Aussie star you’ve never heard of
HE'S the weird looking dude in pigtails and a baby-doll dress.
When Richard Magarey put on his first dress as a 14-year-old in the suburbs of Adelaide, he couldn't imagine his future would include Japanese pop idol and Asian superstar.
We might never have heard of him but this guy is huge in China. He's even appeared in a Japanese KFC commercial - but you would never know about it.
"I felt out of place in Adelaide," he told news.com.au over lunch.
"I was attacked several times but from birth I think on some level I learnt that it was my job to get my ass kicked in life."
We're in a discreet location in Shinjuku, Tokyo, a district famed for being the launch pad for many foreigners in this country, just like Richard. In front of him lies two dishes of chicken; Richard has not only a body to build, but a reputation.
For the last eight years, the brooding beefcake, 34, has been posing as a cross-dressing, pro wrestling pop singer under the name Ladybeard - and the Asian market can't get enough of him.
After moving to China in 2006 to kickstart a career in martial arts he discovered wrestling and soon began performing in Hong Kong under the name WuSoLui Ladybeard. Fighting in pigtails and lingerie, he quickly developed a following and moved to Japan to pursue a career in the spotlight. Now, it seems, his fame is growing fast beyond Japanese borders, heading back to Australia next month on a promotional tour for the documentary, Big in Japan.
But it wasn't the easiest road to success.
"I was home for Christmas one year and I was coming back to Japan, I got to immigration in Sydney and the lady asks me: 'You live in Japan? What do you do over there?'
"I say: 'cross-dressing, pro wrestling, heavy metal singer'.
"She replied: 'Big demand for that over there?'" He laughed.
Dressed in short skirts and a bikini top, it might seem odd that this man counts a quarter of a million followers on Facebook alone.
Now, with a world tour and 23 million YouTube views on his first single, Japan Bun, Ladybeard means business.
"If you told me the first time I cross-dressed that this is where it would be leading, I think I would have reacted quite positively to the idea, but it would have been very surprising," he told news.com.au.
Ladybeard first appeared in Australia in 2015 when Japan Bun, described as a message to "come to Japan and enjoy the super fun things", reached his home country.
He appeared alongside two teenage schoolgirl singers, formed the band Ladybaby and was received with much media fanfare. The western world had seen very little of Japanese kawaii metal - a blend of heavy metal and J-pop - and Ladybeard provided the perfect portal inside. He sings in Japanese and regularly appears on Japanese talk shows. In its first three days the video for the song hit one million views.
Welcome to Japan ... the lyrics read.
OK to buy tons of cosmetics and cosplay goods
Everywhere is so safe
All the cute girls in Japan
Ice cream scream
New products already sold out
At the time, Richard claimed he was a five-year-old girl hiding in the body of an older Australian man and his blonde pigtails and pink bikini soon burst out of the Asian market and on to the international stage.
China is his biggest market, he said, but he has performed across the world at anime conventions in America, Canada and even Melbourne last month. His Latin American fans are "crazy, it's amazing how noisy they are", he said.
In China, he's even appeared in promotions for the country's tourism board.
"When I go to a small city in China, everyone knows, it's crazy," Richard said.
"I am way more famous, crazy famous in China, than I am in Japan. They constantly tell me I'm beautiful, they think what I do is funny.
"There's still a lot more that I could do, I've done very well getting famous in China which is great, but there is a lot more I could do in Japan.
"In saying that, a lot of fans respect the fact I'm a kid from Adelaide singing heavy metal and wearing a dress."
In August last year, Richard announced his split with Labybaby after contract negotiations broke down and he's since formed a new band with bodybuilding idol Reika Saiki, named Deadlift Lolita.
"We wanted to continue doing Ladybaby but we negotiated for eight months and no matter which way we sliced it, they just wouldn't offer us a deal we could do," he said.
"It's been a surprising adventure, I'll say that much."
In a statement posted to Facebook over the announcement, he said: "I'd also like to say that anyone who thinks that Ladybeard is now finished is greatly mistaken. Believe me when I tell you, you have not seen anything yet!
"Ladybeard has only just begun! ..."
Richard says he'd love to move back to Australia but "there's nothing for me to do there, I still feel there's more I'd like to get done overseas before coming home".