I Wanted To Be A Real Life Anime Character (Time Out, 23rd May 2018)

23May - by Amy Dawson - 0 - In Fashion

After hitting rock bottom following a road accident, Shaina West reinvented herself as a cartoon-inspired martial artist and Instagram star: The Samurider

My motorbike accident was four years ago now. I don’t actually remember it, but from what witnesses said, I was splitting lanes and a van pulled out to the right and cut me off. I was pretty badly concussed, fractured my neck and broke my thumb. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me before I even had the chance to leave the hospital. Because I couldn’t fulfil my contract at work, they had to let me go. It was a low point in my life, but thinking about it now, it was absolutely necessary. I don’t think I would have been able to muster up the same motivation if I hadn’t had that setback.

Growing up, I was always really into comic books, action movies, video games and all that superhero stuff. After my accident, I was stuck in the house for weeks on end and binge-watched anime shows. I had this feeling that I wanted to become a real-life anime character. Something inside me said: You know what? I’m going to get up from my bed and start teaching myself martial arts! I literally taught myself in my bedroom, using YouTube and other internet tutorials. I started off by training with a couple of plastic knives. My mum, who is quite traditionally Ghanaian, was worried to say the least! After being in my room for several weeks, I suddenly had what probably appeared to her to be quite erratic and extreme hobbies – though she’s completely on board with it now.

I started uploading short clips and pictures to my Instagram page, and I didn’t get that much attention at first. Then overnight my Instagram followers went from about 1,000 to 20,000, and just kept growing from there. Before that, I really didn’t imagine that what I did for a hobby could reach so many people. I feel like I owe everyone who has ever liked or watched or shared any of that content, because without them I wouldn’t have so much confidence. They’re the ones that really pushed me, and I want to make them proud in the same way that you want to make your mother proud.

I’ve always lived in south London, and until I was 12 I grew up around Brixton and Herne Hill. Now I travel there every day to train at Brixton Street Gym. It’s such a unique, amazing place, with a really strong vibe and energy that comes from people training in so many different disciplines in one location. The most important thing is that many of the sessions are free, because it’s a community gym backed by charity funding. I’ve learned so much from training at the Street Gym. I’m a strong believer that however much you know, there’s always someone who can teach you something – and London’s one of the best places in the world for that, because there are so many different types of people here.

I’m now training to be a stunt actor, and I’ll soon be launching a GoFundMe campaign to help me do it, because it’s a very difficult and expensive industry to break into. I’m going to make sure that when I’m in a good position, I can do up the Street Gym, give classes for free and mentor people. I want more people to be able to feel what I feel: to be able to do what they love for a living.