Yukie Dong Interview
"I love sharing my feelings of anime songs with other people, and when they response to me, it feels so happy." - Yukie Dong
The world of Japanese costume play has an avid following around the world. One practitioner of this unique form of performance art is Yukie Dong, a lady with a truly international past. Born in Beijing and raised in California, Yukie was fascinated with the Japanese world of anime and video games since she was a girl. While her resume may reveal that she's a Berkeley trained process engineer, we are mighty glad that she decided to put her talents for singing, dancing and raising smiles to good use.
With an album "Alice & Rabbit" in the works, what better time to hear the story of the woman who says "Sometimes I get nervous before getting on the stage, but once I'm up on stage, I just concentrate on what I do and enjoy sharing the music with everyone else."On June 25, 2012 Yukie Dong was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Yukie Dong.
You recently had a busy weekend, performing in Mexico and San Jose. How did the shows go?
Both shows went really well! I was really happy. But of course, I was lacking sleep the whole weekend. I'm happy that it all paid off :)
Mexican anime fans are great and very warmhearted. Though we speak different languages, once the music starts, everyone knows which song I'm singing, instantly we are talking the same language. It feels amazing.
As if that wasn't enough you also popped in at Fanime. What was the vibe like there?
Fanime has always been my home-convention, since I live in the bay area. I performed for Fanimaid Cafe Live Show again. It also feels great to be home, seeing those familiar faces, also seeing new faces.
For anyone unfamiliar with the amazing world of Japanese themed costume performing, how would you describe what you do?
Hmmm, that's a hard question! I always feel hard to explain to "normal" people as well. Usually I say "I do Japanese anime song singing performance in characters costumes", the easiest way is to say "Just like wearing a Pikachu costume and sing Pokemon theme song." lol
Let's talk a little about those costumes. How do you pick what you'll wear for each performance?
It is the fun part ;) Usually I make my song list for the show first. Then decide which costume to wear based on the anime they are from, or the style of the music, for example, if I need to dance a lot.
Do you have a favorite shop to get your clothes and accessories from?
Normal: I love Japanese brands! I would say, 50% of my closet is LIZ LISA, and 40% is Snidel. They are both famous for their feminine look. LIZ LISA is very sweet and cute, it uses a lot of flower prints. Snidel is slightly more mature, it uses a lot of chiffon and laces. I don't have many accessories, usually bought from my trip to Japan or Taiwan.
If it's cosplay, I just go online and search for a good one. For punk/Lolita I like Peace Now / Putumayo / h.NAOTO (punk/gothic), and metamorphose / FRILL / BBSB (Lolita) / Angelic Pretty. Of course, bodyline would always be a good choice when under budget.
How would you describe your particular fashion style?
My style is usually very sweet and feminine. My favorite Japanese fashion magazines are Sweet, Popsister, ViVi, Popteen, and Seventeen. The type of clothes I have the most is "white lace dress".
Do you feel a transformation take place when you put on a costume?
I do! I feel very natural either with or without it! Since it just reflects different sides of myself. :)
For someone who sees this type of performance and doesn't get it, how would you explain the appeal it has to so many fans?
From my past experiences, I have not seen anyone that doesn't get it when they are in the scene. They all became a part of it and enjoyed it with everyone, I think that's the magic of anime music!
We suspect your home if full of stuffed animals or anime collectables. Are we wrong?
Haha you are partly right. But the things takes the most places are my costumes and my clothes ^^ I have 2 closets, but I wish I had more space :3
You recently performed at Anaheim's AM2. What songs did you do?
All 3 Kyary Pamyu Pamyu songs :D with dance. Because it's summer, the happy season, I want everyone at the event be get hyped! Plus my newly released original vocaloid song Hanamai Tsukuyomi Tan. We just got the promotion video done, take a look: Hanamai Tsukuyomi Tan promo.
How much do you look forward to this type of event?
I'm always looking forward to any conventions ^o^
Now many superheroes maintain two separate identities. Tell us a little about the other part of Yukie Dong's life as a Berkeley trained process engineer.
It's hard and not hard. The hard part is the limiting factor - time. When I'm doing my engineer job, I need to be there 24/7 mostly. So all the anime things are done during very limited spare time, many times using sleeping hours. It's not hard because it's just like having one regular job and having a side job at the same time.
But since late last year my health started going down due to lack of rest, I decided to quit my job and concentrate on anime projects, at the same time rest a little.
