If you’re an Asian, the Model Minority Myth has probably affected you one way or another, whether or not you have realised it.

Interview with Shaunalyn “Sly” Cooper

  


 

Introduce yourself!

Hello! My name is Shaunalyn. I am Black and Filipino, and I am a veteran of the United States Air Force. I am 29 years old and my hobbies include video gaming, cosplaying, martial arts, spinning poi, meditation and reading fantasy novels.

When did you start gaming?

I started gaming at a very young age. I received my first computer when I was two years old and I actually learned my ABCs from a video game where you ran around as Daffy Duck and caught the letters of the alphabet in a basket as they fell from the classroom ceiling. I played a lot of games with my dad as a kid. We had the Atari, N64, Super Nintendo, PS1, and PS2. He also gave me all of my GameBoys starting with the old GameBoy that needed four batteries. Later on, I received my PS3 and then bought my own PS4. He still supports my gaming even as an adult. It still blows his mind that I stream and make money from it now. My mom also played video games with me growing up. She played a lot of Super Mario games while she was pregnant with me so the running joke is that I play video games because of this.

What is the most fulfilling part about the gaming community? The most challenging?

The most fulfilling part in my opinion would be the cool friends you end up making. Whether it be in person and talking about games or playing a game online and becoming friends that way. The majority of my best friends are gamers and it’s just an amazing thing to have in common with each other. Especially when some of us live far apart in other states or in different countries. Gaming brings us together.

The most challenging for me would be the fact that I am a female, I am not taken seriously sometimes. I have had guys say that I only game to impress someone I’m interested in or that I just game for attention. Another would be dealing with the toxicity within the community that decides to utilize racial slurs in my chat when I am streaming. However, I have friends that help me run my channel so they help with monitoring the chat to maintain a safe environment for not just us but my viewers as well. Another challenging part aside from the sexism and racism, would be the online bullying.

You also do cosplay! What inspired you to start putting together outfits from your favorite characters? 

I have always wanted to be an anime character ever since I started watching anime when I was four years old. As well as comic book characters and cartoon characters, even some video game characters. I would play dress-up as a kid and one of my first Halloween costumes was a Power Ranger and the fact that I had started Karate at age four made me feel ten times cooler in my costume. 

How did you ignite your motivation to put in all the hard work that goes into cosplay (do you make your own costumes, how much time goes into cosplay, who are your favorite characters to portray, etc)? 

I’m not creative enough to make my own costumes and props, unfortunately. However, I am financially stable enough to buy my cosplays and so I receive them that way. I also enjoy helping support cosplay costume makers that I either meet at conventions or online on sites like Etsy. But if it’s a character I am very familiar with, I will watch the show or read the comic with a different perspective just to get into character. I want to portray my cosplays to the best of my ability and give these characters the representation they deserve, especially if it isn’t a popular character. A few of my favorite characters to cosplay are Marvel’s Silk, Kagura from Inuyasha, a Kimono gender-bent version of Sora from Kingdom Hearts, Futaba Sakura from Persona 5 and my recent favorite, Tifa from Final Fantasy 7.

You are one of the owners of Goddess Gaming (IG: @xxgoddess_gamingxx). How did that organization get started?

Goddess Gaming was founded by a few friends and I after we left another female-focused group we were a part of on Facebook. We left that group because it started going against what it originally stood for. So we set off to create our own group and thus Goddess Gaming was founded by the seven of us. Four members eventually left due to either personal reasons or because they could not commit the time they wanted into the group. There was thankfully not bad blood nor any animosity and we still keep in touch with the ones who are still on social media. We started as a group that was centralized on the idea of gaming and we have expanded to a more diverse platform that consists of gaming, comics, photography, cosplay, anime and manga recommendations, and more. 

As a Black and Filipino woman, has your mixed identity ever been difficult or frustrating for you, and if so, how have you reconciled those feelings? 

At times, it has been difficult because sometimes I’ll be in situations where I don’t feel “black enough” or “Filipino enough” for the situation at hand. I deal with those feelings more when it comes to some Filipinos that are in my life. I was raised on Filipino food, watching Filipino movies and TV shows, and just enjoying the culture. But there are some Filipino people in my life that don’t see me as a “real” Filipino because I don’t look “Filipino enough” or because I am no longer fluent in Tagalog. But at the end of the day, my parents love my sister and me all the same and my mom’s side of the family, both stateside and those still in the Philippines, love and support us and don’t see us as half-Filipinos. We’re Filipino because we have Filipino blood. Family is Family.

