The model/Youtuber gives us the LD on her much-anticipated debut album.
By Aimee O’Loughlin
Let’s face it—Yumi Nootenboom was destined for fame. Aside from being seriously gorge (she’s a curve model signed with Wilhelmina), Yumi was born with an iconic family tree (I mean, her uncle is DJ Steve Aoki and her aunt is model/actress Devon Aoki) and from an early age she began learning how to sing while also steadily growing a fan base on Youtube—a platform she uses to confidently speak about her beliefs and discuss body positivity, mental health, self-love, and other important topics (YES, girl). Today, the 21-year-old is gearing up to dominate the music world, after featuring in two KILLER collaborations, “I’m Sorry” with Olmos and “Felt You” with Sylo Nozra, while meticulously crafting her debut EP Sincerely, an album mixed with ethereal sounds, R&B beats, and heart-wrenching lyrics. We already love her first track “Sirens”, which you can (and you MUST) check out below. Eager to hear more, we caught up with the songstress to chat about the rest of the album, her Youtube outlet, and standing up for what’s right.
So first and foremost, tell me about your debut single, “Sirens”.
Releasing “Sirens” and seeing the world react to my debut has been the most exciting time of my life. Olmos and I have collaborated on few songs since “I’m Sorry,” but this single resonated with me on a lot of levels, so I’m happy to have it as the first release, and finally share my art with everyone.
How does it feel to have finally released your music into the world after working on it for a while behind the scenes of your modeling career?
It feels better than I could have ever imagined! I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life, and I’ve always had a vision for the kind of artist I wanted to be, and the kind of music I wanted to make, but only recently have I had the resources to fulfill it. It’s taken years behind the scenes to get here, but finally everything is coming to fruition and I could not be more excited!
You’re at the beginning stages of defining yourself as a musician. How would you describe your sound and what do you want people to take away from it?
My sound is warm and ethereal which comes from a lot of R&B and electronic music influences. When writing, I like my songs to be a very honest look into my life, and hopefully people will see the vulnerability and raw emotion I am sharing, and be able to relate to it, and feel less alone in whatever they are going through.
Can you reveal anything about the rest of the album?
The album is a full journey through a relationship, from having a crush, to staying true to yourself after a breakup, and I think there is something for everyone within the project.
What inspires your music?
I’ve always loved underground artists of any genre, but mostly alternative R&B music with unique sounds. There’s so much raw flavor and quality from homemade songs made in bedroom studios. Even in High School, I was glued to Soundcloud, and I don’t think I’ve listened to the radio in 5 years. I lean towards R&B because growing up, my dad used to play a lot of R&B (plus house and hip-hop) from artists like Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, a Tribe Called Quest, and Sade. That vibe has had a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember.
I understand that as well as having a well-known family, your younger sister, Natalie Nootenboom has also embarked on a career as a plus-size model with musical aspirations, like yourself. At the beginning, did you give her any advice about dealing with being in the public eye, or on her opportunity as an advocate for body positivity?
Definitely. I never had anyone to guide me through modeling, and I started at a young age, so I had to fend for myself professionally and learn under fire. When Natalie first started, I made sure she was being treated well and helped her avoid difficult situations. I know how hard it is to step into a new industry and figure out what is right, or normal. She’s had her own personal experience in different ways than I have, but I think my guidance has helped her escape a lot of hard lessons that I had to learn on my own.
You seem super strong and self-assured. Where do you get your confidence from?
In the past 10 years of modeling, I’ve dealt with a lot of insecurities. It’s been a long, painful journey of growth to get to this place where I finally love myself, but it feels great to be here. Life is too short to constantly feel drained with negativity and insecurity! I’ve talked a lot about this on my YouTube channel, which has been an important outlet for me, and my faith always keeps me grounded.
You have a really cool look. How would you describe your style aesthetic?
Thank you so much! I would describe my style as minimal with a pop of character. I love all neutral tones, with some neon and lots of silver, gold, and clear. I’ve been more influenced by streetwear this year, but with my own feminine touch.
What’s your favorite thing in your closet?
I recently got this amazing massive, shiny black puffer jacket from a cool little shop in London. I was in the store debating buying it for hours, but when I left without it I realized I made the wrong choice, and went back immediately. That’s how you really know you want it. Now I’ve been wearing it literally anywhere that has a slight breeze. Missy Elliot vibes.
As well as being a Wilhelmina model and an upcoming musician, you also put a lot of work into your YouTube channel, as you mentioned before. You reveal a lot of yourself and your life on there. What’s that experience been like? Do you enjoy having that personal and intimate dialogue with your fans?
I started watching different channels when I was 10 and fell in love with the YouTube world. I always dreamed of having my own channel because YouTube gives a voice and platform to people who otherwise wouldn’t have one, and the intimate and personal dialogue is a great way to connect to people. I especially enjoy sharing my life and advice with my audience because we all are going through similar things, and I want people to feel less alone, and know that someone out there understands.
You also use it as a platform to talk about important issues like self-help, body confidence, racism, and mental health, which is amazing. What made you decide to be vocal about issues like this?
Since I’ve been able to talk, I’ve always been a very outspoken person. My parents raised me to always stand for what’s right, and that will stay with me forever. I feel like I’ve been blessed with a growing platform, and to not use it to speak on important issues would be a waste of my reach. All it takes is one person to step up and be bold to inspire others to do the same, and that’s what creates a movement. Together we can change the world.
What’s next for you? The release of your album and a big tour?
Up next will be the release of my debut EP “Sincerely,” which I am very excited to share, and then getting back in the studio!
What would you like to have achieved 5 years from now?
In 5 years, I will hopefully be performing all over the world, headlining my own tour, and growing as much as I can as a person and an artist. I’m looking forward to the future!