Published on April 16th, 2013 | by John Fuller4
Beneath the Costume: How SailorBee Became a Beloved Princess
“I am incredibly guilty of having a Princess mentality,” says cosplayer SailorBee.
SailorBee might possibly be one the most devoted anime and cosplay fans in the world, and she made anime a huge part of her life last February when she started working for anime service provider Crunchyroll. “It’s a running-joke and borderline reality that I am the Princess of the Crunchy Kingdom,” she says. “The users have gotten used to this, so I just ran with it and made it my gimmick.”
While she might be a princess now, SailorBee didn’t come from a royal line. Yet, SailorBee can claim she’s descended from pure otaku blood. She grew up immersed in anime and video games, but that life was not always easy for her. She’s battled the loneliness and isolation that comes from walking a different path from others, and when she started to find success, she faced the criticism and scorn of jealous rivals.
SailorBee has endured many hardships to be where she is now. She has accomplished some big dreams, and she has found new dreams to pursue. To SailorBee, anime and cosplay are bigger than just mere hobbies; they are the kingdom of which she worked so hard to become the princess.
“My entire life I was lonely”
“I wonder what it would be like to have an origin story, or to have a ‘gateway’ anime,” SailorBee says as she looks back on her early childhood. “There never was a gate for me, I was born inside of it.”
SailorBee was born in Santa Rosa, California as Victoria Holden, and she describes herself as a 2nd generation otaku. “My Father is a die-hard otaku, and my Mother is an insane RPG enthusiast,” she says. “I never wanted any anime, gaming console, video game or comic book—my parents bought these things for themselves, and I was able to watch / play them.”
SailorBee remembers anime as a happy part of her childhood, and she’s grateful that her parents were able to expose her to something that would help her grow up to be who is now. “They didn’t force me to watch anime, but I knew they were happier with me watching something that made me grow emotionally than watching something mindless.”
Anime has more to offer a young mind than standard American cartoons, or at least that is what SailorBee will argue. “Anime forces you to relate to the main character and live through all of the circumstances they are forced to, so I think it’s very enriching for a child to watch. It forces you to think of answers to questions you alternatively maybe wouldn’t have to face for another ten, twenty years.”
Video games were also a staple past time for SailorBee and her family. “[My mother] is an INSANE Zelda fan, and usually makes fun of me for not having beat / played a Zelda game before she has.” When SailorBee was just four years old, her mother had made her a Link costume, but she insists, “I didn’t know I was cosplaying.”
Dealing with Loneliness
Growing up in an otaku household was something that made SailorBee different from other children, and her interests often left her distanced from others. “Anime was a part of my everyday life as a child, and it’s really all I wanted to watch, read about, draw, and eventually do as my life’s work,” she says. “Growing up, I have never seen an episode of Arthur, Ninja Turtles, and Carebears or other common shows of my youth’s generation… People constantly are surprised by movies I haven’t seen, shows I didn’t watch growing up.”
Most of the cartoons her peers watched seemed too childish to someone who had been raised on anime, which is targeted at an older audience. “I would look at the cartoons on TV and try to like them, but they were so… uninteresting to me,” she says. “I was watching Battle of the Planets and StarBlazers and Sailor Moon… So not only did I have no one to talk to about my own favorite shows, I wasn’t able to talk to them about theirs either.”
In her early childhood the difference in interests from the kids around her didn’t bother her too much. “As for the younger years, it wasn’t much more than a disconnect,” she says. “My entire life I was lonely because there was no one around me that shared these things.”
“Eventually her love faded and mine continued.”
While SailorBee had to deal with the loneliness as a child, once she became a teenager she experienced more outright hostility. “In high school, I was known as the ‘anime freak’—I was weird because I preferred Naruto to Laguna Beach, and a lot of people were really mean to me about it.”
That meanness took a few forms, and Sailorbee has quite a few unpleasant memories from high school. “I remember being on the float as I was one of the girls nominated for Homecoming Queen, and people were yelling at me and calling me Sailor Moon,” she says. Another time, “a football player even threatened me after I stood up to him when he complained that I won the Halloween Costume Contest dressed as a Pikachu.”
Throughout all of the name-calling and loneliness, SailorBee turned to anime to keep her company. “When I needed love I lived vicariously through couples in anime, when I needed friendship maybe I did the same thing? And the honest truth is I still do, many otaku do—and that is why this is an obsession that we don’t seek to escape.”
Naruto and Sasuke
When SailorBee talks about her high school years, the anime Naruto comes up for reasons beyond being one of her favorite shows at that time. “I think one of my most loved anime characters is Naruto Uzumaki,” she says. “I related so much to him, in a lot of ways… But just like him, I have a beloved friend that I will do anything to bring back to our village.”
