This week we are proud to introduce you to Ashanyao, a cosplayer that radiates positivity within the cosplay community and has a keen eye for detail.
WLC: How did you begin cosplaying?
Ashanyao: I began cosplaying back in 2012! I was actually exposed to it in high school from other cosplayers that would attend Anime Boston but I wasn’t apart of the community just yet. It wasn’t until I graduated college that a friend of mine – who also cosplays – encouraged me to try the hobby. For years I didn’t think I would be able to because, at the time, I didn’t have any wig or sewing skills and I am also a plus-sized woman. It was a lot more difficult way back when to find costumes to fit just right, or even at all, but she was really positive and supportive and encouraged me to commission my first costume from Setsuna Kou which was Azusa Nakano from K-ON! From there it’s just blossomed into a hobby where I have continued to meet even more awesome and supportive people and now have the skills to do the majority of this stuff myself!
WLC: What’s one of your favorite cosplay memories?
Ashanyao: There’s honestly so many but one that’s still very fresh in my mind was winning VIZ Media’s Sailor Moon SuperS Moonlight Masquerade at Anime Boston with the group I run called Moon Menagerie. We defied a lot of odds to make a successful, nearly full group of Witches 5. For many of us it was our first time sewing a big project – myself included as I had only just gotten my sewing machine that Christmas! I learned so much in that process and it was definitely trial by fire. During it I kept encouraging my group that no matter what happened I would be proud of all of us for banding together and working so hard in a month to make this project happen. Then, when we heard our number called for finalists one of my girls so eloquently said that I sneezed tears! I was so, so shocked, happy and elated we were finalists and then when we took home Best Group it was the cherry on top of a ton of hard work, late nights and stress! We’re still so incredibly thankful to this day to be recognized by such talented judges.
WLC: What has been the most challenging costumes that you’ve recreated?
Ashanyao: All of my costumes certainly have an element of complexity but one of my most challenging was Mijuku Dreamer Dia Kurosawa from Love Live Sunshine. From figuring out the patterning for the top to trying to find a balance between what was reflected in the original costume/live performance was such a challenge. The scalloped skirt was also difficult because it required a bias tape trim to cover the edges of the scallops and getting that to lay right – and clean – was technically challenging for me. I made that costume in about three weeks for Connecticon (not the smartest move, I admit) and I’m incredibly proud with how it turned out! Like anything else I do I always want to improve it, and likely will for the future, but she was complete, sparkly and done on time!
WLC: How do you spread positivity through cosplay and how can other cosplayers do the same?
Ashanyao: My platform in this community is based on body positivity and acceptance of who you are. I want to encourage everyone of all sizes, races and identities to not be afraid to take their first steps into this hobby. Cosplay has given me so much confidence — especially starting, again, as a plus sized young woman in 2012 who didn’t really have any confidence in herself and poor self-image to boot. Now, in 2019, looking at the things I’ve been able to accomplish, make and experience just by taking a leap of faith by putting on a wig and a costume is really inspiring. What I have found in this community is that who you surround yourself with greatly has an impact on not only the time you have but on your self-worth. I am grateful enough to say that the individuals I choose to spend my time with always lift me up when I’m being critical of my self-image and I personally feel consistently being exposed to their positivity has a domino effect. I would encourage other cosplayers to lift up those who are new in the community – whether they are a young cosplayer, a beginning seamstress, a senior cosplayer — we’re all here to have fun and be creative. It all starts with you – so be the change!
WLC: Do you prefer to cosplay as an individual or in groups?
Ashanyao: Groups all the way! When I first started I enjoyed being solo but then once I formed Moon Menagerie I realized so much of what I was missing! Now you can find me dancing in Love Live groups such as Nine Hearts NE or organizing group cosplays for nearly every single convention I go to. My biggest group – aside from Moon Menagerie – that I have organized is a Wreck it Ralph Disney princess pajama group and it’s filled with 15 amazing individuals! However, even if it’s just a group of 3 there’s nothing better than cosplaying with your friends and meeting new people as well.
WLC: What advice would you like to pass along to people interested in cosplay or just starting out?
Ashanyao: Please — just start! That was the biggest thing for me was jumping the mental barrier of “Can I do this?” to actually just doing it. Buy that wig, get that costume — there is absolutely no shame in buying costumes! Even though I make a lot of my own now, I certainly still buy, and there’s no better feeling that putting on that fresh costume and taking to a con floor or a photoshoot. I would also encourage you to make sure you find wonderful people to spend time with. Don’t be afraid to say hello to someone because you never know what they may introduce you to, or what skills they can teach you, or even the friendships that you could make. If it wasn’t for cosplay I wouldn’t nearly have the group of friends I do now and I am so thankful every day for their presence – so just be brave and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t cosplay someone because of your size, race, identity… their opinions don’t matter. As long as you are having fun and being safe, I encourage you to do whatever your cos heart dreams of!
WLC: What skills do you specialize in and what skills would you like to improve on?
Ashanyao: I would say rhinestoning, makeup and clean craftsmanship. I’m such a stickler for details that finishing my garment and making sure everything is polished is incredibly important to me. While I do wig work, it is something that I want to continue to improve on! I think I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn although I am thankful for those that have trusted me with their wigs in the past and present. I would also love to work with more complex fabrics and start to move toward some other complicated design work such as Victorian era garments. Working on my Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus got me somewhat close to that as it was my first step towards using steel boning in corsets/stays but I want to remake that! It’s all a work in progress.
WLC: What cosplay(s) are you planning for the future?
Ashanyao: So many! I have quite a few that I plan to buy but some of the ones I will be making as of right now are: Hannah Alexander’s Tinkerbell design, Sailor Chibi Moon’s original fuku, Sailor Saturn’s super fuku, Madoka Kaname and a few others. However, the big one on the horizon is Tinkerbell and I can’t wait to start! Referring back to skills I want to learn … using more complicated fabrics will come into play there!
WLC: How have you used We Love Colors products in your work?
Ashanyao: We Love Colors has been a game changer for me! They were the first company I found way back in 2012 when I needed bright blue tights for Azusa and actually made them in plus sizes! I have never looked back and have used them in a myriad of colors since including when I competed with my Mimette for Witches 5. Most recently I have been using the dull tricot in white with Moon Menagerie for our Eternal Senshi and it has been invaluable for our leotard bases. The fabric is so incredibly soft, is easy to sew (and line) and has fantastic stretch. In terms of gloves, I have used both the elbow gloves and wrist gloves — elbow gloves for Moon Menagerie and wrist gloves for my Mijuku Dreamer Dia Kurosawa!
WLC: Why would you recommend We Love Colors to other cosplayers? Ashanyao: I would recommend We Love Colors because of the variety of products offered and the customer service. Anytime I have ever had a question or needed color recommendations, the staff has been super supportive and helpful. I also love how they support cosplayers to the fullest and the fact that they have a lot of representation in their brand. From standard to plus sized, I can guarantee you will find anything you need to make your cosplay – and real life – a little more vibrant and colorful!
Eternal Chibi Moon: Mouzycat Cosplay Photographer
Berry Shirayuki: Vander The Generalist
Azusa Nakano: Flash Cord Photography
Mimette and Chibi Moon: Flash Cord Photography
Mijuku Dreamer Dia Kurosawa: Devon Marie Johnson
Shop the We Love Colors’ Styles Featured on this Interview:
Style# 3407 – Shoulder Gloves
Style# 8101 – Fabric Dull Tricot
Style# 1531 – Knee Highs
Style# 3405 – Wrist Gloves
Style# 1008 – Nylon/Lycra Tights