Photographer. Animethon organizing volunteer. Cosplayer. Model.
That’s just what St. Albertan Vicky Lau does with her spare time.
By day, Lau, 30, is a registered dietitian who works as the systems manager for the nutrition and food service department for Alberta Health Services Edmonton zone.
By night, Lau has several different identities, many an outgrowth of a cosplay hobby she began as a teen.
“I don’t know when I’ll grow out of it,” she said, noting there’s always new material offering up cosplay inspiration.
Cosplay – costume play – is when individuals dress up as characters from their favourite movies, video games, comics, books or television shows. Cosplayers often attend comic and entertainment conventions in their costumes.
Some purchase their costumes pre-made. Others, like Lau, create large portions of the costumes themselves.
Lau was born in Hong Kong, where she grew up watching anime. Her family emigrated to St. Albert when she was eight, and she was introduced to the concept of Halloween.
Naturally, she wanted to dress up as her favourite anime characters. She even made her first cosplay costume, with some help from her mom and grandmother, as a young teen.
Today, her love of cosplay continues. Her creations are more than just purchased gear, and can involve anything from sewing to having to craft armour from foam and thermal plastics.
“You have no idea the amount of time that goes into making a costume,” she said. Some of the more complex pieces can take weeks.
Her cosplay designs were even featured on the runway during the 2014 Western Canadian Fashion Week, and then again in 2015.
The first time she cosplayed was as a teen attending Animethon at Grant MacEwan (now MacEwan University). The event has grown wildly since then, and Lau’s interest has grown with it. She started volunteering several years ago and has worked her way up to the position of director of public relations. Her two sisters and boyfriend also all work as volunteers for Animethon.
Long before they were volunteers for Animethon, Lau and her sister started an anime festival at Bellerose Composite High School, which they helped to run for eight years, even after they graduated.
In addition to what Lau describes as a practically full-time volunteer position, her cosplay hobby, travelling for comic and entertainment conventions (where she cosplays) and working, Lau and her boyfriend have a photography business.
Lau got into photography thanks to a misunderstood Christmas gift idea. She was at her dad’s salon, having her hair done, and was flipping through flyers for ideas for her boyfriend’s Christmas present. She was thinking about getting him a camera.
“My dad thought I wanted a camera,” she said, and lo and behold, she got one for Christmas. It promptly sat in the box for six months.
Lau can be nervous about new technology, but planning a trip to Hong Kong finally persuaded her to unpack the camera and learn how to use a DSLR.
She and her friends started doing some photoshoots with their costumes, and she started taking selfies. That can be tough to do with a full DSLR camera, so she asked her boyfriend to learn photography so he could take her picture.
Lau joined an Edmonton photography and model group (she does both) and ended up meeting a photographer, Michael Legge, who invited her to shadow him at a photoshoot with a model.
She had no idea at the time that Legge is known internationally for his photography.
“He’s like my sensei forever now,” she said, noting she’s had good luck in meeting industry mentors. Now she and her boyfriend run Vivid Visions Photography, and do everything from weddings to cosplay shoots.
All of her side projects – photography, cosplay, Animethon, also get a workout through the travel she does to other conventions. The travel also gives her a chance to indulge another love, which is trying different foods.
“If I could do eating and get paid for that full-time, I would just quit everything and do that,” she said. That love of food is what lead her to study nutrition at the University of Alberta.
“Food is my life.”
So how does she manage all of these activities, plus full-time work and travel?
“Sleep is for the weak,” she joked, before hurriedly noting getting enough shut-eye is important.
“I learned really quickly how to be efficient to get a lot of things done in the short amount of time you have.”