A Year in New York: Cosplay and Life

I have pretty much come full circle with my life since moving to New York a year ago. I’ve made five new cosplays, traveled to six different states for conventions, been a participant in the country’s largest cosplay contest, and ran Need Input four times. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve battled terrible homesickness, struggled to maintain PMDD, and my relationship with my fiance finally fell apart after 4.5 years. I find myself with the year coming to an end as both a winner and a loser.

Well, no, not a loser. I’m just being hard on myself. My own greatest weakness. I’ve never felt like a loser in the past year. Even standing up on the stage at Crown Cosplay Championships as they announced the winners of my category, I didn’t feel like a loser. Quite the contrary – two other competitors in my category also had skepticism about being able to win. The three of us all agreed that even if we lost, we would stand firm as Team Snowflake and that nothing could even crush our dreams. When Big Daddy was announces as Video Games Category 1st place, the three of us all cheered, “Yay! Team Snowflake!”. It was obvious that many people in the front row of the audience had heard us, and they had no idea what was going on. We were more stoke than anyone one else when we learned that we all still got this large swag bags with tons of awesome nerdy stuff inside. It still felt like winning.

As far as the year ha gone, New York has been a unique experience that I think any creative person can benefit from. It lights a fire under your ass. It will make you pursue your dreams, conquer your fears and you will learn more about yourself, more than you ever thought possible. I have been so productive this year in terms of cosplay, and I have been able to discover what I really want to do career-wise while living here. I know I’m never going to be a big professional cosplayer, probably not an ambassador for the craft, but I’d like to think I’m a good representative for the idea of cosplay. I believe in what this craft can do for you, and I’ve just come to terms that I’m not going to make a living off this, and I’m ok with that. I have found my true calling…beer.

With my cosplay season over for the year, I am going to spend the month of December working on new cosplays for my upcoming season, which actually starts in Janaury this year x_x I was invited by Wizard World to present my panel at another convention, and I picked Portland since it means I get to go home! With the ending of my engagement and no real reason for me to stay in New York, I am going to being moving back in March. I’ll spend some time while I’m back in Portland in January networking with Whole Foods locations in the Portland area so I can try to secure a job before I move back in March. Just to give them my resume and put a name to a face. The month of December is also dedicated to earning my Certified Beer Server, which will just make me more marketable as I transfer back to Portland.

I regret nothing over the past year. Eh, I’ve lost some and won a lot in exchange. Leaving New York will be hard. I’m leaving behind an ex, a great team of workers at the Whole Foods I helped open and all the footsteps I’ve taken all over this filthy city. At least I’ve done it. Moving back to Portland doesn’t feel like failure. I have never felt like I belong in New York, and I fucking love Portland. It’s an ok place to be. I miss my old fabric stores too. I like being able to go one place and buy everything at once. I will miss the garment district, but I get the feeling most of the things I have been buying here, I can get them online. Ah, the glory of the internets.

Speaking of internets…When my relationship finally ended, like, I knew it was over, the first thing I did was crack open a beer and get onto Battlenet. I worked with a wonderful WoW GM who helped me reset my password and get back into the game. I told him I had stopped playing around the beginning of a relationship with a non-nerd, mostly because there was no internet to play WoW with. Anywho, this GM though it was nice that I was coming back to WoW after leaving it because I was in a relationship with a non-nerd. He gave me a week of free play time and gave me some advice as I came back into the game. I had left pre-Cata, so everything had changed. This was part of the reason I never wanted to go back. On the bright side, my favorite parts are still there. The feeling is still the same. I don’t have to say no anymore. And I couldn’t have come back at a better time. Warlords of Draenor just release. I attended Blizzcon for the first time ever, and now I have to go back next year. I met awesome new people, was exposed to some of my favorite gaming lore, and I can’t wait for next year. I couldn’t be happier on the nerd plane.

The world is realigning itself. I’m moving in a direction of eternal gaming, cosplay and nerd happiness. Now stop reading my blog and go back to playing your video games. Or watching your anime. Or reading your comics/manga. Or just go back to being your awesome self ^_^

-KLR

 

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New Photoshoot: Sailor Neptune

I was able to escape to an abandon building on the coast during this last summer and shoot some awesome, sandy photos in my new Sailor Neptune cosplay! Sailor Neptune has made several convention appearances, including  Sakura-Con 2014 and Nashville Comic Con 2014. It’s a fun, frisky and powerful cosplay for me to wear – also the first cosplay I have ever done with a wig! Easier than I ever thought would be and I simply love this wig from Epic Cosplay! They will be getting so much business from me in the future as they have broadly expanded my world and made me really love being able to chance my hair for other costumes. Using my hair is awesome, but I think having teal hair is pretty spectacular too!

