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Meet Irene Yu of Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Irene Yu.

Hi Irene, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. I guess if you ask different people, they’ll say different things about me, but at my core I love adventure, living life to the fullest, and doing my part to help the community.

InsiderIrene (www.insiderirene.com): I’ve been writing reviews on Yelp for over 12 years and blogging since 2013. My blog has evolved over the years, and during the pandemic, I decided to use my platforms (Blog, FB, IG) to help support small businesses by highlighting my favorite finds each month! I work in education so I was extremely lucky to have a secure job during that time. As such, I made a concerted effort to eat out often and try to support as many businesses as possible. From that, I categorized my favorites into $, $$, and $$$ to help readers learn about my favorites at different price points. It’s been a hit ever since and I love sharing!

CosplayCounselor (www.cosplaycounselor.com): Professionally, I work as a College Counselor at a comprehensive high school in Southern California. I help my students with college applications, career planning, and everything to help students become successful in the future. One year I went to nerd convention in LA just to check it out and I saw all these people dressed up as superheros, villains, princesses, etc. At that time, I thought to myself, “wow that looks cool maybe I could do that one day.” I later found out that this was called cosplay (costume – play in short), so I thought long and hard about who I wanted to do first.

In 2017, Gal Gadot was going to debut Wonder Woman’s solo movie so I decided that my first outfit it had to be this Amazon Warrior! I made her bracers, bought color contacts, a wig, and everything to try to make her look as much as the character as possible. I even changed my diet and exercise regimen so that I could be as fit as possible. To be frank, I was so scared since I was a newbie and was worried about unkind words. Nevertheless, I brought her to Wondercon that year and I’ve been cosplaying ever since!

Once I got comfortable, I started my youtube channel and combined two of my passions – cosplay and counseling, and it’s expanded to Instagram, Facebook, and now Tik Tok! Through these platforms, I share my cosplay adventures at conventions and movie premieres and also provide college/career advice to middle and high school students!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
InsiderIrene: This has been pretty smooth. I’ve thankfully been drama free with this outlet!

CosplayCounselor: Unfortunately, there had been hurtful things said from older people who don’t understand this hobby. I think in part it’s because there is a segment of cosplay that’s for an 18+ audience and some don’t know that not all cosplay falls in that category. Additionally, I also had some coworkers laugh about how silly I was to dress up like a princess. It took me some time to accept that not everyone is going to be a fan (or maybe they’re jealous); however, as a role model I think it’s important to show others that we all don’t have to be the same and being unique/different is awesome!

Also, I’m incredibly thankfully now that I work in a place where my principal not only knows but also participates in some nerdy things too!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a credentialed school counselor and work at large high school in Southern California. I help students with their college applications and write about 100-200 letters of recommendations (good thing I have over a decade of experience writing reviews :P). I also conduct classroom and evening presentations, advise students one-on-one on course selection and dual enrollment, host college and career info sessions and fairs, plan college field trips, write weekly newsletters, and serve as the California Scholarship Federation Advisor – just to name a few.

My proudest accomplishment is increasing student/parent participation in my evening presentations at my previous school. Historically 20 or so people would attend the optional workshops; however, through aggressive social media marketing and traditional advertisements over 200 people showed up consistently to my evening events – even my Financial Aid ones! Educating students about Financial Aid is one of my highest priorities because I myself had significant student debt and I wanted all my students and families to do everything they could to minimize their out of pocket costs for college. In the end, I and a team of amazing Financial Aid officers helped 2/3 of our senior class complete the FAFSA, which was the highest completion rate in my district.

I think my background with social media and marketing really helped me reach families and in turn help students gain the necessary knowledge to prepare for their future! I also make counseling videos 🙂

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
In my line of work attending conferences and networking is pivotal to helping me do my job well. I attend various college and military open houses/visits both local and nationwide. Every once in a while I’ll do a counselor fly-in where I will fly to a college and get a first-hand look on what it’s like to be at that campus. I take notes on what transportation is like, campus life, signature programs, how students spend their time outside the classroom, etc. Some of these trips are complimentary and some I choose to explore during my own vacation time to be better educated about options for students.

In June 2019, I was scheduled to attend a Counselor Fly-in in the UK to learn about colleges, but the pandemic happened and that was canceled. I hoping I’ll get another opportunity in 2022 *fingers crossed*

Experiencing colleges in person is so different then seeing them on the computer, and this helps me better advise students on what might be a good fit for them.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

@acc_photo_art, @shotfiredbyjimmyolsen, & @rancabudol on IG, Epic Photo Ops.

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