The Senpai Spotlight continues, where I interview people in the cosplay community and get their point of view.
In this interview, we have Rae Cosplay!
Originally from Taiwan, she is an experienced cosplayer (and model) who has been in the community for several years. Today, Rae Cosplay is here to share her wisdom with me.
In this interview, I ask her of what it’s like to be a cosplayer in North America as well as Asia, how modeling and cosplaying go hand in hand for awesome photoshoots, what it’s like to watch Anime in Taiwan and how she won a Masquerade using her runway skills!
Here’s where to find her on social media:
Senpai: Welcome to the Senpai Spotlight, where you get to experience the cosplay community from a different perspective. And today we have Rae Cosplay!
Now did I pronounce that properly? Cause I know you have Chinese symbols in your name…
Rae: That’s correct, the Chinese symbols is Xiao Lei! Obviously Chinese letters, so it’s easier to go by Rae.
Senpai: How did you first get into cosplay?
Rae: It was probably 2008-2009 with my group of nerdy friends who like Anime. We just decided, “Hey we should try cosplaying altogether. It was funny because we all spent so much money on our first costumes and we didn’t even wear them together. It was Black Butler.
I continued through (cosplaying). The rest (of my friends) just faded out of it. So I’m like the last one surviving!
Senpai: That’s like the complete opposite of what I did! I went in alone. I find that most people who get into cosplay first, go in alone and then meet people afterward.
Rae: Right? More people I heard (who get into cosplay by), “Oh you can do Halloween…when it’s not Halloween? There’s events for this?” And then people go dive in from there.
Senpai: I didn’t know Black Butler was that old! You said you cosplayed (from the series) back in 2008-2009…
Rae: Yeah! In Taiwan we have this sort of culture called Tong Niang, which is childhood Anime. And Black Butler falls into childhood Anime, which is kind of bizarre because I still feel like it was yesterday since I cosplayed it. But no, it’s been 10 years!
Senpai: I cosplayed Sebastian like in 2012, and I didn’t even know it was that old! When an Anime gets shown in Taiwan, is it still in Japanese or are there Mandarin dubs for it?
Rae: We get both. There’s actually very good Mandarin industry voice actors in Taiwan. But when it’s still freshly airing, (it’s still in Japanese). It might take a year-ish to get it officially dubbed in Mandarin. But industry for our Mandarin voice actors is pretty good. I recognize this voice actor over and over again because she does all the male characters. She’s just that good. I don’t know her name though!
Senpai: It sounds like it’s about the same as here. Takes about half a year or a year (for an Anime) to get translated, unless it’s Simulcast. For example, I watched Shield Hero. The English dub was up to the Japanese original until they said they couldn’t catch up anymore.
Rae: I know Boku No Hero is on top of their dubbing. I don’t think Taiwan is quite there yet with their dubbing (when it comes to Simulcast). For example, K-On had a dub 2-3 years after the original came out.
Senpai: Are the voice actors in Taiwan as popular as the ones in the Western world?
Rae: In Taiwan, not at all. The Japanese culture and influence is still big in Taiwan. We still pay attention to a lot of the original voice actors. When it comes to Mandarin/Chinese actors, it’s like, “Oh they’re great too but I prefer the Japanese (voice actors).”
Senpai: I guess it would be different there because you guys are a lot closer to Japan.
Rae: We can get Anime with Chinese subtitles really fast. So it basically defeats the purpose of having dubs unless you want to watch it on the TV.
Senpai: Do you have a particular favourite series? I know you do so many different cosplays, I couldn’t tell which one is your favourite. If I had to guess, it would be Sailor Moon!
Rae: I do love Sailor Moon! But I kind of separate my cosplays into different categories: Anime I actually like and I always like, childhood Anime for nostalgia, and current interests. A lot of the stuff I make faster will be stuff that is currently airing. For example, Persona 5 I made when it was still hot.
For me, (my) all-time favourite is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Another one is Mob Psycho.
Senpai: How do you decide on which cosplays to do? Is it based on what you like, or stuff that you’ll look good in?
Rae: I consider everything.
I’m kind of peculiar because if I really like a character, I usually end up not cosplaying the character because I’m afraid I would not live up to my expectations of how I should look.
I look at what Anime I like and I go for the characters that suit my personality, on top of design. If I don’t like design, then I won’t cosplay it.