-KLR

Sakura-Con 2014 – Post Con Update

With ten years of Sakura-Con tradition under my belt, I returned to Portland, OR and Seattle, WA in April to attend my home convention. Usually occuring over Easter weekend, Sakura-Con is the Pacific Northwest’s biggest anime convention, boasting over 20,000 attendees at the Washington Convention Center in downtown Seattle, Washington. It was the first anime convention I went to and the second ever, just after my first at Penny Arcade expo the year it debuted. Since then, I have attended Sakura-Con every year for the past ten years. I’ve even kept all my badges as the years have passed!

ConBadges

Just add one more and you have ten years of Sakura-Con tradition! Sakura-Con means the world to me, if you haven’t noticed. They inspired me to keep making cosplays every year and to do bigger and better things every year. Five years ago, I competed in the Anime Swimsuit Contest. Year one, I got 3rd place; year two, 1st place by fan vote; and year three I got 3rd again. The two following years I was invited on as a guest judge, a position I take very seriously with my history with the contest. Two years ago I start running my Need Input! panel and it has been extremely successful in terms of gathering feedback for my research. For the past three years, I have played as a chess piece in the Cosplay Chess Main Game, playing a pawn, then a knight, then a rook. I’ve attended panels about everything under the sun, watched hours of anime in the screening rooms, watched the AMV Contest every year, danced with total strangers, done photoshoots,  and been drunk and stoned until the early hours of the morning just about every year. With my nerdy lady friends, Sam and Heidi, we’ve established theme phrases for the past three years. First, it was “Bidoof”. Just saying the word made us crack up. Then there was “You know nothing!”, said in a very selective tone. This year, as all three of us were mounted with some combination of stress, illness, jet lag,  work and school with just days before the con, the theme was “Nope.” For example – “Are you going to get up early for the panel tomorrow?” “Nope.” “Have you eaten anything today?” “Nope.” “Did you finish your cosplay?” “Nope”.  Sakura-Con, or Sa-Con as my friends and I call it, is home.

This year was probably more full than it needed to be. I was running my panel, competing in the Cosplay Contest AND a piece in the Cosplay Chess Main Game. Two of the three of those were extremely successful. My panel didn’t have a fantastic turn out, but everyone that came contributed very well and I was able to get more audio for a new transcription. I found it to be very productive and valuable. Hopefully Sakura-Con will let me come back for year three in 2015. Cosplay Chess went awesome! I had a great sparing partner dressed as Sora from Kingdom Hearts that was very fit and doing flips across the chess board. I played as Jean Grey from X:Men Evolution. I haven’t seen any video surface of the game yet, but I will be sure to post them here. A lot of people said that our match-up was one of the best fights of the whole game, so Cosplay Chess felt great to be in again. The waste of time of my Sakura-Con was, unfortunately, the Cosplay Contest. It had nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t win, really, nothing. It was horribly organized, sucked up my entire Saturday, and I never even got any stage time to work anything out. I got maybe 30 seconds just to walk around the stage with all the other walk-ons, and then we were ushered off very quickly so people could resume practicing their skits. I booked time right at the beginning of the morning, like 5 MINUTES of booked time, so that I could work on the stage, get some perspective and then be done. I wanted to go to other panels, actually eat some lunch and do more with my day. I sat around for almost three hours waiting to get stage time that I had made the effort to book and they never honored it. I then had to beg to be released so I could go eat as I didn’t plan on being there all day and was starving. By the time I finally got on the stage, I really didn’t know what I was going to do for the 1.5 minutes that my music was suppose to run for, and I felt foolish up on the stage. When I got back to my walk-on group, they were dividing us up, sending some people to a different line, and some people back to the dressing room. I was the only one in my group that they released, simply saying, “Ok, you’re free to go.” There are kinder ways of telling someone they didn’t win. I have competed on some of the greatest competitive cosplay stages in the country and this was a horrible way to run a contest. Sorry, Sakura-Con, I love you, but I will NEVER compete in your cosplay contests again.

After the blight of the cosplay contest was over, I joined back up with my friends. Some of us went to do other things, and two of my lady friends and I went back to the hotel room to get our drink on. Bawls + vodka = the most ridiculous Con drunk you could ever have. We ended up pouring out our hearts about an assortment of subjects – lifetime changing moments, lost and evil loves, trying to figure out what to do with our lives. It was a really meaningful conversation that was just meant to be some time to drink so we could go back to the convention. We did make it back eventually and went and danced our hearts out. When the dance closed at 3AM, we went and played some Rock Band. I discovered I can do vocals on Rock Band pretty well! It’s a lot like karaoke, just with grades! All my my scores were 94 or above, so I think I’ll try to be in Rock Band gaming sessions more often! After that, I played some Katamari Damacy for the first time in several years. I think I need to get another PS2 back in my life and buy some of those games again.

I woke up the next morning and didn’t really have a hang over, but I wasn’t really functioning either. I ended up spending the last day of my con in the infirmary and the convention center. I had terrible vertigo. Eventually, I ended up puking. I think I just completely burnt myself out. I really shouldn’t participate in so many events at a con! I just had too much on my plate. I thought I was going to have to reschedule my flight and stay one more night in Seattle, but I ended up just popping a Benadryl and sleeping through my red-eye home flight. It really is possible to out-do yourself at a con, but in the end, I think it was a really worth it. I can’t think of a better ten year anniversary!!! Can’t wait for year 11!

