This week’s feature is another of the lovely ladies from Charisma+2, Cynthia Leigh. Cynthia Leigh works on a variety of projects as well as rocking her own amazing costumes. Check out her insight on the business, how it feels to work towards making it a profession, and the great costumes she doesn’t quite have time for (come on the Queen from “Brother’s Grimm”…I am pulling for you!)
I wanted to dress up as a character I fell in love with when I first started watching anime, Vampire Princess Miyu. And I felt it’d be a great fit for New Orleans’ first anime convention, and it was a simple enough character to execute given my skill level at the time.
2. How long have you been doing cosplay?
Almost a decade. I got started when I was 19 years old and haven’t looked back since.
3. What is the most expensive costume you have ever done?
Lulu from FFX; she gets more and more elaborate every time. The necklaces and earrings are comprised of freshwater pearls, glass beads, and gemstones. The wig was self-styled and is adorned with hand-crafted hair sticks. The fur is specialty order, the bodice has spring steel boning for support, and each individual belt was purchased from a goodwill store then adhered to the skirt.
4. Are you able to make a living with cosplay? If not, what is your dream job?
Cosplay has granted me the skills, experience, and promotional materials to move into the entertainment industry on a professional level. (Something that, initially, I could never conceive.) Almost every day I use images of my costumes to book paid modeling, costuming, and/or acting work.
I love what I do, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do it for a living. I would like to further expand on my wardrobe career and move into more talent work with the interactive media field.
5. Do you have a costume that keeps falling apart at the last minute or do they always execute perfectly? What would you say is the amount of time involved in the costume from inception to unveiling?
Nothing is ever “perfect.” Life happens all the time, it’s about how you deal with it that counts. Measuring twice and cutting once, building doubles, and making mock-ups will always make things easier. I’ve had to build entire wardrobes in days and repair one-of-a-kind runway pieces in hours when doing professional wardrobe. You eventually get used to the stress and take everything in stride.
I’m finding that as my techniques are challenged, that some things are getting quicker, while others are becoming more time consuming. Designing has gone from blissful to annoying as I now tend to over analyze fabric choices and silhouettes. Accessories are taking me longer because I insist on hand-sewing all my hats and personally crafting every piece of jewelry. Sewing is getting quicker because I’m getting better at draping and finishing.
6. How many Cons do you attend a year?
I attend roughly five fan-based conventions as a member of ‘The D20girls Project,’ and occasionally trade shows for Charisma+2.
7. Do you make the pieces from scratch or do you commission your costumes? I would imagine you are contacted by designers that beg you to wear their work…
I’ve never commissioned any of my costumes, though, I will work with “found pieces” if I feel they’re appropriate. Most costumes are custom drafted to fit my proportions.
I would love to do more fashion print work, but I’m petite plus, and most designers don’t make samples in my size. It hasn’t locked me out of doing fit work, but it does make finding traditional modeling gigs more challenging.
8. What is your all-time favorite costume?
Dawn, but my dream cosplay is Priss from Bubblegum Crisis. I refused to take on such a huge cosplay for years because of the armor, but access to suitable materials has gotten easier, and cheaper, making this a potential cosplay for the future.
9. What changes have you seen in the cosplay community over the years you have been participating? Are they good changes or bad changes? How has technology affected the fabrics/ideas/designs?
West is steadily meeting East. Sci-fi/Fantasy conventions are acknowledging that cosplay is more than a fad. Cosplay is being used as a springboard into various entertainment industry positions and/or to launch niche businesses. And both the general media and industry firms are solidifying the notion that ‘Cosplay is cool.’
10. Any advice for novices?
Don’t let negativity affect your choices in life. What people say now won’t matter in five years, two years, or even a year from now. Stay focused on what you want out of this and never forget that it’s supposed to be fun.
11. Are you primarily interested in anime costumes? What do you feel lends them self better in this medium or is it based strictly on the interest of the cosplayer?
I used to only cosplay anime characters, but I’ve since branched out into video games and movies. I think each cosplayer falls in love with a character and/or their costume, and becomes dedicated to recreating that in real life.
12. I see that you work with Charisma+2, as did last week’s feature, Ally…do you guys work together or is your work generally alone? Has it lead to other opportunities?
The Charisma+2 Agency is based in Dallas, TX and while I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and meeting quite a few of the girls, I unfortunately haven’t met them all. In the past 3+ years I’ve been with the agency, I’ve watched it grow from being just girls, to girls and guys, and now to people from everywhere with every background and look imaginable. I’ve even been able to refer some, Yuffiebunny being an ever awesome example.
Charisma+2 has allowed me to realize a personal dream of becoming a video game character when I was cast to do motion capture last year on an FPS game. I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be accorded a lot more opportunities to come as the agency grows!
13. What is a skill that you hope to learn to enhance your cosplay?
Over the past decade I feel I’ve learned a lot of skills, including millinery, jewelry making, photography, draping, cobbling, and prop creation. I’m currently working on learning more about armor and costume electrics.
14. Is there a costume that you hope to design but just haven’t committed the money/time to making that happen?
I have a long list of cosplays I want to complete. Most are still in my “waiting” folder on my desktop because I lack the time, as opposed to the funds, to complete them. This would include things like Mina Harker’s Red Dress from Coppola’s “Dracula,” the Queen from “Brother’s Grimm,” or Esther Blanchett’s “Queen of Albino.” They’re pieces that are so detailed that I would spend 6 months or more constructing them properly.
Do you have questions for cosplayers? Are you a cosplayer and would like to be featured as Cosplayer of the Week on www.almostnerdy.com? Send an email with pictures and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please put “cosplay” in the subject line)