Some people love golfing, others like to hike, but Anne Bruinn’s hobby is about “adding a little bit of spice” to other people’s day by wearing a costume at the end of her driveway and entertaining passersby.
The would-be Mrs. Dressup likes to call herself the “queen of the cosplay corner,” referencing the joy of costume play, a performance art where people dress up as a variety of characters.
Bruinn said she has been surprising her drive-by audiences as everything from a “Star Wars” stormtrooper to “Beetlejuice.”
“I have a captive audience because there’s nothing else to look at … I am the star of the show even though it’s anonymous attention,” said Bruinn, who regularly dresses up to greet people from a busy corner on South West Marine Drive in Vancouver.
“I know it’s boring between here and wherever you’re going. So, hopefully I can make your day a little more interesting,” said Bruinn.
“I don’t care who they are. They don’t care who I am … it’s a really sweet and innocent moment,” said Bruinn, recalling the honking she and her children have received from googly-eyed drivers and passengers going by.
The stay-at-home mom recently made an iron throne replica from the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” with tree stumps, plywood, tin foil, and foam after watching YouTube tutorial videos.
When the chair was complete, she put on a long-haired white wig, dress and crown, then “took it out for a spin” and the reactions were priceless, she said.
“I got one guy who came and knelt down so that I could knight him because I had my sword and that was really funny, and then some guy driving by yelled ‘Khaleesi’,” referring to one of the main characters in the series.
Grace Peng, of nearby Richmond, drives past Bruinn’s home often to take her son to school. The first time she stopped was to get a photo of her wearing her Khaleesi costume while she sat on her throne of swords.
“I initially thought she was just a wax figure, but then I saw her suddenly moving around while walking towards her. I am like: ‘Oh, she is real,'” said Peng in an interview conducted in Mandarin. “It was so unexpected, and Anne really made my day.”
Since then, Peng said she looks forward to seeing Bruinn’s costumes as she passes by.
“She always surprises me, and then I started wondering how many costumes Bruinn has at home and how much time she spends on her makeup and what’s the story behind her,” said Peng.
Bruinn’s “costume-making journey” started three years ago when she was standing at the end of her driveway watching for her child to come home from school.
“I waited and then I noticed that people were looking at me because, really, there’s nothing else to look at. Right? You’re probably wondering, why is that person standing on the street corner?” said Bruinn.
“Then I thought: wouldn’t it be funny if I wear a costume? Then my kid will think it’s funny and it will give people something to look at.”
Now cosplay has become Bruinn’s favourite pastime.
With the goal of bringing free, silly fun to people’s lives, Bruinn’s costumes change from time to time, depending on her mood. Sometimes she’ll dress up daily, although the weather plays a roll in how often she’s out.
If it’s sunny, she may be Barbie, standing inside a giant homemade paper pink box in her pink clothes or a pretty dress.
On International Women’s Day, she rolled up her sleeves to play “Rosie the Riveter,” complete with the iconic red headband and flexing arm muscles.
She has dressed up as a member of the rock band KISS when concert tickets went on sale earlier this year, and paid tribute to actor Betty White with a costume after she passed away last December.
Bruinn has a couple of ideas brewing for Halloween, including Barbie zombie.
“Beetlejuice I do numerous times in October because it’s very popular,” said Bruinn.
“On Sunday, I was out as Beetlejuice, and so many people stopped by for photos and just to tell me that they love passing by my corner and I’m so honoured.”
Dressing as celebrities or as characters from popular movies and TV shows has been an enjoyable ride for Bruinn and she hopes people feel the same way.
“I am just adding some weirdness to your day because you’ve probably had the same day over and over,” she said. “You just never know what can help change somebody’s day.”
While Bruinn said most people appreciate her costumes with a smile and wave, she’s not sure that her neighbours love it that much.
“I’m sure that people across the street don’t appreciate all the honking,” said Bruinn.
“Not everyone is a fan and that’s OK, I’m here for those who are,” she added.
She makes some of her costumes herself, with support from the local second-hand store. Bruinn said she doesn’t think she is that creative, but is “brave enough” to stand on the corner in costume with an open heart to make people happy.
“It’s been three years and I hope to do it a lot longer.”
Nono Shen, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2023