 

-KLR

Next Cosplay: Robe of Departed Spirits

RobeFeatured

AUGUST EDIT:

So, yeah. Haven’t posted in about three months. Let’s just say I didn’t really have time to do anything…at all…ever. I picked up a second job shortly after Sakura-Con in hopes that I could start saving a little more money, which ultimately means more cosplays and more conventions. Little did I know that also meant no time to do anything fun, like actually making said cosplays. I worked about 60-70 hours a week from the end of April until up to two weeks ago. I was sometimes working 17 hours in a single day. Eventually, my psyche cracked and my body gave out. I said enough was enough. I quit my second job in hopes that my current job with Whole Foods may become a full time position, and I think that will be plenty. Some position changes have been set into motion and it looks like that opportunity might be on the horizon should all the pegs fall in the right holes. Unfortunately, my break from working two jobs might be extremely temporary. My fiance hasn’t been able to find a full time job since he graduated from his Masters program at the end of May, and his current part time job will be ending soon. I’m beginning to feel the pressure of getting back that second job, even though I know it sucks and it practically kills me and my spirit. But if he doesn’t find something soon, I’ll have to dip into all that money that I have saved for things like emergencies, paying off debt and my fall convention line-up. But it’s OK, I know things will work out.

I ended up not being able to go to Fanime due to a bunch of complicated, silly reasons. I also didn’t finish Robe of Departed Spirits. I realized the route I was going with it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I was being careless with sewing techniques and I wasn’t using the materials I wanted. For example, I was ordering plastic bones from eBay. That’s dumb. I decided to go on a chicken feeding frenzy. I have now collected over a hundred bones in assort shapes and sizes, as a well as a small set of rib bones. The Robe of Departed Spirits should be exactly that – a collection of departed spirits. I also needed some time to develop my character. I was close to my character when I did the Absolution regalia because I actually played that character – I was Siddartha at one point. With this character, I never actually played a Blood Elf in WoW. I never played a mage either, which is the class I have decided for this character. I’ve been working on a back story too, something that gives me some roots. I’ve decided this Blood Elf was raised by the Tauren. Growing up, she realized she wasn’t connecting with nature the way the Tauren were and it frustrated her. The only thing she had to go off was that her mother Tauren promised her she would find out who she really was as time passed and to not be discouraged that she wasn’t like everyone else. One day, while out on the plains in Mulgore, she wandered too close to a cliff-side mine while picking herbs and  she was attacks by kobolds. Scared, with only a small wooden staff to defend her, she threw herself on the ground and screamed. That’s when the magic was released – the wave of flames that engulfed her enemies and burnt the grasses and shrubs. Afraid of what had happened, she returned home and told the elders of what had happened. She demonstrated her powers. While the elders had respect for all the elements of Azeroth, this one frightened them. This was not a power to be kept in Thunder Bluff, not a power they could train or understand. She was to be sent away. The only family she ever knew, and suddenly, everyone was afraid of her. Her mother Tauren did not send her away unarmed though. She had a robe from an old temple that she had visited long ago – a temple that no long existed. None of the Tauren dared to wear the robe, but the mother Tauren saw it to be too valuable to just throw away or sell. This robe was gifted to the young Blood Elf girl. The mother Tauren said, “Do not be discouraged because you can never harness the powers of nature like the Tauren. You hold the power to something greater. You might never be able to connect with spirits as we do, but you will leave those spirits in a heap of ash and bone – all in the wake of your flame.”

With this, the young Blood Elf girl left Thunder Bluff…

Kind of fun! Not sure where she goes from there, but I though it was a fun way to describe how a kind of shaman-like robe comes into the hands of a mage. I also am not sure what to name my character yet. I’ve been rolling around some ideas, but I don’t know what I should call myself. I’ll know it when it hits me, and I’ll be more in character than ever before!

MAY STATEMENT:

For Fanime Con, with 16 days until my flight to San Jose, I have decided to embark on a very difficult task of the Robe of Departed Spirits from World of Warcraft. Inspired by Absolution priest cosplay three years ago, I have decided to do another WoW cosplay, this time as a Blood Elf. I have been looking for cosplays that use my natural long red hair so I can justify keeping it this way. I sometimes look at Yaya Han with her super fun hair that she has all the time because she wears wigs with all her cosplays and I want to have fun hair too >_< but my hair is easier to work with than any wig and I want to keep it that way as long as I can. I also have been looking for cosplays that keep me from having to cover up my tattoos on my right arm. I have a huge half sleeve from the back of my right should down to my elbow of autumn maple and Japanese maple leaves in red, orange and yellow. I don’t like having to cover them as it take a lot of make-up and patience. I think this cosplay works well for both scenarios. Blood Elves are very close to nature so it’s ok if I have my ink showing, and there are red-headed blood elves so I can keep my hair! I also wanted something with a lot of detail, a lot of mixed media. I have been getting a itch to challenge myself lately, and I think this just might be it. Of course, I have given myself virtually no time to work on it, but I want something new for Fanime Con and I want to buy a lot of neat stuff from the Garment District. There are so many wonderful places to buy trim, beads and other decorative accessories and I want to use them all! My goal is to have the main dress finished by the end of this week and to work on the all the details next week. I have two full days off from both my jobs this week, so I’ll be sure to get lots of wonderful work done! I plan on taking progress photos for this one detailing my construction process and the materials I used along the way, so I’ll post that once I get back from San Jose before I start on my next project!

