When you think “kawaii” and “J-pop” the first image that comes into your head is probably not of a fit, hairy Caucasian dude wearing pony tails and tiny women’s clothes. Which is exactly what makes “Ladybeard” so unique and popular in Japan.
Richard Magarey hails from the Australian city of Adelaide, but moved to Hong Kong in 2006 to pursue a career in martial arts stunt career. Drama had been the only thing he was good at in school, and because he also practiced martial arts, he decided to pursue a career as a stunt actor. He worked as ‘Mirrorball Man’ for a while, a persona that required him to put on a giant mirror ball, go to clubs and get patrons grooving to dance music. As weird as that may sound, Magarey claims the gig changed his notion of what a performance could be. “I was in a costume and environment that stripped me of my usual physical, vocal and emotional expression,” he said, in an interview with Japan Today.
But it wasn’t until he got involved in wrestling and adopted a truly bizarre persona that the Australian entertainer discovered what destiny had in store for him. After training in a wrestling gym for over two months, Richard showed up for his first match wearing a skimpy Lolita dress and his hair tied in two childish ponytails. He still had his fuzzy beard and hadn’t bothered to shave his hairy body either. He remembers sitting backstage and thinking to himself “What am I doing? I’m wearing a dress, about to go do this thing that I’ve been doing for two months, in front of a bunch of people. What is wrong with me? Why did I make this decision?” But he eventually did it anyway, and everyone loved it. Ladybeard was born that night, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ladybeard became an overnight sensation, and he started performing heavy metal covers of Cantonese pop songs in his crazy attire. It was a great time for him, but things were about to get even better. During his performances, people would walk up to Richard and say “That was crazy, you should go to Japan, because the Japanese would love this.” He decided to follow their advice and go tour Japan. His Hong Kong fans weren’t lying, Japan fell in love with him almost instantly.
The bearded entertainer credits his manager Naoko Tachibana, Japan’s foremost photographer of crossdressers, for a big part of his success in the Land of the Rising Sun. “Because she runs this crossdresser business, she has a wardrobe full of really kawaii clothes in big men’s sizes, which was really convenient,” Ladybeard told Forbes. “That was the big problem in Hong Kong. I wanted to wear all these cute things but I couldn’t get them! They were all made for tiny Chinese girls, and I didn’t have the money to get them tailor made. When I met Naoko, suddenly that opened up a whole new world because she understood the hair, makeup, and styling to appeal to a Japanese audience, because she is Japanese.”
Naoko started taking pictures of him dressed in kawaii outfits and doing girly poses, and posted them on Twitter. It all took off really fast, and before they knew it, Ladybeard prints were selling by the thousands. He began doing metal covers of popular J-pop songs, and went on tours in all major Japanese cities, building a strong fan-base.
Ladybeard says most of his fans are Japanese girls aged 18 to late 20’s, but he also has a lot of fans who are children, and even some older people that seem to love attending his gigs. In China, he believes his fans are 50% male and 50% female, while in the West, well, they’re just getting to know Ladybeard, so he’s not very sure. He’s got quite the online following, as well, with over 36,000 followers on Facebook and 75,000 fans on Twitter.
Recently, Ladybeard became involved in an entirely new project – a band called Ladybaby, made up of him and two teenage kawaii girls, 17-year-old Rie Kaneko and 14-year-old Rei Kuromiya. Combining J-pop and heavy metal growling, the new group has already been described as a breath of fresh air on Japan’s music scene. They’ve just released their first single ‘Nippon Manju’ (Japanese Bun) two weeks ago, and already have nearly 4 million views on YouTube alone. An encouraging start, but Ladybeard thinks they will do even better in the future.
To maintain his manly physique, Ladybeard works out every day, doing lifting and cardio exercises, and although his musical and dancing projects take up most of his time, he still wrestles from time to time. He’s always in his “five-year-old girl” persona, though. “What else is there? It’s my life,” he says.