• Devyn Molina

Lindsay Arakawa: The social media strategist that turned her Instagram into art

The pros and cons of Instagram, inspiration and influence behind her art and why Kacey Musgraves made her cry.

Images courtesy of Lindsay Arakawa's Instagram (@blindsaay).

Freelance social media strategist and artist, Lindsay Arakawa, definitely knows a thing or two when it comes to Instagram. Originally from Hawai'i, Lindsay attended University of San Francisco and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and Japanese Studies. From there she made the life-changing move to New York, where she worked as the Social Media Photo Editor and eventually the Senior Creative Social Media Strategist at Refinery29. It was during her time at Refinery29 that she began using 35mm film photos as a backdrop for her art. Lindsay's art can be seen all over Instagram as it is well know for its bold colors, original font and inspirational quotes. By blending her American and Japanese culture she's created a style that's all her own. Since then, Lindsay has garnered a huge Instagram following and even a repost from country singer, Kacey Musgraves.

Last year she decided to make yet another big move and reconnect with her Japanese roots by living in Tokyo. While the move may have been difficult at first, Lindsay now uses her artistic skills and social media savvy, working as a social media strategist for companies like VICE Asia, Coach, Girlboss and Women's Health Japan.

You definitely have a signature style when it comes to your art. Where do you get your inspiration? And has that changed since you started?

I get my inspiration from a lot of different places – my friends are a huge source of inspiration and are constantly teaching me about the latest trends and different perspectives. I also try to visit a gallery or art museum once a month.

How do you choose which photos end up being the backdrop for your art? Is there anything you look for when shooting?

Not really! There was a point where I found myself shooting film with my art in mind, but found that it started to shift the way my photos looked and I didn’t really vibe with how they were turning out. I think my process is more along the lines of identifying words I want to write, then shuffling through my photo library to find a photo that fits.

As a Japanese American, how does your cultural background influence your work?

I think it used to affect my work a lot more, but now that I live in Japan it kind of feels more second nature to me than something I try to make the focal point of each piece. I’m not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense, but being in Japan has made me feel the most American I’ve ever felt. [Now] my cultural background is represented as more of a blend of both cultures in my work.

You’ve sold so many truly one-of-a-kind prints: do you have a favorite or one that may have resonated with you the most?

Not sure if I have a favorite, but I think I might have stronger feelings towards the Kacey Musgraves print I did – the reason being that she posted it to her feed and I cried so many happy tears!

Social media has become such a huge part of everyone’s lives, however, it definitely has its pros and cons. What would you say are the best and worst parts of social media?

The pros are that it opens up your world to so many different people and experiences. I’ve made so many great friends on Instagram and have been able to discover new things and places. I love it. The cons are sometimes I tend to get too caught up in Instagram and the skewed idea of perfection that it serves, but this is ultimately my doing and I can be a lot better about the narratives I create in my mind while scrolling through Instagram.

Speaking of Instagram, it can definitely be a toxic place for people's mental health. Do you have any tips for making it a more positive space?

I think it’s important to realize the times when you feel pretty shitty about scrolling through Instagram and be able to physically remove yourself from those moments. Whenever I find myself too deep in the rabbit hole, I put my phone down and walk away to do something else with my hands like eat some snacks or clean my apartment.

After living in so many different cities all over America, what made you decide to move to Tokyo and teach English?

My family is originally from Japan and I’ve always had a deep connection to Japanese culture. I’ve always wanted to live abroad and I was kind of at a point in my life where it made sense to do so.

What has been the hardest part about moving to a different country?

Moving in itself is pretty stressful, but moving to another country really puts your day-to-day activities and routines into perspective. I would tell my mom that it felt like I was relearning how to be an adult when I had to figure out how to do things like filing my taxes, registering for health insurance etc. in another language. I think not being fluent before I moved here has made things a bit difficult, but I’m taking Japanese language lessons and will hopefully get to a more comfortable place with my speaking skills soon!

What’s your favorite part about being a social media strategist?

Being a social media strategist for Instagram allows me to access and use both sides of my brain. I really enjoy anything that requires both creative and strategic thinking.

Did you always want to pursue a career in social media? How did you get your start?

It kind of happened accidentally/organically. I originally wanted to work in the media industry and be a host of a TV show, but went to college in San Francisco and graduated around the time of the tech boom in 2012. With so many tech start-ups looking for interns, I decided to learn the ropes of social media and kind of fell into a career from there.

You were previously the Senior Creative Social Strategist for Refinery29. What were some of the challenges you faced while working for a company with such a large social media following and how did you overcome them?

Working at Refinery29 has been one of the best working experiences I’ve ever had. I learned so much during my time there, which really prepared me for a freelance career. Working at any company in general, you have to always be aware of the messages you’re posting to social media because it’s on behalf of the company, although it sort of feels like you’re just posting to your personal Instagram. [A]nything you post should get the necessary approval and checked thoroughly at least a few times, especially if you’re a Virgo like me.

How would you describe your personal style?

Comfort and essentials. My style is a little all over the place, but I always find myself dressed in what I feel the most comfortable in. Some days it’ll be an oversized t-shirt with a maxi skirt and other days it’s high-waisted pants and a mesh long sleeve.

What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?

Dog Instagram accounts. I think those are the ones that bring me the purest joy.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

I really want to go back to Paris. I’ve also never been to Italy before and would love to visit, ride a Vespa, and eat lots of pasta.

What are some of your hobbies and/or current obsessions?

I honestly can’t live without RuPaul’s Drag Race. It gives me all the inspiration, drama, and life that I need. I’m also so happy that Lemonade is now on Spotify.