-KLR

I’m Back from April

I realize I did no updates in April. It was a sea of busyness that I just couldn’t get out of. I was trying to finish two costumes, spent a week in Oregon and Washington and then had Crown Cosplay the very next weekend. I was ridiculously busy. In real life, my fiance is trying to his 2nd Masters at NYU so he’s also ridiculously busy. I am still working two jobs, but I am moving in the direction of trying to have only one job, keeping the one that makes more money and will be more profitable as I move towards the summer. I’ve decided not to be too strict about any kind of cosplay schedule with deadlines and assigning specific cosplays for specific conventions. I want to focus on what I want to do what I feel like doing it, and not hold myself hostage to finish projects that aren’t planning out well with materials that I can’t find with the time period I have. Like, for example, I really want to do my Cardcaptor Sakura cosplay. I have managed to find a good green fabric to use, but I am still troubleshooting pattern & construction for the jumperskirt. I also want to be able to dedicate a solid month to learning baton twirling so I can twirl my wand, just like Sakura. Performance is one of the most important things to me in terms of cosplay, and this is a cosplay from my childhood, so I really don’t want to fudge it. Therefore, I don’t want to really rush this cosplay. I want to be able to give it the time it deserves and develop my skills along the way.

Dash

I have big plans for the website with my latest update. I plan to write my reviews for both Sakura-Con and Chicago Comic Con. I don’t think I’ll be writing one for Katsu-Con. It was just a terrible convention and I really don’t want it to take up space on my website. I will be uploading my latest profile for my Ashe cosplay since I am considering a 2.0 version to redo it. I also have a mega update to do regarding my Crown Cosplay competition. I have Fanime Con in San Jose in a little bit more than two weeks and a whole cosplay to finish in the progress, but I want to get the website up to speed while I have this sit down time! Stay tuned for the next few really big posts!

-KLR

New York Comic Con 2013 – Post Con Update

After moving to New York I was extremely disoriented. All of my stuff was in boxes, I had no furniture, no friends and I was already homesick. The only things I was enjoying were the warm summer, a new environment and having a fresh start. I guess all those things come hand in hand. The first thing I had planned in NYC was New York Comic Con in October. My oldest sister Beth bought me three days passes for my birthday, setting me up to attend for the entire weekend. It would be my first east coast convention and my second kind of comic book convention, the only one besides Emerald City I had ever attended (I’d been to Emerald City for the past four years in a row). I had a few major events that I was looking forward to. For starters, I had a huge pile of comics to be signed by a variety of people to sign in the Artists Alley. I was excited for one man in particular – Joshua Ortega. I’d been a fan of his since the first Emerald City I attended. I had started with his Necromancer comic, and then started reading his adaptation of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer. I enjoyed his writing in everything he did, and declared myself his official fan girl. At New York Comic Con, I met up with again for the first time in two years. He remembered me spot on and greeted me with open arms. It’s always wonderful to have a celebrity remember you from previous meetings. I made sure that this time we got a photo together!

 

JoshuaOrtega

 

I got him to sign everything I had brought for artists and writers (literally half of my stack!) and thanked him for his wonderful work. He mentioned that if his success continued, he was going to buy the rights back to a comic I particularly loved and make sure that he wrote more. Necromancer only had six issues before it was cancelled, and I got completely hooked on the series, but was sad to learn that there wasn’t anymore. I’ve collected every issue and every variant cover I could get my hands on, and Joshua was always great with signing everything I could find. I’ve always wanted to secretly do an Abby cosplay. She’s a strong, powerful female character and really makes Necromancer an awesome title! If you’ve never read it, pick up the first six issues before he starts writing more!

 

Necromancer

The rest of my Friday was consumed with industry panels, shopping at the Gunpla booth and checking out the convention space. The Javitz Center really is gorgeous, and I think the highlight of any convention space is making sure it has plenty of windows. Sunlight is important for con-goers! About halfway through the day, I slipped into my newest cosplay, the second big event of my con. I decided to commit to a comic book cosplay. As a red head, I felt I would make a good Jean Grey, but which one to do? I went with something from my childhood and decided to do the X-Men: Evolution version. Not quite a comic, but definitely based on it. I remember watching X-Men: Evolution as a kid on Saturday mornings, right along side Cardcaptors and Pokemon. I didn’t have a lot of time between moving to New York and putting together a new cosplay so I kind of just threw something together. Not my greatest, but it was something fun to wear around the convention.I even got the chance to show it off on the Marvel Stage!