What did your co-workers think of your cosplaying activities?
They love it! And they are very supportive to me. Sometimes they request me to do a dance for them to cheer up.
What do your family and friends think of the diverse interests in your life?
They are all pretty supportive as well. And my friends are anime fans as well, we do things together, it's really cool.
Tell us about your song Hanamai Tsukuyomi Tan (Fantasia of Flower and Singing Moon).
Yes! It's an original vocaloid song featured in two of SEGA's Hatsune Miku -project diva- games. I did the lyrics and Hoskey did composition. Check out the PV. Here is the special site for the song with more information included. It is also available on iTunes now.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I'm in the progress of producing 2 more CDs. One will be my own album "Alice & Rabbit" originally planned to release this time last year. Another is a vocaloid story book type of CD.
Other than music production, I'm also doing choreography design for 2 miku live shows. One will probably be happening in New York, the other might be happening in Europe. Plus other collaboration projects.
Let's take a trip back in time and get to know you better. Can you tell us a few of your childhood memories back in your Beijing days?
Hmm foods are good :D
How did you first get into Japanese culture and music?
I watched Ranma 1/2 on TV, and fell in love!
Why did your family decide to move to the US? What was that first year like for you?
I guess for better job opportunities, and political environment. First year was quite free, I'm so happy that I have time to draw some CGs. I didn't have any time to draw due to heavy school workload before I came. Of course language was a problem, since I was quite shy.
What video games or anime shows had the largest impact on you?Video game: Chrono Trigger, Seiken Densetsu3, FF6 (SQUARE RPGs).
Anime: Ranma 1/2, Slayers, Rocord of Lodoss War. (90s Animes).
Tell us about the first cosplay performance you did.
It was at Fanime 2008, masquerade opening performance. I did an 11-minute singing performance of NicoNico Douga Medley. There were over 3000 audiences in the auditorium.
Can you describe what it is like when you are performing in front of an appreciative audience?
I always feel really happy. I love sharing my feelings of anime songs with other people, and when they response to me, it feels so happy. No words needed, we just talk though anime music, I think that is very amazing.
Of course sometimes I get nervous before getting on the stage, but once I'm up on stage, I just concentrate on what I do and enjoy sharing the music with everyone else.
What were your college years like?
Hmmm no life in UC Berkeley lol? Because I'm double majoring in chemical engineering and material science engineering, that requires a lot of courses. Just like other students in engineering majors, we stayed in library / classroom every night till early morning trying to get homework done.
After last year's tragic earthquake and tsunami hit Japan you became active in some Pray for Japan events. Can you tell us about them?
Me and my friend yoko first organized "Pray for Japan maid cafe charity event". Everything was done in 2 weeks, and we collected over 6000 US dollars, donated 100% to Japanese NPO called JEN. This is not only profits; every penny we got was donated.
This March, I was contacted by Stu Levy (TokyoPop CEO), and helped promoting his charity movie "Pray for Japan" in northern California area. And the theater turned out to be a full house on the showing night.
What are your memories or thoughts of that time in your life?
I was really surprised how much people want to offer help when it came to this. I was really touched when I was trying to organize the event and talking with different people. There are also times some people thought we did it for money or fame, we felt quite hurt by them as well.
Why do you think so many people around the world are fascinated by the many different parts of Japanese culture?
I'm not an expert, just list out a few thoughts. First, Japan's society system is mature comparing to many other Asian countries. Second, they are very detail-oriented (lots of blood A type), so they always want to spend time making sure things are perfect. That's all I can think of for now.
Have you ever dressed up for Halloween and NOT been something Japanese-themed?
Hmmmmmmmmmm...no lol, at least sailor fuku (school uniform).
Many people like to dress-up in historical clothes for a Renaissance Fair or Civil War reenacting. Do you think there is a similarity between cosplayers and these types of people?
Definitely! I've been to Renaissance Fair in Hollister, I was really amazed. I felt like living in an RPG world! It was so much fun!
Back to your question, yes. I think we both want to be experiencing something different.
How can your fans keep informed of all your activities?
Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?
Otsukare sama desu~~^^
I hope I have a chance to go to more conventions and get to know more anime friends.
Do you have a final message to all your fans?Thank you very much for taking this time reading through all the interview questions, and getting to know more about me! Please keep in touch, add my facebook so that I can get to know you as well! :)
Like she said, for more info checkout Yukie Dong's official site and facebook page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments