Meet Hannah Tapia, a 21-year-old furry. That label might turn a lot of heads, or maybe even turn them away. What is a furry? A mascot? An underpaid Disneyland employee? A role-playing cartoon character? At first glance, many might assume that. But Tapia is adamant about making sure the furry community is not misunderstood.
A furry is an enthusiast of animal characters with anthropomorphic – or human-like – features such as talking, walking on two legs and, sometimes, wearing clothes. This means they dress up in extravagant costumes, make fan art, go to conventions and organize meetups. (And for those wondering, no, it does not necessarily have a sexual component as has been portrayed on TV and in the movies.)
The uninitiated may be scratching their heads right about now, failing to recall ever seeing groups adorned in fursuits walking down the street. The community might seem to be underground, but the furry world surfaces once one logs onto an instant messaging app called Telegram. With nearly 60 members (including Tapia), the Monterey County Furs group chat is always full of new posts.
Nearing almost a decade as a furry, Tapia is always learning more. Her newest endeavor is making fursuits. Her store, Vanity Creations, is open for commissions. The suits are not cheap, easily costing upward of $3,000, depending on customization; most customers to date have been friends.
Tapia met up with the Weekly to discuss what it means to be a furry in Monterey County.
Weekly: How did you find the furry community?
Tapia: I found a game called Second Life where you could be any character you wanted to make. My friends weren’t involved in any of it, really. I’ve always been really open about being a furry, but in late middle school and early high school, a lot of my friends hated me for it and thought it was bad. My first fursuit was Ahri, a red-and-white husky. I was 17 and it was fun, but I pretty quickly wanted a higher-quality suit because it was cheaply made.
You said you have a few fursuits and “fursonas.” Can you introduce one of them to me?
My main suit that I wear most of the time is Loki, the skull fox. She has a personality where she wants to be kind of scary, but she is shy at the same time. To develop a character, usually somebody will take colors and concepts that they like. Some people base their characters off of food, flowers – anything, really. Others keep their personality the same or the opposite, like what they want to be like but haven’t achieved yet.
What do you do at furry conventions?
I go to conventions a lot, like PawCon in San Jose in November. They have panels, where they talk about everything like fursuit-making and safety when fursuiting in public. There are also a lot of games – like the silly games you would play in school – but then you do it in a fursuit, which adds a whole new concept. I like conventions because it is a way to get away from home and all the stresses you have in life. For that one weekend, you don’t have to think about any of that.
How would you describe the furry community? Has it helped you?
Sometimes they are not great at planning, but all of our events still happen somehow.
The one thing people stress a lot in the community is how accepting and fun they are. I think the community – and just being a furry – has helped me come out of my shell. Usually, I am kind of awkward about talking with people, but if you’re in that character’s headspace and in that suit, it is easier to just interact.
Do you get judged for being a furry?
Yes. A lot of people have seen TV shows where furries are very sexual. And yeah, there are some groups like that but most of the time it has nothing to do with that and is more about hanging out and having fun. The media has portrayed us in so many ways that everyone seems to have an opinion. I think if people learn more about furries and what we actually do, they would feel better about it.
How does your fursuit make you feel?
It definitely gives me more confidence because people aren’t judging you for who you are inside the suit. They aren’t seeing a person, they’re saying, “Oh, this is a cute character.”