What fictional character from movies, comics, TV or video games have you secretly crushed on?
Haha! This is not a quick answer and it’s never a secret. In the order they come into my head my current list would be: Dr Lauren Lewis from Lost Girl, Agent May from Agents of SHIELD, Kate Beckett from Castle… My new obsession is Officer Haught from Wynonna Earp but I’m unsure if I have a crush on her or just love her because she’s a redhead like me.
Comic book wise I love Batwoman (Kate Kane) but that’s another one of those ‘unsure if I fancy her or want to be her’ moments. #lesbianproblems.
The funny thing here is my best friend and I have this in-joke that any character I like in a book, TV series or whatever ends up getting killed off. I now purposely don’t say anything if we’re watching a movie together just because I know as soon as I voice it they’ll die.
What got you into cosplaying?
It’s one of those things that I think has always been with me before I even knew it was “a thing”. I’ve had conversations before with other cosplayers where you find you just had this love for certain characters growing up and dressing as them for Halloween just didn’t seem enough. And when you did dress up for Halloween you always wanted to put in the little details that other people don’t care about.
I have various memories of being more specific like that when dressing for Halloween as a teenager and when I was a young child my Dad used to bring home these huge rolls of paper from work and I’d double it up, lay down and make him draw around me, then I’d draw an outfit onto my outline. I remember drawing Postman Pat’s uniform onto it and cutting it out then getting my parents to sellotape the “seams” together on me. Then I’d rip myself out of it when I was done playing.
So I think this has always been somewhere within me but my first real knowledge that this was something people actually DO was when I started getting into comics in my late teens/ea
rly 20’s (I’d always liked things like Batman: The Animated Series but never really picked up a comic until someone introduced me to them). Then just through fan forums online I saw pictures of people rocking their favourite characters and my ex and I decided to go to Dragon*Con in 2009 and make some costumes for ourselves! I later went to a con back in the UK and met some amazing new friends who always had ideas for groups that were just too tempting and suddenly I found myself making multiple costumes a year!
What was the first character you ever cosplayed?
I think technically that would be my first version of Poison Ivy (Bruce Timm’s animated style) at Dragon*Con 2009. I know I wore that on the Friday so that officially counts as the first. The other 2 costumes I wore that weekend were Batwoman and Knockout from Villains United/Secret Six. All 3 of those costumes have since had upgrades and been worn many times.
It felt great wearing it for the first time! I know I was physically uncomfortable as I was wearing a pretty tight, boned body-suit for Poison Ivy and showing my legs in what is basically a corseted swimsuit was slightly un-nerving but I quite quickly got over that just being around other people who were all dressed up and showing so much love for their favourite characters.
What do you think of that first cosplay now?
The original Bruce Timm Poison Ivy was made with help and we were both very new to all this so the dye-job was pretty patchy. It’s tough to turn nude coloured nylon green! The tights I found were supposed to be a light green but actually look more blue and the boot-covers we attempted to make with Wonderflex fell apart but I now know that technique was too ambitious. When I upgraded that costume the lycra and foam boot-covers I made were so much simpler and worked-still work-much better.
How does it compare to how you feel showing off new cosplays now?
I think much the same. It’s still sometimes physically uncomfortable as we cosplayers don’t seem to know how to make things easy on ourselves. But it’s still the fun atmosphere of being around other fans and it’s amazing when someone calls you by character name from across a crowded convention floor because they are so excited to see someone representing a character they love. I’ve made some of my best friends this way or because they were also dressed as that character and impromptu photoshoots happen.
When did you realise you were first getting noticed as a cosplayer? How did it make you feel?
I don’t really think I’d consider myself “noticed” now but I guess there are small surges in interest on my page with certain cosplays. Malory Archer was a recent one that blew up online from my test pictures which I wasn’t expecting. I know I have some followers who often say they’ll look out for me at cons which is flattering to know people want to say hi. I think it still surprises me when I have pictures taken by a photographer I don’t know at a con and we exchange details so that I can look at the pictures later and I tell them my page name or give them my card and they say “Oh! I know you.”
What makes a character jump out at you as something you have to cosplay?
That’s actually a tough question. I think it’s really hard to pin-point. You definitely have to connect to the character but it can be any number of things from just thinking a particular outfit of theirs is badass and you HAVE to have that on your body to the fact you already look like that character.
For years people had been telling me to cosplay Amy Pond from Doctor Who because I do look a lot like Karen Gillan. In fact, once on a Saturday night after a con I had changed out of costume and into some jeans and a checked shirt to go and meet my friends at a local pub and as I walked in some French guys were walking out and stopped me happily exclaiming “Amy Pond! Amy Pond!” It was always flattering but at the time I didn’t watch Doctor Who and I have a bit of a moral thing about not cosplaying someone unless I actually like the tv show/film/comic and connect to the character. That’s my reason for cosplaying, loving the character not just picking someone I look like (but it helps). So once I finally did get into Doctor Who and missioned all of the “New Who” seasons I absolutely fell in love with Amy and had to cosplay her. She’s now my easy/comfy cosplay choice.
