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Make Believe Turned Real: An Interview With Cosplay Master Keahu Kahuanui

Interview with actor and cosplayer, Keahu Kahuanui on his process, dream cosplays, and what he has planned for the future.

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Recently, I got the chance to interview cosplayer/actor/entrepreneur Keahu Kahuanui, Most people know him as Danny from the hit MTV show, Teen Wolf, and his new Twitch stream, but there is more to this Hawaiian than supernatural teenagers and video games. One of his greatest loves is cosplaying.

TC: Okay, so first thing first, how did you get into cosplay?

KK: I guess it started when I was a kid. I love Halloween and being raised with horror movies as a staple in my house didn't help. As the costumes became bigger, scarier, and more elaborate, so did my ideas of what was possible.

Do you have a process that you like to follow when starting a new cosplay project?

The process has evolved over the years and I've learned tough lessons about planning ahead. Sketches, diagrams, material availability checks, and the most important question: do you have enough skill for the level of detail I'm expecting, are all integral to initiation my projects now. I like to figure out all the most efficient ways to complete each step. Once the patterns and drawings are done, the rest is just putting [my] time to the minutia and tedium of getting details just right.

Keahu Kahuanui / Via Instagram: @keahukahuanui

"Cosplay manifests itself in its best form when definitions are redrawn to better fit one’s own art."

Of course, before all that you have to pick what cosplay to do. How do you choose?

I usually just choose a character that has either connected with me somehow, has a challenging and gritty look about it, or is just plain terrifying. A good spooky costume gets me every time.

With so many characters in popular media being white, has that shaped your experience as a man of color cosplaying?

I understand it can be tough not to gravitate towards characters who also fit your racial background. I'm very mixed and have rarely looked at a character's race as a limitation to my expression of them. I personally find that an individual's cosplay manifests itself in its best form when definitions are redrawn to better fit one's own art. Not to mention, people can be so damn clever.

You are a pretty amazing cosplayer and your cosplays rival professional work, so why haven’t you done any contests at conventions?

To be honest, I guess I feel a bit nervous putting my work out there for competitions. Maybe I should.

Keahu Kahuanui / Via Instagram: @keahukahuanui

"A challenging and gritty look about it, or is just plain terrifying."

You should. And like I said it is professional level work, which makes sense since you own a creative business. Did your cosplaying influence wanting to create your own business?

Pretty much. Partikular Inc [found here and here] is more just an offshoot of the practical skills I was learning {from} building, fixing, and prop making. I'm a tinkerer and I thought I'd try to create a source of income in order to make available pieces of my work that people kept bringing attention to and in order to further my craft.

Partikular Inc sells suspenders, but also a lot of leatherwork. So which came first your leather work or your cosplay?

Cosplaying. I kept upgrading the materials I was using and there's nothing more authentic and gritty than a rough leather coat.

So, of course, eventually your leather work started influencing your cosplays.

They've definitely reached a level of symbiosis. I don't really like working with fabric, so the biggest affect of working with leather has been my tendency to work on projects with leather as the primary medium.

Keahu Kahuanui / Via Instagram: @keahukahuanui

"Costumes became bigger, more elaborate, so did my ideas of what was possible."

You must have a cosplay that you dream of making one day.

Deadpool (from the movie) because [he's] Deadpool, obviously.

Are there any upcoming cosplays you would like to share with us?

I'm working on a version of Starkiller. I'm not sure when it'll be ready. I'll also have a new, secret cosplay that I plan to bring to SDCC this year (it's unfortunately not Deadpool).

Any non-cosplay projects coming up?

Of course. I've got a few things cooking and I'm also writing these days, so time will tell.

Keahu can be found on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch.

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