. In COOLTURA
She is the character I play in my imagination when I don’t have a controller at hand. That bronze, shimmery, DS-Lipped goddess who’s already attacking you with her outfit before she can even land a punch. But outside my gay ass fantasy she’s not slaying another fighter with a pointy thigh-high boot. She is just slaying.
Miss K Rizz, a.k.a. Slayrizz is the emerging Filipina Princesa (spelled with as many Rs as your tongue can roll) of NYC, blessing us with her fierceness and countless layers of highlighter. She raps, she sings, she cuts, she serves. Her style seamlessly swings from the more slut-conscious side of cosplay to those mid 2000s video hoe moments we are just starting to bring back and embrace at our own terms.
I’m so in luw with her I followed her around for a while and took some iconic pictures at her shows. Now we sit down to kiki about music, politics and cosplay. I meet her at Mood Ring, the QPOC bar in Bushwick where I first saw her perform dressed as a pimp Kitana. Today she looks like that thotthy Pokémon trainer you not-so-secretly wanted to be in 1998. Framed by fake ivy hanging from the ceiling and an arcade machine playing Wong Kar-Wai’s Fallen Angels, she just belongs (I can’t say the same about me).
SZ: Let’s get warmed up with some multiple choice questions.
SR: I’m excited.
SZ: Usagi or Goku?
SR: Ohhhh nooooo—Usagi, cause she’s g1rl p0w3r.
SZ: Fuckboi or Artbro?
SR: Thot-wise, I’m artsy. Artbro.
SZ: Bulma or Misty?
SR: Bulma! She’s part of Capsule Corp, you know that slays more. Misty is a thot tho, I live for her.
SZ: Nicki or Cardi?
SZ: Overwatch or Fortnite?
SR: I caa44ntt! I wanna say Fortnite does not serve looks. And also, to play Overwatch you need actual skills..
SZ: Gwen or Jlo?
SR: You’re tryina kill a bitch. JLo cause she’s N.Y.
SZ: Jigglypuff or Clefairy?
SR: Oh Jigglypuff bitch. That microphone?
SZ: Britney or Christina?
SZ: Asian or Slaysian?
SR: Slaysian.. S L A Y S I A N
SZ: So, let’s dive right in: if you had an Eevee and all the stones necessary to evolve it, which one would you choose?
SR: I’d go with Sylveon (ok you don’t need a stone to evolve it). She’s a fairy Pokémon and by far the gayest one in the bunch. I’d just wanna see as many of those as possible.
SZ: I had little doubt. But let’s get into K Rizz now. Who is she? in 3 words or less. Or you can draw me a picture.
SR: The rarest flower in the garden. The first thing I ever drew were flowers, but not basic ass Daisies.. the ones that came from Asia.
SZ: Other than a flower, you are also the Filipina Prrrrrrincesa from Queens. I wanna know how much the Filipino spirit helped you get where you are now.
SR: Being Filipina is part of my everyday essence, but there’s also a sense of duality and distance within it. You know, not knowing what your motherland looks like, yet feeling the urge to represent it.
SZ: And I feel this is a recurring sentiment among people of color who grew up in the States, constantly existing in a place of in-between-ness. Although America remains the only place in the world where a person like you can make shit happen and influence others. Speaking of this ~great~ Country, you rep New York fiercely and strongly, but you’re often in LA. How do you feel about the two capitals of iconicity?
SR: L.A. is softer: the climate, the people, even the concrete is softer (i.e. I can wear heels). My tan is more poppin there, and I’m also a nature girl so I love it. I’d say I’m definitely more New York in L.A., I like to turn on the theatrics. When I’m home I feel like everybody knows me already, so I don’t need to reassert my character at all times.
SZ: New York concrete is gross. But let’s get into the foundations of K Rizz now: If you had to pick two icons, one for music and one for looks, who would they be (they don’t have to be real people, obvi)?
SL: An artist that really drove me musically is Missy Elliot. She always had a good balance of R&B, Hip-Hop and club bangers, which is the holy trinity to me. Also the image of a woman that is fly and sexy but in a weird way is so ahead of her time. For the looks, I gotta do a little mix of Kimora Lee Simmons and Usagi. Street style infused with Anime glam to form a powerful, hoey individual.
