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SYFY WIRE The Fandom Files

A cosplay trailblazer becomes big business, too [Ep #85]

By Jordan Zakarin
Yaya Han cosplay

Yaya Han was born in China and spent her teenage years living in Germany, so when she moved to the United States in the '90s, the culture shock was exponential. She had grown up loving manga, and watching anime is one of her earliest memories, but for the most part, Americans had yet to embrace many elements of Asian culture. So when she heard about Los Angeles’ Anime Expo in 1999, she made a beeline for the convention center.

Not only was she equal parts relieved and excited to see a convention floor filled with familiar totems from the pop culture of her youth, but she was absolutely elated once she figured out why there were dozens and dozens of people dressed like the characters from the TV shows and comics she loved so much.

"Cosplay is what made me feel like I found my place," Han told The Fandom Files in the newest episode of the SYFY WIRE podcast. "It's when I thought, OK, this is what I'm doing for life."

Han made good on that decision, as she became one of the trailblazers of the burgeoning art form. Her first cosplay was from the anime called Yu Yu Hakusho, and while she had no idea how to sew and her costume wasn't good enough to be recognizable by other fans, it was a start.

She honed her skills to the point where she became a fixture and fan favorite on the convention circuit, renowned for her designs and her ability to wear them.

Han’s appeal goes beyond niche — she's appeared on SYFY's own Heroes of Cosplay show in 2013 and now has her own line of cosplay-specific materials at JOANN, which puts her firmly in the mainstream. Yaya Han spoke to use about her life, love of cosplay, career, and burgeoning business.