We chat to Melissa about her body paint experience, the characters she’s drawn on herself and also her charity campaign she’s currently doing.
What got you into cosplay?
As I’m more of a body painter, I just really liked pushing makeup and seeing what else I could do with it. I used it as face paint for a long while and then I just felt like I wanted more! So I would paint my chest and then down to my stomach. In the end, I just paint head to torso every week, turning myself into different characters for my community.
How do you explain cosplay to friends/family members who don’t know this hobby?
“Bringing fictional characters to life.”
You are known for body painting comic book characters on yourself. What made you decide to get into this hobby?
I’ve always loved comic book characters, especially the style in which they are drawn and coloured. At first, I just had a fascination with wanting to make myself look 2D, but I gradually developed my own style with the paint. I suppose I never really decided to take it on as a hobby, I have just always played with using makeup “incorrectly” until I learned that it would be easier to do this with face paint, then it all developed from there.
What was your first body paint character you did and was it to the level that you liked it?
Haha! Well at first I used to play around with zombies and sfx. But the first real head to torso paint was Dark Phoenix. I thought it was great at the time but now I look back it gives me such a headache because it is so bad. But that is only because I have had a lot of practice and really honed in on my skill. I’m sure in 5 years time I will look at the paints I do today and feel like they need improving though. The key is to always practice, always improve, and always try new things.
Which Character has been the most fun to recreate and also the most challenging and why?
Lady Mechanika! She is such a fantastic character. I do love her because I found this paint stressful, but so rewarding. It was the first time I wanted to practice detail work which there is a lot of. I also had to create and source a lot of props for that paint.
I painted her as a subscriber request and then Joe Benitez ended up in my stream! He was so happy with it that he asked me to do a live demo on his stand at Comic-Con in London. I guess one of the most important things was the subscriber who requested it. I really connect with my community a lot and this subscriber was there for the stream, but unfortunately passed away a few weeks afterward. I was trying to message them to tell them about the opportunity that this paint had given me but couldn’t get through and wanted to send a huge thank you and a free print to them for such an amazing request. I received the message a few months later from someone who had inherited their computer. For all of these reasons, Lady Mechanika has a huge place in my heart.
How much planning do you need to do before you start painting on yourself and how long on average it takes to paint yourself?
This varies per paint quite a lot. My Twitch community has helped so much with immediate supplies such as wigs and contact lenses. If I haven’t got time to prepare something during the week then I can find a paint that just requires a wig I have and the lenses. Other paints might include a collar being made which can be done the day before. However, I’m currently working on a wig that will take a few months to build, I’m happy regardless because I just want to create the characters my community love.
As for the average time, I would say 12 hours. The paints I have done which are head to torso could range from 9 hours to 18 hours depending on the level of detail. Having said that, I have also painted some face and chest looks which have taken 11 hours before too. I think it is probably difficult to gauge at the moment though, I’m always chatting and being silly on Twitch with my community and this is definitely a little distracting! I wouldn’t change it for the world though!
Have you or would you love to do a live body paint session on stage at a comic con event?
Yes! I was able to do this for Joe Benitez. I would love to do more though but perhaps not on a stage, they can take hours!
You stream your body paint sessions on Twitch. What made you use this platform and how have you found using this platform?
I used to just paint in the corner of my room and upload videos and photos to Instagram. After a while, I thought to use Youtube but I didn’t really like video editing very much so this didn’t work out for me. I then discovered KayPikeFashion and Twitch. I realised that if I live streamed my work then I wouldn’t have to edit any videos! I started it up and it was really fun, it meant I had some people to talk to while I was doing these sessions which would take up to 15 hours.
Twitch has been amazing to me, it really brought a breath of fresh air. I’ve made a lot of really fantastic friends on there, had amazing experiences and been able to improve my work. I also think it has made me more confident and a better person as a whole.
Do you get many rewards from using Twitch such as the interaction from your fans?
So much. I love talking to my community and learning things from them. We are often very silly and I spend most of my time talking or reapplying the paint which I’ve cried off from laughing. I always have a smile on my face when I think about how great my community is, what they have done for me, and seeing the support they give me. They are the real MVP’s, I just provide a place for us all to gather.
What advice would you give to people about starting a channel on Twitch?
You really need to understand that Twitch is more of a community-driven platform. It isn’t a “get rich quick scheme” or anything. People go into Twitch for the wrong reasons such as fame and money. But if you want to start because you want to be part of the community and grow your own audience then that’s great! Make sure you really are yourself because it is so easy to tell when you are being fake. It’s live for a good few hours at minimum and people can tell. I found growing all my social handles beforehand was incredibly helpful so I had some people to drive there. Finally, just be a good person!
You’ve been posting #paintbatgirlblue on your social media platform. What is it and what does it mean to you?
Each year I host an open collaboration which fundraises for a charity. Last year we did #paintdeadpoolpink and this year it is #paintbatgirlblue. Initially, it was aimed towards the body art and makeup community but a lot of people wanted to get involved regardless and I loved that!
I ask people to take a popular character and change the colour. So this year I want to see a bunch of blue batgirls. We do this to show that as a community we can make a difference by working together, raising awareness and achieve something great. For Cancer Research UK we have currently raised over £1,500 this year.
I wanted to show that this is a supportive community and that there are so many different styles of art out there. It’s a great thing to be able to see so many different variations of how people may interpret Batgirl if she was blue. In my opinion, it reinforces that art is not a competition, it’s just people creating what feels right for them and appreciating that everyone is a little different.
It’s a wonderful thing to organise. I have so many messages about people sharing their stories regarding how cancer has affected them and that they appreciate what I’m doing. It can be a little stressful to organise and try to get people on board, but when I see people enjoy it, I see those stories, it’s probably the most rewarding thing I can do.
How can people help out with your campaign and raise awareness?
You can help out by creating a blue Batgirl! If you do, use the hashtag #paintbatgirlblue and tag me on Instagram @mcroft07. I share all the looks and will be creating a college at the end to share online. You can also donate to the page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/paintbatgirlblue . While donating is not necessary, they do need funding to be able to make a difference. Even £1 will help!
Going back to body paint, what character is your ultimate goal to paint on yourself?
My ultimate goal is to complete a series of every Lara Croft outfit. I’m a huge Tomb Raider fan and I want to paint them all well so they do her justice! It’s a big project to work up to but it’s definitely worth it!
If you want to follow Melissa’s work, you can on the following social media accounts.