Interview conducted by Tora Shae
Tora Shae: Hi everyone, I am Tora Shae with Black Girl Nerds and I have with me Ashphord, from Dolldelight on The Doll Life on Myx TV. I’m so excited. I love her so much and The Doll Life is a super addictive web series about Lolita Fashion and everything behind the scenes. I watched one episode and that was it. I was hooked. That was my life. Thank you so much for coming on Black Girl Nerds. I’m so excited to have you. Ever since I found out about Chocolate Covered Cosplay, I’ve been following you.
Ashphord Jacoway: Thank you so much, I appreciate it. It’s wonderful when you work on something really hard, and then people understand the goodness you’re trying to do. It’s just really appreciative to be here with you. Thank you so much.
Tora: For people who don’t know and are trying to piece it together for the first time, exactly what is Lolita Fashion and how do you fit in the world?
Ashphord: Sure. Lolita Fashion is a style that came, and that was really popular in Japan, mainly in Tokyo, Shibuya and Harajuku, where the style derives from French Rococo Period, and it’s got this European turn for the small-type bodices and the poufy bottom skirts, which is the birth of the main concept of Lolita, but there’s Gothic Lolita and Cute Lolita, and they all have different aspects.
With that being said, it’s a lot of beautiful laces and colors. The flower skirts and petticoats. Lots of ruffles, depending on which side you’re on. At the inside, I kind of got into Lolita Fashion when I was younger and in High School, I thought it was super awesome and cool. A lot of the stuff that was coming out was really expensive and I couldn’t afford it. Doll Style, which is very, very inclusive and allows people to be who they are and be fine with whatever size or shape they exist in. It can sometimes be very much like you’ve got to be small, flat-chested and have this little body type to fit in. Sometimes, Harajuku will come out with and just like, hey everyone. Have fun. That’s why I ended up working with her as a model and that’s how my transition from a Lolita Doll style happened.
Tora: That’s amazing. So, tell us about the show. Tell us about how do you enjoy being up there? I mean, I watched it. It’s addictive; it’s full of drama, it’s full of real-life situations. Obviously, managing models. Obviously, managing a business. Obviously, the way that you’re juggling your responsibilities is very interesting. Give us the details.
Ashphord: As a model, it’s some kind of deal with just by making it into the industry first. Either some agents think you’re done or the stage wasn’t ready or the people didn’t show on time and there are many different factors and many of them you’ll see on the show, as to why sometimes shows can be quite difficult. You kind of just have to go with the flow. That’s one thing I’ve definitely learned working on The Doll Life. It’s really like, just go with it because that makes it a lot easier and more like, to me the more they show how relaxed I am which I’m not sure if it ever comes on the show, but I’m always like, okay guys do what you need to do but we could just make this happen right now, if we would all just focus but that’s cool. I’ll just eat these snacks in the back. Whatever. Figure it out.
Tora: No, I definitely notice that. The camera will pan to you and you’re just like, this is a lot. I’ll notice your face doing that.
Ashphord: Oh my gosh, I’m so glad because sometimes when they cut things together, I’m like, please I made so many good looks. I just have looks like, oh my goodness guys, what’s going on. I’m glad that things went well.
Tora: I understand that with editing sometimes, it can be a lot, especially when they’re trying to… they cut out the boring parts so it’s just the excitement so it kind of does just make some people’s personalities seem a little over the top.
Tora: You don’t get the little boring conversations. You just get you’re the worst.
Ashphord: Yes. That’s not how… I swear. There are times. Go ahead.
Tora: No, no, no, no. I understand there are times, especially when you are pulling together fashion shows. You’re pulling together all of this, and you guys are obviously putting in so much work, and you’re putting yourself out there, and it’s so adorable. I know that’s those moments right before you go out there have to be nerve-wracking. I watch it with, just a little bit of okay, I get it.
Tora: I love the show, and I definitely love who you are on the show. One of the things that I noticed that you do on the show is that you’re juggling being a founding member of Chocolate Covered Cosplay and your responsibilities at Dolldelight. How do you manage that?
Ashphord: For me, I was fortunate enough for the fact that I was allowed to be apart of some of our work that we do on the show. A lot of times, they would come and totally bail us out whenever we needed it, which is pretty much when anything would happen, I’d be like, I could just call a bunch of Cosplay girls. Want some Cosplay girls? What you want? Let me know, if you need a model. Here, just take them. We are friends.
