I saw that you were involved in promoting Cosplay for a Cause, my first question was, “How the hell are you not in the calendar?” Are there any other causes that you support that tap the unique talents of the cosplay community?
LOL – thank you! But there are so many talented cosplayers out there and only 12 months to fill, so I know that the people behind it had their work cut out for them. I’m ridiculously lucky to know some of the people who were featured in it, so I’m perfectly happy living vicariously through them and play cheering squad. Beyond Cosplay For A Cause, I’m also a huge fan of the work done by the Heroes Alliance (http://www.heroesalliance.org/) which donates their time and energy to various charities. There are variations of the HA across the US and every single one of them deserves kudos for the good work that they do! And the Hero Initiative (http://www.heroinitiative.org/) is also dear to my heart, because without the artists, we wouldn’t have cosplayers, and so many of them have dedicated their lives to bringing my heroes to life – giving back is only natural.
What made you decide that you needed to make your first costume?
I think everyone starts at Halloween when it comes to costumes, and I was no different, but I felt like the costumes that I wanted to do were too weird or out there, so I stayed away from my geeky leanings for years. Then we went to DragonCon for the first time. “People dress up there” I was told in passing. I had *no idea* what they meant until I saw it all and was just blown away – I knew I’d found my place. It’s pretty much been downhill from there!
How long have you been doing cosplay?
Almost 10 years now. I look back at what I was able to do then and what I can do now and it’s kind of amazing to me that I’ve gotten to this point, and even now I know there’s still more I can learn and create. And with the “Wish List” of costumes I have bookmarked, I don’t think I’m stopping anytime soon, especially when I continue to see cosplayers like Ridd1e, Roxanna Meta, Yaya Han, Kelldar, Ana Aesthetic, and BelleChere constantly work to outdo themselves…it’s so inspiring! And I’ve found some of the most creative and caring people in the world through this hobby, and I can’t imagine not being part of it.
What is the most expensive costume you have ever done?
Wow, that’s a tough one…I spent many years cobbling things together or buying what I needed without really keeping track of what I was spending – if I had the extra around, I spent it. But it’s probably a toss-up between Sensor Girl, Blackfire, and Dream Queen due to the amount of fabric involved and the number of wigs. I have a few that are set for the future because of the money involved with pulling them off, but someday….
Are you able to make a living with cosplay? If not, what is your dream job?
There are VERY few people able to make a living as a cosplayer, though it would be nice. I split my time between cosplaying, DJing, and a full-time day job in advertising for an internet company. In my dream world, I’d just do the cosplaying and the DJing, that’s not likely to happen unless I win a couple of lotteries. *grin*
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 executes perfectly, but whether or not anyone else can tell is the trick. My Silver Banshee didn’t finally make it out until almost 2 years after it was finished, because of the make-up. (I think I went through 2 or 3 different brands before I found something that stayed on my face and not on my gloves). My Big Barda only appeared once because the bodysuit had some small issues that I think kept it from being what I wanted it to be. But I never feel like a costume is finished – there are always things I want to tweak and fix. As for time involved, that’s tough because I usually have two or three going at once. Without distractions and nothing super complicated, I can probably turn around a costume in a month or so, using the free time I can snag here and there. A basic bodysuit can be done in a weekend, but the props and accessories take time.
How many Cons do you attend a year?
I average 2-3 a year – HeroesCon in Charlotte and DragonCon in Atlanta are the two big ones for me, and I can usually squeeze in one more. There are always a ton I want to hit that just don’t fit with my DJ schedule though. But I’ve been lucky enough to hit NYCC, ACE, and CONvergence in the last few years, and enjoyed them immensely. MegaCon, C2E2, and SDCC are on the to-do list though.
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…
LOL – come home and be my self-affirmation mirror! No one has ever contacted me to wear something of theirs but since I tend to gravitate toward some of the more offbeat/obscure characters out there, I’m sure I’m the last one anyone would think of. I do pretty much everything from scratch, though I have been known to start with an eBay’d zentai suit and build from there. But honestly, I do my own work mostly because of my size – at 6’1”, it’s tough to find a lot of things “off the rack”. The only things I might commission out are prop-related, and those are usually few and far between. I do try to learn a new skillset every year, but in the end, if someone can do it better and faster than I can, there’s no shame in getting it done that way. I know that there are some costumer’s that frown on not DIYing from the ground up, but I think that’s hogwash – if you ever see the work that Brian Parsley, Brad West, or Mike Schiffbauer have done up close, you’ll be the next person in line with money in your hand!
What is your all-time favorite costume?
I love wearing my classic silver Dazzler, because she was my first love in comics and is just so darn shiny!
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?
I think the communities have become much closer, as people have become more aware of each other, and groups like http://www.thesuperherocostumeforum.com have created places for people to share ideas and thoughts. Many of them have amazing support groups to bounce ideas off of, and getting honest feedback is great. The most important change I think I’ve seen is the recognition that the comic book companies are starting to give – it’s always been a fine line of “Are they stealing copyrighted work? Should we do anything about it?” but more and more I think they are realizing that what we do is a labor of love, and are starting to work with us. Marvel even has Judy Stephens on staff to cover the cosplay events (and she’s AMAZING at it). Plus legendary artists like George Perez are vocal about being fans of cosplay (George is like a little kid sometimes when he sees something he loves) and that has helped us stand out as more of an art form and less as “nerds playing dress-up”. And technology – just wow! There are so many things that can be done now that couldn’t be done 10 years ago. In fact, I’d be willing to put some of the prop makers I know (Shawn Reeves’ Batman cowls and Laban Boldero’s props, for example) up against anyone in Hollywood – if you work without a big movie budget, it forces you to think creatively and come up with affordable solutions that are just brilliant.
Any advice for novices?
Don’t feel like you can’t cosplay because you don’t have the money or the skill. There are ways around it, and you can always learn – no one comes right out of the gate at 100%.
Don’t feel trapped because of your body-type. While I think some of the best cosplays I’ve seen are people who have used their body type to their advantage, I’ve also seen costumers that may not have fit the character perfectly, but made up for it with confidence and exuding the fact that they were having fun doing it.
Always smile and be polite. You never know who might be watching.
Learn the difference between constructive criticism and cattiness, both in the giving and the receiving.
Remember that you are portraying a fictional character – don’t let unrealistic expectations of your body make you feel bad about yourself. No one’s boobs sit like that naturally, it’s doubtful you have a triple-jointed waist, and no, you can’t fly. Work with what you have, let it inspire you to work toward what you want, but don’t let it work against you.
Have fun doing it. That’s the point.
And finally – OMG – know your underwear! Men: Buy a dancebelt if you’re going to wear spandex – your junk next to a little kid’s face is no parent’s idea of a wholesome family photo. Ladies: Avoid panty lines and nipple slips – learn how! Simple foundation garments can take a good costume to great.
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