(For example), in Fullmetal Alchemist my favourite character is actually Edward Elric. (But) I’m not…short. Quite frankly. So I went for Olivier, which I feel like I can embody her character greater. I do like (Olivier) too but she’s not my most favourite character.
Senpai: I feel like if you Edward…well you don’t have to be short like him. But I’m sure if you made a “Rae” version of Edward, you would look pretty awesome!
Rae: I idealize what he wishes he was! (being tall and not short)
Senpai: For those who don’t know, in Taiwan (the cosplay community) is very similar and different according to Rae. First of all, most cons take place at a convention center, like in those big industry type places. But the big difference is they end really really early! They end at like 5 p.m. which is insanely early for us Westerners. Which means there’s no rave or party scene. But on the other hand, it’s really cheap to get in, like $5. Rae also says that getting costumes (in Taiwan) is cheap, because…
Rae: Taobao! When I was back home, I bought like 2-3 new cosplays on top of other accessories and it all arrived within a week or two. It was very convenient. Canada takes like a month…if you’re lucky.
Senpai: (That’s) if it doesn’t get the stuck at the border.
Rae: Customs, don’t mention it!
Senpai: What do you like about conventions in the Western side of the world, versus back home (in Taiwan)?
Rae: I feel like the cons I’ve been to in Canada so far have a really great community. Especially when it comes to voice actors, panels, concerts and the events that go on. So you get to really meet people.
Quite frankly in Taiwan, I feel like it can be isolating because you don’t have these panels or these events like raves or speed dating at all. It doesn’t exist. (Taiwanese cons) are like: stand there in your cosplay, look pretty, meet your friends meet some photographers and that’s kind of it.
So I definitely was able to make friends much faster in Canada, I find. And I think that they are more of an event that you plan on partying at, to really have fun. For me, a convention in Taiwan is just to make an appearance, meet some old friends and leave. You don’t really party there.
Senpai: It sounds like Taiwanese cons are more of a “lobbycon” type of con? That would make sense why (Taiwanese cons) are so much cheaper. There isn’t as much (programming) to offer. But it is a way to get people to cosplay in Taiwan.
Rae: 100%. You don’t even have to go inside for the artist alley if you don’t want to. You could just stay outside in the courtyard area, which is what I usually do and just…pose!
Senpai: After the event is over, do people hang around the convention? Or do they just go home right after?
Rae: Usually people might stay around to do shoots or go for dinner after. But for me, I’m just kind of lazy so I don’t really do those things. Since (the conventions) end at 5, it’s just being considerate of people’s work schedule and/or commute schedule. So people don’t really have hotel bookings or book the entire weekend off. It’s just kind of, “Oh I have the weekend off, so let’s check the con out.”
Senpai: For those who don’t know, Rae is actually a model too! What came first, the modeling or the cosplaying?
Rae: The cosplay for sure. Because I started cosplaying at 13. It’s funny because I actually got scouted by an old agency through cosplay page. She messaged me on my Facebook (and said), “Oh you look cool. Wanna come over for an interview?” And I’m like, “Sure.” That’s how I got started.
Senpai: Would you say the modeling helps you with cosplaying, particularly with photoshoots?
Rae: I actually say the opposite. Up till when I got scouted, I had 6 years of cosplay experience. So all the knowledge I had with posing, angles and overall…stuff I guess, I’ve known for 6 years. I got an advantage because I was cosplaying for 6 years. The fact that I knew exaggerated makeup and my own hair…that made me a lot easier to work with because the photographer doesn’t have to find an extra person just to make me look nicer. I could do it all by myself.
I remember going to my big first photoshoot editorial for a magazine. I had an entire team around me. I had the makeup artist, the hair and fashion stylist, the photographer. And I just sat in the chair, getting my hair and makeup done. I felt so pampered! Because in cosplay, you do everything yourself. So I was like, “I don’t have to do all that? Wow! I feel so special!”
Having an eye not just for poses and directing photography is something I definitely learned through cosplay.
Senpai: Would you recommend cosplayers to do modeling in order to get better?
Rae: A lot of skills (that) models learn can be applied to cosplay. And a lot of skills cosplayers learn can be applied to modeling. I know a lot of cosplayers who end up doing fashion and non-costume stuff. And a lot of models who do interesting costumes for Halloween…it’s basically the same field when you think about it – creative stuff.