I have to say that sometimes there were days where we’d be doing a convention or something like that and they would ask us to do other things at the same time and a lot of times, I had to sort of balance the two. I should have done the show but I don’t think you see a lot where I’m working with, I’m trying to work with and then something else pops up and they’re like, oh we need you over here. I’m like, but I’m trying to do this other thing over here. Sometimes, you just gotta pick one and for the most part, try to be fair and even. That’s what I do.
Tora: For people who don’t know what Chocolate Covered Cosplay is because I feel like I’ve mentioned quite a lot. Can you explain what it is and what your reason for founding it was?
Ashphord: Sure. Chocolate Covered Cosplay, right now we currently have 4 members who are active. We have six ladies who are all of our founding members. What we do is we participate in the Cosplay community. We be sure in giving our own personal stories and having open dialogue to share. You can be whoever you want to. You can costume whatever you like to, no matter your size, color, shape, gender, race or background or creed. We want people to feel as though they have the freedom to Cosplay whatever they want. We go to different conventions. Usually, we get invited to talk about diversity.
Sometimes, our panel, because we happen to be four African American ladies, that’s sort of where our perspective comes from first because we know the most about that. We can’t speak for other people, especially disenfranchised groups. However, we always open ourselves up to a huge dialogue. Probably half way through our panel or most of our panel just ends up being like, please tell us your stories or give us your perspective so that we can all talk and dialogue about it so that we can all just become more aware of different people that are in the Cosplay community so that’s what we do as a group. Chocolate Covered Cosplay.
Tora: Speaking of Cosplaying as a black woman. I do a little Cosplay. Obviously not on the level…
Ashphord: It’s all good. Go ahead.
Tora: I do notice a little bit of it’s not accepted the same level as our white counterparts. I wanted to know what your take on that was? How you felt about the inclusion of black women, within the Cosplay community?
Ashphord: Sure. I think what we’re having right now is a really beautiful, not a soul resurgence but a sort of coming out era of which Nerddom has become cool and then more other black women that I know have been like, yeah I’ve been a nerd of Cosplay for song long and I was like, that’s awesome. Let’s be friends. I’ve seen a lot of that happening. I’ve noticed that the black community, we’re kind of getting to a place where we’re all accepting everyone as a whole and everyone’s coming out. Oh I love Batman and I’m like, yes, girl, what’s up and throw hype about it. I think there’s really something happening in the black community about it now. Also, especially with other black women, that we build each other up a lot more. Things like Chocolate coming at you for 28 days of Black Cosplay.
Tora: I love it.
Ashphord: It was probably one of my favorite experiences, of watching those black communities come together, right? So, for us, I see that happening a lot, and it’s awesome, so I feel a lot of positives but I still also am not blind to or are aware that I’m still being called a black person of character. I’ve had people saying to me, and the girls in CC, oh you can’t Cosplay that because you are black. Specifically, word for word this happened.
Also, being aware of other things that happened to a lot on this show, The Doll Life, afterwards. The first season, people were like, oh who brought this “n” word in today, to be in Lolita? I was like, oh word? That’s great for you. For me, there’s still people who are just like that and it’s unfortunate that’s still happening, that there’s still a sense of discrimination that you may not get as many views or likes. Or, Cosplay groups will say, oh we are super inclusive but we don’t see anybody who isn’t really cute and also fair and also very …
There are some websites like that cater to that, but at the same time, when diversity comes up, often, I feel like sometimes, we all get left behind. That’s kind of my perspective on it. I think there are great things that are happening and it’s a great sense of unity but also, I’m still aware that it might be more difficult for me to get hired into a group gig because I don’t quote unquote, look like the character, even if my costume’s on point. That can go on. I could talk about this for a very long time. That’s my quick perspective on it.
Tora: Just the tip.
Ashphord: I’m trying to keep it short.
Tora: I could get heated and talk about that as well. That and, also being plus-sized and trying to fit into … So, I went to this Black Khaleesi, fat black Khaleesi DragonCon. Let me tell you, that was not … Some people were accepting, and other people were like, who do you think you are, to even try?
Ashphord: How dare you have fun? How dare you have fun and enjoy yourself and have a great day off of work? Oh, God forbid.
Ashphord: Let people be.
