The FS Creative team sat down with John Berry, Kansas City illustrator and creator of our FightSong! Heroes to chat about the incredible characters he created for us, his inspiration and what they bring to the FightSong universe.
John’s inspiration for Kai Greene came from being a part of activist circles. Like all of his characters, pieces of Kai came from existing people he knows. “I know multiple nonbinary people named Kai,” John told us in an interview. “So that felt appropriate.”
“GETTING INVOLVED IS MORE IMPORTANT WHEN YOU’RE A PART OF A MARGINALIZED COMMUNITY.”
Designing Kai Greene
He elaborated that, “when designing Kai I was thinking about how a lot of how we get perceived is through a specific lens of the gender binary, whether it’s hairstyles or clothing.” When describing Kai’s overall gender presentation, John adds that he, “wanted everything to read as more neutral or more fluid rather than to fit in squarely with one (gender) presentation or another. So you know, nail polish, considered to be very feminine. They are wearing some mascara, but the hair style reads more masculine.”
John’s choice of using green and purple was intentional as well. “Those colors are not connected to any gender for most people.”
What is Kai’s story?
Kai’s backstory is that they were bullied for being non-binary. Rather than passively accept the treatment, they fought back by becoming an activist. Through their social media and debate, they advocates for other genderfluid and non-binary people, joining a legacy of many non-binary people throughout history. John believes that similar to many people he knows, Kai’s marginalized identity is the source of their activism. “Especially when you’re a part of a marginalized community, getting involved is more important.”
Name: Kai Greene
Likes: Forensics/Debate, Twitter, Essie nail polish
Dislikes: Clumpy mascara, poorly worded essay prompts
Favorite Food: Smoked tempeh, cold pressed juices, kale chips
Favorite Color: Lime Green
Hair Color: Medium Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Kai became a FS! Hero by standing up for others.
Before Kai started debate/forensics, Kai was a shy kid, nervous about being nonconforming. When they got anxious, they had trouble speaking and that was when they were targeted the most by students– when they were the most vulnerable. However, after debate taught Kai to channel this nervousness into passion, Kai learned how to wield their persuasive power to protect themselves and other students.
One day when Kai was scrolling Twitter, they saw a thread of students attacking another gender nonconforming student from their school. Kai, in typical Kai fashion, immediately responded in the thread supporting the other nonconforming student. Then, wanting to stop the bullying, Kai took screenshots of all of the cruel things being said and sent everything to the school counselor through FightSong. Because of Kai standing up, the students reported were then educated about gender and then disciplined by administration for their cruelty. If overcoming your own issues to support another person isn’t heroic, we’re not sure what is!
About the Artist
John Berry is an Animator, Illustrator and Teacher currently living and working in Kansas City, MO. He received a B.F.A. Degree in animation in 2012 from the Kansas City Art Institute. Since graduation he has worked as an Animator, Illustrator, Concept Artist, and a Graphic Designer. He has also been a teacher in KCAI’s Continuing Education department as an Animation Instructor since 2014 and joined the BFA program as an Animation Lecturer in 2018.