We took five minutes to chat with La Carmina, whose travel, fashion and pop culture blog has led to international TV hosting, press trips and appearances, including New York Fashion Week. She’s a Huffington Post Travel journalist, author of three books (Penguin and Random House), and hosts TV shows for Discovery, National Geographic, Food Network, Travel Channel and more.
Visit her site for spooky-cute Harajuku fashion, Goth nightlife, youth subcultures, theme cafes and Scottish Fold cats. But first, find out where Goths should go and the best theme restaurant in Tokyo in our interview…
Where are you right now?
Vancouver, Canada, my hometown.
And where are you going next?
On a press trip to Phoenix, Arizona. I’ll be making travel videos and articles about the underground art scene there (yes, it exists!). Ghost towns, monster restaurants, and body modification studios are on my agenda.
Do you ever stay in hostels? What’s your favourite?
Yes, I had a great experience staying with Hostelbookers while traveling in Italy. I loved the romantic decor and kind-hearted staff in Venice. Seby and I had a large room full of character, and could hear the water outside our window. Here’s my report.
What’s your favourite theme restaurant in Tokyo?
Kagaya takes the cake. The owner, Mark, acts perfectly normal… until he ducks into a closet. Music starts playing. He runs out, dressed in an octopus costume, and dances around the room while making high-pitched noises! For more wild stories, you can check out my book, Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo.
Can you think of the most surprising thing you’ve found while coolhunting in the US… ?
I hosted and wrote a “coolhunting” travel video series for Huffington Post / AOL, where I scouted out bizarre places in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was blown away by a secret agent bar, cheese castle and retro love hotel! You can see my travel TV episodes on my Huff Post page.
What are the coolest bars/nightlife spots you’ve found on your travels?
It’s hard to beat the Tokyo Goth, fetish and LGBT club scene. At the party Department H, typical sights include drag wrestling and extreme body modifications like bagelheads. Here’s my guide to Japan nightlife.
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve interviewed, and why?
I interviewed actor and filmmaker Crispin Glover (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie’s Angels) about his sprawling Renaissance-Baroque castle in the Czech Republic. He’s an inspiration.
What’s the most unusual place in the world you’ve found fellow Goths?
Modern Goth culture is relatively new in Prague. It was fun to hang out with spooky Czech teenagers in a dungeon-like space painted with skulls. Here’s the video and photos of my adventure.
Any specific places or festivals Goth travellers should have on their wishlists?
Wave Gotik Treffen is a must. Every spring, 20,000 Steampunkers, Fairies, Lolitas and deathrockers meet in Leipzig for the world’s largest Goth festival. As you can see in my video , highlights include deathrock fashion, an absinthe picnic and New Romantic ball.
What’s the most bizarre food you’ve eaten and liked?
I quite enjoyed a green tea dessert in the shape of a frog, at the Ninja restaurant in Tokyo.
And the one that made you gag?
Literally gagged on kitty hair, while eating a sub-par snack at an Asian cat cafe.
Finish the sentence: People think I’m… but actually I’m…
People think I’m the owner of a Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow… but actually, this fold-eared fluffball owns me!
What advice would you give to others who want to get into TV presenting?
It’s a tough industry to break into, so be realistic. To stand out, aim to be the “go-to” person for a specific niche — whether it’s alt lifestyle, travel blogging, or bizarre foods. Put out quality, personalized video content regularly, and build up a strong social network. Blogs are a great way to showcase your work; they act as a portfolio.
TV producers first found me on the internet, and invited me to be the guest host/guide on shows about Japan, underground culture and young travel. Everything took off from there. To date, my TV presenting work includes: Travel Channel “Bizarre Foods,” Discovery TV “Oddities”, National Geographic “Taboo”, “The Doctors,” “Today Show,” CNN. You can see film clips here.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I like to work and listen to the Goth radio station, WFKU. They have a great playlist of electro-industrial and synth.
Any fears you’ve conquered while travelling?
Perhaps my germophobia levels have gone down a few notches.
Have you ever been attacked by an animal?
Not unless you count my Scottish Fold fat cat sitting on me and wahh-ing for attention!
Tell us a secret!
My friend Katie and I once stole a chocolate cake from a cakewalk. It was a naughty thing to do, but oh so delicious.
The industry has embraced fashion bloggers in recent years. As a blogger, do you feel like an insider or an outsider at NY fashion week?
A bit of both. A few years ago, it was unheard of for style bloggers to be at New York Fashion Week. Today, it seems like bloggers are flocking there… In fact, it’s become such a crowd with all the same reports that I prefer to travel elsewhere. This September, for example, I spoke at Hong Kong Social Media week instead, and covered the poppy local fashion (Doraemon collaborations, Miffy store).
What’s your next big goal?
It’s amazing to see how far fashion and travel bloggers have come in only a few years. I’m keen to keep growing and doing projects in TV, design, writing, and other creative media. Reach out to me if you’d like to collaborate – always up for new adventures! I also hope to visit some of my “bucket list” travel destinations this year. Stay tuned to my La Carmina blog to see where I end up next.
Thanks for talking to us, La Carmina!