Is there any advice that you have for mixed Asian/Black Asian womxn who want to get into professional gaming, but may be afraid to do so?

The fear is expected but use that to drive you. Don’t let that fear prevent you from doing something you’re passionate about. I’m nowhere near being a pro and I may never be one but I have a decent following on Twitch and I do it because it’s fun. I enjoy streaming especially with my friends and being able to entertain others with our silly shenanigans is very rewarding. Also, don’t pay too much attention to how many viewers you have because you’ll become obsessed with the numbers and put yourself in a position where that can be all you focus on. When I started, that’s what I ended up doing and I kick myself for it sometimes. You can have a really good couple of days and average about 15+ viewers but then you can have an off day and have only three viewers. And then instead of enjoying the game and having fun, you’re now obsessed with what you possibly could do differently to get the numbers you want. JUST PLAY! Have fun! Who cares if you have three viewers? Don’t look at it as “oh I only have three viewers.” Look at it as “I have three people watching me! That’s THREE people. Not ONE, not TWO. THREE!” Don’t stress over stuff you have no control over. Tell your friends where you’ll be streaming so they can watch you and tell your friends that game that you’ll be streaming and ask if they want to play with you. I want to see more minority female streamers like me!  

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?

While I have accomplished a lot in my life so far such as serving in the military, getting on the Dean’s list at my current university, helping to break the racial barriers within the gaming and cosplay community and a few other things, I personally feel like I haven’t done anything monumental enough to classify it as my biggest accomplishment. I still have a long way to go to get to where I would like to be. So as far as that goes, stay tuned!

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Asian women today? 

From my experience and the experiences my full and mixed Asian friends have had, it’s breaking out of the mold that has been formed by both stereotypes and family tradition. From things like all Asians being good at math and all Filipino women needing to be a nurse or something else medical related to the work environment and being seen and taken seriously when we are the minority. In regards to family tradition, there are still families that push their children to pursue career paths that the parents or grandparents want them to instead of encouraging their children to do what makes them happy. I know plenty of Filipino-American young adults that I grew up with that have locked in very successful medical or engineering careers and they hate it. They hate waking up and going to work every day even though they have very impressive salaries. But due to the fear of disappointing their families, they do it. My sister and I are blessed to have parents that always encouraged us to do our best and pursue what makes us happy. We either succeeded or learned. As long as we tried our best, we never failed in our parent’s eyes. And I love my mother and father dearly for that. I never felt pressured to strive purely for perfection. I set my own expectations.

What’s next for you? Any personal projects you’re looking forward to?

Recently, I landed a great new job and as long as I do what is expected, it will help tremendously as a stepping stone for what I am striving for career-wise. So far so good despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. I am also more than halfway done with my degree process and should be ready to graduate within the next year or so and as long as the school doesn’t put me in another Statistics class, I should be able to remain on the Dean’s List! Math has never been my strong subject. I am also working on more cosplay ideas and meetups! Hopefully, we’ll be able to attend conventions again next year but until then, I am perfectly content with doing small photoshoots with friends in cosplay. I have recently picked up a lot of traction regarding my Twitch channel and I’m working on giving my channel a makeover to reflect my brand and more. My friends and I are also brainstorming ideas on how to improve Goddess Gaming. Our goal is to eventually host panels at anime and cosplay conventions and discuss topics people would be interested in as well as giving beginner cosplay and video gaming tips.

  


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Shaunalyn Cooper aka SlyCooper711 is a 29-year-old Blasian gamer and cosplayer. She is one of three co-founders of Goddess Gaming, a platform, and a community for female gamers, cosplayers, and lovers of all things nerdy. She practiced martial arts for over 15 years, starting at age four and has studied a variety of different styles such as Okinawan Shorenryu Karate and Wushu Kung-Fu. Anime, comics, martial arts, and video games are a huge part of her foundation. She also enjoys readying especially fantasy and mystery genres as well as poi spinning, a performance art that originated in New Zealand. Shaunalyn’s favorite game from her childhood is Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus because it was the first game she received for the PlayStation 2 as a kid, and also because of sharing a surname with one of the main characters from the game. Other favorite games include the Dragon Age series, Destiny 1 & 2, Tom Clancy’s Division 2, Wildlands and Breakpoint, the Assassin’s Creed series, Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts, Persona 5, and The Legend of Dragoon. Her favorite anime series consists of Yu Yu Hakusho, G Gundam, Slayers, Sailor Moon, Rurouni Kenshin, Inuyasha, Angel Beats. My Hero Academia and Michiko & Hatchin.

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