She isn't Pucca, Sailor Moon or Hello Kitty. She is a dance star born on YouTube. She is Beckii Cruel: a white, 15-year-old British girl who has become a goddess in Japan. Eleven million viewers launched her from a quiet island near Scotland into the pop stratosphere.
The Isle of Man floats between England and Ireland on the Irish Sea. It is a small island, best-known for its calm natural beauty and its annual motorbike festival. Ramsey is its second-biggest town, and home to 7,000 people, including the Flint family.
'It just happened', says Derek Flint, and 'when it happens, you think there'd be somewhere to go for advice, but there's nowhere.' Derek is trying to solve this problem, he's even writing a book about it: What do you do when your daughter becomes famous overnight?
Rebecca Flint was 14-years-old when she dressed up in the style of a Japanese anime character and filmed herself dancing to the song Danjo. She was not alone by any means. Dancing to Danjo is a popular internet meme in Japan, and 'cosplay', dressing up in costumes to dance, is even more widespread. For months the response to her video was unexceptional. But when it was picked up by the influential Japanese website Niko Niko Douga in June 2009, her popularity exploded, and the phone began to ring in Ramsey.
Within a couple of months Beckii Cruel (Rebecca's professional name) was dancing live in front of 25,000 people in Tokyo's Saitama Arena. She signed to a label, and a whirlwind of promotional work followed: on Japanese radio and TV, in newspapers and magazines, and with the clothing labels Fila and Uniqlo. She is currently the 20th most subscribed user on YouTube in Japan, and her YouTube account has exceeded 13 million views. When she released her DVD, This is Beckii Cruel: Too Cute To Be Real in November 2009, it went straight to number eight in the charts. News reports estimate that Beckii Cruel has brought 40 million yen into the Japanese economy.
All the news of Rebecca's success took slightly longer to break in Ramsey, and when it did, it was largely greeted with a kind of surprised, cheerful bemusement. Behind every teen pop celebrity, everyone expects to find an ugly, inhuman PR machine, with pushy parents at the levers, but with the Flint family, this simply doesn't seem to be the case. A straight-A student, Rebecca built Beckii Cruel completely on her own in her bedroom, not just creating her dance videos, but develop-ing and maintaining her internet presence, and building personal relationships with her fans.
Many of her fans she considers to be friends. Amongst them are Emily Brockett, aged six, from Glasgow, Scotland. With the help of her mother, Satomi, Emily also posts videos of herself dancing online, imitating Beckii Cruel. Another friend is Makoto Fujioka, from Yamaguchi, Japan. Makoto has been a fan from the very beginning. He is shy about revealing his age, but is keen to put to rest one of the most common misgivings people have about Beckii Cruel's career: 'Beckii and her family know that I'm not a pedophile, or lolicon, or any kind of ab-normal. They are very smart and kind.'
Derek Flint, a policeman, is well-aware of the risks online. 'You have to trust your instincts', he says. He considers the dangers posed to Rebecca to be minor compared to the benefits of her success: 'If we allowed the weirdos to get in the way, we'd never get anything done.' In the eyes of many people, Beckii is now living the dream, recording singles with Universal, the major music label.
I never created Beckii Cruel – she sort of became me.
Beckii Cruel, 15, Ramsey, Isle of Man
Back in Ramsey, Rebecca Flint is singing karaoke on the family sofa. She appears totally relaxed, totally at home. In the middle of talking to her friend, she turns to our photo-grapher, suddenly professional. 'Do you need anything else?' asks Beckii Cruel, the star.