Ashphord: You’re not offending anyone. You’re not making fun of anyone’s race or background or something like that. You’re dressing up as a character because you thought they were cool. The end. Let it be what it is.
Tora: Obviously, I’m not going to be Khaleesi and obviously, you’re not actually Batman. You can’t scale buildings. Let’s calm down.
Ashphord: When I first got into Cosplay, I thought well, since I don’t look like any of these characters, my costume’s just got to be on point, right? So that was the first thing I did was, I guess I’m going to go for accuracy. Then they can’t think of anything else to say. It’s like, whatever. Then, why don’t you show me your costume that you worked on for this many hours like I did? Please, show me your patterns so you can tell me how difficult it was to make all of this so I can hear from a professional. When people come at you and they got experience and knowledge and you’re like, dude. Come on, man. It’s not like we’re all working on film or tv right now. We’re at a convention having a really good time with our friends. That’s how I see that.
Tora: What advice would you give a young, black girl whose teetering on that edge? Whose wondering whether or not, struggling with the courage to Cosplay a character that she’s scared she’ll get some flak for. Or, just scared to Cosplay in general because she’s not sure if the world is for her.
Ashphord: You know, for me, it’s … I think we all agree that we should be doing things that make you happy. That’s the understatement of the world when it comes to what it means to be human. We should really go and enjoy yourselves and live the life that you want, to the extent of not hurting anybody else. That’s the basic rule. You always have the ability to do whatever you want to. You’re in complete control and complete capacity to do so. You can’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t do something. If anybody has anything to say, that’s their problem with you and that’s none of your business. If someone else has an issue with you, they need to figure it out because it probably has very little to do with you in the first place. They’re probably dealing with something else that’s going on in their lives and they’re just projecting into your own personal life because they need some sort of satisfaction to validate themselves.
The most important thing to know is you validate you. You have to validate yourself. You can’t ask for anybody else to make you feel okay with who you are as a person. That’s something that has to come from you. It’s probably the hardest thing that we all do as people. Even though it’s wonderful, you should always have people in your life who will reinforce the person that you wish to be, and also, help build you up so you can do that and surround yourself with those who are going in the same direction as you. The world is always going to be here for you, in a sense. Never think that it’s not and the more that you put yourself in that perspective, the easier it will be when you meet those people who are naysayers. They mean so much less because you’re surrounded by those who love you.
Tora: That was so inspiring. That really was. Thank you for that.
Ashphord: You’re welcome.
Tora: What is the most important aspect of Lolita Fashion for you?
Ashphord: Well, more than anything, I love Sweet Lolita and I also like a little bit of Cosplay Lolita too. The difference is … It is what it is but gosh, I love a good, fluffy petticoat. Ruffles are like my favorite thing. Ruffles, lace, petticoats, just pouf as much as possible. As someone who has very small breasts, I’m just going to say I’m very happy that the aesthetic does go with the community sometimes. It gives me a place to live. Also, it doesn’t hide my butt but sometimes that can be with the petticoat because it’s like badam, you know. When you’ve got things going on below, you’re like, oh it’s just my body. That’s my petticoat. I love the … I have to admit it. There are many times on the show where I am not wearing a petticoat at all. I would say, the petticoat is my favorite part and just the ruffles that come along on the bottom. The choice of lace is really nice too. You can tell the quality of a good dress by the kind of lace it has on it.
Tora: Oh wow. I do love a good petticoat.
Ashphord: So many things. Go ahead.
Tora: What is the best Cosplay you’ve ever put together with the fewest materials or the cheapest materials?
Ashphord: Well, I do shop cheap all the time. I’m not going to lie. Some of my favorite fabrics, less than, on me, anyway, $20 a yard. I have to go with, my Fiona. I didn’t do Fiona and Cake. I just did Fiona. That being said, [inaudible 00:19:46] I had bought a shirt, and I bought another shirt, and I made them into a top and a bottom. Then I bought this felt that was really cheap. I bought like a yard of it for two bucks, and I made a hat and everything out of it.
Then, I got some socks that I had, and I put together, I added additions on the thigh-highs, so they had the blue stripes on them and such. I’d say that’s somewhere between the cheapest and the best one is because the thing about it is then it has to be super clean. The cleaner the lines then the more they lie flat which is better, so I was able to sew some really good stretch to keep me warm during Halloween. That was just like ten bucks for a shirt, and the thing I used for my shirt was a tank top that I bought for two dollars because you can use skirts and shirts interchangeably when you’re knee-size.
