mean?
Follower: I think I do. People who emigrated somewhat in the early 80s have this stigma of somehow naturally being scared of change, even though they did one cross an ocean in search for a better life.
Kasia: Every time I visited Poland, that was what I saw, because that’s what my parents wanted me to see. And now sometimes I’m surprised by how many things seem…I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, but some things are so comfortably American in a way. Some of the bars seem as if they might as well be in Chicago, or New York, or Tokyo.
Follower: I think many people would take that as a compliment. We (generally Polish people) tend to belittle ourselves…
Kasia: It’s not even the matter of being behind or forward. I always thought: “This is what American things look like,” and it is just nice to see those here too, because I never did before.
Follower: You have dual citizenship, with family both in Poland and in the US, and you are somewhat of a globetrotter. I was wondering if you have a different perspective on the notion of belonging or national identity from what we traditionally consider those to be?
Kasia: I was always very comfortable identifying myself as Polish-American in the US, but in Poland it seems people don’t have the same idea of who I am as I do. They decide that I’m either Polish or American, depending on the conversation. For me it is not so important or relevant but it is something I think of a lot, or something that bothers me more than I would like to admit. I get a lot of feelings in both places, so I guess they are both very important to me.
Follower: As in nostalgia? Sentiment?
I thought it’s (gender equality)
always going to be something personal.
When I was 19 I got my first tattoo–a fish riding a bike–which was followin
the idea that a woman without a man is
like a fish without a bicycle.
I guess what it is that I have a sentiment for both places (Poland and US), but I don’t feel like one is more important than the other. I feel more Polish when in America and more American when I’m in Poland. In Japan it depends on who I’m talking to.
Follower: Where do you feel like home?
Follower: So is Japan also home? Do you feel at ease wherever you go or do you need time to grasp what’s around you?
Kasia: Japan is also home. I think I really don’t feel really uncomfortable like people sometimes say they do, I never understood that. When I landed in Brazil, I was just psyched to be there and never thought about it being difficult, and at some point I just was comfortable. When I travel I don’t have time for noticing the inconveniences. If I’m somewhere long enough, I don’t question the way I feel and after some time I find myself adjusted. The first time I left Japan for America was after a year of living there, so when I came back I thought, “It’s nice to be home,” but I also felt this way when I landed in the US. And when I came here I thought…maybe not “home” but…somewhere familiar, comfortable. It was…Miło było usłyszeć Polish language and so on.
Follower: Speaking of Japan, from what I’ve seen on the Daily, you are very invested in the gender equality issue.
Kasia: Yes, but I never thought it was something I was going to spend so much time on, and it’s not something I ever really thought I would be talking about or as something that was going to identify me to a larger audience. I thought it was always going to be something personal. When I was 19 I got my first tattoo–a fish riding a bike–which was following the idea that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. It was just something natural for me and I left this idea for a while and I didn’t think about talking about it until I got to Japan. It was, and is so bad there that I just couldn’t not talk about it.
I don’t know who I had a crush on recently…
once I had one on Channing Tatum…
I’m almost embarrassed to say so…
but that was ONCE twelve years ago!
Follower: In the Daily you’ve mentioned the salaryman and the archetypical Japanese woman. Is it an ongoing pattern, or are the younger Japanese more “westernized” in a sense? Is it a generation gap of today’s twenty-somethings living a drastically different lifestyle than that of their parents? Or is it still a conscious choice for Japanese women to follow the traditional path of being a stay-at-home wife, cooking and awaiting the working husband to come home?
Kasia: It’s natural that they continue doing it because it is portrayed as a very ugly image to have a very strong woman, so most women don’t want to be independent.
Follower: You yourself were complemented on being more opinionated than the average Japanese woman. Do they choose to NOT be opinionated?
Kasia: No, it’s part of the culture to teach them not to be opinionated.
Follower: There’s another part to this conversation and it’s called: Ten unnecessary questions from the editorial office! Ready? Puppies or kittens?
Kasia: When they’re little? Do I really have to choose one? Cats or dogs perhaps, but puppies or kittens? I can’t decide.
Follower: Oreo or chocolate chip?
Kasia: Oh my God! These are hard questions!
Follower: I thought this was going to be fun!
Kasia: Aaaaaah… Chocolate chip!
Follower: Drożdżówka or pączek?
Follower: The most annoying sound in the world is…
Kasia: I can think of many, but let’s go with nails on a chalkboard.
Follower: If I were an inanimate object, I would be…
Kasia: …A karaoke microphone.
Follower: My celebrity crush is…
Kasia: Oh… (long pause).
Follower: Say Kris, he’ll be happy.
Kasia: I can’t say that; everyone here thinks we’re dating. Or maybe I should say that just to troll everyone…Oh, name some celebrities!
Follower: Johnny Depp?
Kasia: No…I don’t know who I had a crush on recently…once I had one on Channing Tatum…I’m almost embarrassed to say so…but that was ONCE twelve years ago!
Follower: Music I would take to a desert island…
Kasia: Etta James!
Follower: The best thing about being me is…
Kasia: …I have a really awesome life.
Wywiad przeprowadziła Irmina Gniazdowska.
Zdjęcia: Marcin Michno, Nolife Style