 

JeanGrey

While I had fun with Jean Grey, I had another cosplay event that was dominating my conscious while at the convention. The Saturday night of New York Comic Con would be my debut of competitive cosplay. I signed up to be one of thirty contestants that would compete for prizes in the Wikia Live Costume Contest. I’d managed to cosplay for almost ten years before I decided to compete. I’d done walk-on cosplay shows before, but nothing with prizes on the line. Naturally, I was a little nervous. I don’t know why, but it’s something to have your peers judged your cosplay, and something completely different to have judges, well, judge you! For the contest, I decided to go with Little Sister. She’s my strongest cosplay in terms of presence and performance, as in I can really get into the character. I think that’s one of the most important things when being in cosplay is being able to relate to your character and become them as much as possible. I think I get spot on with Little Sister. I creep around convention halls, leer around corners, stalk people and call out for Big Daddies. I scream at splicers, drink from my Adam Gun and play with Mr. Bear. I really, really get into it, and it seems to have an effect on those around me. I like the way it feels. This time, I’m not quite sure, but I think it worked to my advantage, or at least made me memorable. One of the guys I followed around the convention and inevitably scared turned out to be a judge for the contest. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I had done something bad, something that would count against me. During the interview portion of the contest, I mentioned that performance was important to me when I was Little Sister, that I liked to follow people around in order to be scarier. The judge in questions chuckled and said “Yeah, we noticed that!” Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it slid away as being a primary fear in the competition. I managed to get some lovely photos as part of the interview process. Special thanks to The Lemon Cookie for the wonderful photos and for featuring me on her website!

 

LS1

The contest featured a lot of wonderful cosplayers from all sorts of genres, everything from comics, anime, video games, and popular media, like Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games. With thirty of us and only a few prizes to give away, I was wondering how it would all work out since I was at the end of the pack with the Balrog – he had to go last since he didn’t fit through the door so well. I did my best and put on a good show! In the end, I won my first award for cosplay – Best Performance! Turns out all that creeping around isn’t for nothing! I was awarded with some awesome gaming electronics, including the gaming mouse I use now. I was happy to be recognized for all my hard work, especially for my efforts in performance. My legs always hurt after cosplaying Little Sister because of the crouching I do, and it’s great to finally have that all pay off!

My Sunday was like most Sundays at conventions. I wore civilian clothing, was malnourished and exhausted and didn’t spend much time at the convention. I spend Sundays at panels and in viewing rooms, taking pictures of cosplayers and shopping. In particular, I made sure to go visit Yaya-Han at her booth in the Dealers’ Hall. I forgot to buy a print from her, but I did make sure to get a photo!

YayaHan

After some brief conversation (she had a heck of a line behind me), she mentioned being interested in my cosplay research ideas, proclaiming her interest in the sociology of cosplay. She gave me her business card and then gave me the opportunity to have a photo with her. She’s a big influence for anyone in the cosplay world and she has earned a fair amount of respect for what she’s done with it as an art form. I’ll admit, I had some opinions about her before I ever really read about her as a person, and especially before I met her. I have since changed my tune, hopped the fence, whatever you want to call it. I have a huge amount of respect for Yaya Han as a cosplayer, an artist and a human being. I hope to be able to do an honest interview with her in the future, hopefully something we’ll see on the RLC website!

Overall, New York Comic Con was fantastic, a true convention experience that I valued and learned from. I’ll have to add it to my list of possible convention attendance in the future if I end up moving away from New York. Surely, a convention not to be missed!

-KLR

Little Sister is Going to Crown Cosplay!

Here’s hoping I can get enough support from IndieGogo crowd-funding campaign so I can compete in this prestigious competition! Little Sister was chosen to compete at the Crown Cosplay Championships in Chicago, IL this April to compete for the Crown! Oh, and $10,000. That’s kind of a nice perk! Let’s all try to raise the funds!

Update: March 31st, 2014

I’ve decided to start a campaign on IndieGogo to try and raise the money to go to Crown Cosplay. Here’s a link! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/733195/wdgi/6891785

Hopefully we can all pull together and help me reach my goal so I can go!

Thanks for your support!

-KLR

 

On March 21st, I received an email that I feel dramatically changes the path of my cosplay career.

