Last week the Japanese media was caught off-guard by the announcement that the actress Emi Takei and singer Takahiro from the pop group Exile had got married, and that Takei is pregnant.
Ordinarily this would be only a cause for celebration and congratulations, or perhaps some snide comments about the high rate of shotgun weddings among Japanese celebrities, but after the initial showbiz news outlets calmed down from their initial surprise at the announcement, attention soon changed to the impact this would have on Takei’s rising career.
It is commonplace in the Japanese entertainment industry to have clauses in contracts between agencies and talent as well as between the agency and their clients (primarily, advertising agencies and major brands) that forbid such acts as marriage and pregnancy during the period of, say, an advertising campaign. Violating these conditions may result in contract termination and even financial penalties. In this way, finding the love of your life is tantamount to a scandal involving drugs or adultery, which are likewise often specified in contracts.
It goes without saying that the legal implications of this are complex, since it is arguably a breach of human rights, but these are voluntarily signed contracts. Joining the books of the agency is a choice made by young people who want to be famous — and there is no shortage of others to take your place if you don’t sign. As opposed to the American entertainment industry model where agencies represent talent, the typical Japanese scenario has talent contracted to agencies like employees with salaries.
Takei’s shock marriage and pregnancy will likely mean that her lucrative ad campaigns will be pulled one after the other, since the brands may regard her image change from an innocent, angelic-faced 23-year-old to a married mother-to-as radically altering the personality they want fronting their products and services. At the very least, she will be unable to work for some time and so those gigs will be given to the next model with the look deemed suitable.
Though Takei’s acting career is hardly much to write home about, she has proven one of the most ubiquitous presences in advertising these past few years. She currently fronts TV campaigns for 10 major brands. These may be suspended in a few months’ time or not renewed, meaning a potential loss of billions of yen to her agency. There is now also intense media and tabloid speculation about the possible penalty fees Takei and her agency may even have to pay. This is said to have happened when the actress Meisa Kuroki, then an up-and-coming star, fell pregnant and married the singer Jin Akanishi in 2012. Akanishi was reportedly punished by his agency and saw his career stall for some time.
Allegations were also recently made about the celebrity Rola and her highly restrictive contract with her agency.