Yaya Han Interview
Interview by: Roxy Lee GG|
Hey geeks and geekettes, it is I Roxy Lee with yet another awesome interview. This time I have the one and only Yaya Han who was nice enough to have a chat with me! She is such an inspiration to me and tons of other cosplayers out there so this interview could not have meant more to the Geek girls, and we thought it would be perfect for our site.
Yaya is an international costume designer/cosplayer with 13 years experience, artistic model and widely recognized ambassador for Cosplay. Yaya is one of only few cosplayers in the world to build a business in this hobby-ist community, but even after a decade of success, she strives to stay true to what got her into this field originally - fun and creativity. To this day, Yaya has made a myriad of costumes in the genres of anime/manga, video games, sci-fi and of course from her own original designs.
Roxy: Hi Yaya, thanks so much for doing this interview for our site, I know a lot of our fans and girls are huge fans of yours, so we truly appreciate this.
Yaya: Thank you ladies for inviting me to chat! I love your website and am honored to be featured.
Roxy: Wow thanks so much! So I know that you are very well known in the cosplay world already, but tell us a little bit about yourself for those who are not as familiar with your work. How did you start cosplaying and making costumes exactly and when?
Yaya: I started making costumes 13 years ago, at Anime Expo 1999. I got into it just as a fan and hobbyist, but quickly became complete immersed in the art form. Soon I was winning a long list of costuming awards at conventions and being asked to do panels and programming as a Guest, and eventually I quit my day job to become a freelancing cosplay artist.
I see myself as an ambassador for cosplay, which is a very under-appreciated art form. Especially now that it is becoming more commercially seen, people can't figure it out and misconstrue cosplay for an underground fetish, a modeling thing or extreme halloween-ism. It's my mission where ever I go to educate people that cosplay is actually a challenging and rewarding form of art and creativity.
Roxy: That is amazing that you take the time to not only be a cosplayer but also speak on behalf of the art form itself. Now what were some of the first interests and/or hobbies you had within the geek culture that led you to embracing your inner Geek Girl?
Yaya: I grew up on watching anime and reading manga and those led me to playing video games and reading American comic books. I love the visual storytelling process, and fantastical stories. I read a lot of fiction as well, and love movies. It's all magic to me. Before cosplay, I was an avid artist who drew and painted her way through all of her teens. I even published a manga in Germany where I used to live! When cosplay took over, it became the end all be all of geekdom to me, since I would combine my love for a variety of fandom genres and characters with hands on craft and playing dress up. It's like never growing up!
Roxy: We get to be Peter Pan everyday ;) When and how did you learn to sew and fabricate such amazing and intricate costumes? Do you have any tips for a newbie cosplayer who is intimidated by the amount of work that goes into costuming? Any tips for new cosplayers as far as technique and shopping for materials?
Yaya: I had no idea how to sew or style wigs before getting into cosplay. A friend of mine showed me how to use a basic sewing machine and read a pattern and from then on it was just do or die. I just delved in headfirst. Of course my first costumes looked horrible and were very shoddily put together, but I loved the process of making something, and becoming someone. So I kept experimenting and reading sewing books, and picking up whatever knowledge I could online. These days it is so incredibly simple for anyone to learn how to sew, dye and cut wigs, make armor, cast gems and more. There is a wealth of knowledge online, from video tutorials to step by step instruction guides. You only need to have the patience to read and research. I learned how to make scale maille on Youtube. The same goes for finding materials, the info is out there online, and very easy to find. Community forums like The Replica Prop Forum are teeming with links and resources. My best tip for new cosplayer is to have the patience to sit down and do research.
Roxy: Patience is key I find. How long does it usually take for an entire costume to be finished, I know they all differ based on what’s needed, but say a more elaborate piece? What sort of routine do you use when designing and creating them if any?
Yaya: It can take anywhere between 8 hours and 150 hours for me to make a costume, though with my limited free time, I've had to become a very fast crafter in the last few years and I try not to judge a costume's merit by the hours put in. My routine is to gather all reference possible, sketching the costume and breaking it down into mini projects, and hoarding my materials until I have everything in the house that I need to make the costume. Then I marathon craft, for days, weeks, however much time I have been able to set aside for the costume.
Roxy: Wow the amount of dedication you devote to your art is astounding.What has been your absolute favorite cosplay to both wear and create thus far? And why?
