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(CNN) — Is Ai Carina Uemura a Japanese Beyoncé or more an Asian Missy Elliott?

Caught between J-pop and American urban music, the multi-million record selling artist, known simply as “Ai”, has been working hard to create her own sound and unique identity.

Though flattered by being compared to U.S. female R&B and hip hop superstars, while growing up the 28-year-old was more inspired by Michael Jackson.

“In my lyrics and how I perform, I always look up to him, respect him, so I really want to be like him. I want to be original, but it’s good to have a role model,” she told CNN.

Born in Los Angeles to a Japanese father and Italian mother, Ai moved to Japan when she was four years old, returning as a teenager to California to study at L.A. County High School for Arts.

Two years after being recruited to four-piece Asian girl group SX4 she was given a record deal in Japan by label BMG .

But her first release didn’t go well. The fan of American urban music was singing J-pop and admits that her own attitude didn’t help endear her to her audience.

“I had this confidence when I went back to Japan. I thought Japanese people would be an easier crowd than American crowds.

“If people weren’t watching me I would throw the microphone and leave the stage… I used to have a bad attitude. I thought I have to change otherwise people aren’t going to like me anymore,” she told CNN.

She left BMG for Def Jam Japan and in 2005 had her biggest hit, “Story”, a tune that was downloaded more than three million times.

Overcoming other people’s expectations and prejudices has been a part of Ai’s life and she’s still aiming high.

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Article courtesy of: CNN