That beloved friend had once been a bright spot in the loneliness that enveloped SailorBee. “It wasn’t until Junior year in High School that I met someone, who quickly became my best friend, who loved anime as much as I did,” she says.
The two would enjoy some good times together watching anime and experimenting with cosplay, but not all good things can last forever. “Eventually her love faded and mine continued. So once again I was alone.”
SailorBee hasn’t given up on her friend, but it has been a struggle for her. “My best friend is just so stubborn,” she says. “We fight on and off, and always have. But ultimately, we both understand and respect each other.”
Still, SailorBee finds parallels between her own relationship and that of Naruto and Sasuke. “Whenever I watch Naruto and their bond is touched on, I can’t help but think of her. I send her cakes and flowers, I’m not kidding, and she still won’t forgive me.”
At least SailorBee had a friend when it came time for her first cosplay, and that is an experience that changed her life.
Talking Cats and the Start of Cosplay
“The first thing I call ‘Cosplay’ that I have ever done would be when my friend and I went to work as Cait Sith and Red XIII,” SailorBee remembers. The costumes were made for Halloween, but there wasn’t a lot of time to do something elaborate. “We were flipping through Animerica Magazine when we saw Jan Kurotaki dressed as Rufus Shinra… She looked soooo cool, her make up—everything. I didn’t even know people cosplayed as animals. I was like, ‘I could do that.’”
“it was like all your dreams have come true”
The costumes were made, but there was some confusion about who they were dressed as. “We went to work and people just thought she was a Cat and I was an Indian. Since when is ‘Indian’ even a costume,” she says. “Either way, we knew who we were, and it was fun.”
SailorBee then attended Fanime 2006, but she wasn’t in costume as she was just involved with the Artist’s Alley. “I don’t count this as my first convention because I feel like I wasn’t a part of it,” she recalls. “I was on the side-lines looking at all the fantastical heroines and heroes walk the halls.”
Among those heroines were plenty of cosplayers, and SailorBee credits Fanime for exposing her to what cosplay could really be like. “I think this first visit to Fanime was all I needed—just seeing the cosplayers made me realize, ‘I have to do this.’”
Those thoughts became a compulsion for the young SailorBee, and she overcame some incredible hurdles to earn her first cosplay experience. “I didn’t have a sewing machine, but I wanted so badly to cosplay,” she says. “I tallied the hours it took to make my first two costumes. I had never made anything in my life, and so it took me 89 hours of hand-stitching, trial and error, blood, sweat and tears to make a Sailor Venus costume for me, and a Sailor Mars one for my best friend.”
When she and her friend did make it to that first convention in costume, SailorBee knew all of her hard work had been worth it. She struggles to define her exact feelings, but she emphasizes that something special happened that weekend. “It was a feeling that can closely be described as ‘realization,’” she says. “It sounds silly and childish but it was like all your dreams have come true. You spent your entire childhood hoping that one day a stray cat will start talking and tell you that you are a chosen Sailor Warrior—but it never happens, and then for 3 days at a convention, it does happen. That was the addicting bliss that keeps me coming back for more.”
What’s a Top Stitch?
While many of her most recent costumes have looked nearly flawless, SailorBee is still humble about her sewing skills. “I make all my costumes,” she says, “but do I know how to make them properly? No.”
Because she taught herself how to sew, SailorBee thinks she lacks some skills necessary for making fancy costumes. “I don’t know how to use / read a pattern, how to top-stitch—or any other fancy thing real seamstresses do.” She adds, “is that even a fancy thing? See, probably not, it’s probably a common skill seamstresses have, but I don’t know how to do it, so it’s ‘fancy.’”
“to truly be a princess, one must remember the responsibility of serving and protecting your kingdom and its people”
Learning how to sew was a long process, and like many other cosplayers, SailorBee is always learning how to bring her craftsmanship to an even higher level. “Trial and error, over and over again,” she says when asked how she did learn. “I usually buy twice the amount of supplies I need for any given cosplay just because, I know I’ll have some experimenting to do.”
Many cosplayers are proud that they do indeed make their own costumes, and SailorBee is no different in this regard, even if she downplays her own skills. “I am just stressing that all my costumes are made with self-taught skills that I came up with,” she says. “A lot times they don’t even work, or fall apart after one or two wearings. But I take a lot of pride in my work even if it’s not that great, so I’ll continue to adapt my ways of doing things and evolve my skills.”