I think cosplaying is invigorated by the passion of your character. And when you study the character you want to cosplay a lot more in depth, that will be able to fuel and improve your modeling. Say for example, a character that is very angry (such as) Bakugo (from Boku No Hero). That in itself is acting. But you learn through cosplay, how to create angry expressions…thanks to your passion for Bakugo. And that translates really well into acting and modeling.
So honestly, go ahead full force into cosplay. Because that’s where you generate your passions.
Senpai: That’s interesting. Would you say it’s better cosplay a character you’re passionate about? As a model, can you sense when someone is cosplaying but genuinely doesn’t know or care about the character they’re dressed up as?
Rae: I haven’t really thought about it (but) everyone has their own reasons for cosplaying and I’m not a gatekeeper for what you want to do. (For example), if you want to do Bakugo for clout then so be it! That’s yo business! I don’t care. But I guess if you don’t portray it in your photos, maybe I could tell but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I wouldn’t be like, “Oh you’re horrible.” No one says that.
Senpai: Any memorable moments you’ve had cosplaying or at a convention?
Rae: When I went to International Fan Fest (IFF), I worked on a costume with my friend Xavier for Bayonetta. I never competed (in a Masquerade) before; I avoid competitions when I can because it’s not really my scene. But I felt like we put in so much effort, we might as well do something with it.
I competed, did a little flourish, did a little of a Bayonetta-character walk and I won best of show! It’s funny because the judges were like, “You really stay in character even at the end of the Masquerade.” I didn’t’ know what to do, it was kind of awkward standing up there, so I started doing poses that Bayonetta would do. Apparently that was like cool with the judges. And that was just me blanking out!
Senpai: I would say that’s where the modeling came in and help you stand out. You just came in and did what you would normally do on a runway.
Rae: If anything, cosplay and modeling gave me confidence. Normally people feel shy or anxious to go into character. But I just throw my pride away…I don’t care! Be as Bayonetta-y as I can, and apparently it work out!
Senpai: Is there one thing you’d like to see different in the cosplay community, if anything at all?
Rae: I kind of wish that when cons are inviting cosplay guests, they diversify. Quite frankly, I’m sick of seeing the same old pale, skinny…the usual…the same cookie cutter babes. As much as I think they’re great and they do put in a lot of work, a lot of people get overlooked because they don’t fit that mold. And I do think that’s unfortunate because a lot of talent is overlooked because of that.
Senpai: Hmm…I never looked at it that way…that’s interesting. I do know that some cons look at the amount of followers that a cosplayer has. Because I was listening to another podcast and there’s this professional cosplayer but she doesn’t have as many “likes” on her Instagram. And that’s the reason why they didn’t invite her, even though she’s incredibly talented.
Rae: It’s unfortunate because a lot of the time, they do see a number. They see, “Oooh you have popularity and therefore you will bring in more attendees.” That’s the whole point of guests, to bring in attendees who want to see these people. I understand that’s a source of profit. But also to be creating that community where people feel inclusive and represented is very very important. Especially having a panel per se, with a cosplay guest that can speak the different layers of privilege and the intersects of cosplay. That would be really cool.
But I don’t run cons so I can’t speak on their programming and their decisions. (But) that’s my tidbit.
Senpai: In Rae’s perfect Anime convention, would it be local guests, international guests, not-so-famous guests…
Rae: I would not complain if Yaya Han was going to come to Anime North! But a big part of conventions for me is the community. And I think being able to interact with local (guests), famous or not…locals that can speak truthfully and intellectually about topics that affect all of us would be so much more interesting. And it doesn’t have to be about social justice. It can be about tropes in Anime that we want to look at and discuss. You know (for example), “The evolution of Shonen protagonists over the 80s to now.” That would be interesting and I would love to see people who put a lot of thought into building the community and engagement.
Senpai: For someone getting into the cosplay community, what advice would you give them?
Rae: I think being honest. Understand that there’s going to be a lot of stuff that’s popular and going to want them to cosplay it. When it comes to the end when you can’t chat with a fan about who you’re cosplaying from, it’s a bit awkward. So cosplay what truly speaks to you and what you truly enjoy; if you really like this character, it will show. And when you interact with people who are fans of the character/series, that’s how you make more friends and make an honest connection. My biggest thing is building that community.
If you have any questions for Rae or suggestions for future Senpai Spotlights, let me know in the comments!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!