By Sarah “Gallifreya” Minazzo
Oz Comic Con hit Brisbane this past weekend, with a direction aimed at cosplayers creating an area called Cosplay Central that serves cosplayers and displays a few costumes on loan from locals as well as being a spot where you can meet your cosplay idols.
Very few come close to that of the internationally renowned Yaya Han, with a huge collection of cosplays, commissions, a line of patterns with McCalls and even starring in her own comic book. For those who are unfamiliar, she is a veteran of the cosplay world and with her background in outstanding cosplay making, she often travels the world as a cosplay guest and judges competitions internationally.
In this case, Yaya Han as well as being a most esteemed Cosplay special guest, is one of the judges for the new Oz Comic Con national competition, Cosplay Championships of Australia. Miss Han was kind enough to spare some time to chat with us about all things cosplay.
So you started in cosplay back in 1999…
That’s when I discovered cosplay yes.
When you made your first cosplay, it was done with a $40 sewing machine and you had a friend help you with patterns, what do you think the 1999 you would think now, seeing the 2015 you?
It’s unfathomable, how cosplay has grown and I never in my entire life, would have imagined how cosplay has changed me. It hasn’t changed me as a person as such… It’s given me a single minded focus in life. Especially when you think of the nature of it. It is still amateurish and very fandom based. I never could have imagined to doing something so niche related and so fandom based, as my career. But it is an industry. It’s truly becoming a legitimate industry, and an art form in itself. I am very proud to still be here and I feel I really grew up with the cosplay industry.
Following on that, what would be your advice for people who are new to cosplay and considering making their own?
I think you have to find the reason why you want to do it and continue doing it. It’s very expensive and it’s time consuming and there’s a lot of superficial reasons for doing cosplay. But also some personal and sincere reasons. I have certainly over time, have had to re-evaluate and think, “Am I still doing it for the sincere reasons or has it become superficial?” And truly, it’s been 16 years and it has not become superficial for me. I have held on to the foundation of cosplaying and my reasoning for it- which is craftsmanship. I think at some point if I would have stopped making costumes and started getting sponsored, which there are plenty of opportunities and working with people, to have stuff made for me, it would have lost the appeal to me. So my advice is to hold on to that foundation for yourself, be it acting out a particular character or making your cosplay from scratch or whatever reason, make sure that’s the reason you have to hold on to.
You have a lot of costumes- there’s some 300 or more, not including commissions. Are there any costumes, that you have a particular connection to or is it more of the case, that they’re all your children?
They are all my children but there are some that mean more to me. Either because of the circumstance of the time or what I have learnt from making the costume or a special connection to the character or even learning a new part about myself, my cosplay character. A lot of times, you find a new aspect of your personality by being someone else. So you may not have the confidence at the beginning, but you dress as a character that has it, has all that star power and gets you to come out of your shell. Yes, I do feel a connection to many of my costumes, both from the craftsmanship aspect as well as the memories made.
When you’re considering what to do for your next cosplay, what are the kinds of things that spring to mind? Is it fandom, is it “I want to do this coz its armour” or is it the methods?
It’s everything combined. Sometimes I have to be in the mood to make something. I don’t like to make the same thing over and over again, so if I make a big dress then the next costume I make might be an armour outfit, then the next might be a superhero outfit. So whatever mood you’re in. I definitely look at the construction aspect, if I can challenge myself, maybe learn something new or hone an existing skill. Then it comes down to, can I see myself as the character, do you feel something in yourself that makes you want to portray that character.
Do you ever feel, being as famous as you are, that you’re pressured to push yourself to a certain point?
Honestly, I feel like I have reached a point, where people know what I can make. Technically, I could just make whatever popular character costumes and it would be fine but it’s more like I feel the pressure from myself, coz I don’t want to get stagnate. You have to find new ways to keep interest. When you’ve been doing it for so many years, how do you make it still interesting? That’s where the craftsmanship challenge comes, and the pressure is from within me, and not from other people.
In which case, coz you’ve been all around the world, have you noticed between different countries, whether there’s differences in the cosplay communities and the ways they do cosplay?
Yes absolutely, that’s what’s so interesting to me. It’s being able to travel and getting to know the communities and the social structure. I think the US is certainly at a point, where it’s becoming so incredibly popular, it’s difficult to hold on to your group. It’s everywhere. So when I come to a place where the community is so much smaller, it is sometimes a lot more passion driven and that’s what I really like about Australia, for example. I really enjoy going to Europe and seeing how the community is there.
Asia is really interesting, and I haven’t cosplayed much there nor have I been to many conventions there but I think that’s more because the cosplay scene there is all about not so much making everything by yourself, but by team effort. So you get professional seamstresses, choreographers and makeup artists creating a costume and putting it on a model. I don’t know how well I would fit into that scene. Next year, I get to go to a couple of cons in Asia and so it’s going to be interesting to see. It’s not really my way of cosplaying.
You’re judging the Cosplay Championships of Australia for Oz Comic Con Brisbane and Sydney. How do you choose the cosplayer that should be awarded? What do you look for?
The Cosplay Championship is craftsmanship based, first and foremost we need to look at how the costume is constructed and that’s where I put value in clean finishing and detail work. Looking at the thought behind the costume- I want to see a conscious thought process in how each part was made and attached and how it all goes together. I think it’s going to be very tight race and what will be the tie breaker is the person who went the extra mile, who were able to budget their time and put in the nuances of the costume. It’s about a variety of techniques for me. I like seeing multiple techniques used to bring a costume together versus just the one. We’ll see, we’ve done the pre-judging for Brisbane today and there’s stiff competition. All very talented people.
Thanks for taking time out with us, Yaya, we at Beyond Cosplay, hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Australia.
I already am, thank you!!!
Yaya Han will be a guest and judge for Cosplay Championships of Australia at Oz Comic Con Sydney this weekend, Saturday 26th to Sunday 27th of September. The BC team hope to see you all there!
Check out her page at https://www.facebook.com/yayacosplay?fref=ts
Thanks to Jenn Whiting for some of the photos used in the article.
Go like her page at https://www.facebook.com/JenWhitingPhoto?fref=ts