I do that often, where I’m like, I’ll take a shirt and be like, I’ll just put this lower. Now it’s a mini skirt. Call it. The end. Then that’s what I did. Anything else I added to that costume it gave me, I already made the hat. I had the ability to make Fiona’s Moon Princess quote unquote, whatever dress that was. The Moon Princess dress that she wore in her episode.
Tora: Oh my God. I feel like we’re sisters now because that’s the cheapest Cosplay I’ve ever done. I also found a cheap Finn sword and turned it into the Fiona sword with some cheap ribbon.
Tora: Made a Cake shield with some … I got some poster board and turned it into Cake’s face and made that into a shield. It was so cheap. The whole thing was so cheap.
Ashphord: Nice! I was like, wow. I got this top. God, girl.
Tora: Something light, something light. Cosplay was super fun.
Ashphord: I think Fiona was … I think Fiona was all of our hearts and souls. When she came out, we were like, oh yeah, that’s what I feel. Great. Awesome. Thanks for nailing that exactly.
Tora: That moment, when she had to go to the ball, and she was like, but, where do I put my sword? I was like … Okay, well, that’s me. Thank you.
Ashphord: Yeah but. I’m the same. Anytime someone asks what Cosplay I’m wearing, like let me tell you about the most comfortable shoes. I’ll be wearing those tennis shoes until it’s time. Oh no, no. I tell you what. I’ve been doing this since like the beginning of forever. I have absolutely no use for anything that’s not flats. Something useful for my feet so in case I have to … I don’t know why I’m preparing for some sort of apocalypse or in case you have to go, I just want to be wearing the proper shoes. That’s all that matters.
Tora: Someone needs to put together that list. A Practical Guide to Conventions.
Ashphord: Oh gosh, yes!
Tora: Pick Cosplays.
Tora: With shoes that won’t kill you after two hours because …
Ashphord: I know right. You have to be doing things. I did have Guardians once, for San Diego Comic Con. I was tired of looking for those boots. I was like, oh no no no. They will be cheap but they will also be really good and the way they zipped up, she’s got these thigh-high boots and they zipped up and held my ankles right and I’m like, that’s what I need. Ankle support. I wear those boots for four or five hours. At the end of five hours okay, I’ve been wearing shoes for a long time. That’s a normal understanding. Anything before that, so we’re good. Solid. I feel you. Cute Cosplays.
I felt like my Cosplay was cute too because I spent four, maybe six bucks on three yards of fabric because there’s a spot in town that’s a dollar ninety-nine per yard and I was like, yo, this fabric right here it’s a woven, and it sheds if you don’t keep it woven precariously if you will. It’s got really good standing and holding power. It will poof up and make really good dermal skirts. I made that Moon Princess dress.
So I had extra fabric left over and I made the torn version of it, where she tears it off. That cost me, I don’t know, six bucks. Maybe ten. I bought some rings, those gold rings that are on the breast thing. I just bought some gold rings and they were two or three inches each so they were pretty big so all I had to do was sew them on. I think the most expensive thing I bought was some gold thread. No, I had it. Nevermind. I have gold thread. I’ve just been using it for seven years because it’s so … It’s gold thread. Anyway, when it comes to cheap Cosplay, it all depends on where you can buy and source your things. I can spend ten bucks and make like a Moon Princess gown. There that is.
Tora: Right. That’s amazing. You’re so talented.
Ashphord: Thank you.
Tora: No problem at all. What can we expect from you next? Where can we see you next?
Ashphord: Oh my goodness. Well, what am I doing next? Mainly look out for me on our Chocolate Covered Cosplay website because we are doing a revamp right now. I can’t say much, but I can tell you that we are looking towards doing lots of articles and also some videos as far as having lots of content on it so that we can move people from our Facebook page. which we still stay active on all the time. But we’re pushing towards having a website and a community that we can fully realize. So that’s what I’m going to spend a lot of my time next on. For myself I work at my little theatre company downtown in little Tokyo so come see a show!! That’s what I’m doing next to normal next,
Tora: Okay, thank you so much for that.
Ashphord: You’re welcome.
Tora: Thank you so much. Well, we appreciate you so much for coming on Black Girl Nerds and obviously, as a fan, I appreciate you talking with me about all of the things that I love.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.