JIN-441 -- Miss Universe Japan

J@pan Inc Newsletter

The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 441 Wednesday November 21, 2007, Tokyo

J-SOX Software Solutions-Virtual Machines-Industry Analysis-
PLUS Politics, Fashion, Business, Travel, Finance, Technology
Read online at www.japaninc.com

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Miss Universe Japan

In 1998, if you happened to be a pretty Japanese girl walking
through Yoyogi park, you might have encountered a frantic French
woman on a bike offering you the chance to find fame and fortune
as a competitor in the Miss Universe Japan contest. The Miss
Japan pageant had existed since 1952 but it wasn’t until 1998
that it became the Miss Universe Japan competition. Having
somehow managed to secure a sponsorship deal with direct
marketing firm Amway, Ines Ligron, pioneer of Miss Universe
Japan had to make sure that she had some viable candidates
for the competition. By making up for what she lacked in
Japanese ability with a good head for business and designer
bagfuls of confidence, Ligron was able to go ahead with the
pageant and had secured funding for the next three years.

For the first year she was paid a retainer by Donald Trump but,
of a strong entrepreneurial inclination, after the first year,
she bought the license from the Trump Foundation thus making
herself founder and president of Miss Universe Japan. This year,
she really hit the headlines when Riyo Mori of Shizuoka became
the winner of the international contest. This success was what
Ligron had been working for since she first came to Japan. She
told us that this was ‘the point that I wanted to get to’ and
she is unashamed to take credit for the triumph. ‘I have become
better at my job. I know how to turn the girls from the
condition in which they arrive in my office into Miss
Universes.’ The girls often come from the countryside and if
they make the cut for the final 15, they stay at Ligron’s house
and are dressed in only the best and most expensive clothes.
They receive intensive training, to turn them into confident,
beautiful superstars. When asked how the family reacts to having
15 models living with them for a fair chunk of the year, Ligron
explains that initially her husband didn’t like it. ‘Most men
would be happy to let a Calvin Klein model use their razor but
my husband used to find it annoying. But he is very supportive
and has got used to it. I also have two boys aged six and seven
and the girls treat them like princes. They are going to have
very high standards in the future….’

While the contest and Ligron have attracted media attention as a
result of the nature of the pageant and the reader friendly
images it can offer, the business and the force behind it are
equally worthy of focus. (Although we are unable to include
photos in this newsletter, a visit to
http://myblog.ask.jp/muj_ines_ligron will provide).
Ligron first came to Asia when her former husband was moved to
Hong Kong. She was, at the time, selling tanning machines in
Europe and she explained to her boss that she wanted to move to
HK. Reluctant to lose a talented rep, her boss offered the role
of selling the machines in Asia. So, in a country where white
skin is a sign of beautiful chic, Ligron found a niche market
selling tanning machines to luxury hotels; because of the
perception that the Chinese market was not a good place to
sell tanning equipment, there was zero competition and yet a
small but significant demand for the machines from visiting
celebrities and models who expected tanning salons in the hotels
where they stayed.

After doing this for about five years, Ligron’s sales ability
got her was recruited by the IMG model agency. Then, in
backstage discussions at a Victoria’s Secret’s fashion show,
her name came up as the person to head up Miss Universe Japan,
the license for which had been brought by Donald Trump in 1997.
After her initial success with Amway, Ligron came up with a
unique business model. ‘I had to offer companies something more
than just event sponsorship. So with little experience and
without knowing how to make a PowerPoint presentation, I put
together a very attractive package. What I offered was a unique
form of product placement.’ When the final shortlist of 15 girls
is made, they sign a six-month agreement by which they surrender
all control over their image to Ligron. She tells them what
make-up to wear, what brand of bag to carry and what bottled
water to drink. For cosmetics companies this gives them a stake
in the transformation of the girls and, as well as the media
exposure, they get rights to use the winner at events and all
kinds of opportunities to promote their products. At roughly 20
million yen a package, the business is highly lucrative.
Nowadays, Ligron sees these deals as more than sponsorship,
‘they are promotional partnerships. I choose companies that are
good for women and have a synergy with the aims and ideals of
the contest. For example, I would never partner with KFC.’
Among the partners for Miss Universe Japan 2008 Ligron is proud
to include such names as Evian and Maybelline.

Ligron admits that she had a fair amount of good luck along the
way. For instance, in the early years she never had to pay for
office space: her first office was provided by a former
distributor she had a connection with. Unfortunately, he ended
up disappearing overnight, probably due to his yakuza activities
that led him into trouble with the police. However, she claims
that she never takes a holiday and confided that her
determination is partly the result of a feeling of being
different that she has had since childhood. ‘My family are all
talented performers, my mother was an actress and my father was
a chef but I couldn’t sing or dance. But, I do have a skill,
and that is to be able to see the potential for beauty in
people, particularly women, and I know exactly how to transform
and improve them. I went into business as an entrepreneur when
I was 21 and since then I have been very comfortable with who I

By Peter Harris
Chief Editor

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Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo - Wednesday, December 5th

Panel Discussion Title: 'Boost Your Sales in 2008!'

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Mr. Dan Harris - Principal at Market Analytic Partners

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On December 14, Globis International School is proud to
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So Ines Ligron, pioneer of Miss Universe and entrepreneur, never takes a holiday. She went into business when she was 21 and is comfortable with who she is.
People who never take a holiday often seem to be too obsessed with their job, do not have a work life balance and rarely relax.
To maintain optimum health, adequate rest and relaxation and a good work life balance, regular holidays are essential.

Ms Ligron needs to get a life and not be so obsessive with work.
Workaholics need to take a rest occasionally and recharge their batteries

Carole Goldsmith
International Journalist and Trainer

carole, you are absolutely right, this is a mistake... i take lots of holidays but I keep very busy each time doing tons of things with my children and family and friends. I am not the kind of person to lay down all day on the beach, this is what i meant while being interviewed..... check my blog and you will get the confirmation of it.

Actually I am now writting from Hawaii where I am for the Thanksgiving Holidays with my family.

Cheers to you, ines