Interview with Rubi Kayobi
I’m blind in one eye. Have been since I was a baby when the doctors discovered a tumor behind the eye. The procedure to remove it and the resulting scar tissue robbed me of sight in my left eye. For the last several months, I’ve been having problems with my other eye: pressure build-up, a cascade of dark floaters like grimy black rain, and an overall deterioration of my sight.
”I’m mad as a hatter and thin as a dime”
I had an unpleasant childhood. With the help of my Tribe, I came out the other side bleeding, but still standing, convinced I had beaten the inordinate amount of shit life had thrown at me…until the day I thought I was having a heart attack.
Just like that. Everything fine and then—bam! Trouble breathing. Heart racing. Pain in my chest. Thoughts flying: What’s happening? What’s wrong with me? Oh fuck, I’m gonna die! Somehow I drove myself to the medical clinic close to my house. The nurses called my husband at work. He rushed over. The clinic ran all sorts of tests and then sent me to the hospital for more.
Turns out I wasn’t having a heart attack—It was a panic attack.
“I always take the long way home.”
A grounding technique is something you do that returns focus to the present during a panic attack. If your mind exists in the now, then you can regain control of your body and break the fury of the attack. It can be as simple as brushing your teeth or as complex as a body-twisty, meditative pose.
I discovered what works for me is putting on my make-up. It sounds silly, but it’s true. Something about the ritualized nature of make-up relaxes me. The sweep of lip gloss, the fine arch of eyebrows, the blended shadows above the eye, pulls me out of my head and banishes the fear and the worry.
And it has unlocked something inside of me.
“Moon Prism Power, Make Up!”
I was Goth for a long time. Just Goth. Goth with its odd dualism. On one hand, you wrap yourself in black that screams leave me alone. Yet, it stands out, demands attention. It’s weird, but it’s safe. I’ve always liked other fashion, but was too scared to do anything with it. I always thought I was too old (I’m older than you think), or too dorky (I play RPGs), or too [insert X here with excuse following]. I mean I’ve been into Japanese street fashion since 2001, when I received Fruits as a birthday gift—I just lacked the courage to really do anything with it until I was faced with all this bad stuff, just one terrible thing after another, and realized I could use this whole thing—make-up, wigs, different clothes—as a transformative experience to find myself.
Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
Now, I don’t want to call myself anything, because I think all fashion rules were made to be broken. I want to do my own thing. Sometimes, that’s Lolita, but sometimes it’s Punk, Goth, Visual Kei, Decora, or just jeans and a damn T-Shirt. Because no matter what I’m wearing I’m still just me. The me that’s been hidden for so long. There’s just too much I want to do, too much I want to see while I still can.
Rubi, it is a pleasure to meet you. Tell us a little about your Goth days and what they meant to you.
I grew up in a small town and we lived way out in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school. I had an Italian last name and I looked different from everyone else. My home life was terrible; it offered no sanctuary from bullying or loneliness. Luckily, I had an older cousin who was in to gaming. He bought Vampire: The Masquerade when it came out and ran it for me. Around that same time, I heard Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting for the first time and loved it.
And it clicked. It all made sense. This was me. This was who I was. This was why I always thought Sarah should have gone off with Jareth, The Goblin King. Goth was comforting and safe. The only sad thing was there really wasn’t anyone else Goth around. This was before the internet (shhhh, don’t tell anyone), so I knew no one else who was in to it.
What was the reason you were scared to branch out and explore your other interests in fashion?
Again, Goth was me and Goth was safe. I felt like branching out and doing something else would be betraying my Gothness, betraying myself. It’s silly looking back on it, but at the time it seemed so important.
Besides, the way I was dressing was weird enough as it. Taking it further, was scary. I mean, any of the Japanese street fashion stuff wasn’t even a whisper in the Midwest. So, it was just fear. Fear and being comfortable. By the time I discovered these other styles, I was in the middle of a quarter life crisis where I thought I had to be normal. When I did come out of that, I thought I was too old to dress “weird”—Goth, Lolita, Visual Kei. It was such a tumultuous time in my life. I lost both my parents in my early twenties. That fucks you whether you had good ones or bad ones. On top of all that, while dealing with everything, I ended up gaining a lot of weight.