But the main draw for cosplaying a character I think just comes from a love for that character for whatever reason you find yourself drawn to them.
What’s your most memorable con experience?
Oh wow, there’s plenty of them! I’ve had lots of great experiences making new friends and it’s always fun when you get to meet a celebrity you admire and they are just as wonderful as you imagined. The most memorable was meeting Gail Simone at Cardiff Comic Con for the first time. I love her work and have cosplayed quite a few of the characters she’s created/written for, one of which is Deadshot.
Obviously Deadshot is male but I love him and have no interest in cross-playing so decided to design my own female version based on his costume style in the Secret Six comic books. When I heard Gail would be in the UK I had to go and meet her in costume. It’s not a big venue and I had spent most of the day searching for her table but couldn’t find it anywhere. Then when I was wandering through the stalls an American man excitedly came up to me and asked for a picture. I said “Of course!” and posed then he said “My wife is going to freak out! She writes this character!” To which I replied “Your wife is Gail?! I’ve been searching for her all day!” So he happily whisked me over to her table (which as it turns out I had passed a few times earlier but she was on lunch) and she was very happy to see the costume and got me to come around behind her table for a picture of us together that she could tweet. I think she then used it as her twitter profile for a few weeks which is amazing!
What’s your favourite character to cosplay?
Another tricky question! Batwoman is fun (apart from when you get mistakenly called BatGIRL) and that cape is huge and swishy! Malory Archer was way more fun than I expected because most people who walked past me gave me a nod and a “Ms Archer.” And for the fact that if it’s near the end of a long day and I am feeling tired and bitchy it’s perfectly in character! For the same reason Morrigan from Dragon Age is fun because I can legitimately have Resting Bitch Face.
Your Malory Archer was a huge hit in 2016. What about Malory made you want to cosplay her?
It’s funny because she’s not a character I saw and instantly thought, “I need to BE her”. She’s a bitchy older lady and actually when I told a co-worker about my next cosplay plans they were very confused and said “but that’s not sexy!” I had to explain that not every cosplay has to be “sexy/beautiful” they can just be fun or even sometimes a joke-costume, like current trend of dressing as the alphabet wall from Stranger Things. Having said that, I’m sure plenty of people find Malory sexy. She’s a tough, driven lady who takes no crap, which can be appealing.
I tried to setup a big Archer group but it never got off of the ground due to logistics and I didn’t feel I suited any other character from the show and also had only seen a few people cosplay Malory. I thought “how hard can it be to get hold of a suit in that style and paint it up?” so I’ll just go ahead and make this costume for myself and if people want to do a group in future I’m ready. Turns out it’s a lot harder than you think to find a suit like that so I ended up borrowing a pattern from a friend and making it from scratch! I don’t use patterns often and it was tough figuring out the alterations but I’m really proud of it. I made a fully lined suit jacket! It felt very wrong to then cover it in fabric paint!
A big draw in cosplaying Malory was just the comedic value and the fact I knew that for every person who didn’t watch Archer and didn’t understand why I was dressing as a cartoon old lady there were a few people who did watch Archer and FREAKED OUT, more than I was expecting. Plus, I get to walk around with a fake glass of whiskey and a kick-ass gun.
What inspired you to keep the cartoonish style rather than translate Malory into the real world? How did you create the 2D effect?
As I mentioned before, I’d seen a few people do cell-shading (the cartoon style) for Borderlands characters and I’d actually tried it for my Lilith cosplay, although I know how to improve it now. So I wanted to do that with this costume because I loved the real-but-not-real effect of it (I freak myself out in the mirror when I see my face move while looking like a cartoon).
In terms of how I created it I actually taught myself how to do it by watching a YouTube makeup tutorial where a girl turned herself into Sterling Archer. It was through watching that I realised where I’d gone wrong with my Lilith make-up. For that I had just painted black lines on myself for all of the edges of the costume and my face. In fact, I’d used eyeliner so the lines weren’t thick enough but the thing that makes the big difference is adding depth with highlights and low-lights along with those black outlines.
For Malory it doesn’t take too long to paint all the black lines but it takes more time to fill in the shadows along my cheeks and up one side of my neck.
What’s the most difficult cosplay you’ve ever done?
I find it’s usually the costumes you pick because you think they will be really simple that give you the most trouble! Trying to work out the logistics of altering that collar of Malory’s suit from the one on the pattern took forever. The new Ghosbusters costume I wore for MCM Expo in October is not actually finished as I didn’t have a lot of time and I have some wonderful friends who helped me hand sew things in the hotel room just so it was wearable but putting the reflective tape onto that jumpsuit was so difficult!
I think the most ambitious thing I’ve done so far is making the fully lined coat for Jeanette (another Secret Six character). I’d never made anything like a coat before, let alone a floor length one and never lined! The lining of that coat is one of the best parts of that costume. It’s a beautiful deep green brocade pattern and I couldn’t find anything good enough so ended up having to buy white fabric with the right black pattern on and dyed it green but it took a few tries! Then I had to alter the collar and cuffs from the pattern and work out how to add a big hood. It’s not perfect but I’m very proud of that one.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I’ve never really thought about that. I think I’d say pleather, craft foam and worbla. Not lycra! I don’t have an overlocker so it is very tricky to sew the seams on lycra without it slipping.
