Eleonora Aureliana Guglielmi best known as Yuriko Tiger, is an Italian girl who turned her passion into her dream job. Her journey to transform her dreams into a reality in the Land of the Rising Sun definitely had a lot of ups and downs, but she managed to pull through to what she is today!
This cosplay celebrity, promotional model, YouTuber, voice actress and idol is our featured cosplayer of the month, and is sure to have a fine share of life experiences to be shared. Read on to find out more about this talented and crazily determined soul!
Disclaimer: The following interview has been edited for reading clarity.
Tell us about yourself and the origins of your name Yuriko Tiger.
The name “Yuriko Tiger” was born when I was still in middle school and had suffered from bullying. I was influenced by Japanese culture from an early age making me different from all the other girls. There is a video game known as “Bloody Roar” that had a Japanese character with a similar name to Yuriko. Besides that, the name “Yuriko” sounds sweet and carries a meaning in its Kanji which is “Lily’s child”.
The name “Tiger” was born soon after I started cosplaying. I wanted to transform into someone much stronger, so why not a tiger? In Japanese, I use the name “Yuriko Taiga ユリコタイガー” because it leaves a bigger impact making it harder to forget and it also has an interesting sound.
Having moved to Japan alone as a 19-year old, what were some of the early hardships you faced?
It was the fear of being alone in a huge city for the first time without mastering the language well enough, but I was also extremely determined to make my dreams into a reality. The culture shock I felt consisted mainly of my inability to be friends with the Japanese people.
Let’s be honest, the Japanese are the least direct people on Earth and their “kindness” can also be used as an excuse to avoid certain things. I could not understand why they put on an outer image that is always beautiful but inside they seemed to suffer, and vice versa. I was not afraid of them, but I just could not really get to know anyone.
How did you manage to pave your way to making your dreams in Japan come true?
My parents have always supported me in my dream. When I was 18 years old, they supported my decision to study Japanese in Tokyo and invested all the money they had been saving for my higher education.
Before heading to Japan, I participated in many cosplay competitions in Italy and already had my own business card and a website. I used to dance 踊ってみた (odottemita) covers as well. Anything that could help me in Japan! The only thing that was left for me to overcome was the language barrier.
Everyday after school in Japan, I would always pass by Harajuku in hopes that someone would notice me while being cautious. I was already participating in cosplay events in Japan, joined in the Harajuku walk and even opened a Japanese blog despite only having a basic grasp of the language. I then opened a YouTube channel account in Italian (that has English subtitles now) to share my experiences. I have also worked as a part-time reporter in Tokyo for an Italian television network.
Everything was gradual until a manager noticed me and decided to produce me into a “Talent”. He got me auditions in some local television thanks to my cosplay costumes and the “anime girl” talk I had within me. I tried several different jobs including Idol Gravure, but I stopped immediately after the first Playboy job because that was not the image I wanted for myself.
By chance, a TV studio that was stationed at Narita airport interviewed me about my purpose being here in Japan. That episode was in the top 3 for the program and my blog’s popularity skyrocketed to number 1 nationally that day. Even if majority of the requests that came in after that were for an Idol Gravure-Cosplayer, I was still very proud of the idea of Yuriko Tiger; the girl who came to Japan to realise her dreams. That is the image the Japanese people have of me.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face as a foreign cosplayer working in Japan?
Many may think that because you are “foreign” it may be easier but in reality, it is just a double-edged sword. One of the first tips I have received was to not look better than a Japanese or they will cut you off. I was also denigrated because they don’t usually have much work experience with white people.
There have been some episodes of pure racism both on Twitter and in events where I get comments like, “You’re a foreigner, a woman and famous? No one has ever asked you to come here, go back home” or “You can’t do Japanese characters because you’re a Westerner and we can’t do the characters that we like”. Meanwhile, I have always found Japanese cosplayers as talented because they can transform and have a strong kawaii effect that foreign cosplayers usually don’t succeed in.
In Japan, having your own opinion and a strong personality is frowned upon. You must always be “available” for your fans, have a childish way of talking and maintain a “kawaii” image but I preferred to live my life as I wanted to and make the difference. I love Japan with all my heart, but every country has its own pros and cons.
Considering you are well-versed in the cosplay scene back in your homeland and in Japan, what are the differences in the cosplay culture in both countries?
In Italy, cosplay can be seen like a carnival, a place where kids can dress up like cartoons and have fun. In Japan, if you want to cosplay, you will have to pay more at the entrance. There will be dressing rooms provided as you can’t come to the event in costume and you can’t walk outside the designated cosplay area. It is very safe, but it can be a little bit boring at the same time. Often, instead of just having fun cosplaying, it will transform into a challenge of how many photographers are taking photographs of you. I prefer events like the Osaka Street Festival.