I just wanted to hide and be normal.
So after your panic attack you did some soul searching. What conclusions did you come to about you and the world?
My childhood was awful, just plain awful. I needed to realize that I wasn’t alone first of all. I had to acknowledge my tribe. There are a lot of us out there, the Children of the Secret. I had to realize I had a home. I had to acknowledge my Family of Choice, some of them are biological and some of them aren’t. I needed to accept that I carry my own cure (http://www.vachss.com/av_dispatches/disp_9408_a.html). Doing make-up and dressing up is part of that. Rubi came from a grounding technique. She’s my way of not giving up. Not letting what happened to me win. Not letting that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder win. It’s like the famous philosopher Joe Dirt once said, “People like that security guard. They don’t really mean what they say. They just got their own issues and what not. Alls I got to do is keep bein’ a good person. No matter what, good things’ll come my way. Everything’s gonna happen for me, just so long as I never have no in my heart.”
I realized too, that there’s not a magic age you hit where suddenly everything makes sense and you’re a perfect all-knowing adult. Nobody really knows what’s going on anymore then you do. Being a grownup doesn’t mean anything other than what you thought it meant when you were a kid—you can do whatever you want. And you really can. I realized you can be an adult and be responsible, but you can still be yourself. I can be an adult and I can have pink hair. Pink hair doesn’t make me a bad adult and it doesn’t make me a bad person. Only being a bad person makes you a bad person. As long as you are harming no one, it doesn’t matter.
Your transformations are very important to you. How do you feel about yourself when you reinvent yourself?
Well, to be nerdy, it’s like gaming—like LARPing. Once you get the whole new outfit on and the make-up and you have a different look, you feel like someone else. Sometimes that nice. And it’s a confidence boost. A reminder that yes, I can allow myself to be happy and wear what I want. I also really like the fact that I do almost everything through thrift store shopping. You don’t have to have a lot of money to have fun with your style.
Tell us a little more about what fashions influence you when you work?
Well, first, you have to remember that I haven’t been doing this for very long. But, currently, I’m drawing most of my influence from Lolita and Decora and Gyaru. I like Visual Kei a lot, but it’s similarity to Goth makes it less of a visual transformation for me personally. My ultimate style would be a mashup of Loli Punk, Ero, Gothic, and a liberal borrowing from Sweet. I just really want to find my own mixture of cute/badass Lolita.
Are there any particular artists, fashion designers, models or stylists whose work you admire?
First is Joan Jett. She’s much older than I am and has continued to do what she wants and to be herself. Then there’s Malice Mizer…oh, Malice Mizer. I think Kyary is extraordinary too. I really like Jasmine Beckett-Griffith and Maio’s art. They’re both great. Of course, there’s my husband. He’s a writer. He’s been doing really well with it lately. I don’t know how to finds time to work, but his dedication to his work inspires me.
As far as brands, I don’t really have a favorite, but I do like Alice and the Pirates, 6% Doki Doki (http://www.dokidoki6.com/), and Angelic Pretty (http://www.angelicpretty.com/en/). All my wigs are from Gothic Lolita Wigs (http://www.gothiclolitawigs.com/). I like their products a lot. They’re high quality and reasonably priced.
Tons of people I’ve met on Facebook have been fantastic. Vanessa Lopa (https://www.facebook.com/VanessaLopa) is incredible. She’s so talented, so forthcoming and so very helpful. I absolutely dig what Cyril Lumboy (http://dolldelight.com/) is doing. I think not only is her style unique but she’s making unique things. I’m drawn to unique things, so she’s been a big influence. All the GLW spokes models have been a source of influence. And I’m just in love with Agyness Deyn—such a massive girl crush.
You recently did a “mini” gothic shoot. Can you tell us about the experience and how do you feel the photos turned out?
It was different. On one hand, I felt like I was being more of myself for the camera than I had before. But it also made me a lot more nervous.