It was pretty strong in comparison to another recent email detailing my admission to NYU for my interest in studying cosplay. I had originally applied to the Crown Cosplay Championships as something of a joke. I don’t consider myself on the level as some of the best cosplayers in the country. I’ve been pretty humble, not the greatest at craftsmanship. I don’t have the space to use really fancy materials in my cosplay. Most of my early cosplays didn’t even really involved sewing because I didn’t know how. (BEHOLD! Glue and duct tape) But I guess someone out there thinks I’m something kind of cool. I was asked to compete at the Crown Cosplay Championships at Chicago Comic Con in April. My little girl from the bottom of the sea is going to be competing with the best Video Game cosplayers in the country. In a polyester dress that was dyed in coffee, I am going up against Master Chiefs made out of Worbla and League of Legends cosplayers with shit that lights up and giant props and just overall amazing cosplay. I’m hoping I’ve got what it takes. My make-up has to be spot on. I usually only cover my sleeve tattoo on my right shoulder, but I’m thinking this time I should cover all my tattoos, even all the little ones (wrist tattoos, totoro, etc.) I’m gonna make some nicer bloomers and distress them too, and maybe a slip to go between the bloomers and my dress. I’m thinking about putting a little bit of curl in my hair too. It would have been appropriate for the style in the 40s and I have so much hair these days that if I leave it straight, it’s like a big pile of fluff on the back of my head and it doesn’t look nice. I told myself if I got in to Crown Cosplay, I was going to buy some new stage makeup and work on some new techniques to get more dimension out of my face. On the make-up platform too, I was considering getting better makeup for making myself look pale.  I’ve got some ideas for making my fingernails look dirty and maybe scratching up my knees a little bit since Little Sisters crawl around in pipes a lot. I’m thinking about whatever I can do to put myself out there just a little bit more. I have to consider everything that might make me stand out beyond the others. I’m doing old school cosplay – sewing and make-up. No crazy armor, no light-up effects, nothing really fancy. I’ve got to make myself the best Little Sister I’ve ever been. I’ll be posting my web profile here once C2E2 posts it on their website. I’m eager to see how many other people will be in the Video Game category and just who I’m up against. Right now I’m trying to figure out how I am going to pay for a trip to Chicago. It’s an extra convention appearance that I wasn’t planning on, and I’m not sure if I can swing an extra $400-500 for a plane ticket and a hotel and all that. I’ll see what I can wrangle in a way of putting together a crowdfunding platform or something. It’s not a lot, maybe some members of my family can pull together and make some things happen for me!

-KLR

My Future with Cosplay – New York University

With more conventions on the horizon and my beloved Sakura-Con right around the corner, my future with cosplay is really starting to flesh itself out. My panel has been accepted to be presented at least twice more in the coming months, including my second year at Sakura Con. In the biggest piece of news I received to date, I have been accepted to New York University’s Gallatin School of Individual Study! At NYU, I will finally have the opportunity to explore cosplay on an academically support level. In addition to my field research with my panel, Need Input!, I will be studying graduate courses on psychology, sociology, anthropology, performance studies and East Asian studies to craft my own Master’s program in Cosplay Studies. Below is my Statement of Purpose, detailing my study intentions, my prospective classes and my overall goals for an academic career in cosplay!

As I look back at my first exposure to cosplay and the community that surrounds it, I never would have realized the years of dedication and the dozens of questions to follow would become the focus of my academic and creative life. My first exposure to the cosplay community was at Penny Arcade Expo in Bellevue, Washington in August 2004. I traveled from Salem, Oregon with my four best friends to enjoy a weekend of video games and geeky antics before beginning my senior year of high school. Throughout my weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that there were people dressed as popular characters from video games, such as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider or Master Chief from the Halo franchise. Their intricate costumes drew the attention of photographers and fans of both the characters and the games from which they originated. After forty-two consecutive hours of video and tabletop gaming and snapping as many costume photos as I could, I became enthralled in the convention scene and this costume activity known as ‘cosplay’. By my next convention in April 2005, another Washington convention known as Sakura-Con, I was wearing my own cosplay and joining a community that would become the most immersive and creative foundation of my life. Cosplay (コスプレ) is a performance art that involves dressing up in costumes to represent a character or an idea. The costumes are often associated with characters from Japanese anime, video games and comic books and can either be crafted from scratch or purchased already constructed. It is a growing community of people that gather together in costume, whether it be at school clubs, local meet-ups, or annual conventions. Cosplay has been the creative and social focus of my life for ten years now, but recently, I have undergone a personal transformation that didn’t require a costume.

Through years of experience and my own personal inquisition of my love for the hobby, I have developed a deep interest for the human desire and drive to cosplay. By expanding beyond the conception that cosplay is merely just ‘fun’, I have asked myself and other cosplayers to look beyond initial feelings and emotions and reflect on the real questions that surround this craft. How do cosplayers decide which characters they will embody? What feelings are evoked from this transformation and how do these manifested emotions overcome the stress and judgment that can come with cosplaying? Is cosplay a form of escapism and ignorance to reality or is it an ascension into a greater understanding of our inner strengths? What social and community-based advantages are being exposed through the gatherings of thousands of cosplayers at conventions around the world? Ultimately, why do we cosplay? These and many other questions have come to enrich my cosplay lifestyle, from merely attending conventions for entertainment to perceiving the thousands of people that attend as cultural phenomena, constantly breaking ground with elements of self-discovery and community.

