14 Jun Anime North Toronto 2017: Interview with Nadinola Khae
(Nadinola Khae is a Co-Creator of Black and Brown Folks Like Anime Too! Panel)
I am low key ambitious and creative. I am low key about everything that I do, but I also have artist ADD and so if you go upstairs I have like maybe four projects going on right now. Online I have a couple of stuff going on. It’s like wow I need to sit down and actually get serious and work on them and finish them. I’m also quirky and passionate. I don’t know if I am going to Cosplay or do Lolita next year. It depends on what I see and what I feel maybe if I see a nice Pokémon cosplay I might do another Pokémon cosplay I have already done Lopunny and Jinx. I retired Jinx though I might have to retire Lopunny, but if I see a character that I like I might do it. Hmm, what else? I’m 31 years old. I feel old I tell people I am 28 years old as long as people don’t know my sister is 28 years old it works.
What is your favorite anime/manga?
In terms of the past Ranma ½ will always hold a special place in my heart and once in a while, I go back to read a couple of chapters. Presently, I am really digging Magical Girl Apocalypse, it has a really interesting story granted it has some cheesecake in there, but it’s still interesting cheesecake wise. Another story I liked is the Demon Ororon. It’s like a modern day demonique Romeo and Juliet. It was so good like that is another series I will never get rid of. Lady Snow Blood that one was made into a movie as well that was a really good series. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is another favorite because it is two books long!! There is a Canadian artist she recently released her second series, but her first series called DramaCon was only three books long it’s about the main characters first time going to an anime convention.
When did you start cosplaying?
My first cosplay was a really bad Lopunny. What year did that come out? I want to say maybe 2009. I know there is a photo album with me and my other Pokémon cosplay friends they did some top-notch cosplays. They are the ones that inspired me to want to cosplay because they did Naruto first and then they did a couple of other small ones. That’s when I was like “nope I gotta do it” I just felt something for Lopunny that I decided I needed to figure out how to do it. So my mom made the dress and I sewed the ears and other accessories. A year later I made improvements to that cosplay I actually got a leotard, fancy dance leggings, I had proper bound boots, I got the ears to go up and down like the character so that was a big improvement, but I’m going to retire her because wearing that cosplay is heavy. I have been researching Lolita fashion for years and one of the people that inspired me to start doing Lolita was Trumain and this was before I actually met Trumain. He was doing like a boy-style with his girlfriend at the time and I took a picture of them. When I was reviewing my photo album I realized we met before we actually met. It wasn’t until last year that I actually did two full coordinates that I wore at Anime North and I got a lot of praise even though half of my stuff did not arrive in time. My friend Tonya and her friend Christine they helped me put together a lot of this stuff for my Lolita coordinates and it really took me a really long time to figure out my style. There are different styles of Lolita and I realized I’m sweet style, which looks good on me.
What inspired you and your friends to start the Black and Brown People Love Anime Too Panel at Anime North?
The original name was Black Kids Like Anime Too! I started that in 2008 and the reason I started that panel was because when I first went to Anime North in 2003 I was surprised to see how little diversity there was at that time. I was literally able to count myself, my best friend, maybe three or four other black people and maybe one brown person at this anime convention. Even in regards to East Asian people, there was my other best friend and like twenty or forty other people. It was literally a sea of white people, but as the years went by the amount of diversity in people increase because Anime North was seen as the beacon for us non-confirmative weirdos of color so it was like “Oh Hey wait a minute a convention? For people who like this kind of stuff? I thought I was alone”. Even in 2002 I never told anybody that I liked reading manga and my best friend did not know either. It turns out she liked reading it too, but we never told each other because it was embarrassing. So in 2003 we both decided to go to Anime North and that is where I noticed the lack of diversity of people of color.
Can you explain what the process was like attempting to create this panel that would discuss issues surrounding race in relation to the nerd community?
