TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese commercial music juggernaut AKB48 has added a 37-year-old mother of two to the wildly popular all-girl group as it looks to broaden the appeal of its teen-dominated line-up.
The collective, whose 90-plus singers and dancers are rotated in and out of the limelight according to their waxing and waning popularity, regularly pump out songs that sell more than a million copies.
But the management behind one of the most successful brands in showbiz put out advertisements last month seeking older members to branch out of its teen and early-20s demographic.
Enter homemaker Mariko Tsukamoto, a mother of two, who was picked from a pool of over 5,000 applicants including an 82-year-old lady, according to local media.
Tsukamoto will take part in live concerts and promotional events through August.
"I want to cheer up all the mums out there who are busy raising kids, like me," she said in a statement on Thursday.
AKB48, one of the most lucrative groups of all time, is part pop act, part talent show, and a member's time on the front line is determined by how much adoration they inspire from fans.
The most popular girls or young women remain a part of the core group who sing and dance their way through formulaic bubblegum tunes. Those who fall out of public favour are demoted to a sub-group in an organisation structured somewhat like a football league.
Much of the group's appeal lies in frequent opportunities for fans to meet them, chat with them or befriend them on social networking sites.