Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎 あゆみ Hamasaki Ayumi?, born October 2, 1978) is a Japanese recording artist, lyricist, model, and actress. Hamasaki has achieved popularity in Japan and Asia by enforcing her position as an artist and not trying to be forced as a "product", which was a common factor within the Japanese music culture and Avex Trax. Through her entire career, she has written all her lyrical content, produced her own music and has sometimes co-composed her music, which is evident in her albums I Am..., Rainbow and My Story.
Born and raised in Fukuoka, she moved to Tokyo at fourteen to pursue a career in entertainment. In 1998, under the tutelage of Avex CEO Max Matsuura, Hamasaki released her debut single "Poker Face" and released her million-selling record A Song for XX. The album debuted at the top of the Oricon charts and remained there for four weeks, establishing her popularity in Japan. Her next five albums accomplished over one million shipments in Japan, with her third effort Duty selling near three million units, becoming her best selling studio album. A Best, her first compilation album, is her best selling album, with more than four million copies sold in Japan. In 2008, after her album Next Level was released, album and single sales declined due to ongoing competition with new upcoming artists. Throughout her career, Hamasaki has had all her albums within the top five position in Japan and has five million-selling singles, including "Boys & Girls", "A", "Seasons", "M" and "H".
Also called "Ayu" by her fans, Hamasaki has been dubbed the "Empress of J-pop" because of her popularity and widespread influence in Japan and throughout Asia. Hamasaki's constantly changing image and tight control over her artistry has helped her popularity extend across Asia; music and fashion trends she has started have spread regionally to China, Singapore and other countries across Southeast Asia. She has appeared in or lent her songs to many advertisements and television commercials. Though she originally supported the exploitation of her popularity for commercial purposes, she later reconsidered and eventually opposed her status as an Avex "product".
Hamasaki has sold over 50 million records, making her one of the best-selling artists in Japan. Hamasaki has several domestic record achievements for her singles, such as the most number-one hits by a female artist (38); the most consecutive number-one hits by a solo artist (twenty-five), and the most million-sellers. From 1999 to 2010, Hamasaki had at least one single each year topping the charts. Hamasaki is the first female recording artist to have eight studio albums since her debut to top the Oricon and the first artist to have a number-one album for 13 consecutive years since her debut. Hamasaki's second remix album, Super Eurobeat Presents Ayu-ro Mix, is recognized as one of the best selling remix albums of all time and remains her only album to be recognized in a worldwide accreditation.
Hamasaki dated singer-actor Tomoya Nagase since her brief acting career, and they publicly announced their relationship in 2001. Six years later, the media circulated rumors that the couple were about to get married; however, on July 13, 2007 Hamasaki announced that they had broken up. Though Hamasaki did not explain the reason for the split, she stated that they had parted amicably and the two remained friends.
On January 1, 2011, Hamasaki announced her upcoming marriage to Austrian actor and model Manuel Schwarz, whom Hamasaki met in August 2010 on the set of her music video for "Virgin Road". On January 2, her office announced that she and Schwarz had gotten married in the United States the day before. However, on January 16, 2012, Hamasaki announced on her website that she would be divorcing Schwarz. The reason for the divorce was that, initially, Hamasaki wanted to move in with Schwarz in United States but due to the earthquake and tsunami that hit her home country on March, 2011, she began to have a strong desire not to leave Japan. However, another report claimed that the real reason of the divorce was that Hamasaki was unaware of Schwarz's releasing of a nude pictorial book, filled with raunchy poses.
On November 14, 2012 trying to beat the tabloids with the news, Hamasaki announced on her TeamAyu fanclub blog that she and back-up dancer Maro (Uchiyama Maroka) were in a serious relationship stating "An article about me will be published in a weekly magazine tomorrow. The contents are about Maro-chan and myself. I don't want everyone to hear incorrect rumours about me from other sources, and I don't want to hide anymore, so I will say it clearly. I am in a serious relationship with Maro-chan." Maro then confirmed the news on his own blog the same day. Shortly after their announcement, the story spread quickly through the news, tabloids and gossip.
On December 13, 2013, it was announced on her official TeamAyu site that she had become engaged to an American medical student 10 years her junior, whom she had been with since the Spring of that year, adding "As my partner is an ordinary student, I would be very happy if you could watch over us quietly."
On March 3, 2014, the singer announced on her fan club site "Team Ayu" that she is officially married. According to her agency, the couple already finished their marriage procedure in the United States near the end of February. On the 3rd, Hamasaki's mother, as a deputy, submitted the marriage registration to Japan.
In a January 8, 2008 entry on her TeamAyu blog, Hamasaki announced that an inoperable condition, possibly tinnitus or Ménière's disease, had caused complete deafness in her left ear. She disclosed that she had been diagnosed with the condition in 2006 and that the problem dated back to 2000. Despite the setback, Hamasaki stated that she wished to continue singing, and that she would "not give up" on her fans and that "as a professional", she wanted to "deliver the best performance for everyone".