Cosplay in the Caribbean calls for a certain amount of creativity, especially when materials are not as readily available as in overseas markets.
That was one of the observations of internationally renowned costume designer and cosplay ambassador Yaya Han, who said when she started cosplaying more than a decade ago, things were not easy then either, even in the international market.
“When I discovered cosplay, that was 14 years ago, there weren’t resources out there. There was like a tiny community but I’m really glad I discovered it so long ago because it forced me to be very creative, it forced me to have to make all of my costumes, I had no options of buying them and it just made me discover everything I could about cosplay,” she said from a panel at AnimeKon 2013.
“So I’ve been very active in the community since. I’ve been very fortunate that I was able to turn this into a career which I know is very unheard of, still very new,” said the American superstar who flew in for the event.
She said having travelled to various places for conventions and other cosplay related events, she was able to take back her experiences to the US, commenting on how incredible it was for Barbados and the region to be able to cosplay with so limited access to the related resources.
“I also learnt that there is a lot of problems with getting resources in because on an island you have to import a lot of things, you don’t have access to a lot of things, materials that we have in the US. So it is even more impressive to me to see people here cosplaying knowing that it is so much harder for them to get the same materials. So I know how lucky I have to be to be able to buy the materials I need, the shoes I need, the wigs in the right colour, the crazy materials so I can make more outfits. So I am like seeing the imitation of what people can do in the different countries,” said Han, who shared the panel with local and regional cosplayers.
Head of Panterona Cosplay from Trinidad, Josette James and Barbados’ own head of the Caribbean Cosplayers, Leandra Thompson also shared their experiences.
James told of how difficult it was for the pop culture genre to blossom in the Caribbean with so limited resources in a genre that required quite a substantial finances and months of pre-planning.
Explaining that she worked in the legal field and that her entry to the cosplay competition this year was an outfit she had been working on since February, James said additionally there was also the Alias magazine and her other designing work that she had to balance with her cosplaying.
“In terms of money, to be honest I don’t count because if I do I’m gonna crack. If you were to ask me how much I spend on a costume, I would have to say I honestly don’t know… because I just buy as I need and go along. If I were to sit down and put a budget to half the things I do I would not do it. I would be in a ball in the corner rocking back and forth asking myself what I’m doing with my life.”
Thompson said she found one of the keys was planning ahead of time, months in advance before creating a character, because materials were hard to come by, it meant sourcing could take a while.
Additionally she said a job that brought in steady income helped to offset the cost of cosplaying: “Once you have a steady incoming coming in you should be alright, but you have to budget yourself as well because if you don’t budget you will crash halfway and then not get anything done.”
Han though, has been chatting with her more than 161,000 Facebook fans about her experience in Barbados, noting on her fan page: “I’m thrilled at the in depth conversations I have had with people about Cosplay this weekend. It’s very clear that the geek community as a whole is a very thoughtful one in the Caribbean. The attendees are very passionate and enthusiastic, and since AnimeKon is the only convention in Barbados, they cherish their time here very much. It makes me think about how lucky we are in the States and other countries, with conventions almost every weekend, and plenty of opportunities to cosplay, play games, collect merchandising, read comics etc. Here in Barbados, if a cosplayer does not finish a costume in time for AnimeKon, they have to wait and entire YEAR before they can cosplay again.
“I for one am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet these wonderful fellow geeks and learn about their culture. I want to take their enthusiasm and sincerity back to the States with me!!” (LB)