Throughout this journey, you’ve had the privilege to be the official cosplayer for Lili from ‘Tekken’. What was that experience like?
Tekken was the first fighting game that my father gave me along with my first PlayStation when I was 3 years old. “Nina Williams” looked a lot like my mother when I was young. I liked to use her character to look like a mother who was pissing everyone off.
Tekken’s work came to me by chance. We were about to make a collaboration but during the meeting they suddenly found themselves lacking a female that could do the job. So, the boss looked at me and asked, “Do you like video games? How about Tekken?” In the end, he did Xiayou and Lili at a Tekken Pachi-Slot event where I was allowed to be onstage for 5 minutes to talk about how I knew the Tekken franchise and also perform.
Among the journalists and staffs that were present, the head of entertainment marketing of Bandai Namco Tekken team was there too. He noticed me and thought that I looked like the character Lili. The next day, an email came directly from Bandai Namco inviting me to participate in other events and the tenth anniversary of the Tekken series for the announcement of the character JOSIE RIZAL.
In that occasion, Katsuhiro Harada, the creator of the Tekken franchise, gave me the title as the official cosplayer of Lili onstage. I still have that official business card with the Tekken logo and my first Tekken game that was signed by him.
Besides Lili, you are also the official cosplayer for Harley Quinn under Suicide Squad Japan! What was that like?
For this, the work was handled in a different way. For Suicide Squad, they called the top seven most famous cosplayers in Japan for it. It was a great surprise for me to be included in the list as the only foreigner. It was a very dark period for me that time and that job did great things for my mental state because I got to meet Will Smith and Margot Robbie.
A few years later, I made myself a Wonder Woman costume without any work expectations, but I got called for the Justice League’s premiere on the red carpet as a Wonder Woman cosplayer alongside an official Batman Cosplayer. There was only two of us this time on a huge Red Carpet that was filled with photographers and people. It was very exciting for me but above all I was happy to be greeted by other cosplayers in the crowd who were happy to see me. I felt “accepted”.
You have been cosplaying since 2008 and still remain active til this very day. Has your passion or perspective regarding cosplay changed since then?
I think it is always the same, just that I am less obsessed. Once that determination hits, I used to sew and make my own costumes and participate in many competitions. The stage made me nervous, but I liked the feeling of being on the stage at the same time. I wanted to leave a huge impact, an impact that shows the same emotion I felt for it. Now, it is both a job and a passion! As I said I am not as obsessed as I was before, but I still love it.
Throughout your decade long cosplaying career, do you have any fond experiences you would like to share?
I like to cosplay with my friends and love making videos with them. I often collaborate with Rescue the Princess on YouTube. I often cosplay together with my Chinese and Japanese friend. It’s nice when you get to have fun while producing beautiful pictures! The KILL LA KILL video is absolutely the best in my opinion. You can find it here:
You also have experience in the dubbing scene for an application called Kurumana Go Kureshon. What was that experience like?
The dubbing experience was quite some time back and I have not had many chances for it again since it is one of the most competitive fields in Japan. They wanted an Italian voice for the character “Alfa Romeo Giulietta” in that series and I could do it perfectly.
In addition, I’ve also been running my own web TV program on NicoNicoDouga and my radio program for over 12 months. Currently, I am working together with Yoshiki of X-JAPAN on Yoshiki Channel.
You were once invited to attend Otafuse in Malaysia as a cosplay guest. What did you think about our country?
I have been to both Malaysia and Canada as guests and I am surprised to say that they resembled each other. In Malaysia, even if they are Asians and are pretty close to Japan, the people here are more friendly and warm. The organizing team of Otafuse was one of the friendliest organizations I’ve ever seen. They gave me two days of vacation in a beautiful beach (which included sunburns, but it was worth it).
In Canada, everyone tries to support one another no matter your level. No matter if you were still a beginner or a professional, every performance would be applauded.
Lastly, do you have any cosplay tips you would like to share with your fans and our readers?
“What is your goal and why?” That would be the first question I would ask you. It is said that cosplayers have the “Peter Pan Syndrome” but it has helped me to grow a lot and gain many experiences. Cosplay has changed my life. Although it was certainly difficult at first because of the teasing and mean comments thrown at my social media (which are always there), I have never regretted having done so.
What you share is what you are and what you want to offer. Cosplay can make people dream! Just try it. If you fail, try again and have fun being your idol.
Thank you to Yuriko Tiger and her management for the opportunity to interview her. Show your support by helping us share this interview out!