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When age is just a number: Septuagenarian sews her own cosplay costumes

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Benson Ang on 02 Feb 2020

The Straits Times

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Madam Shirley Chua is not afraid to play the provocateur.

 

Known as "Auntie Shirley" in the local cosplay community - dominated by anime-obsessed teenagers - she once slayed it in a revealing outfit with a plunging neckline.

 

In 2014, she dressed up as Ragyo Kiryuin, an antagonist from anime series Kill La Kill, in a self-made outfit.

 

"I am okay with wearing revealing clothes," she says.

 

"But I won't wear them often because I don't think people want to see me in them," the 72-year-old adds with a laugh.

 

Madam Chua has also portrayed her fair share of older characters, such as the Fairy Godmother from the Disney animated movie Cinderella and Granny from the Looney Tunes cartoons.

 

Her introduction to cosplay came in the mid-2000s, through her son, Skyy Sia, who was then 17. He is now 32.

 

Madam Chua initially helped him make his costumes, but soon followed him to cosplay events out of curiosity and got hooked on cosplay herself.

 

She says: "I saw those beautiful, elaborate costumes and thought how nice it would be to be the centre of attention, surrounded by photographers."

 

In 2011, she took the plunge, attending a Cosfest event at Downtown East dressed as Erina Joestar, a motherly character from the Japanese manga series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. "I was initially a little nervous and slightly stiff when posing for the cameras. But I soon loosened up and had a blast."

 

Nowadays, she creates her costumes by purchasing materials - such as fabric, ribbons and sponge - from Chinatown and sewing them, by hand or with a sewing machine, in her town house in Tanah Merah.

 

She has lost count of the anime and television characters she has portrayed, but they include super-heroines such as Supergirl, Wonder Woman, the mutant Storm from the X-Men comic book and film series, as well as Chun-Li from the Street Fighter video game series.

 

In December last year, the retiree donned an eye-catching headpiece to be Rita Repulsa, a villain from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series, at the EOY J-Culture Festival at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.

 

To get her character poses just right, she practises them in front of a mirror before going to cosplay events.

 

"Many older people do not do cosplay because they are shy and are afraid young people will laugh at them," she says.

 

"But nobody has laughed at me, and after I encourage my senior friends, some now say they want to join in."

 

Many other cosplayers are surprised when they learn of Madam Chua's age.

 

She says: "I tell them age does not matter. What matters is that my hobby brings me joy. I have met many friends and young people through cosplay and I love it. At the events, I get very tired, but also very happy."

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

 

 

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