Friday, September 7, 2012

ICDS 2012: Insights from Cosplayers Yaya Han and Jerry Polence

Yaya and Jerry on stage for their panel
Originating initially from the world of manga, anime and games, cosplayers are now a staple of almost any pop-culture convention.

In recent years, interest in cosplay has been gaining ground with Red Dot Islanders. Even some senior citizens are getting into the fray!

While a high percentage of cosplayers still focus on  anime or game characters, Red Dot Diva thinks that there have been more cosplayers who are getting into the "Western" characters. For example, the superheroes and supervillains from comics, or iconic characters in popular TV series and Hollywood movies.

Whatever they choose to dress up as, cosplayers sure liven up the geek culture scene in so many different ways.

At International Cosplay Day Singapore (ICDS) 2012 held recently at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, US-based cosplayer celebrities Yaya Han and Jerry Polence joined hundreds of local cosplayers, avid photographers and bystander-fans to celebrate the diversity and friendship from cosplay. As special guests together with well-known photographer Jay Tablante, they participated in panels and were judges for the cosplay competition held that day.

In the flurry of all that lace, glitter and fur, plain little Red Dot Diva felt privileged to be able to sit down with Yaya and Jerry to gather their insights on the colourful but time-staking art form.

Gorgeous women - Yaya and Jerry
During the interview, vivacious Yaya (who undoubtedly has the va-va-vroom bod for the more voluptuous characters in pop-culture) shared that when she started in 1999, cosplay was still something quite new, and it was even difficult to get wigs then. She found herself drawn to cosplay because it was an expressive and a very creative activity.

After all these years participating in cosplay, she has managed to start a business from making costumes and doing cosplay, she sure doesn't see herself stopping any time soon.

The elegant but quieter Jerry mentioned that her first cosplay was in 2003, when her friends invited her to join them to an event "where one could dress up as any character you want". It was her first eye-opening introduction to the world of cosplay and she found herself hooked after that. Jerry says that she regularly shares tips and experiences with fans online through her blog or YouTube videos.

Both ladies were very sweet yet frank during the short chat with Red Dot Diva, peppering the session with anecdotes of their personal experiences. And after the 20-minute interview, Red Dot Diva came away having a better understanding and stronger appreciation for those who cosplay regularly.

Red Dot Diva: What was your first impression of Singapore? Is this your first time here?
Jerry: This is my first time.
Yaya: I actually didn't know very much of Singapore. I knew it is a small island but I didn't realize it was so modern and so opulent. I have had a wonderful time here. Jason has been a great host and I wish I could stay longer.
Jerry: I have an aunt who lives here, and I have met Jason (from NeoTokyo Project, organizers of ICDS) and Kaika before and they talk about Singapore a lot. Which makes the anticipation of coming over here even greater. It's been an awesome time for me.

Red Dot Diva: Did you try any of our local foods here yet?
Yaya: I just had laksa last night. It's hot and spicy and flavourful. Totally awesome!
Jerry: I am a big foodie, and when I came here, I expected to eat. I had laksa too, because the dish has been featured in the States, in many programs and in the news. I loved it. It just had the right kick.

Red Dot Diva: Where either of you already interested in crafting when you started out on cosplay?
Yaya: For me, I had never craft before. But I had always been interested in fashion and I love pretty things. A lot of things I never knew you could make yourself. Through cosplay, that's when I learnt how to sew. And then, I told myself I wanna learn how to style a wig now! And I wanna learn how to make jewelry, and armour. And it went from there.
Jerry: We had a subject called home economics in grade school and I was always on top of that. So I love crafting a lot. And my grandmother, we were a generation of seamstresses. So sewing is not too foreign for me. But I still have to learn a lot of new things, because if you do complicated stuff, you have to learn new techniques all the time.

Red Dot Diva: There are so many aspects of crafting for cosplay like sewing, wigs, armour, etc. Which aspect did you have to spend time mastering in order to come up with a costume?
Jerry: I can sew squares, just straight lines. But if you are talking about corsets or ballgowns, which consists of Western-styled tailoring.... the cut needs to follow the contour of the body and it has to be just right to look good. It is challenging for me, because I have to pattern it out differently.
Yaya: Embroidery. This (Yaya shows the hem of her Chun Li skirt) was done by my own hand. Knowing how to construct a garment and making it flattering. Sewing is an artform by itself but cosplay takes you so much beyond just sewing.

Yaya's Catwoman googles

Like these goggles - they started out as regular goggles, then I had to sculpt on top of them to create the perfect shape for the Catwoman goggles. And then seal it and sand it for two days to get it super-smooth, so that it'll go with the rest of the plastic. The rest of the plastic is moulded and I wanted it to blend in seamlessly. This was a new experience for me.

