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Sonning cosplayer and her partner represent UK in Japan

A 24-year-old from Sonning has joined her partner in representing the UK at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan.

Stephanie Drogemuller, better known for her stage name Stephanie Dola, and her performance partner Benjamin Hunt, or Enja Cosplay of Putney, travelled to the Far East after winning a qualifying round with a performance based on anime Sailor Moon at MCM Comic Con in London in October 2018.

Cosplay involves participants dressing as fictional characters from popular culture.

Stephanie, who played the titular Sailor Moon, said she and Benjamin, who portrayed Tuxedo Mask, performed a routine that was ‘a little bit cheesier and a little bit more fun’ for the qualifier.

“My character misses the bus and she makes a wish off the cuff, like ‘oh, I wish I was a princess and didn’t have to go to school’,” she said.

“Then my partner’s character appears and starts doing magic tricks and then I’m, like, well that’s not real actual magic, and then he turns me into the princess superhero character basically.”

Explaining the world of cosplay, Stephanie said it’s ‘anywhere from people dressing up as their favourite Halloween characters to actually being part of the competitive community, with fans wearing simple costumes or even going as far as to finding out where the designer got the original fabric to make an exact copy’.

Whilst this competition isn’t a first for Stephanie, who grew up in Toronto, Canada, and has been competing for nine years, this event is the biggest and ‘arguably the most famous’.

Stephanie has previously portrayed characters such as Snow White at conventions in Lithuania and Canada, and Rapunzel and Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones at other events.

Stephanie has been sewing since the age of four and runs Sonning Seamstress with her mother, Kathryn.

She and her partner were tasked with making costumes and accessories for their Sailor Moon characters, both for the qualifier round and for all of the rounds in Japan.

“[For the qualifier] there is also a costume judging, they just check out that everything was in fact made by you,” she said.

Arriving in Tokyo on Thursday, July 25, Stephanie and Benjamin joined teams from 40 countries including Italy, South Africa and Belgium to be introduced at the opening ceremony the day after.

Speaking about the first round on Saturday, July 27, Stephanie said the competition ‘was slightly different this year’ with an initial round of costume judging in Tokyo.

“It was kind of like a walk on, like costume display almost, where you walk around the stage and pose and move to the next spot and pose,” she said.

She added: “Some teams focused more on making friends, enjoying the culture and then others were up until three in the morning making sure that everything was perfect.”

After travelling to Nagoya for the semi-final, entrants were treated to a series of ‘courtesy visits’ which saw them visit Nagoya Castle, a railway museum and take part enjoying traditional Japanese tie-dying.

The semi-final, on August 3, saw the pair take part in costume judging and performed ‘an abridged telling of the relationship between’ Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask over the series.

Despite a hard-fought semi-final the pair were ‘capped out’ (eliminated) but still appeared on stage at the final on Sunday, August 4 to represent the UK, before enjoying a representatives’ party at the closing ceremony.

Stephanie said: “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, even just as a cultural exchange we got to see a completely different Japan than I think a lot of people get to. They were so welcoming.”

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