So when I pitched the panel and what I wanted it to be about that, in fact, there is a growing community of nerds of color, in particular Black Nerds were coming out to the convention. I wanted a safe space for us to come together to just joke, acknowledge that we see each other, and to say “Hey we are here too”. But I got a lot of pushback from the Anime North committee, in particular, there was this one person who said “oh you should not call it Black kids you should call it African American kids” and I had school them that “first of all you are white you do not get to tell me what I should call my panel second of all I do not identify as African nor American if I have to be specific I identify as Jamaican Canadian. So saying African American is kind of misleading plus it was also wordy I wanted to keep it short and simple for the panel book. I wanted an umbrella term because you can be Black and African, Black and American, you can be Black and Spanish. You’re a Black person Black is not specific to one continent or country. Anyways at some point I realized that I am not a kid anymore so the title of the panel changed from Black kids to Black Folks because I realized there were a lot of adults in the panel in fact at the very first panel there were folks from the states and they have been watching stuff from the 70’s and I was like “oh wow I forgot anime has been around for like decades”. So my first panelists were random I never met them before, but they had an interest in it so they stuck with me for the first couple of years. It gradually began to change, but it was still consistent this year group of panelists except myself and Cassandra was all new to the panel. I have been actively working on ensuring that the panel is diverse in representing different experiences of people of color. You know having Black and Brown spaces are so important for us because they are safe spaces, but because of white fragility I have to say the panel is open for everyone instead of just people of color. I have to specify that ALL are welcome because otherwise they start asking “am I invited to this? Oh, it’s just for People of Color well your segregating me” It’s frustrating. In regards to panelist every year I aim to have a diverse group of people as panelists I aim to have at least one male identified person instead of having mostly women in the panel. James Neil has actually helped diversify the panel he is mostly a figurehead even though he might not be able to come to the panel he still tries to help I’m actually in talks with him about starting a podcast and a blog which would be the next evolutionary step for our community, but I would like to keep it localized to Toronto or even Canada because we do not have that community for people of color who are also anime nerd fans. Even in other venues, I have been talking to Trumain and a couple of other people about starting a Black Lolita group in Toronto. I do not feel comfortable in the mainstream Lolita community, I want to create two subgroups there used to be a lot of subgroups, but people complained so they created one big Southern Ontario Lolita community. It’s too big and wildly overall I’m not comfortable I’d rather have a Peel region Lolitas, which would include Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon, which makes more sense right? Then have a Black Lolita of Toronto Community. The names of these groups are still in process *laughs*
Do you still experience push back when you want to register this panel every year?
It is less pushback from the staff members and it is more push back from Con goers. There was actually complaining on the official Anime North’s Facebook page. I did not see that thread, but my friend Tania did and I was like “White wine?” “Do they want cheese with their white wine?” Like seriously you’re not happy that I exist and the fact that I try to make space for myself? Like what does that say about you? You complaining about me existing says a lot more about you than about me so BYE-BYE!!
There are so many panels during Anime North so really out of all the panels Con goers have to complain about this one? Like seriously….
Literally this year there were three panels that dealt with People of Color issues, which two of them were mine and the third belonged to Priscilla’s cosplay panel. I don’t believe there were any other panels out there that deal with People of Color issues. The only other panel aside from that, which was not focused on People of Color issues, but still discussed relevant issues was the Homophobia and Transphobia in anime and manga panel that is run by a white passing Latina from Mexico.
That is interesting because I am wondering how do we discuss the intersectionality of our experiences, hell creating spaces for us to come together to discuss these issues at an anime convention is amazing in of itself. What do you hope to see change within the anime community? What can several prominent conventions do to address these issues that will lead to a meaningful dialogue and actual changes?
My little boy cousins are the reason I do what I do. One of them loves Spider-Man and he didn’t know that Miles Morales an Afro-Latino Spider-Man exists. So I sat there and I showed him pictures, he was only 5 years old at the time, but he understood that there was more than this white character. Representation is so crucial for our youth and we need to keep having this conversation. What I would like to see in anime conventions support the banning of all the racists for example if someone is being problematic as hell remove their asses from the convention. I have no problem putting someone’s name and address on blast because you know what? You’re a horrible and terrible person and do not have the right to share space with us. I demand the same thing with Lolita conventions. As a plus size Lolita I don’t go on CGL and 4-chan because there are threads just for Black Lolitas and you read the comments of people harshing on them just because they are BLACK, not because of their outfits or their shoes do not match their outfits or their wig is not pretty or their make-up is not good, but because they are BLACK and FAT. I have seen so many plus size Lolitas that slay the game better than these skinny white bitches so I don’t understand what is the real issue is for these haters. Are they that self-conscious about yourself that you have to hate on others? On the Saturday night panel Cassandra made the comment that she is affectionately called a “Death Fatty” and I lost my shit and almost choked on my apple juice. Cassandra is very obese, but you know what she is happy and comfortable and living her life. She is not hurting anyone so when I see people who are bigger than average that are doing something that they love and people are hating on them it makes me upset. I’m on the smaller size of plus size so I’m just like “wow imagine if I go out there?” like that is whole other topic right there being a person of color of size.
Aside from planning for the panel every year what other side projects are you currently working on?
I would like to do a podcast eventually and do a blog. I would like people to submit their articles to the blog and I can update it regularly. I want to keep it within Toronto for now, but eventually I want to expand both the website and the podcast all over Canada. I would also like more stuff on our Facebook group, but more than anything I would like to see more Canadians of color on the group page. My friend Kitty, for example, runs a website called “Brown and Nerdy”, which is a page more for South Asian and Latinx people, for example, she posts pictures of hijabi cosplayers. Actually, I would love to get in touch with two of her co-panelists who are hijabi cosplayers and have them be on the panel. More than anything I really want to support creators of color get their works out there.
What can your followers’ expect from you in the future?
I actually do art work and would like to get my website for my work to get going so that I can interact with more people and get both BFLAP and my name out there too so that I can earn an income on my work too. As much as I support grassroots organizing sadly I need money to survive. I would also like to support Kitty and get her group “Brown and Nerdy” more well-known too. I want to see more nerds of color come out and talk about how into this stuff they are.