From one person’s investment into a single costume to the cosplay-rich convention-based communities that gather annually around the world, the ideas of cosplay expand into sociocultural anthropology, sociology, psychology and performance studies. With the term ‘cosplay’ being of Japanese origin and particular districts in Tokyo made popular for frequent cosplay-based activities, an essence and appreciation of East Asian studies must be attributed to these ideas as well. With the assistance of these avenues of academia, I also pursue my inquires by engaging face-to-face with the cosplay community at conventions across the country through panels and large scale surveys that gather personal testimonies and statistical data to bolster my research.

Coinciding with my academics and my convention travels in order to conduct field research, I will not only continue to create cosplays for myself, but I will now record my creation processes, journal mental-emotional discoveries and make a greater effort to understand my own process of cosplay. On this exploration to discover why the rest of the world chooses to cosplay, I still find several questions to ask myself about my role in the world of cosplay. Why do I spend several months on a single costume that I will sometimes only wear for a few hours? Why do I ritually don these costumes and invest physical and emotional strength becoming people from other time periods, planets and planes of existence? What do I seek to gain in an already stressful process by putting myself on display for thousands of people to critique and judge a transformation in which I am personally and wholeheartedly committed? In my pursuits to have the other cosplayers of the world answer these questions, I would like to discover my own answers to why cosplay has become such a driving force in my life.

With so many ideas surrounding cosplay and the questions that could be asked about it, the difficulty of making it fit into just one academic discipline has been a struggle. I have investigated university programs in anthropology, sociology, psychology and Japanese studies to try and find one that can cater to the sociocultural diversity of cosplay while still allowing the element to explore its artistic level of performance and creativity. I find it a necessity to keep the two together and I strongly believe the Gallatin School at New York University is the best platform to keep the science and the art together. While understanding why people cosplay from a psychological, social and cultural perspective is important to me, it is also of limitless value to appreciate the theatrical process of becoming a character and the level of artistic craftsmanship that goes into making a cosplay. With my current level of experience, I have a comfort understanding to the world of cosplay, but I seek to understand it on a deeper academic level. I need to develop a theoretical foundation in relation to my questions of ethics, psychology, identity, community, and social behavior. In order to organize my findings, my current research and understanding of the cosplay world, I seek academic support and encouragement to connect my current understanding of cosplay to scholastic ideas and theories.

My experience with cosplay has transpired from the end of my high school career into my present day adult life. It is an activity has grown from an annual hobby, generating one costume a year, to the primary pursuit of my life, giving rise to conventions attended on a monthly basis and multiple costumes produced for each attendance. I have attended almost twenty conventions for Japanese anime, video games and comic books across the country. My most recent convention attendance at the New York Comic Con in October 2013 recognized my level of craftsmanship and dedication for cosplay with an award for Best Performance at the Wikia Live Cosplay Contest. The greatest value of my cosplay career so far is the diverse collection of characters that I have become: a teenage robot pilot facing the apocalypse, a widowed queen on a quest to save her empire, a little girl born from a science experiment living in a city under the sea, and a disenchanted wolf goddess trying to journey home, just to name a few.

Overall, my greatest academic and professional experiences revolve around my convention panel, Need Input!: A Panel for Cosplay Research. The panel surveys the cosplay community of the conventions with a Q&A style of gathering personal feedback as well as an anonymous circulating survey that gathers statistical data about cosplayers, such as age, gender identity, and cosplay preferences. Asking questions like ‘How do you feel when you cosplay?’ and ‘Does cosplay fulfill something in your life that you don’t get from normal day-to-day life?’, over 60 people during my 90-minute panel volunteered their personal anecdotes and stories. In my experience and research so far, cosplay has unveiled a value of developing both practical life skills and positive mental and social health. The art of cosplay requires learning new skills, developing an attention to detail, creative problem solving, resourcefulness and efficient time management. On a personal and social level, it builds confidence and self-esteem, creates immersive social interaction and is limitless path for self-exploration. Part of my panel’s research to discover the motivations of why people cosplay; the other part is to further credit the social significance that this art form plays in bringing people together and building successful human connections. With plans for at least six more conventions in the year, Need Input! has become my primary outlet for field research and the gathering of information from cosplayers and the cosplay community.

My tentative course selection draws courses from anthropology, psychology, performance studies, sociology and East Asian studies. These are the following courses that I would like to incorporate into my program studies and their departments, respectively:

  • Anthropology
    • Social Anthropology Theory and Practice ANTH-GA 1010
    • Culture, Meaning, and Society ANTH-GA 1222
  • East Asian Studies
    • Seminar in Modern Japanese Literature & Culture AST-GA 2550
    • Japanese Anime and New Media G33.1708
  • Psychology
    • Theories of Personality PSYCH-GA 2015
  • Sociology
    • Introduction to Statistics SOC-GA 2332
    • Sociology of Culture SOC-GA 2414
  • Performance Studies
    • Embodying the Other: Human Beings and Speech Gesture PERF-GT 2730
    • Performance Composition: Performing Identities PERF-GT 2730

I found the following Gallatin coursework to especially beneficial to my area of study:

  • Proseminar: Studying Social Life: Theories and Methods
CORE-GG2022
  • Why Do You Want to Make It, and How Can You Make It Better? ELEC-GG2435

 

Any independent studies I choose to explore will most likely explore my convention attendances, running my panel and creating cosplays. Of the professors available currently available at NYU, I am most interested in working with Professor Thomas Looser of the East Asian Studies program. With his main focuses being on cultural anthropology and Japanese studies, I believe he is the one of the best professors to advise me on my cosplay studies.

