What’s going on everyone? Happy Saturday, new Cosplay Cafe interview for your viewing. This time I’m teaming up with Sooyong (Schizoalias) this weekend. So sit back and get to know Sooyong.
1) What were you like growing up? What were some of the things you were into as a child/teenager?
If I try to imagine my childhood again, I have a better memory of the drawings that I did over the years rather than the social interactions I had with others. I was very introverted, shy, and in school, I pretty much talked only when necessary.
I think many self-described nerds my age were the first in their family to embrace comics, anime, video games, etc. But I inherited those interests from my dad, who was a big fan of Star Trek, wrote computer programs on the Commodore64 and bought a Sega Genesis, our first video game console when my brother and I were kids.
My interests stayed consistent throughout my childhood to today. Sailor Moon was my gateway to anime when I was 5 years old, and was my obsession all throughout elementary school. In middle school I started listening to J-Pop and anime songs that I’d find on the internet as well as on burned CDs that my brother got from his friends in high school, so much that I may have missed out on almost a decade’s worth of American pop music, with the exception of a few hit songs that my classmates knew.
2) Did those things influence who you are today?
I think having grown up liking things that many of my classmates didn’t know about contributed to my introverted personality. In a way, those interests influenced who ended up being longtime friends of mine. My best friend of over 20 years and I first bonded over Sailor Moon, at a time where none of our classmates knew what Sailor Moon was. I think that friendship became the framework for how I made friends and bonded with others, as well as the anime and games I chose to watch.
Some might accuse me of being a hipster, but that’s definitely not the case—it’s that somehow I tend to be attracted to things that get low-key attention and have fewer but very devoted fans. It wasn’t to try to be ‘cool’ or ‘unique,’ but because it was something that specifically appealed to me at a time when I had a hard time relating to others. While I try to stay aware of what’s popular, I think there’s a level of pressure to keep up when you know that everyone else is into it and talking about it, and that’s something I struggle with as an introvert—even if it’s just social media interaction, it can be exhausting. I like moving at my own pace.
3) Blerdcon, you made some history at the convention. For those not in the loop, Sooyong won the grand prize in the cosplay contest. Has it sunk in now that the convention is over?
It definitely took a few days for it to really sink in. Going back to how I grew up, when I was in high school I was surrounded by the best of the best: students with above 4.0 GPAs, holding positions in student government and multiple clubs, having private music teachers that would boost them into the top positions in the school band and orchestra classes. Forget about trying to shine; I was struggling just to keep up, and that pressure did a ton of damage to my self-esteem. For a very long time, winning a contest and having people look to me as a role model just wasn’t something I thought was in the cards for me. So that’s why I cried when I was called at the cosplay contest for the grand prize. Not just being noticed, but being singled out by name with a large audience watching was just crazy to me. It was surreal at first, but now I’m starting to look at my costumes with more confidence, as being competition-worthy in addition to being personal accomplishments.
4) Staying on Blerdcon, how did your panel go? If I recall it was Cosplay in Japan 101.
My Cosplay in Japan 101 panel went well! I’m glad that there was a good turnout and the attendees seemed very interested and had some great questions. Having formerly been an English teacher in Japan, I’ve really developed my presentation skills and I’ve found that I really love being a panelist. As a cosplayer, the focus has been more on my appearance, but I’ve always wanted people to hear what I have to say. Running panels helps me put my voice out there. I hope to be able to present other panels in the future.
5) What goes into making something like Viola from Soul Calibur V and Yueying? The detailing looks spot on.
One thing I really pride myself on is my keen attention to detail. I always look for the absolute best reference pictures I can possibly get, and if possible I’ll make sure I have a copy of the game, which will let me see the character at different angles. The great thing about 3D video games is that they look more and more realistic in terms of textures, so that helps me determine what kind of fabric/materials I should be looking for.
During the construction process, I use my previous experiences on other costumes, although some costumes can be so different that there’s almost always something new involved. In those cases, it’s research mixed with trial-and-error.
6) Off topic, favorite food?
Fried chicken: Chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, chicken wings with mumbo sauce, chicken “karaage”…I just love chicken. I also love Korean food; I grew up with kimchi, plain or fried tofu, bulgogi, dried seaweed, etc. so eating it makes me feel in-touch with my culture and also proud of my healthy eating habits!
7) What is one thing you feel the cosplay community needs to improve on?
I think we need to stop paying so much attention and reacting so strongly to what other people are doing. Cosplay encompasses so many people from around the world, with different backgrounds. Someone is bound to do something that is regarded as problematic for others, and while it’s okay to offer up your perspective, I think going on witch hunts to find people doing something you don’t like and hurling insults at them and attacking them personally is counterproductive. I also don’t agree with letting what you see in the cosplay world have too much influence on what you choose to do. Just because someone has a ‘nicer’ body or the ‘right’ skin tone or is more famous doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make the same costume. Cosplay is a personal journey and it’s not about being better than everyone else, but being the best YOU can be. Constantly worrying about what other people are doing just feels like a waste of time and energy.
8) What is one thing cosplay has taught you?
One thing I’ve learned over time is that, while many cosplayers look to cosplay as an escape from reality, the cosplay world is and will always be imperfect, because we are still human. So while we try to enjoy the things about cosplay that reality doesn’t give us, we shouldn’t stress TOO much over trying to make the cosplay universe some kind of utopia. Your idea of a ‘utopia’ may be totally different from someone else’s.
9) Funniest memory while cosplaying?
I don’t know if this one is the funniest, but something that happened in 2016 that was eye-opening to me was when I had met a pair of cosplayers at Katsucon, and chatted with them about a series we were both cosplaying from that day. I said something that hinted to them about my age and their faces just froze and mouths dropped open. When I asked what was wrong, they answered, “…we’re in high school.” I had only realized then that cosplay sometimes makes me totally oblivious to age differences! Although I don’t really do things that would be considered inappropriate for the under-18 crowd, that moment did make me aware that we should be careful of how we behave at conventions.
10) Do you have any cosplays you’re currently working on?
I have some ideas and some unfinished projects. These days I don’t really announce my cosplay plans because it’s uncertain whether I’ll finish them. I also have quite a selection of costumes that I’m fine with rotating until I can devote myself to a new project.
11) What conventions can people find you at later this year?
I will be at Otakon presenting two panels: “Cosplay in Japan 101” and “Japan Exclusive No More: A Guide to Proxy Shopping.” I also have plans to attend Anime USA in December, and hopefully, I will be presenting some panels there as well.
12) Final question, anything you want to say to your fans?
Create. Inspire. Be inspired. Respect. Love. Listen.
As always links are above as to where you can follow Sooyong. It was great to interview her and I’m looking forward to what she does next. Until next time, I’m XBen3000 and I’m out!