Meet Mannequin Popstars FEMM!
The fascinating duo opens up about their unique backstory and mission.
As their website explains, FEMM is a group whose members take on the role of mannequins, seeking to draw attention to all the mannequins who have gone missing and normalizing their presence among earthlings in the process. The group uses fantastical storytelling to send relatable messages in a compelling way. I naturally had lots of questions about FEMM and their concept, and they explained it to me while in character.
Please introduce yourselves and explain who FEMM is for people who have not heard of you yet.
RiRi: We are a mannequin duo from New Tokyo. I’m RiRi, a combat mannequin, and my partner is LuLa, a housekeeper mannequin. We wish for humans and mannequins to unite and have a peaceful world.
You two are also named MS-000000 and SW-000000. What is the meaning of those names?
RiRi: Those are our serial numbers. They were given to us by our agents from FEMM’s Agency Syndicate when we were first made. We don’t really know what the numbers mean.
You two have very different personalities, but what are some personality traits you have in common? Do your personality traits ever change and evolve like human ones do?
LuLa: We are really different, but since we are so close, we tend to synchronize. We can understand how the other is feeling. And yes, like humans, we are evolving too. :) As time passes and we [are learning] daily, we are getting more mature.
RiRi: I have always loved being active, like dancing or doing martial arts. LuLa has always loved fashion and pretty things. She is more of a girly type, I think. We were scouted by our agents, and the minute we met, we [bonded]. Ever since, we [have been] like sisters and partners in crime!
Where does your fashion inspiration come from?
LuLa: I’m usually in charge of our fashion, and when I look for inspiration, I tend to people-watch, throughout the city or through [social media].
One of your goals has been to rescue the mannequins who have gone missing, and another goal is to spread empowering messages through music. Are these goals related? What steps have you taken to achieve these goals?
RiRi: Eligible mannequins with potential, like us, were scouted by FEMM’s Agency Syndicate and got upgraded at the secret facility. Our main goal is to speak up as leaders of all mannequins to let the world know that we have feelings too and want to make peace with humans. Connecting with both regular mannequins and upgraded ones, we are all together. Lately, I don’t really see a borderline, though. I think it’s because we got to be so close to humans and they are letting us in, so I believe our movement is really working.
Another one of your goals has been to better understand humans. Have you been successful at that so far? What have you learned about humans since emerging onto the scene?
LuLa: I think it’s really important to learn about each other. Humans are so kind, but at the same time, they seem to fear the unknown. Seeing how they react [is] interesting. It [is] kind of funny how they try to communicate with us without words, when we can actually understand. Maybe they are trying to be more like us too. :)
Your motto is “Do dolls have feelings? Do their songs move people?” Could you explain what that means?
RiRi: That is a line from [our] trailer when we were just starting out. It’s not actually our motto, but more like a question [from] that time. We definitely think that our songs as mannequins move people. Lots of our Agents (aka FEMM fans) are loving our songs, and we are so grateful! Our motto [now is], “We are mannequins with emotions. We’re here to make peace with humans.”
You advocate for the rights of both dolls and mannequins. Does it matter to you who is called a doll and who is called a mannequin?
LuLa: They can be in the same category. Whenever I watch the movie Toy Story, my heart aches. [We were not] trying to divide mannequin and dolls, but we were trying to be more specific [about our purpose], if that makes sense.
Can you and other mannequins experience human emotions? How are you able to perform songs that resonate with humans without being humans yourselves?
RiRi: Yes, all mannequins have feelings. Even if they cannot communicate or speak up, they are feeling emotions inside. What if you [had] to wear something terrible or just be abandoned like some object? Of course you would feel sad. All mannequins feel the same way. Lots of things were difficult for us in the beginning, but as time passed and [we got] to know more about humans, we [got] to be more like them. Now, we [have] started to write our own lyrics, so I think our message can get more raw.
How have the reactions to FEMM changed over time?
LuLa: Little by little, more people are getting to know us. We got lots of comments towards our albums, Tokyo Girls Anthem and Tokyo Ex Machina, and for the music videos too. We are so happy to see all the comments from our Agents.
You’ve collaborated with producers from all over the world! Who have been some of the most memorable and special artists to work with?
RiRi: We are really lucky to be able to work with so many amazing producers. Radical Hardcore Clique is one of our go-to producers who [has] made most of our remixes and lots of other songs too. I think they really understand our style. VEDO on “Tic Toc” is for sure amazing. His melody line is emotional and iconic. Danny L Harle on “Peach” was super special, dope and edgy, everything we wanted. All producers and songs are important to us. :)
In 2020, you upgraded to “FEMM 2.0.” What are the biggest differences between who you were before and after this upgrade, and what will future upgrades entail?
LuLa: Our movements got more smooth. Some of our Agents miss our old robotic ways, but it’s not like we can’t do that anymore. Even better, we get to do more things, both hardcore mannequins movements and human-like. We might get a future update, and we might not be able to learn fast, but will try to do our best. :)
What do you think the secret to FEMM’s global popularity is? Why have you become so famous?
RiRi: Awww. [We’re not] there yet at all, but [it’s] so sweet of you to think of us like that. ♡ Our main goal is not fame, but to be a voice for mannequins and all people who feel lost or mistreated. Because we are their friends, I think most of our [fans] really feel it. Being different is beautiful, and we are there for them. That’s what we will keep on doing. ♡
What made you decide to form a project group with other artists, called FAMM’IN? Are new project groups a possibility in the future?
LuLa: FAKY and Yup’in are close labelmates, and we decided to collaborate. We did other collabs with Liz, Elle Teresa, Duke of Harajuku, RHC… It ’s always refreshing to work with amazing artists. We are looking forward to [doing] more!
What process goes into preparing a FEMM live performance? How long does it take to prepare a choreographed routine, and how many different people are involved?
RiRi: It really depends on the event. If it’s urgent, we will have to learn our moves in a day, but if we have time, we will rehearse until we feel comfortable. As for staff, I think [music video] shoots can be the most crowded. We usually work with [the same] staff, whom we can trust and love. At the end of the day, all we need is each other.
Do you plan to tour sometime in the future?
LuLa: Yes! We are touring in July, [and the tour is called] “FEMM-Isation UK/EU Tour 2022.” It’s been a while [since we traveled] overseas to meet our Agents, and we are so excited! We want to come visit the United States, too! We [hope] it can happen soon. :)
Do you plan to explore other career paths someday, in addition to singing? For example, have you considered acting or releasing a clothing line?
RiRi: Wow! We are not thinking that far yet. But thank you, it could be awesome to branch out into other paths. But for now, we want the world to hear us out and love our music. :)
Lastly, what is your overall message to your fans?
RiRi: Hi, Agents!!! Thank you for reading this interview. :) Even though we are going through tough times, we want to come to you and perform for you. See you soon!!! XOXO.
LuLa: How are you guys?? We want to meet our Agents ASAP. :) Hope you guys are enjoying our new album. :) Let’s meet for sure!
Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.