This week we chat to the wonderful Natashenka Cosplay who cosplays Black Widow and got invited to meet the cast of Avengers and meet her icon Scarlett Johansson. Read her interview with us about her experience as Black Widow and meeting Scarlett.
What got you into cosplay?
I started cosplaying after watching Avengers Assemble for the first time back in late 2012. Before that movie, I’d been a very casual comic book fan and seen a couple of the Marvel films, but for some reason Avengers Assemble really caught my eye.
I’d never paid much attention to the MCU before, but this really intrigued me – the way all of the characters wove themselves together. Natasha Romanoff stuck with me after the movie finished and I honestly don’t really know why. I had seen Iron Man 2 so I vaguely knew who she was, but as I googled her and read her history, I just connected with her in a way that I never have done with a character before. I went out that weekend and bought the Phase 1 boxset, got myself caught up, and kept coming back to Black Widow.
I saw a Facebook advert for MCM Birmingham a few weeks later. Me and my friends had always wanted to go to one and we decided to try cosplay – something we’d admired for a while but never attempted ourselves. That was when I made my first Black Widow costume. I think I literally said, “I want to be her.”
Looking back, it was actually rather poor, but it was a starting point! I was hooked when I saw everyone in amazing costumes, and I wanted to improve my own skills. Fast forward six years and here we are!
How do you explain cosplay to friends/family member who don’t know this hobby?
Sometimes it’s really hard to explain to people who don’t really know what the hobby is. I’m lucky because my friends and family are super supportive. My Grandad especially proud and shows my photos to all his friends and our extensive family.
When it comes to people who don’t know what it is, I always get a laugh, as I think they think it’s just playing dress up. But when I take the time to explain the crafting and effort that goes into it and the social aspect, they are usually pretty impressed, and tend to ask to see photos.
It also comes in handy at work conferences – when you have to introduce yourself and tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself to break the ice, it gets people talking!
You cosplay a few different versions of Scarlett Johansson characters, namely versions of Black Widow and Major from Ghost in the Shell. What is it about her you like cosplaying as her?
Scarlett Johansson is one of my biggest role models. It started with Black Widow, she totally drew me in with her performance and made me fall in love with a character I can really relate to. I then worked my way through her back catalogue, watched interviews with her and even did a few university projects on her (my dissertation was on Natasha Romanoff and I got a first, so I’m proud of that). She’s just such a strong and confident woman who brings strong, powerful female characters to life in films but who also cares enough to promote that in the press and the public eye – she’s an absolute inspiration to me. She’s also really funny and seems really down to Earth, which I like.
You’ve been invited to both early Fan Events of Avengers Infinity Wars and Endgame. How did you get involved with that?
Being invited to the Infinity War and Endgame Fan Events was simply a case of knowing the right people. One of my good cosplay friends was asked to assemble a team of Avengers for the Infinity War event by Disney last year and they asked me to be Black Widow. The Endgame event was a lot more spontaneous, but the same thing happened.
I have no idea how they have that connection with Disney, but I am forever grateful that they asked me to represent my favourite character. I can’t ever say thank you enough to my friend, to Marvel Studio and to Disney for giving me the opportunities they have. The fact that they thought I was good enough to appear at both events is just an amazing feeling and it’s brought me so close to an insanely bunch of cosplayers who I’m proud to call my friends and Avengers family.
You’ve met Scarlett at the Endgame Fan Events whilst wearing your Black Widow cosplay. What was that like and what did she say about your cosplay?
Meeting Scarlett Johansson was the most surreal moment. I had no idea it was going to happen until literally half an hour before, if that. We were stood at the top of the stairs by the press and she came over. She was really impressed by our costumes, exclaimed “wow!” a lot, before stepping forward to me. She really loved my cosplay and asked me how I braided my wig. When I asked if we could take a photo, she immediately said “uh, yeah!” as if it was a given that we would do that, and she took a couple with me.
I don’t think I’m ever going to get over that moment. She was the loveliest person who genuinely wanted to talk to us and say hi. I’m so happy that she’s as nice in real life as she is on the big screen and in the press. The whole thing was so weird but probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
My friends are the most wonderful people who know how much meeting her meant to me, so they let me have this moment and I love them all for that. And thank you to all of them for letting me cry over them afterwards!
How nervous were you about the event and meeting Scarlett?
I was so nervous beforehand! I was given maybe half an hour’s notice that we were going to go down to the press area for photos and the whole time I had this ball of anxiety in my chest. As we met Paul Rudd and Chris Hemsworth it only got bigger, because I knew she was coming next. I honestly don’t remember much of what happened between Chris Hemsworth leaving and then Scarlett appearing, I was so focused on not crying or shaking. I kept my cool (somehow!) while meeting her but as soon as she was moved on I just lost it all over Dr Strange and Iron Man, and Marvel got it all on film and put it on This Morning and their own YouTube, which is so embarrassing but also really cool.
Meeting the person who I’ve adored since 2012, the person who inspires me every day and who introduced me to the MCU and cosplay and essentially all of the people I’ve met through cosplay, was overwhelming.
It was made more of a big deal because I’d resigned myself to never meeting her. She doesn’t do much press, she doesn’t do meet and greets, so I thought this would be impossible. The fact that not only did it happen, but a friend made it happen for me? That blew my mind!
How hard was it to keep quiet about your invite to the event?
It was ridiculously hard to keep quiet about the event! People have been genuinely mad at me and my team for not telling them, but what they don’t understand is that we are always under embargo from Disney.
With the Infinity War event, we knew for about a week or two that we were going and had a secret schedule for the day, and our embargo was lifted a few days before so we could at least tell people we were going.
With the Endgame event, however, we knew a week before that Disney wanted us, but we couldn’t say anything to anyone. Security was so strict that we only found out the venue the day before. We had a code phrase to tell security on the door to be let in and only after all the ballot tickets had been collected could we post anything online. It was so cool, security were cracking up, it was so funny.
Disney worked so hard to keep the event secret and they did so well. And luckily most of my friends are understanding about the secrecy.
Has there been any other cosplays you’ve enjoyed wearing?
Aside from Black Widow and Major Kusanagi, a few cosplays I’ve enjoyed wearing have been D.Va from Overwatch, Elsa from Frozen and Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. Effie was probably my favourite because I hand-glued over 100 plastic butterflies together into a dress and got to run around MCM being all perky and ridiculous. She was so uncomfortable to wear though as I couldn’t sit down or bend in the dress. I’d love to bring her back someday; I had a brilliant reaction from people to her.
Money is no object, which cosplay and location you love to shoot at?
Money (and skill) no object, I’d love to make a life size D.Va’s Mech from Overwatch, but I’m nowhere near that level of skill or craziness yet!