We’ve covered weird J-Pop acts before. And we’ve covered crossplay — or crossdressing cosplay — before. Well, get ready for Ladybeard and his bands, Ladybaby and Deadlift Lolita, because he combines both crossplay and J-pop … with metal.
Who is Ladybeard?
Ladybeard is from Australia and started his career as a stuntman, working with a member of Jackie Chan’s stunt team. Soon, he moved to China; originally planning to become a stuntman and actor for martial arts films. (In fact, he’s in a few movies, including playing the lead villain in The Fortune Buddies.)
But his fortunes didn’t lie in the film industry. He became one of Hong Kong’s most popular wrestlers, using crossdressing as his gimmick. Becoming popular immediately, he says, “After my first match, I was already the most popular wrestler in Hong Kong.”
However, Hong Kong didn’t have much in the way of cute clothes in his size, and he couldn’t afford to have custom-made clothing. Size-wise, he was a big fish in a small pond. Friends advised him that he’d be popular in Japan, so in 2011 he set up his own Japanese tour which was a hit. Two years later, he moved there.
In Japan, he hooked up with Naoko Tachibana, a famous photographer who mostly takes pictures of crossdressers. Given her occupation, she had a lot of cute clothes in large sizes, which helped him out considerably.
And it should be noted, while crossdressing is Ladybeard’s wrestling gimmick, it’s not just a gimmick. He first crossdressed when he was 14, using his sister’s school uniform. When asked why he crossdresses, Ladybeard says, “I like women’s clothes.”
While Ladybeard identifies as a crossdresser, he’s coy when asked if he’s gay. In a 2015 interview, he demurred claiming his character is a five-year-old Japanese girl who looks like a big, bodybuilding white man. And on Twitter, when he was asked point blank, he replied:
the oxford english dictionary defines the word gay as "light hearted and carefree, brightly coloured, showy" RT @sliuvblajih you are gay..?
— Ladybeard?にゅいにゅい (@Ladybeard_Japan) February 4, 2014
The rise and fall of Ladybaby
You may have heard of Babymetal before, the band of J-Pop idols who happen to make pop-influenced metal music. They became a worldwide phenomenon, and like with any pop phenom, companies started looking for their own version.
The CEO of Clearstone, a costume company, saw Ladybeard on the cover of a magazine wearing a bikini. He reached out to Ladybeard, who described their meeting this way:
He says, “I really want to do this thing with you. I’ve got these two girls, and I want to put you in a [music] group with them. It’ll be like Babymetal except you’ll be in it. And it’ll be awesome!” That’s how Ladybaby happened.
Ladybeard, already a fan of Babymetal, agreed and met his bandmates, two teen girls named Rie Kaneko and Rei Kuromiya. In Ladybaby, Ladybeard handled most of the metal vocals, while Kaneko and Kuromiya provide the J-Pop vocals.
Sadly, Ladybeard left the band in 2016 over creative differences with the management team. He said, “I didn’t leave by choice. This individual on the management team and I disagreed on every point of what the group was, what it should be, and what should be its role in the world.” Without him, they rebranded as “The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby”, with just the two women.
Ladybaby never officially broke up, however, today, Kaneko is the only original member. But last month, it was announced that while Ladybeard’s not rejoining the band, he’s going to collaborate on a new song, “Bili Bili Money.”
Though he left Ladybaby, Ladybeard wasn’t ready to give up music. He formed a new group with fellow wrestler Reika Saiki and Babymetal guitarist Isao Fujita. Deadlift Lolita does songs mostly about bulking up or, as the opening to the “Muscle Cocktail” video puts it, to be the strongest and the cutest.
That’s perhaps the most apt description of their music. Ladybeard calls his genre “Kawaii-core”, combining the Japanese word for “cute” with hardcore.
Tachibana is not just Ladybeard’s manager but Deadlift Lolita’s producer. And she’s even getting into the muscularity of it all: She said that after meeting Ladybeard and Saiki, she began weight training as well.
Deadlift Lolita tours the world, and if you’d like to get a chance to see them in America, at the end of this month they’re playing at the Boise, Idaho anime convention, Anime Oasis EX. They’ll be doing two Q&A sessions, and the concert is at 8:15 p.m. on May 26.
Are you a fan of Japanese pop metal like Ladybaby or Deadlift Lolita? Do you want to see Ladybeard in your town? Let us know in the comments!
All photos by Naoko Tachibana