By Liana Jacob
MEET the British small-town girl with social anxiety who now earns a living in Japan by transforming herself into a living doll for her legions of Manga-obsessed fans.
Cosplay model and YouTuber, Sophie (PeachMilkyTea), from Bangor, Northern Ireland, began shooting to stardom when she attended her first cosplay convention in Belfast called Q-Con.
Now, with 126,000 followers on Instagram and over 139,000 YouTube subscribers, PeachMilkyTea has taken the cosplay community by storm.
While she has received worldwide attention, Sophie says she was very shy and introverted before she took this career step, even suffering from social anxiety.
When she bought her first costume, she was too nervous to wear it, but after attending a convention in her ordinary clothes, she felt disappointed in herself and extremely jealous of the other cosplay players there.
“From then on, I decided that I would stop letting my shyness control me and I started cosplaying the characters I loved,” Sophie said.
“I’ve attended the same convention every year after and I’m always wearing cosplay outfits. These days I can wear it out in public without really caring what others think.”
Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, particularly characters from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.
Sophie explains what a typical day is like for a paid cosplay model.
“My job involves creating costumes and props, arranging photoshoots, editing and sharing the images online,” she said.
“For YouTube, I regularly update two channels, one is my main channel where I post beauty content and the other is my vlog channel where I document my life in Japan.
“I’ve always started streaming live for my viewers two hours a day, which has helped me to connect with them more.
“I have always been a huge nerd. Ever since I was a kid, I loved the look of anime characters; it’s a way for me to indulge in games and characters that I love.
“It has changed my life in many ways. It has helped me to grow confidence. I still suffer from social anxiety a lot.
“But because I have met so many wonderful people through cosplay it has helped me to become more outspoken and relaxed when meeting new people.
“It takes up a lot of my time and my money on a day-to-day basis; whether it’s doing photoshoots, making props, gathering supplies, editing photos, making videos etc.
“But it’s something I am very passionate about, so I am happy when I am working on cosplays.”
She describes the looks she experiments with as an extremely expensive hobby, as she has to spend around £200 a month on cosplay material alone.
“To achieve the look of a character I use a lot of tools at my disposal to change my look. Wigs of course are very important, but I also wear ‘circle lenses’,” Sophie said.
“Circle lenses are large lenses that change the colour of your eyes and make them look very animated. I also do other tricks such as use tape to pull my face up to make chin look more tight and slim.
“With the costumes, wigs, makeup, props and circle lenses, it all adds up. I’m lucky enough that I work with companies who sponsor me to model their costumes for them.
“This means I am able to get some items for free in exchange for the promotion and modelling.”
The result of her animated looks takes her one hour to an hour-and-a-half to complete every morning. Sophie says that since she has to apply very heavy makeup during the week days, she tries to wear minimal makeup during the weekends to give her skin a break.
With this being her passion, she still is confronted with problems.
“Since I’m in front of the camera a lot, I try my best to look as good as I can. I have a very strict skincare routine since I apply so much makeup for cosplay,” Sophie said.
“I am trying to eat healthily and stay fit, since many costumes I wear will show off my body.
“For me most of my problems stem from having to look at myself constantly on camera. We all have insecurities but online they are magnified by 100 times.
“Hate comments on both YouTube and my other social media sites are not uncommon. If you have something you are insecure about, people will point it out and pick it apart.
“Being online has taught me to have really thick skin but once in a while a comment will really hit me where it hurts.
“People will often talk about you as if you are not a human with feelings, they forget that there is someone behind the screen, reading the hurtful things they say.
“Most of the time I can laugh and brush it off, but regardless, I feel that people need to take responsibility for the things they say.”
Despite the hurtful comments she is faced with, she always has the support of the cosplay world.
“If I go to a convention, I get a lot of people who know me from online that want to talk. It’s such a nice feeling,” Sophie said.
“At times, when I have gone out among the public for a photoshoot, I’ve had young kids want to come over and take photos with me.
“It’s really cute. This has happened a lot when I was cosplay Elsa from Frozen.”
For more information visit her YouTube channel PeachMilkyTea: https://www.youtube.com/user/PeachyMilkTea
And her Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/peachmilky_/