On Sunday, the hugely popular HBO series Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its fifth season. Fans have had a big red circle around the date of April 12 for months. We thought this was a good time to chat with one of the world’s greatest cosplayers, Yaya Han, about her Daenerys Targaryen outfit, one of her most popular creations. You can get much more Yaya Han cosplay awesomeness at her official site YayaHan.com and her official Facebook page. Today (April 10) happens to be her birthday, so if you do stop by her Facebook page be sure to wish her a happy one!
What part of the books or film does this costume represent? Being a fan of both the books and film, did you pull from both sources when designing it?
At the time when I made the costume, 2011, the TV show just premiered, and Daenerys hadn’t made it to Qarth yet. So my costume is based on Martin’s books. But I got a look at Dany’s wedding gown and a feel for the costuming style in the show, so I was inspired by that as well. Ultimately, the costume is designed and made by me as a personal fan expression, not a recreation of an existing outfit.
I’ve been a fan of the books for about 15 years now, and always planned to make a Dany costume since the first time I read the series.
This costume is a bit risque — can you tell us what’s going on with the single shoulder strap, the dragon, etc., and what steps you had to take to keep everything decent?
Well, I always knew that I wanted to dress in Dany’s iconic Qartheen traditional dress from “A Clash of Kings”, 2nd book in the series, but for a long time debated how to pull off the look without it being offensive. Women in Qarth wore airy silk and/or lavish samite dresses baring one breast proudly, and Daenerys becomes the ruler of Qarth. To pay respect to the people, she dresses in the traditional gowns – a young girl near alone in the world brave enough to expose herself to a city full of strangers, and she does it with dignity and pride. The feminist in me just loves that about her, and it’s always made an impact on me. So no matter what, I wanted to make the Qartheen gown.
The dragon came about because I needed something to cover myself with, in order to be legal in public! I found a dragon statue and altered it with the help of a couple of guy friends, and painted it to become Rhaegal, one of Dany’s dragon children! Rhaegal was strapped onto me, so I didn’t have to use any hands to hold his weight, and as an extra extra precaution, I wore pasties. While making this costume, I tried to be as accurate to the major descriptions of Daenerys in the books as possible, such as the golden silver hair, silver bells and braids, purple eyes, the colors of the dragon, and costume materials/elements.
When you wore this costume to SDCC — and to some extent because you were wearing it — you got to meet some pretty famous GoT people. Can you tell us how that unfolded?
Oh Goodness, you mean the most amazing cosplay experience I ever had?? It started with a little message I wrote to author George R. R. Martin via Livejournal a few weeks before SDCC 2011. Yup. Livejournal! I had the username “Daenerys”, which is why I think he even read my message! I told him that I was a big longterm fan and was planning to cosplay Daenerys at SDCC, and he asked me to come by his book signing. It was an amazing experience to meet George, he was incredibly generous to allow me to take some photos with him, and even signed my corset and dragon. For someone as busy and in demand as him, it really meant a lot to me to take up his time. I also got to meet the cast of Game of Thrones at SDCC which was completely an unexpected bonus. George said that if I made it into the gigantic Game of Thrones panel, at the end he would try to introduce me to Emilia Clarke, who plays Dany in the TV Show. He kept his promise and I was able to hop backstage, and even on stage to say hi to the cast who just finished the panel. Everyone was super nice, and I think quite surprised to see me lol. Emilia was so kind and gracious to her fans and I really appreciated the opportunity to show her my costume. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime, pointed to me and said to Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo)”Here is your Daenerys.” And I just about died on the spot. Lena Heady asked me the most questions about my costume and how I made it, which meant a lot to me.
Since then I’ve met George a couple more times, and am genuinely touched that he remembers my name and my costume. As cosplayers, there is no bigger feeling of acceptance than to know that you did right by the creator of your character.
What are you looking forward to seeing in the new season of GoT?
We’re kind of entering a new chapter for many of the characters, so I’m excited to see how the show will play out some of the scenes I know should happen from the books. But at the same time, there are a lot of speculations over changes they plan to make to season 5, from plotlines to character deaths, so I’m not sure what to expect. Watching the show when you know the books well is very odd – everything seems very familiar, from the dialogue to flow of storyline, but it’s also really exhilarating to see the costumes, sets and acting on screen. I’m not sure what to think if major storylines are changed! I guess we’ll have to watch this season!!
There is some debate about what happens when the TV series catches up to the progress of the unfinished book series — which appears likely. What do you think should happen?
I’m super torn over this debate!!! Obviously I would rather read the books to find out the Ending, and I am still rooting for George to keep writing and finish the next book, and the one after. But if the show catches up to the books and “spoils” the Ending, I will still watch it. Partially because I don’t think I could avoid getting spoiled, but mainly because I know how much the writers and producers love the series and genuinely want to portray it to the best of their abilities. I know that George will sign off on the Ending, and if he does, who am I to question it? I’ll just be here to enjoy the ride.