So, now, in addition to my panel, all my planned cosplays and all the conventions I plan to tour, now I have to think about resume the life of a student. I’ll be honest, I’ve been out of school for about five years and the idea of resuming school life is daunting and scary. I mean, do I still remember how to write a paper? I guess this is just the next step in make cosplay more and more a part of my everyday life! Stay tuned while I figure out how I’m gonna manage this huge honor to be accepted to NYU, and how jostle writing papers and making cosplays!

Cosplay Research

Cosplay has been a very big part of my life for the past ten years. Since my passion has become more serious in the past few years, questions of my dedication to cosplay have risen – Why am I doing this? What is cosplay doing for me? Of course, cosplay is very fun, but I think there’s more to it than that. This last year, at Sakura Con, I conducted a panel called Need Input!: A Panel for Cosplay Research. I hosted a Q&A style panel that asked cosplayers deep questions about their cosplay passions, and their responses blew me away. Now on tour at conventions on the the east coast, Need Input continues to gain ground and knowledge about the will and the way of cosplay for hundreds of people. I became so committed to this mission of learning why people cosplay that I have now invested an academic agenda and wish to pursue a Masters degree in Cosplay Studies. Cosplay isn’t just costuming – it’s culture, community, inner dialogue and personal growth. It’s learning new skills, building self-esteem, and learning to think on the spot. It has become one of the newest and hottest pop culture trends and it’s taking over conventions. This is a performance art revolution, and I’m committed to researching and discovering the will and the way of Cosplay. FOR SCIENCE!

On this page, I will be posting my audio files and my transcripts from conventions where the Need Input panel has been hosted so you can get a real feel for what happens at my panel and what kind of research I’m doing. I’ve also conducted surveys to collect statistical data to get demographics for the typical cosplayer and once my statistics have been allocated, those will be posted too! In case my panel doesn’t get approved, I’ve recently thought of the idea of doing walk-around mini audio interviews where I run with a question for little while, ask a few people, and then change the topic and ask a few more people. These will also be posted in audio format and transcribed. It’s all in the pursuit of field research and discovering the reasons behind why people cosplay!

Below we have transcripts of Need Inputs that have been conducted and audio snipits of dialogue from the panels!

Panel Transcript SakuraCon 2013 – Sakura Con 2013 works as the launch pad for the first ever Need Input panel. This round explores diversity in the cosplay community, love for cosplaying villains, dressing up as animals, and the true social profit of cosplay.

Panel Transcript SakuraCon 2014 (Coming Soon) – Back at Sakura Con after moving to New York with more organization and structure, Need Input looks into gender stereotypes in cosplay, professional cosplayers, ‘Cosplay is Not Consent’, and being an older cosplayer in a perpetually youthful convention setting. Also, Katelyn’s eternal love for the high caffeine beverage, BAWLS.

Panel Transcript AnimeNext 2014 (Coming Soon) – In New Jersey for AnimeNEXT, Need Input is set in an at-capacity room with some of the best audience contributions to date. This session explores what cosplayers look for when they pick characters, what cosplayers actually learn on the path to becoming a character. and the biggest struggles they face in finishing their cosplays.

Panel Transcript Wizard World Nashville 2014 (Coming Soon) – Working on a mini-tour with Wizard World, Need Input journeys to Nashville to explore cosplaying as a family, breaking down what it means to be a part of the cosplay community and what embarrasses or annoys people in the cosplay/convention community.

Panel Transcript Wizard World Portland 2015 (Coming Soon) – Back in Oregon for a week, Need Input makes a second appearance at Wizard World, and the attendees are not shy to bring forward ideas about what they have learned and the inner strengths that have discovered as a result of cosplay.

Back to life, back to…cosplay!

Yay! Red Leaf Cosplay’s website is starting to come together. With its rebirth, I will soon be able to post more about my life since I moved to New York, the conventions I have attended, the cosplays I have worked on in the past, and FINALLY get the gallery up and running! It feels good to finally be getting back on track. When I’m not watching anime, playing video games, working on a cosplay or getting distracted by Twitch Plays Pokemon (ALL HAIL LORD HELIX!), I plan to make an honest effort working on the website. To be honest, moving to New York derailed me a lot more than I could have ever predicted and it has been one hell of a ride! They’ll be a whole post dedicated to my move, and then that’ll be the end of it and we’ll move on to more fun things to talk about! For the mean time, just bear with me a little bit longer while I get the last final touches on the website together. Once it’s done, I can start on new posts, cosplay profiles, convention review, and a new thread – portfolios of my research on new prospective cosplays! THanks for being so patient while I learn how to build websites again. It’ll look fantastic once it’s done!

-KLR