Cosplay Photographers: Today we take a moment and sit down with our newly announced Cosplay Photographers Spokesmodel Kara aka Electric Lady to pick her brain and get to know her better. As spokesmodel, she’s our face to the cosplay community and here’s a rare opportunity to get to know her a bit better. Richard of Bui Photos and one of our staff members will be conducting the interview today.
Richard T. Bui: So Kara, where are you from?
Kara NH: Currently I live in Mesa, Arizona
Richard T. Bui: Nice! Were you always from there?
Kara NH: I was born here, and have lived in Arizona the majority of my life. I was in Georgia for a short time in grade school, but moved back because of my dad’s job
Richard T. Bui: Oh nice! We’ve never been there, but hopefully you can give us a tour one day? So how did you get started in cosplay?
Kara NH: My mother’s side of the family is Japanese, so I’ve always been heavily influenced by the culture. My obaachan (grandma) showed me a program on NHK once that was doing a piece on cosplay, but I didn’t know they had such a thing here in the states until Arizona’s first con in 2005.
Richard T. Bui: Oh wow, so you’re like half Japanese?! That’s very nice! We had a feeling you were mixed. So you went to Arizona’s first con? What was it like?
Kara NH: I’m 1/4th. At the time I was 14, and it was exciting to see all the cosplays and so many nerds in one place. XD I was extremely excited because they had Yoshitaka Amano there, one of my favorite artists. It’s amazing to see how much cosplay has grown over the years.
Richard T. Bui: Amano, for those that don’t know, is a Japanese artist well know for Vampire Hunter D. So can you speak or read Japanese?
Kara NH: Oh barely. I just know the basics, just enough to get around Tokyo, but my vocabulary is still rather limited. ^^;
Richard T. Bui: It must have been exciting as a 14-year old to experience something like your first con. It’s probably a similar feeling as going to Disneyland for the first time and seeing characters you’ve only read about come to life! So what did you do right after that experience? Did you jump right into cosplay?
Kara NH: I always find it a bit shocking when people ask about getting into cosplay, but have been going to cons for a few years. I almost can’t imagine not cosplaying at a con haha. I actually cosplayed that year at the con, my first cosplays were Edward from Cowboy Bebop, Rei Ayanami from Evangelion, and Rakka from Haibane Renmei.
Richard T. Bui: Wow, that’s awesome! Did you make your own costumes?
Kara NH: Yeah I was still fairly new to sewing though, so my Mom helped me out quite a bit.
Richard T. Bui: Would you ever buy a pre-made costume? What are your thoughts on that?
Kara NH: I’ve bought a couple of costumes over the past years. Sometimes you find something for a good deal, or just don’t have the time to make what you want to wear.
Richard T. Bui: How do you determine what cosplay you’re going to make next?
Kara NH: I’m normally pretty bad at keeping up with some of the newer shows sometimes, so sometimes I tend to stick to what I know or what I grew up on. I always like the quiet characters, or characters with a deep background, something that I can relate myself to in a way. :] And every now and then I just like to pick something that just looks like it’d be fun to make.
Richard T. Bui: How long does it take for you to make a cosplay on average?
Kara NH: It kind of varies from costume to costume, but I’d say in total around 20-30 hours
Richard T. Bui: How far out do you plan your costumes for a con?
Kara NH: Most of the time I’ll pick costumes out months in advance, but of course procrastinate till the month before to work on the costume. XD
Richard T. Bui: Do you find that you’re still working last minute on your cosplay right up to Day 1 of con?
Kara NH: Normally not, Fanime was the first time in years that I had fallen that far behind on my costumes. ^^;
Richard T. Bui: We’re always amazed at the sheer number of costumes that cosplayers debut at conventions. The most we’ve heard is 12. We can’t imagine how one can stay focused on quality when doing so many costumes. What are your thoughts on this and what do you focus on: quality or quantity?
Kara NH: I’d admit that at times things can get a bit ghetto XD haha. Most of the time I’d rather have an unfinished costume than a poorly made one just for the sake of having it done.
Richard T. Bui: It seems like cosplayers are always making new costumes. With so many costumes, what happens to the older ones? Are they banished to the black hole in the back of the closet?
Kara NH: Haha, I actually have a closet full of just my cosplay stuff in my sewing room. There have been a few costumes that I’ve ripped up for new outfits or for scraps, a couple sold here or there. but for the most part, I just can’t seem to part with any of my costumes. I feel like I’ve just worked too hard on them to do anything else, and it’s nice to see how much I’ve improved over the years when I look back at them. :]
Richard T. Bui: It probably looks like Iron Man’s armor closet, good stuff! So what has been the hardest costume to construct to date? And why?