Yaya: That changes with time since I'm constantly making new costumes, but right now I'd say it's Carmilla from Vampire Hunter D, because it's such a weird design to tackle, and when I'm wearing the costume, it's a complete tranformation. (See photo)
Roxy: How long did it take for you to rely on cosplay as a living and a career? Any advice for a cosplayer who wants to get sponsored?
Yaya: I officially quit my job beginning of 2005, but had been taking costume commissions already. My journey was a bit unconventional. For several years I made costumes for people, indie movies, theater, night clubs and TV shows. But when someone else dictates what you should make, your creativity gets stifled, and I wanted to design. So I shifted gears and started a cosplay accessories store where I design and hand make unique copyright protected items at a low price so many people can enjoy dressing up instantly. I pair that with building my own brand as Yaya Han and travel to conventions worldwide to be a Guest, panelist and/or exhibitor.
As for sponsoring, heck, even I'm not sponsored, lol. I think the cosplayers who have gotten sponsored had a nice mix of personality, look and luck of being in the right place at the right time. However, as I understand, a sponsorship can also limit you as the company can influence what costumes you make, what you can or can't promote, and what do to with your time. My advice for cosplayers is to not cosplay with the goal to get sponsored, but to cosplay for fun, friends, and creative fulfillment.
Roxy: Agreed! You have been to over 100 conventions either as a guest, judge, panelist, attendee, host and performer. What has been or is your favorite convention to attend and why? And elaborate a little on what you talk about at your panels or what a typical performance of yours is like.
Yaya: I love Dragoncon and Katsucon the most because they are incredibly cosplay friendly and all my friends are there. But I also love Project A-kon in Dallas, Anime Weekend Atlanta and San Diego Comic Con. Those are definitely my recommendations for US cons to visit. When I'm acting as a Guest for a convention, my job is to enhance the event experience and I take that very seriously. I do everything I can to be an engaging MC, unbiased dedicated judge and enigmatic panelist. Most people think it must be a dream to get a free trip to a con, but it is work and should be viewed as a responsibility. The days are hectic and I have to make it to multiple events on time, in costume, with all my gear and game plan ready. I also have a booth to run in the vendor hall, so I'm constantly on the move and taking photos, chatting with people, speaking in front of an audience, or signing merchandise. At night I usually relax with my friends and search out good food and drinks. :)
Roxy: The best part of a con is hanging out with good friends and having fun in and out of costume! Now we here at GeekxGirls are known for being a more mature site that features women who embrace their sexuality and bodies through the art of cosplay. I know you are known for wearing sexualized cosplays now and then as well. How do you feel about slut shaming within the geek community whether it be from other women or men? What would you say to women who are afraid to embrace their sexuality because of the scrutiny we face?
Yaya: Well, as someone who nervously first wore a bikini in public because of cosplaying a character 10 years ago, let me just say for the record that there was never slut-shaming back then. It was widely understood that girls just wore whatever the characters wore, skimpy or not. By the way, we female cosplayers also felt much safer to walk around a con 5 - 10 years ago.
But as cosplay has stretched beyond the hardcore dedicated cosplayers and con goers to anyone being able to purchase a made costume online and there being cons every weekend of the year, the waters are muddied with con attendees from all walks of life, with varying agendas. There is no differentiation between girls who cosplay to pay homage to their favorite character in a tight bodysuit, or girls who wear a tight bodysuit just for fun.
For me, the most important thing when cosplaying a character in a revealing outfit is to make sure the costume is accurate, well made, and flattering on my body. That way I do the character justice and I also don't feel like shit going out in public lol. I also take the responsibility of knowing what I look like in public, and maintain a classy mature demeanor to people and families who may not know what I'm dressed up as. That means choosing specific cons and times for certain costumes. Girl cosplayers, know your audience and surroundings. Some costumes are best for night time at a con like Dragoncon, where the attendees are older and more mature. Most importantly, safety in numbers, cosplay with your friends, and have fun.
Roxy: Awesome advice right there. How about when we are called out on are “Geek Cred” simply because we love to cosplay certain characters?
Yaya: In a similar vein, it's just all a bunch of unnecessary petty feelings between the geeks who have been geeks before it was cool, and everyone else who wants in on the fun. I'm proud to call myself a cosplay purist, but I can't judge others for how they want to be geeks. The only line I draw is when someone lies about having made their costume, such as in a contest, or takes credit for someone else's work. That's just not cool.