The pictures were a little sexier than I had done before, so that was a challenge—to express that side of my personality. However, I think they turned out well. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the photos, which is awesome. I do want to do more Goth shoots in the future, but I will always want to try new/other things.
You also did one of your transformations on someone else. How hard (or easy) was it to work on someone else? How did it turn out?
It was easier and harder than I imagined. Applying the make-up on V was so much less work than I thought it would be. That was a snap. The trouble was that I didn’t consider her face shape. It’s very different than mine. I didn’t think about what looks okay on me, might not look the same on her. I had to do a lot of adjusting. Luckily, V is a close friend. She was a trooper.
How do you stay current on all that is happening in the fashion world since it moves at such a quick pace?
Facebook is extremely helpful. It’s easily the best source for me on what’s up to date. The Tokyo Fashion page is pure awesome. Decora posts a ton of great stuff. But do I think I’m on the cutting edge of current? That I’m in the know? No. I’m trying to be, but no, I’m not.
In regard to Japanese street fashion, what is it you like about it and what styles (for instance Goth, Loli, etc.) do you most admire?
The creativity! When I first got Fruits, I didn’t know what any of the styles or sub-styles were called. I just knew I loved what I saw. Each style takes something else (like Goth or Punk) and elevates it, takes it to the next level. As I’ve learned more about it, my biggest obsessions are definitely Lolita, Decora, and Visual Kei. For me, the more unique the look, the more I’m probably going to like it. With Lolita, what I am most drawn to is the ritual of it all. It takes a LOT of work and time and effort to wear Lolita, and that part I LOOOOVE, and I have much respect for the women and girls who do it everyday XD
Tell us about your brother and the illustration he did for you.
Well, I call Brian Roe my big brother, but he’s not related by blood. He’s part of my Tribe. Brian has always been a good friend to me. And I love that he wanted to work in comics and now he works in comics. He’s talented and he’s getting his stuff out there. I’m honored he took the time out of paying work to do an illustration for me.
We know you are having problems with your eyesight, what is the situation like now and how difficult has it been to work with it the way it is?
The first thing you have to understand is I’ve always been blind in one eye. So, everyone take your make-up brushes, close one eye and keep it closed. Now, do you make-up.
Not easy is it?
The situation with my right eye, my sighted eye, is presently under control with a retinue of eye drops. We don’t know what’s causing the problems in my sighted eye, so the specialist is treating the symptoms while he tries to deduce the cause. I’m hopeful—my doctor is the best person in all of the Midwest—but it’s also very scary and it’s very frustrating. Playing video games is hard. Doing everything is hard. Last night, we were play-testing the new edition of D&D play-test and I had to have a set of big dice with big white numbers on them so I could see what I rolled.
What is Inamorata Glee?
*Giggles* It’s an anagram of my real name.
Tell us a bit about your favorite things other than fashion and makeup. Like anime, video games and movies.
I LOVE movies! Huge Tarantino fan. Like everything he’s done. Some of my fave movies are Pulp Fiction, Princess Bride, Kill Bill, Bride with White Hair, The ‘Burbs. Star Wars.
Love anime, but especially: Trigun, Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, Bleach, Soul Eater, Sailor Moon, and High School of the Dead. I totally want to cosplay Saya Takagi! And gosh, everything from Studio Ghibli—I check the tree in the backyard for Totoro. Nothing yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
As far as video games, I love all fighting games, tons of survival horror and pretty much any RPG. Tops are Resident Evil, Soul Calibur, Dragon Age Origins, Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy X and X2.
If that’s all not lame enough, I also table top. If there’s a role-playing game out there, I’ve probably played it. My tops are Vampire, L5R, In Nomine, Deadlands, Mage, and 7th Sea.
What would you, if you could transform your short term future, be doing in the next five years?
More modeling. More quality shoots. More high concept stuff. Multimedia would be awesome—I want magical girl transformation sequences, damnit! More make-up on other people. Going to anime conventions as a hostess and dragging a mini-me with me. And more than anything, to learn to just be here now.
Where can we find out more about you?