Laura Izumikawa found fame on Instagram
A baby book is a time machine, a portal into the past that can bring parents great joy in later years. It’s also something many parents put off indefinitely or never complete because it can feel like one more thing to worry about when your new infant is crying or being adorable or needing to be fed.
Enter Instagram, the simplest baby book ever made. You can upload hundreds of pictures and videos daily without having to haul out the baby book, a pen, scissors, etc. This is how Instagram star Laura Izumikawa began her journey to Instafame. She wanted to share photos of her baby daughter, Joey, with her relatives, but wanted to make it more entertaining for herself and for them.
“I didn’t want to send them the same boring pictures of her sleeping. Since she sleeps all of the time, I thought it would be cute to add props and costumes to the photos. I was amazed at how well she slept! It was like, ‘How far can I go with this without her waking up?’”
Izumikawa started by dressing Joey up as Sia, complete with a blond wig covering her eyes, as a mermaid with two shells delicately placed on her chest and a long red wig. She dressed Joey as a piece of sushi, a sushi chef, Run-D.M.C., the Statue of Liberty, Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones,” and a Laker girl.
When she costumed Joey as Eleven from the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” complete with a frozen waffle in her hand, her following really took off. Brand endorsements and mountains of fan mail have now become the norm in the Izumikawa household. Her current number of followers is more than 500,000, and her photos have been shared by people such as Britney Spears, who shared the RUN DMC-clad baby Joey on her own Instagram.
Izumikawa has also heard from fans whose lives have been deeply affected by her Instagram. “A woman from the Philippines whose mother passed away a few weeks earlier told me that when she’d visit her in the hospital, they’d watch videos of Joey. She extended her thanks to me for making her mom’s last few weeks happy,” Izumikawa says.
What will Joey think of her digital baby book when she gets older? Izumikawa already has an answer: “We want to tell Joey that she was loved by so many fans. … We’ll show her the fan mail and how many people were truly touched by her. It’s like she has so many aunts and uncles, so I feel she’ll be happy.”
With her sights set on a future baby clothing line and a relentless (and never-ending) photo shoot schedule, Izumikawa’s life is definitely hectic. But Instagram doesn’t rule her life. She remains creative and down-to-earth, and makes it clear that her priorities will always be Joey; her husband, Allen; and her dog, Moseby. After all, “It’s not about the brands or the followers. It’s a way to connect with the world,” Izumikawa says.
OC Family had the chance to talk to Izumikawa in late November.
Q. How were you able to monetize your profile?
A. “When we went viral, which feels so weird to say, I had a bunch of agencies contact me. People wanted to represent us. It literally happened overnight. After we processed all of this, we ended up going with an agency that allowed us to live a normal life. They take care of all the promoting, and I get to be at home doing my thing with Joey. Instagram also makes promoting easy. I use hashtags, I tag people, and people like Britney Spears repost my photos (laughs).”
Q. Is it expensive to create so many costumes?
A. “In all honesty, it costs me next to nothing to put costumes together. We just use whatever we have at home or borrow items from friends. Every once in awhile I’ll buy something I don’t have, but that’s pretty rare. My agency also provides me with items from brands they want me to feature. Because of our following, many brands send us gifts.”
Q. How long does it take to do a shoot?
A. “Anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes from start to finish. I start with playing with her for about five minutes, and then she’ll start yawning or rubbing her eyes. I just turn on the white noise machine I have, she’ll fall asleep, and I’ll do the arm drop test on her to see if she’s really passed out. If she doesn’t flinch, I go to work. It takes me roughly 10 minutes to dress her, and I take the remainder of the time to shoot.”
Q. How do you get inspired?
A. “The inspiration comes spur the moment. I’m always thinking about pop culture, and I keep a list on my phone of ideas that I think will be cute. It also depends on what I find around the house. My agency is also really helpful about giving me inspiration too. I do one to three shoots per week, so it helps to have their input.”
Q. Do you get any negative comments or feedback?
A. “There was some backlash in the beginning from people who aren’t parents. It was really interesting. They’d say, ‘You’re abusing your child,’ and ‘How could you do this to her?’ I feel like people and parents take things way too seriously. It’s like their kids live in a bubble; there’s too much restriction. We also live in a mom-shaming culture. I hate that. I’ve traveled a lot and have seen how other cultures embrace parents and support one another. I don’t feel like we do that in America; we’re so judgmental over things we don’t even know about. I got a big taste of that with this project. We should enjoy parenting, have fun with our kids, and not lose our sense of humor. Sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps us sane.”
Q. How has your life changed since becoming Instafamous?
A. “It’s been a huge change. Everything from being recognized on the street to getting to work with brands I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve always wanted to start a baby clothing line, and now that’s a big possibility.”
Q. What was one of the funniest moments during your shoots?
A. (Laughs) “A funny moment happened recently during the Nacho Libre shoot. My husband had the day off, so it was the first shoot he was part of. I didn’t know what would happen when I put the fake mustache on Joey. But she scrunched up her face in this really cute way (but never woke up), and we busted up laughing.”
Q. What’s your background?
A. “I actually wanted to be a journalist, but I discovered photography while in law school. I was in law school because I wanted to do international law in Africa for a while too. After I discovered photography, I was able to go on a mission trip to Rwanda in 2007. That trip changed everything for me. I found my passion in photojournalism. Then I started shooting weddings, but I hit a point as an artist where I needed something more. I didn’t think it’d be something like this, though!”
Q. Tell me something surprising about yourself
A. “I used to play the guitar. I’m Christian, so I’d play a lot of worship music that we’d sing at church. I haven’t done that in so long though. I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker too. I have so many unfinished screenplays that no one really knows about. One day, I hope I can make a film.”
Q. Do you have any other projects in the works?
A. “My priority is Joey, and I want to spend as much time as I can with her. In the near future, I’d like to start other projects, especially that baby clothing line I mentioned.”
Q. Any plans to stop?
A. “As long as Joey is fine with all of this, I’ll keep it going. But the minute she shows discomfort, I’ll stop. Also, her fans inspire me to keep this all going. I feel like there are phases an artist goes through. For me, this was one thing I can do on Instagram, but I do want to continue to document Joey growing up. Especially because so many people feel like they know her and they want pictures of her. It’s also a great way to update her baby book. I’ll continue pushing the limits. I’m just playing it by ear.”