Roxy: Or fair to the creator either! What are some of your favorite Geek interests, hobbies, collectibles etc? What is your most cherished possession?
Yaya: I'd say cosplay is about the geekiest thing I can do in my life lol, but I still love anime, manga, comics and all of the stuff that I grew up with. It's hard to find time for video games because they take up so much time and time is what I don't have usually, but I do what I can and often craft while friends are playing so I can still follow along the story.
I do have a sprawling collection of action figures, Marquette’s, and sexy girl figures, which has taken over an entire room in my house. My most prized collectible is a toss up between the Premium Disney Jessica Rabbit statue and the sixth scale Tumbler by Sideshow Collectibles.
Roxy: Oh god I would kill for that Jessica statue, she’s a favorite of mine too! So what sorts of events or shoots do you have coming up that our fans could see you in? We are hoping for a Yaya movie cameo soon, any chances that might be happening in the future?
Yaya: Haha, I do have a TV show cameo appearance coming soon, not sure if I can announce it yet? Being on TV or in a movie isn't what drives me, but it's fun when the opportunity comes up and the content is positive. For 2013 I am booking convention appearances currently, and will be at a good number of the big cons as usual. The kick off will be my Guest appearance at Katsucon in National Harbor, MD, over Valentine's Day weekend. I am settling in to make some new costumes for Katsu and other cons over the winter, and with new costumes new photoshoots will happen. I am also very excited about my first book coming out! I am co-authoring the "1,000 Incredible Costume and Cosplay Ideas"
book, which is a collection of some of the best costumes of various genres all over the world. It's available for pre-order on Amazon now.
I also will open a Youtube channel soon so that should be fun and interesting. I kind of hate watching myself talk so I have to get over that.
Roxy: But we will all love to see you! And we cannot wait to get our hands on a copy of the book, congratulations that is an incredible feat! What does being a Geek Girl mean to you, or being a woman cosplayer in general?
Yaya: It means being proud of what makes you happy, no matter how unconventional or weird it might seem to others. I am also a pro-active Geek Girl who creates stuff with her hands.
Roxy: Awesome, what hopes do you have for the future in regards to your career as a professional cosplayer and model?
Yaya: I just hope to always have the chance and means to make more costumes, learn more techniques and push myself further as an artist. Create more images, bringing fantasies in my head to life. I also want to raise awareness on what cosplay really is and continue being a good ambassador for the community. I will also continue to involve myself in Charities and charitable causes.
Roxy: You have a kind heart and an amazing talent indeed for all that you continue to do Yaya! Alright last but not least, the lightning round, I am going to ask you ten questions and we want the first answer that comes to your head ;)
1. Favourite movie: Aliens
2. Favourite TV show: Walking Dead
3. Favourite Geek celebrity: Nathan Fillion
4. Favourite Superhero/Villain: Catwoman
5. Favourite game (Pc, console, table top etc): Uncharted 1, 2 and 3
6. Favourite Super power to have: The Flash
7. Favourite Character to dress up as: Catwoman
8. Favourite comic book or book: A Song of Ice And Fire
9. Favourite Artist or director: Nene Thomas
10. Favourite website: www.deviantart.com
Roxy: Awesome! Thanks so much for doing this interview with us. I hope you had fun and I know the fans will just love reading a little bit more about you. You truly are an inspiration to women cosplayers and geeks out there, and are also well loved by your fans, and for a well deserved reason. I wish you many more years of epic cosplay and the Geek Girls team hopes to meet you sometime and maybe get a shoot with you for the site ;) Is there anything else you would like to say to our fans and yours reading?
Yaya: That was a really great chat and I hope everyone reading the interview has enjoyed it. I hope to meet many of you at conventions in 2013. Wherever I will be I'll announce on Facebook and Twitter so watch out!
Roxy: Oh we will for sure and hope our fans do as well!
Well there you have it guys, the ever amazing Yaya Han. I want to thank her for taking the time to do this for us, I was ecstatic to get to do it as I hope all of you were to get to read it. Make sure to check her out at all her pages linked below and drop her a line to let her know how awesome she is!
Thanks and stay Geeky,
- Roxy Lee
Yaya Han - YayaHan.com
Chun Li - Benny Lee
Arkham Catwoman - Brian Boling
Carmilla - Judith Stephens
Dark Elf - ELYSIAM
Wizard - Gerardo J Flores
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November 24 2012