What is the most unusual or unexpected thing you’ve used as part of a cosplay?
The ball part of my staff for Codex (from The Guild) is actually made out of a giant novelty plastic ball that held Aero Bubbles chocolates and the smaller domes on the bottom of that staff are a ping-pong ball sawn in half, spray painted silver then carefully covered in red glass paint. My Dad once helped me make a long-sword for someone else using an old light-fitting as the hilt.
Who are your favourite cosplayers working right now?
I don’t think I can answer that as generally I admire all of my friends. I know some of the sweetest, most talented people and if I mentioned anyone I’d be missing someone out! … I’d say everyone should check out Ross E Cobb Cosplay as his drag work and general wig and make-up skills are amazing and the sheer volume of work he produces is astounding. Tascha Dearing Art is also amazing with make-up and contouring her face to completely become someone else. And of course I love Matt Eleven as he’s the Doctor to my Amy Pond and everyone should check out his photography page!
What’s your favourite thing about the cosplaying community?
The friends I’ve made. I don’t consider myself a very outgoing person at all. If you put me in a social situation with new people in a general setting I don’t find I have much to say and get a little shy. But at a con I find I’ll start talking to someone in the queue for an autograph or something without even realising I’ve just started talking to a stranger like I’ve known them forever!
Something I’ve always found interesting is certain fandoms definitely attract the same types of people. If I have connected with someone over our shared love for a certain character or comic book and we become friends, I’ll then later find out they like the same obscure bands as me or a TV show I wouldn’t connect to that original comic we bonded over but it seems to make sense if we both connect to one thing in the same way we probably connect to others in that same way too. I love that.
How do you think the cosplaying community could be improved?
I think it is always improving in little ways insofar as how people really come together to stop harassment and photo-sniping. If we continue to stick up for each other and make sure con-organisers and new attendees know we won’t stand for certain behaviours I think things will continue to improve.
Outside of cosplaying, what do you like to do with your time?
Catch up on sleep I am always deprived of! I like to marathon new TV shows (honestly there are lots of geeky shows I miss because I don’t know how others find the time to keep up!) and play computer games or board game nights with friends.
Do you think you’ll still be cosplaying in ten years’ time? Do you have any goals, in cosplaying terms or otherwise?
Definitely! I don’t think there is any age-limit to cosplay. In fact I LOVE it when older people cosplay because there are options open to you that aren’t there for younger people. Likewise, if I have kids I will be dressing my baby up (in safe, comfortable ways).
In terms of goals I think I’d like to find the self-confidence to show people you really can be any shape or size and still rock cosplay. This stems from the fact I have always had large thighs and different fat distribution to other people and am very self-conscious of this but I have recently found out why.
I have inherited a virtually unknown genetic condition from my mother called Lipo-Lymphedma (actually two conditions in one) which is incurable and set off by hormonal changes. It basically means you have abnormal fluids and fats in your body which mostly affects your limbs and means that I will not lose weight with exercise as my fat-tissue does not react as it should and in fact becomes very painful. Exercise creates more lymphatic fluid which is also abnormal in that it doesn’t drain away properly. In fact having slightly swollen and very painful legs after long con days was what prompted me to get diagnosed as I knew all my friends were tired and their feet hurt after a long day but I seemed to feel I was whining about being in pain more often than others.
It’s not a nice thing and does affect my self-esteem and almost put me off cosplay to know that I probably will never lose weight and may even get bigger due to this condition. I don’t WANT to give up cosplay though and I shouldn’t have to, nor should anyone. I don’t want to send a message that you can’t continue in this hobby if you aren’t a certain shape or size or even if you have limbs missing! Seriously, I saw a girl with a metal leg cosplaying a cyborg at one con and I thought it was the most inspiring thing. So many possibilities! USE what makes you different.
Do you have any advice for aspiring cosplayers?
As above, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do this. And if you see someone cosplaying the same character as you and you think they are doing a better job, don’t be disheartened. Be inspired! If you built your prop gun out of random bits of trash but theirs looks better go and talk to them! Say hi, tell them how awesome their costume is and ask how they made such an awesome prop, ask advice on how to improve yours. Most people will be happy to help. Following on from this, know that you can always continue to upgrade your costumes as you go. There are plenty of pieces that I had to finish in a rush and so I’m not happy with them but I know I just needed it to work for one con and then when I have more time I will go back and improve it bit by bit.
Also, always credit your photographer. The cosplay photographers you will meet at a convention are generally lovely people who are doing this as a hobby just as we are dressing up as a hobby. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship as ‘togs get to shoot amazing costumes for free and you get amazing shots for free but do bear in mind everyone has a day job and there is editing to do so don’t be surprised it if takes a while to see shots from that con you went to last weekend.
And finally, stay out of the drama llama. As with any hobby there are amazing people within this community who love and support each other but there can be a few who sometimes take things a little too seriously and personally. Remember, we’re all just a bunch of nerds in costumes.
And it’s awesome.
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