SZ: As you just mentioned, as a musician you flirt with Pop, R&B and Hip-Hop. Do you envision yourself fitting into a specific category in the future?
SR: The truth is that I’m living my life in music no matter what. I don’t care if I’ll have my break-through or not, so I’m going to do an album of every genre I feel attached to. It’s also a good challenge, you know, to see if I have the consistency to deliver a full fantasy.
SZ: Along with music, I feel like the urge for representation is a strong element in your act. How do you place politics within your form of expression?
SR: The only think I am confident representing at all times is me as an individual, but as the wind blows and the political climate changes, I will always do whatever I feel is correct while always having fun. My sole existence in spaces like this *embraces Mood Ring with her arms* means representation, and I hope that my own struggle and path to self-discovery will encourage others around me. But when it comes to the music, I think it’s always gonna be a good time. I don’t think it’s my job to make it a potentially toxic, weaponized thing.
SZ: I agree. It’s hard to channel or discuss things that you stand for without compromising your role as an entertainer. But let’s talk more about how fierce you are: I recently attended one of your shows and it was fantastic. You’re both hilarious and a powerful performer. I guess this is not a question, but maybe I just wanna know if you think of yourself as funny other than fierce while you do your set.
SR: I envision myself as charismatic, which I guess could be seen as a mixture between fierce and funny ;^*
SZ: You walked into this very club wearing a fur coat and a Kitana cosplay underneath. From the very first moment I saw you, I felt like your aesthetics were in the forefront as much as your music. When K Rizz was born, did sound and vision effortlessly go hand in hand?
SR: You know, when K Rizz was born, she was just an idea. I went to catholic school growing up, and during that time 50 Cent was the sound of the streets. I wasn’t allowed to consume that kind of material: I knew and loved who Lil Kim was but I never got to really listen to her until later. All I knew was that I was an anime girl who liked Hip-Hop and had a sassy personality, and those elements couldn’t help but grow slowly and steadily within me until they were ready to intersect and sprout.
SZ: Let’s talk more about baby K Rizz: during the show you mentioned that as a kid, you started drawing a manga about a Filipina cowgirl.
SR: That was actually from the time I really hated myself, I was around 10. I had no guidance and I felt completely unappreciated. I didn’t feel attached to anything. Anime became my gateway to happiness. I started imitating it and producing it myself, to sort of balance my mood. I only drew women, and they always had the biggest tits, which is funny considering that at the time I didn’t even associate the size of the breasts to sexuality. I just assumed that was how “a girl” looked. But then I used to look at myself in the mirror and sob. I slowly began to draw things I wanted to exist, instead of just reproducing what was already there. I had this big box of 110 crayons and I found the best match with my skin tone. I drew the hair blonde cause I always thought blonde looked dope on darker skin. One day I was watching a Destiny’s Child video, and you know in the early 2000s the “hoe” was everywhere. Watching all these half-naked girls for me was weirdly empowering. In a naive state —not understating the image that they were trying to portray— I was really into the girls wearing cowboy hats, cause I felt they were always the ones turning the party, not just bent down in a thong. They always had some extra flair. Later on, I remember seeing in one of Jay-Z videos this girl in chaps and I was like: “OMG what are these pants.. they are.. open!” I just thought it was so fierce that they showed the butt. They also reminded me of how some anime girls (a lot) were just in these crazy outfits that were over-the-top and revealing at the same time. My parents were really into the fact that I had a talent for drawing and they were always checking on my stuff. They got pretty upset when they discovered most of my production didn’t exactly align with Christian believes.
SZ: We know we’re all gonna meet in hell, but joke’s on God because Satan is the best at rimming. I wanna talk a little more about the sluttification of K rizz: now I am personally obsessed with bizarrely over-sexualized characters, especially in fighting games. Although over-the-top objectification of female bodies is something that has troubled roots in Japan, do you feel like there’s a power there that you’re able to reclaim?
