Find out in what way Rea, 22, makes a living as a full-time cosplayer.
Singapore: A petite woman is dressing up within a bedroom in an HDB level, getting ready for work.
She displays contact lenses, dabs pink blush on her cheekbones, and sticks on false eyelashes before wearing a black dress.
But Reg, 22, who in no way wants to give her name, is no typical worker.
The contact lenses she puts on are red, her black dress comes along with a fluffy coat. She has a tanned wig that she combs while seated on the bedroom ground covered with even more azure brown and blonde wigs.
It is a Monday in August. Also, Reg has just consumed two hours converting herself into goddess Ishtar from the mobile game Fate/Grand Order.
She is a regular cosplayer who dresses up as an imaginary person from anime series or video games and changes her Cosplay (costume play) photos into a product.
Reg, named Rea Kami in the cosplay society, is one of Singapore’s uncommon breeds of career cosplayers. She makes out of just one other full-time cosplayer, and cosplay event organizers do not have an evaluation of how many such full-timers there are.
She earns around $3,500 to $4,000 on good months when there are more cosplay and anime conventions that she can attend and sell her merchandise, which can cost up to about $300 each.
The merchandise she sells to cosplay fans is self-branded items bearing her face and name, such as prints, issued photo books, banners, and T-shirts. She also chats with her fans on the speaking platform Discord as part of her labor.
Reg, named Rea Kami in the cosplay society, is one of a rare breed of full-time cosplayers in Singapore.
“To me, cosplaying is how I pay praise to my favorite characters and bring them to life,” she says.
“Some people may find that monetizing their hobby makes it anxiety, but I love cosplay even further now that I’m doing it as my job.”
Reg has a valued 60 to 80 costumes. Mostly kept in a rented storage facility, and typically uses up around $1,500 on outfits and wigs yearly.
The youngest trio of children, she started cosplaying in 2015.
Still, she went full-time only in March last year. This is when she took a break year after graduating with a certificate in Mass Communication from Ngee Ann University. She now has 25,900 supporters on her Instagram account.
From time to time, she gets invited to attend overseas conventions. Appearance fees range between $100 and $500, although well-known international cosplayers with a considerable fanbase can command more significantly.
For example, top Japanese cosplayer Enako reportedly earns $130,000 daily in Tokyo at last year’s Comiket, a comic fair.
In Singapore, Cosplay has gone from the edges to the mainstream. It’s because enterprising cosplayers can make a living from their hobby.
There are now at least seven yearly cosplay-related events, including Sakura Matsuri: Anime Garden, launched last year.
Anime Celebration Asia saw over 105,000 fans and contestants last year, up from 25,000 attendees in its first year in 2008. moreover, Cosfest, which started in 2002 with 200 attendees, attracted over 20,000 people this July.
Mr. Shawn Chin, the founder of Anime Festival Asia, says: “Cosplay usually starts as a hobby for many cosplay enthusiasts to express their creativity, step into a different world and bring a specific personality to life.”
“For others, it stays a hobby, but some are also quite resourceful – partnering with companies as ambassadors or producing their goods.”
Vanessa, 22, who refused to give her full name, is the other full-time cosplayer in Singapore that Reg knows.
The anime fan was presented to Cosplay by a friend in secondary school. After her O levels, she took a permanent retail job and started selling cosplay merchandise on the US-based crowdfunding member program Patreon.
Three years ago, she quit her work to go into full-time cosplayer after realizing she could earn more from the hobby.
Vanessa, known as Kiyo in the cosplay community, says she now earns around US$2,500 (S$3,470) each month from Patreon.
The youngest of three children says her household is considerate of her job.
Meanwhile, she intends to continue doing Cosplay for several more years. She hopes it will open up the channel for her to accept gaming or music-related roles in the entertainment industry.
Both Vanessa and Reg pressure that there is nothing cheap over what they do.
Says Reg: “When I inform people I’m a full-time cosplayer, the first thing people will think about is all the pervert racy stuff or the lewd, adult work, which I don’t do.”
Wearing a bikini at the beach, such as the ones worn by mobile game Fate/Grand Order’s summer servants characters, is the furthermost she would go.
As for Vanessa, she does the rare conceptual room shoots in lingerie.
“I don’t do anything that I find disgusting. That’s the line I don’t cross,” she cited.
She has about 212,000 followers on her Instagram account, Kiyocosplay. Overwatch is a well-known popular video-game character that she cosplays.
But not every cosplayer hopes to turn her hobby into her full-time job.
Zhen Zhen, 19, who refused to give her surname. She is happy to cosplay on weekends as a hobby – even though she respects full-time cosplayers.
The first-year academy student, who goes by the name of Yukiko, has over 198,000 fans on her Instagram account Xiaoyukiko and gains money by selling her cosplay photos and merchandise on Patreon.
She primarily does cute-looking characters, such as Rem from the anime series Re: Zero. Also does photoshoots mainly on the weekends.
She dreams of taking on her family business in the future.
“It’s a hobby, so I don’t feel stressed to keep creating new content. People say maybe I’ll grow out of it, but who knows what will happen in the future,” she says.
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