Miranda Herman steps into character with cosplay
text: Jamie Ramirez
Silly Putty, an old bike helmet, Play-Doh, batteries, Styrofoam, glow sticks, aluminum foil, folder dividers and fun foam: These items are a few of the materials used to create Miranda Herman’s cosplay costume as Samus, a character from the 1986 video game Metroid.
“Cosplay is [about] becoming something you always wanted to be,” Herman said.
Cosplay is an art form of Japanese subculture in which people dress up as characters, usually from movies, books, video games or Japanese anime, states “Cosplay Fever,” a book written and photographed by Rob Dunlop and Peter Lumby.
Herman, a sophomore theater major, said she has loved cosplay since she first saw a commercial for the Anime Expo in Los Angeles when she was 12 years old. She went to her first convention two months later.
“I just had so many characters I wanted to be,” Herman said. “I had to be part of it.”
Herman asked her grandparents for a sewing machine instead of an iPod that Christmas so she could start making costumes. She still uses the same sewing machine.
Among her 28 personal creations are Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda, Princess Peach from the Super Mario video games series, Princess Aurora from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Baby Doll from Sucker Punch, Pikachu from Pokemon and Dark Magician Girl from Yu-Gi-Oh.
Herman’s Princess Zelda costume is her favorite because she went to great lengths to create all the detail in the costume.
“I couldn’t make out the lettering on her dress so I went on the Internet to research the alphabet found in the game,” Herman said.
Herman has worn this costume to this year’s Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually in San Francisco’s Japantown, as well as to FanimeCon. She plans to wear it again to The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses event in December.
Herman has participated in more than 50 conventions, parades and events.
“I’ve gone to five different anime conventions — five every year since I was 12, on top of the Cherry Blossom Parade and events like the Pokemon video game release event,” Herman said.
Joo-Hwan Jun, a senior theater major, met Herman through the anime club on campus. He said Herman is very talented and thinks one of her best costumes is the burlesque version of Princess Peach that she created for San José’s FanimeCon this year.
Herman, along with three friends, dressed in burlesque versions of Samus, Princess Peach, Luigi and Zelda and performed a dance routine at the convention.
“After they danced, we didn’t need to see anybody else perform,” Jun said. “It’s really about whether you enjoy entertaining people and that’s Miranda’s mentality. I applaud her for it.”
The group won best choreography and a $35 prize that Herman said she used to invest in small trophies for her group members. The prize money was not important, but finding the money to make these costumes is.
“Not everyone has that kind of budget to create these elaborate costumes,” Jun said. “I believe lower income people have to be so creative in a way because they have to dodge the obstacles of finances.”
Herman said she has a job at a pizza parlor in Santa Clara and her grandparents pay for her education. Between what Herman earns from work and what she earns from her personal side business as a seamstress, she’s able to collect enough money to make her costumes.
Herman’s side business, Princess Squib Cosplay, makes the most money during the spring and summer months when anime conventions are most active. She makes full costumes as well as accessories based on her client’s financial needs.
Money for materials is paid for up front, Herman said, and the rest of her commission is based on the number of hours she puts into a costume.
During her good months, Herman said she earns an average of $200 a month.
Krysta Shaw-Stearns is a client and friend of Herman’s whom she met through the anime club. She’s worn one of Herman’s masterpieces, a costume of cruel older sister Dee Dee, from the animated TV show, Dexter’s Laboratory.
“She has an incredible talent,” Shaw-Stearns said. “If you haven’t seen her Facebook page, you should take a look at it.”
Herman said her ultimate dream is to be a full-time cosplayer.
“I would love to be able to get paid to dress up in costumes,” Herman said. “I like the attention. It’s like being a superstar and you just can’t stop.”