The terms cosplay and cosplayer were coined in 1984 as a Japanese portmanteau of the English phrase ‘costume play.’ It had been previously known as ‘fan costuming,’ and began at the ‘1st World Science Fiction Convention‘ which was held in New York in 1939. Japanese culture and anime often inspire cosplayers. Therefore, as a subculture which first gained traction in the U.S, it is a perfect example of how the intersection of different cultures can create something new and beautiful. We spoke to top cosplayer Gael Akerman; who has a Philipino Japanese mother, about her experiences as an Asian-American cosplayer.
Being part Asian, have there been instances where it caused others an inconvenience and why?
As far as inconvenience, the most inconvenient thing, I think is the day to day stuff, like being looked at and asked ‘what are you’ and people try and ask me questions about it. Whether it is just a cashier at the store or some random person who starts talking to me or someone online Some people have a hard time grasping the concept of being mixed race or ‘you look Asian, but your name is white?’ Another thing growing up that bothered me is that at every doctor’s appointment, with new patient forms, and especially in high school,
you have to state your race. Which is fine unless there is no option for mixed. I am a biracial person, so I do not feel comfortable just checking off just White or only Asian.
You are an intersection of Asian culture and Western culture. You represent the mixed generation of America’s youth. What do you feel/ think about the intersection?
I think it is something that is increasingly becoming more common. Whether it is White and Asian, Black and Asian, White and Hispanic, Hispanic and Black. I used to nanny for kids who were half Mexican, half black. I also used to babysit some kids when I was younger who were a quarter Asian, a quarter white, and half black. So I think it is becoming more the norm. I believe interracial marriage was legalized around 50 years ago. So it did not become much more regular until relatively recently. It has not even been a century.
We are a society that focuses on color, ethnicity, and beauty. Do you feel we as a society should embrace color, ethnicity and show others that beauty is in the person?
I am a huge believer in the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether it is a racial preference (as long as it is not fetishizing) or a choice for someone who has got longer hair, shorter hair, lighter hair, darker hair, or different face shape. All those differences come regardless of your race. I think it is not a reason, to not accept someone because of their race. Mainly because different countries can have the different view on what is beautiful, different body types. Different makeup styles, different hairstyles different ways to dress. So, we are not ones to judge what other people think. Especially other people’s culture and what they think is beautiful. Just because it is different, doesn’t mean it does not look good.
You are a Cosplayer what was the moment that you decided that is what you were wanting to do as a hobby and are you trying to go professional?
I think I decided when I was a kid, just because my mum put on shows like Card Captor Sakura and Sailor Moon for me, besides things like Barney. She would also let me watch her play games like Zelda and Mario, and she bought me a little sailor moon comic book; I could not read it, but I could look at the pictures. She got me into Star Wars too. I am not trying to go professional, I am doing it strictly as a bobby, but if I got offered something, I probably would take it up. If the movie of Attack on Titan ever came up, yes I would audition to play Mihasa! I’d probably need a bit more acting experience to be able to play her well on film. I am hoping it
would be anime rather than live action because the live action never turns out well.
Being a cosplayer in this current generation how has it benefited you in skills, life experience, and craftsmanship?
I have definitely got a lot more crafty and learned to be resourceful. I made one of my best props out of expanding foam, which is something I had never thought I would do. I had never thought I would go to Home Depot to buy cosplay supplies, but I did. It was a hobby horse from ‘Alice: Madness returns,’ one of my favorite video games. It has brought me many friends. Meeting my friends was the best part of it, but also how to budget, what to look for.
Has the severe accident you had recently hurt your performances as a cosplayer? Should con have more access for people with disabilities?
Yes absolutely, and conventions should be more aware of disability because one of them broke the laws at Neco-con, I am furious. I understand if the convention center does not have disability access it is not the con’s fault, but they should find ways to be accommodating. Many people who attend these cons, do have disabilities, whether it is mental or physical, permanent or temporary (mine is brief). We come here to enjoy the con. If they are not going to help us, we are not going to go back, and they are not going to get our money
As a cosplayer, have you ever been sponsored by anyone? By video game companies, studios, or similar?
Only once. I was sponsored to be Mikasa Akerman for this YouTube channel called AWE-ME. They make weapons from anime video games and video games, and in real life, I portrayed Mikasa when they made an Attack on Titan sword. So what they did was get me to pose with it, look all badass. I tried my best. I do not know how good a job I did, I got mixed reviews but mostly positive! Then I cut up a watermelon with it. I have a poster in my room of Mikasa cutting up watermelon.
What should cons do to keep people coming back to conventions?
Bring in more guests. It’s a huge reason why many people go to conventions. I know many people who are going to Katsucon this year because they are bringing in some Overwatch actors, and Overwatch is immensely popular. So that is going to keep many people going. I have heard people complain about other cons, precisely because they did not bring good enough guests. People were thinking ‘there is no-one here for me to see, no-one here I am into, not a voice actor, no artists I want to meet, so what is the point in going.’ Also, location is essential. There are a couple of cons that cons that are in a crappy area. Whether it is a crappy town or the convention center is just not pretty, and doesn’t leave many spaces to hold cosplay gatherings.
What are your goals and aspirations for the upcoming year?
The most significant thing I want to work on is saving up money to move out!
Interview: Brad Eugene Collins
Copy-writing: Alice Guile
Photography: Julian Joestar (header)
Lisa Marie Artistry