Interview with J-Chan

It’s time for another interview, this time with J-Chan! She’s a cosplayer from Colorado who’s evolved and taken her work onto new and amazing levels! She’s talented, ambitious, and creates some great eye-catching designs!

J-Chan out of costume

What’s your cosplay alias and why did you choose it?
As a freshman in high school, I chose Japanese as a second language. Prior to my courses in Japanese I’d say that my interest was minimal compared to my other classmates. I never considered myself “otaku.” I was oblivious to the foreign characters and elaborate plots “otaku” spoke of as if it were common knowledge; however I was intrigued and my passion ignited expeditiously. I discovered a love for traditional Japan vs. its modern sub-cultures and I submitted to it. In class, students selected nick-names, I simply took the initial of my first name, “J” and the diminutive suffix “Chan” and combined the two, hence my alias “J-Chan.” Throughout high school, I studied Japanese for a total of 4 years, worked as my Sensei’s TA for 2 years, hosted “Anime & Cosplay Club” for 3 years, and later participated in the “Denver-Takayama Sister Cities” program for 2 years as an exchange student as well as a host. Throughout those years I was almost known exclusively as “J-Chan” no one ever called me by my birth name, Jessica… well, except for my family. When I developed an interest in cosplay the name stuck. Later when I pursued designing full-time I kept my alias in use as my business name: J-Chan’s Designs. The name holds irreplaceable memories, both good and bad. It has very much become who I am, and I’m proud of it!

Jade from Ru Paul's Drag Race as Jennifer Lopez from The Cell made by J-Chan, photo by Mark Hayes

How many years have you been cosplaying and what got you started?
I started cosplaying in 2004, I dropped out of the scene around 2008/2009. My last appearance was as a Special Guest Craftsmanship judge at Izumicon. That was a rewarding experience to say none the less. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing all of the contestants and having the opportunity to evaluate their artistry. It was by far a superb way to exit the scene! But… how I got my start… A friend of mine told me about a local convention called “Nan Desu Kan.” I had no idea what it was, but I researched it and read anything and everything I could find about the event. I was absolutely thrilled that we had a local Anime Convention, and when I found out about the cosplay contest, I delved into the cosplay world and found myself fascinated and inspired. I studied images for hours and hours, visually learning the techniques used by established cosplayers. I knew as soon as I discovered the art that it was something that I had to do. I rallied up a small group of friends, made all of their costumes and we attended Nan Desu Kan, competed in the costume contest, and had a hell of a time goofing off and just being ourselves among the other fans and enthusiasts. It was one of the greatest times of my life. People photographed us like we were celebrities, and praised the hard work I put into all of the outfits. Afterward it became something I craved; cosplay was my life for quite some time.

What has been some of your favorite things to work with when constructing costumes and why?
The construction of the first costumes I ever created were a mixture of machine-sewing and hot glue. Hot glue is great! Even after all my years in Costume Design working with extraordinary talent both in the modeling and entertainment industry, I find that nothing else beats the power of a hot glue gun. I love working with hot glue, my headdresses (which have always been a highlight of my work) are crafted with hot glue. I generally spend 2-3 hours on one headdress. If I was provided with a limited supply of materials I would sit down (with my hot glue gun) and create headdresses all day long. I love it! Aside from that I adore working with heavy fabrics, especially upholstery and drapery fabric….in my eyes there’s nothing better. I would’ve loved to have been a seamstress during the Elizabethan era; I would die to get my hands on those textiles. A second favorite is crepe-back satin.

What are you excited to be working with in the future and why?
I’m excited to be working on film. Though this strays from cosplay, I’ve recently received several opportunities to participate in film projects. It’s an extraordinary thing to see my work captured in motion, used to help express feeling and tell stories. I’m happy to be contributing to a full-length feature film called “Kiss Me Dark” with Acid Pop Tart, who coincidentally happens to be a comic-book enthusiast and a cosplay gal! I hope the beginning stages of my film work will lead me to Tim Burton. It would be an incredible opportunity to one day design for a live-action film as well… who knows what the future will hold, really. I’d like to appear more as guest judge in the con-circuit as well.

What are some of the traits you like to see in other costumes and who do you think does well in them?
Color. So many cosplayers attempt to translate characters realistically by muting the color palette. I interpret that as sucking the life out of their being (so to speak). I feel that color enhances the foundation of the characters; it helps establish their identity… so when the colors of a character are tempered with too much I think it changes our entire perception of said character. Someone who is currently using color in an astonishing way all while bringing realism to the characters is Adella, Lilyxandra, and the crew of the Zelda Project. I have a lot of respect for the work they’ve done thus far, and I hope their efforts will pay off.

What is your view of the “cosplay scene”?
The cosplay-scene is inevitably filled with a mountain of narcissistic, egocentric, self-centered individuals and cliques. The worst behavior (believe it or not) actually originates from the adults. Becoming a member of the cosplay “community” can be disheartening, especially for the youth that attends. If you have any insecurity about yourself, those that feel superior to you will shun you like an infectious plague and shine their blaring spotlight on your flaws and then capitalize on it to garner some sort of following or respect from other cosplay members who’ve also manifested the same superior mind-set. I can’t help but feel sorry for them. There is an effective, respectable way to criticize and make suggestions. My view of the cosplay scene is the constant failure to realize that we all come together for a reason. We are a community of people who love and admire animation, video games, comic books, etc. This is overlooked by physical appearance, status, etc. It becomes very superficial. Where some may interpret conventions as a safe-zone to be among a “family” sadly have a rude awakening in store. The pressures of society are just as present in the cosplay scene as they are in a middle school setting for example, perhaps even amplified as identities are masked by costumes. There needs to be more LOVE!

J-Chan as Mana from Malice Mizer, photo by Mark Hayes

What are some of the things you want to see change in the scene?
My main concern is basically what I’ve mentioned above. That, and better organization within the cosplay contests. I more often see problems arise in result of an unjust panel of judges who aren’t necessarily as qualified as some or may approach their judgment in a biased manner. If you’ve acquired such a position to direct a cosplay contest I think the main point to focus on is fairness and equal opportunity.

What is some advice you could give people starting to get into cosplay?
Research, ask questions, network, and acquire resources. This craft is about having fun, enjoy yourself and do what you feel. We all start out somewhere, and as long as you love cosplaying and keep an open mind and a humble heart there will be plenty of time for your skills to grow and develop into what you hope for. Taking the first step is a great accomplishment on its own. One of the best Joker costumes I’ve ever seen was this guy’s first time dressing up at a convention. He picked out all of his items on budget from a thrift store, but looked so magnificent!

What are some of your favorite conventions you’ve attended and why?
A-kon in Dallas, TX is my favorite convention. It’s ALWAYS an interesting, memorable experience and I always meet so many wonderful people there.

Give a random fact about one of your costumes that you’re proud of!
My Queen of Hearts costume is one of my favorites; it’s evolved over and over again throughout the years. The response I receive when I wear it is unparalleled. A random fact about it: the crown atop the wig is crumbled up newspaper covered with blood-red micro-velvet!

J-Chan as The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, photo by Deanna Gomes

Thanks for the interview, J-Chan! You can check out more of her work on her website and her Facebook!

About Yunie

I am a cosplayer, a nerd, a geek. I am whatever you call me. However, I have a brain and tend to use it.
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