And then, what I've recently learned. This is scale mail. (see pic below!)

I'm trying to make two sleeves and they will go around and connect here, and the ends together so that it becomes a tube and a sleeve.

Jerry: This will take days to make!
Red Dot Diva: O_O
Yaya: This was the first piece I made and I didn't know how to connect them properly. And I got confused, so I started a brand new one. And finally, this becomes real armour. I learnt this by watching a YouTube video. This is what cosplay forces me to do, and when I want a certain effect or I see something in a movie, or somebody do it on stage, I desire to learn it. And I like that cosplay gives me the feeling that I can learn and do anything.

Red Dot Diva: What's the most pain-staking, time consuming costume you've ever done? 
Yaya: For me, Carmilla from "Vampire Hunter D". I am still looking for something to top that. 5 and a half weeks. I want to be able to say that I worked on something like for 3 months. (laughs) And my Dawn costume. I made two costumes simultaneously. All day, I'll roll from my bed to make my costume then I'll roll back to bed.
Jerry: I'm in the process of making one of the most challenging costumes. I'm in the midst of starting Medusa from "Petshop of Horrors". Yes, I have a thing about snakes! It's not hard but it takes a lot of time to be able to do the beadwork.

Red Dot Diva: With all these long-distance travelling. how to you decide which costume to bring? Because you have so many!
(Everyone laughs because this is obviously something even non-cosplayer females like Red Dot Diva can identify with!)
Yaya: Well, I was supposed to bring another costume for this show - the Wizard from "Granado Espada" but the costume itself takes up one full suitcase. We had to go to the Philippines first to shoot with Jay (Tablante) - Jay requested 3 costumes - and I brought 7 different looks for the FHM shoot that we did, so most of the suitcase was for that day. And so I asked Jason if he didn't mind that I wore two of the outfits that I already brought and thankfully, Jason was very nice and agreed. 

You have to take into account the event, what people will appreciate because different countries know different characters and different shows. And take into account the weather, whether inside or outside, and if it will fit into your luggage.

Jerry: I came from Seattle, stopping over at Hawaii and then, I did an event in the Philippines before I came here. I brought 3 costumes throughout - a ballgown, a very convenient mini dress, and then this one .... (pointing to one of her costumes parts - she was dressed as Desperado Cassiopeia - that was a giant snake tail!) This I didn't bring in from the States. It was commissioned for in the Philippines, which I was surprised had turned out so well. I just gave them my measurements and I wasn't fitted for it. They made it and hoped it was right, and then they painted it. But it ended up fitting me very well.
Red Dot Diva: Part of cosplay these days is about the photography, and appearing in photos. What are your tips concerning modelling aspect of cosplay?
Yaya: Cosplay is no longer just having a good costume and looking good in it in person. The final step is taking a great photo. Photography has become so vital in cosplay and Jay Tablante takes it to the extreme by imposing different parts, like he'll shoot just the upper body or just the hair to get it perfect. And then composite it together to make it look like a super-being that's just beyond a person in a photo. I respect Jay's method but personally, I like the organic part of taking photos. It's when I can get and acting into the character for photos. Learn the character and signature poses. Be aware of lighting. Understand light and shadow. I try to avoid bad shadows on myself in photography.

Jerry: If you are doing on convention floors, Yaya's advice is very good. And practise in the mirror to know what looks good and effective. Especially if you have put on the costume, don't be shy. It's just a mirror. And then pose, and work on the character's poses. More likely, the more confident that you look good in that pose, the higher possibility the shot will come up good.

Yaya striking a Chun Li pose
Jerry with her fantastical costume on stage

The interview wrapped up a question on what advice the two of them could offer to cosplay newbies. Red Dot Diva found it interesting that both strongly recommended budding cosplayers and those who want to take up new craft skills, to basically do their research.

"You can find almost absolutely anything on the internet now," Yaya said. "You can Google websites on how to make wings or weapons. That wasn't the case when I first started out in cosplay."

Jerry agrees, "There are tons of YouTube videos out there - course for beading, and whatever else."

So, there you have it, dear avid cosplayers and aspiring cosplay models out there.

Get bold; get creative.
Then, start working our butt out for that costume, and go cosplay it out to your heart's desire!


Thanks to NeoTokyo Project for the media invite to ICDS, and to Jason for arranging this interview!
And to the lovely Yaya and Jerry -- it was an absolute pleasure to meet you both that day. Hope to bump into either of you some day soon!


To connect with both cosplayers, fans can head to the links below.

Yaya Han:

Jerry Polence:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interview, it was a delight conversing with you :D