Kara NH: I think i’d have to say my Gwendolyn costume from Odin Sphere that I made last year for AX. Props and armor are defiantly my weak spots when it comes cosplay. I was actually rather unhappy with parts of that costume, but I’ve been remaking it during my free time between other costumes and hope to rewear it again soon. :]
Richard T. Bui: So how did you learn how to make all this stuff? Did you take classes? Major in fashion? Pay someone to make it for you in your basement?
Kara NH: My mother taught me how to sew when I was younger :] She normally does home decor and tailoring, but she’s helped me learn the basics, and always gets fussy when I do things “outside the book” haha but as I’ve grown in experience, she’s learned to see my creative abilities as something inspirational now. :]
Richard T. Bui: That’s very cool! Does your mom help you with your costumes?
Kara NH: Not anymore.
Richard T. Bui: I’m afraid to ask the next question….
Kara NH: Hahaha why XD
Richard T. Bui: An answer like that is like so… ! Ok…so why not?
Kara NH: Oh haha!
No, just living out of the house we don’t see each other that often. And at this point, she thinks I’ve surpassed her. XD
Richard T. Bui: Oh ok. Whew, we thought this was the turning point of the interview where we were going to pull out the tissue paper and you let us know how your mom is no longer with us and you continue doing cosplay drawing on her memories to keep you sewing late into the night before con… Do you feel that cosplay has helped you in your personal life and how?
Kara NH: Hahah no no, but she did just overcome breast cancer, so I’m very proud of her for that :]
I would definitely say so. When I first started cosplaying, I went to cons with my little brother and best friend. I didn’t really know that many people back then, and with school and life moving too fast, I kind of took a break for a few years.
I don’t mean to bring down the house, but I lost my brother about three years ago, and I really had a hard time dealing with a lot of things for a while there. It was actually shortly after his passing that I got back into cosplay because of photography, and I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people over the years.
If anything I would say cosplay has really helped me to open up and become a more outgoing person.
Richard T. Bui: *Pulls out tissue paper* Wow. We’re sorry to hear that. It sounds like the both of you were close and we’re sure it’s been tough for the whole family, especially with your mom’s breast cancer. We’ve been wanting to ask about it as well and since you’ve brought it up, so we heard you do photography as well. Tell us more about this. How did you get started? What inspires you?
Kara NH: My older brother actually got me into photography. :] Before I was in school for animation, and my goal was to draw storyboards, but in high school I followed my brother in using photography as a pastime to spend time together. He didn’t really get that far in school, and never had the chance to really push his work out into the world, so I changed my major to follow in his footsteps. :] He was never into cosplay, but always found it astonishing that you could recreate an entire scene or artwork with a photograph, bringing 2D to 3D. So over the past 3 years, I’ve kind of dabbled around in the composition of shooting people rather than my candid documentary style.
Richard T. Bui: Has anyone ever accused you of living your brother’s dream rather than your own?
Kara NH: Not really, it’s true my brother got me into photography, but I think after awhile of being lost in animation, I found myself more comfortable just being behind a lens.
Richard T. Bui: So I’ve always been curious, and I’m sure others are as well, how did you come up with your handle Electric Lady?
Kara NH: Haha, it’s funny because a lot of people assume Jimi Hendrix, but I actually got the name from a store that had opened in the mall years ago called Electric Ladyland. I thought it was rather catchy and used the name for an online game account, it just kind of stuck around and before I knew it people were calling me that as a cosplay nickname.
Richard T. Bui: Where do you see yourself 5-years from now?
Kara NH: Five years from now I always figured I’d be living in California or Washington, probably married and starting a family.
Richard T. Bui: If you had a son or daughter (or both) and they wanted to cosplay, would you be supportive of them? Would you help them?
Kara NH: Haha, of course. XD I would be more than happy if they wanted to cosplay, and I’m sure I’d be more than encouraging. ;]
Richard T. Bui: You mentioned how cosplay has helped you become more outgoing and social, do you see cosplay helping you in any other way like for a career?
Kara NH: I’ve actually been rather interested in going into the movie industry or costuming, I’m hoping that once I get out of state, I’ll look into a few internships and maybe working at a few theaters.
Richard T. Bui: Is there anything exciting you have coming out that we all should be looking for?
Kara NH: I have quite a few big projects right now, but I don’t normally announce them publicly until I start working on them. ;]
Richard T. Bui: Thank you so much for sitting down and speaking with me. I very much enjoyed getting to know you better. Is there anything else you’d like to share with everyone?
Kara NH: Thank you for all the awesome questions. I guess if there was any advice I’d like to give, just make sure to have fun. I think sometimes people don’t realize that not everyone takes cosplay as serious as others, not everyone is asking for a critique, so just watch what you say cause you could really end up hurting others. In the long run, cosplay is just a hobby whether you do it full time or not, so it doesn’t always have to be a competition. ;]