SR: Growing up, “sexuality” was one of the things that felt the strongest to me, even if I didn’t understand what it was about yet. I just knew that the level of energy and tension sexuality exuded was incredibly powerful, and I latched onto that instantly. But you know, I don’t see myself as over-sexualized, ever: over-sexualization implies effort. I’m just effortlessly hoey. It all comes from the understating that everything is about sex, except for sex. My naked body is not sex, we all know I look ten times more like a hoe with clothes on than without.
SZ: It’s clear anime had the biggest impact on you as a kid. And anime as a medium has been extremely influential for everybody who grew up in the ‘90s — not just in America or Japan, but everywhere. I really wanna know, what did anime mean specifically for Asian-Americans like you who grew up during that time?
SR: As a kid, I was always looking for Asian-ness in anything I could, because something in me was pushing to know more about what exactly “Asian” meant. I felt exiled in so many places, neglected. Anime was the one product I knew for a fact came from Asia, that alone meant empowerment and representation. Looking inside of it, as a charismatic person I was always drawn to hyper-characterized portrayals, of which anime provided plenty. The grotesque, over-the-top style of anime felt truer to me than any “real life” counterpart.
SZ: And now you’re living your anime fantasy irl.
SR: For me, everything is drawn by the desire to bring things to life.
Like when I did my Bulma moment. I wanted to do Bulma so much because she was always that bitch all the little nerd boys were into, but the same nerd boys were not into me. I never got plastic surgery and you know how toxic the expectations are for females in male-dominated conventions. Those perceptions held me back from doing cosplay for a long time. I also felt like I didn’t really belong, not being as much an Otaku as the rest of the people there. These physical and psychological expectations were preventing me to even stand up for myself. So I decided to wait and let myself grow. I brought the Bulma Bunny to life in a moment when I finally felt confident and in control of every aspect of my manifestation, from my body type, to my skin tone, to my pitch.
SZ: And the way you do it just feels right and effortless. You know you gotta add a little twist to it. Spoiler alert: anime characters are a caricature of humanity —both in terms of aesthetics and personality— dragging them back to real life means losing that grotesque, ironic, satirical element. Character embodiment and personal interpretation are the only foundations through which cosplay can successfully work.
SR: And things are changing, too. I saw a lot of people of East Asian heritage feeling angry about how Americans took anime/cosplay culture and oversaturated it, ripped it apart and fetishied it. This process made them shy away from the culture altogether because it became toxic to their very existence. Personally, I feel that as a brown person of non-Japanese ancestry, cosplay is empowering cause it makes it stay alive. I feel like it allows these people to get back the life that was taken away from it.
SZ: Absolutely. Cosplay is held hostage and needs to be freed from this male-gaze dominated, normative, passive, pale niche. I just feel like traditional cosplayers are killing the characters they think they’re bringing to life. And I truly feel queerness —intended here as a broad channel of expression that not only deviates from “normalcy”, but has a fabulous understanding of irony and performativity— is truly the way to snatch Otaku culture from those white nerds and push it to the next level.
SR: Bitch, you get me. On top of that, colorism in Asia is so real. how cunt is it for a brown Asian to really put on for the East Asians, coming from the recesses of the community? I wanna say to any woman of color that wants to explore anime and cosplay, now is the time. Just go for it. Girl, boy, they, she, he, whatever. This generation will have it all. I wanna see that fucking ceiling shatter and we’re all gonna be twerking on the broken glass until our cheeks are bleeding.
SZ: I’m so glad we had a moment to lay out the foundations of this overthrow ^.^
SR: Me too!!!!
SZ: Well, thank you for kiking with me. You’re making your name known here in America, but I’m glad to spread the word overseas. There’s a big Asian community in Italy that will gag when they get to know you. You have some words for them?
SR: I wanna tell all the international up-and-coming Slaysians that your nerve and fearlessness will take you all the way. Don’t be afraid to feel uncomfortable because that’s how fearlessness grows. Never stop doing research.
And listen to my new single/MANTRA duh!
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICCARDO SOSSELLA
ILLUSTRATION BY SLAYRIZZ