A Dream Come True
For most of her life, SailorBee would have said her dream job would involve anime. “To make Anime my job,” she says, “to work in the anime industry—that’s all I had ever wanted.”
Almost a year-and-a-half ago, SailorBee started to realize her lifelong dream. “I was asked to be a cosplay guest on Crunchyroll’s The Live Show,” she remembers. “I happened to have really impressed one of the executives of the company, as well as the immediate staff, and they soon moved to asking me to become a Host of the show. I stuck around Crunchyroll as a host and intern for three months until they hired me as Social Media Manager, and I am now part of the Marketing team at Crunchyroll.com.”
As part of her job at Crunchyroll, SailorBee is constantly cosplaying at conventions, and she sometimes attends four in a single month. “I have my own personal rule of not wearing things twice,” she says. “That means I’m constantly sewing… I am grateful, but it’s a lot of work.”
SailorBee also spends many long days at the Crunchyroll office. She’s responsible for updating the social media platforms, promotions, contests, and interfacing with the fans. “I’m the person here that caters to and serves the community, and Crunchyroll as a Brand has begun to adopt this mantra, striving to become a ‘by fans, for fans’ anime industry powerhouse.”
“I want to help people achieve their dreams”
While SailorBee is thrilled to have accomplished her dream of working in the anime industry, she’s also happy to be working with a company she loves. “The office is extremely comfortable, and the entire company is really close, so it doesn’t really feel like work,” she says. “Occasionally we throw things at each other, we eat together, we take hour long breaks where we play Persona 4 Arena and I lose awfully and chase the engineers around the office telling them I am going to kill them, you know – regular office stuff, right?”
On Being a Princess
While SailorBee jokes about having a princess mentality while working at Crunchyroll, there is a more serious side she takes to being the princess of her own little kingdom.
At times, Sailorbee acts as the face of her company, and, like a princess, she tries to improve relationships between her kingdom and others. One of her goals has been to break down barriers in the anime industry, and she talks about her role in turning enemies into allies. “At Otakon, I made friends with some of the Brand Managers at other Anime Companies here in the US. I made sure to keep in contact and foster good relations with my new friends… I want people to know that we are all fighting the same battle, and that we are all doing what we do for the sake of Anime.”
SailorBee really becomes serious about being a princess when she starts talking about fans in the anime world. “But to truly be a princess, one must remember the responsibility of serving and protecting your kingdom and its people,” she says. “I try and give people all the opportunity in the world. The opportunities I have been given are worth nothing if I don’t share, or pay them forward.”
While SailorBee has worked very hard to earn every success in her career so far, there are still some people who resent her for being successful. “People that don’t even know me hate me,” she says, “and thus—they hate my Kingdom as well. People that have never been to my Kingdom hate me for being its Princess.”
As a princess, SailorBee takes great care of the fans, and they love her for it. For those that don’t love her, SailorBee endures the insults, and even threats, from the people who send hate her way. “I’ll turn it into positive energy used to heal their anger,” she says. “Because that is what being a Princess means.”
The New Dream
Now that SailorBee has achieved her biggest dream of working in the anime industry, it’s time for a new dream. “I want to help people achieve their dreams if I can,” she says. She wants everyone to experience anime the way she does, and she wants to serve the fans in her kingdom as best she can.
“I want to sneak fans into press conferences,” she says. “I want to make sure you attend as many anime conventions as possible, I want to introduce you to Kishimoto-sensei, I want to help your YouTube channel get a million views. I want people to read your reviews, and see your costumes.”
“We’re not alone anymore.”
SailorBee won’t forget the struggles she’s had, and she wants to help others with those same struggles. “My entire life I was alone—I wasn’t lonely though because I had anime,” she says. “I want you to not only have the blessed connection to, and unique perception to enjoy and understand anime that only a small percentage of us have—but I want you to experience it with other people.”
SailorBee dreams of changing the anime industry, breaking down barriers, and serving the customer properly. “Most of all—I want to be friends.” she says.
Then, remembering the times of loneliness brought on by her passion for anime, yet being hopeful for the friendships and bonds that can be made when all otaku and cosplayers join together, Princess SailorBee makes her proclamation: “We’re not alone anymore.”
While the idea of being a princess may have been a joke at first, SailorBee has stepped into her role with the charm, strength, and dedication necessary to be a princess among cosplayers and anime fans, alike. She’s one of the most prolific cosplayers around, and few match her passion for watching anime. Moreover, she loves what she does, and she loves the people who share her interests. She always looks out for the fans, as she has always been a fan herself.
“I want people to know that I am just a fan. That I am just like them,” she says.