Summer Cosplay Series 1×3: Jessi
When did you start cosplaying, and what – or who – convinced you to start?
J: I feel like everyone subconsciously wants to cosplay something at some point in their lives. I can remember watching the series premiere of Avatar: the Last Airbender, and I wanted to be Katara so badly, but I didn’t know that cosplaying was something I could do to achieve this. I started cosplaying at Momo-Con 2009 when two of my friends convinced me to do it…and let me just say that it wasn’t pretty. I was wearing a Halloween geisha costume and I was Ten-Ten from Naruto. It was very rainy that day and I used my real hair which ended terribly, but it was a convention I’ll never forget because I really got to see what cosplaying was all about. It was like seeing a whole new aspect of being a fan of something; I’ve always had a tendency to become obsessed with things, but before cosplaying I never had an outlet to channel all of that passion. Now if I see a character from a video game or movie that I love it’s a new costume to wear at a convention!
Did you always make your own costumes and/or props, or is cosplay why/how you learned to sew and/or craft?
J: I didn’t start out making my own stuff because I didn’t have any sewing skills whatsoever – I couldn’t even sew a button if you’d asked me to. Up until about two years ago, most of my costumes were mainly pieces purchased at different stores (which I still do), with a few commissions thrown in as well. I taught myself to sew after getting frustrated that I couldn’t just make costumes look the way I wanted them to in my head. It was a lot, and I mean A LOT, of trial and error, though. I am still such an amateur – I learn new things all of the time, and I still hit hit roadblocks along the way. Cosplaying has really helped me step out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. If you had told me five years ago that I could make a dress from pieces of fabric I’m pretty sure I would have laughed. A lot. My dad has helped me with the props, mostly because he doesn’t want me using the bandsaw. Both of us brainstorming is so awesome because we both want to find ways to make props more convention-friendly and cool looking, while still maintaining functionality.
What has been your favorite costume to make/wear?
J: Definitely Merida or Vanellope. Both were serious challenges for someone with no prior sewing knowledge. Merida was the costume that even if no one liked me in it, I was still so freaking proud of what I had achieved that I didn’t care. I spent a full week on the floor with my friend painting the pattern on the bottom of her dress, it was the first time I made a costume completely by hand. Vanellope has been my most popular costume, and even though I’m not a kid person, there’s nothing like seeing a little kid’s face when they recognize you. That’s really what I love about cosplaying from Disney so much: getting to be a princess, if even just for a day.
If you had unlimited time, money, and skill, what would your dream costume be?
J: Ohhh that’s so tough, but I’d probably say Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones, and I’d love for it to be as technically accurate as possible!
Are you involved in fandom in other ways?
J: Oh, I blog way too frequently! I spend a majority of my free time on tumblr. I’ve always loved photography and videography, but I’m not a professional by any means. I just love filming videos of my friends’ costumes (or my own)!
If so, did cosplay lead to those, or the other way around?
J: Cosplay played a huge role in my filming. To me there is nothing quite like being able to go back through pictures or videos from a past event. I’m really nostalgic like that – I love seeing moments in time. I want to film more at conventions but it’s difficult when you’re in costume!
What is or has been your favorite convention to attend?
J: Definitely Dragon*Con, hands down, no competition. It’s a game-changer convention to me. Suddenly you’re walking down the halls with cosplayers who are world famous, and it’s nothing if not inspiring. Sure it’s big, and has crowds, but you will never go to a con that has such amazing people and cosplayers. Heck, even the hotels you walk around in are top notch! It’s the convention I recommend to my friends who know what I do and have never experienced a con.
Do you have any tips/hints/tricks for those who are new to cosplay?
J: Don’t be afraid to fail, because you will. Failing is one of the best ways to learn how to do it better the next time! Try learning a new skill, whether it be making a simple prop, or sewing a button! Always do lots and lots of research! You never know what kind of helpful hints you’ll find across the internet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – everyone starts off at the same level and the people who’ve been there before are always ready and willing to help out the newbies! Be open-minded to all the possibilities that cosplaying has to offer!
If you could change one thing about cosplay (as a hobby, a cultural phenomenon, etc.) what would it be?
J: To me there’s just a lot of judgement in the cosplay world. People are very quick to judge a cosplayer if they aren’t absolutely perfect in every single way. We need to stop seeing this as a competition and more as a bunch of nerds who are passionate about their fandoms. There is no perfect cosplayer, and there’s nothing hindering anyone from cosplaying whatever they want. That’s the beauty of cosplaying: you can literally be WHOEVER you want.
What is your best, funniest, or most meaningful memory involving cosplay?
What started out as me taking pictures of the Bioshock photoshoot at AWA last year has now turned into me becoming apart of such an amazing group of people who love Bioshock and are amazing cosplayers and wonderful individuals. I look back now and I am SO glad I hung around that Sunday to take pictures of all those nerds! Just being with my friends in Disney will always carry great memories for me as well. It all boils down to people who are passionate about Disney and cosplaying and lots of smiles that I will cherish forever!
Next week our cosplay series will return to its usual Friday slot, but for now, have a great 4th of July weekend!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is a fandom and geek culture expert, public speaker, and character cosplayer who is best known for her Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), and Andrea (The Walking Dead) cosplays. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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