How do you choose the characters you cosplay as? Is there a certain type of character you prefer? And if yes, why is that?
The characters that I choose to cosplay as are usually my favorite characters. I have to be interested in and love the character before I decide to work on the costume. It can be from anime, manga or games. I think that there is no point in cosplaying as a character that I have little interest in, as it’s important for me to have the drive and be passionate enough to turn the costume into reality.
The choice of character also depends on my height, since I’m quite tall for a girl here in Malaysia. I am 176 cm! Usually, my cosplay friends would ask me to crossplay as their partner due to my height. For male characters I would choose those with cuter and more feminine facial features because I have a rounder face and bigger eyes. I love male characters as much as female characters, but sometimes it’s also quite challenging for me, as I have a curvy body type. It’s difficult for me to hide it. My favorite crossplays of mine are Shu Ouma from Guilty Crown and Ittoki Otoya from Uta no Prince Sama! I’m attracted to Ittoki’s cheerful and friendly personality, which makes this cosplay much more enjoyable!
As for female characters, I choose a character that is more suitable for me physically. As much as I like petite and really cute characters, if I know that I can’t pull them off well, then I won’t choose to cosplay as them. For me, a cosplay should be believable. I try my best to mimic the character as close as possible. Of course, sometimes there are characters that I really love, but unfortunately they are not suitable for me. So I choose to be the supporting role for that character. It is good enough for me to be able to interact with the character that I love and have a photo-shoot to immortalize that moment.
Another factor would be the costume. I am intrigued by costume designs. There is a moment where I go “OMG I have to make this costume!” I love dresses in general. Or costumes with lots of embellishments. Costume making is one of my favorite parts of cosplay. I enjoy the process of planning the costume, fabric shopping and making the actual thing. The satisfaction comes each time I complete a costume and I’m even happier when I get to wear it! Every costume is a new challenge to me and there is always something new to learn and discover.
What was the most difficult costume you have ever made? Can you describe the creation process of this particular outfit?
The most difficult costume I made up to date would be Kyoko Sakura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I first wore this costume at Animagaki 2012 where I had a full Madoka cosplay group. It was a challenging costume for me because it was the first time I made a prop by myself, which was a spear.
Back then, I had very little time to work on this costume due to my hectic college schedule, so it was difficult for me to squeeze in time for costume crafting. Although this costume looks simple, it actually has lots of details and elements that made it time consuming. I really enjoyed making this costume and the costume being red was a plus for me, because I love red! Kyoko is a redhead too!
First I made the dress/top. I chose to use dull satin for the top for a little bit of shine, but soft at the same time. I drafted the top pattern similar to a “cheongsam” pattern. The top has lots of ruffles which are short in front and gradually lengthen at the back. The pink skirt is made out of a cotton/polyester mix, which box pleats. I made a giant bow for the hair piece and layered it with a sparkly tulle fabric. Confession here: I love adding bling-blings to my costumes.
For the boots, I modified them out of a pair of white boots that I had. I sprayed them with red acrylic paint and sew pieces of white leather for the fold on the boots. I also manually stitched silver trimmings on the boots.
As for the gem on her chest, I made a pendant for it. It’s kinda tricky because I didn’t want to stick the gem on my body, so I attached the gem to a chain and wore it like a necklace.
For the spear, I had help from my uncle who taught me the basic of prop-making. He taught me what material to use and what I needed to make this spear project happen! This spear took me around 4 days, because it took lots of trial and error. We first crafted it using foam; unfortunately, the paint job didn’t go well and it had cracks on it. So my uncle advised me to use modeling board instead for the spearhead. It was much easier to work with modeling board. The spearhead is made out entirely of modeling board and sprayed with silver and red paint for the middle gem-like piece. As for the spear handle, it is made of PVC pipe. The end of the handle is made and sculpted using paper clay. The spear wasn’t very accurate because it wasn’t detachable like in the anime. Wish I had more time!
Overall I’m really happy with this costume! It was one of my best costumes made during 2012. It was a memorable cosplay for me as well, because it had been a while since I attempted to cosplay as a short character. When I first told my friends that I wanted to cosplay the Madoka series, they actually said “What! But you are too tall!” My team had to wear a bit of heels to balance out my height. It was really fun to be in this cosplay!
In your opinion, with such a popularity gained by cosplay more recently, do you think we can talk about a so-called “professional cosplay”? And if yes, to what extent do you consider this could affect cosplay as a hobby?
Personally, I think that being a professional fulltime cosplayer is absolutely great. For example, like Kaname from Japan. He is now advancing into a different level of cosplaying where he started to think deep into how to make cosplay fun with introducing his own line of wigs. He thought getting into wig production because he always considered that a good wig plays an important role in making a great cosplay, completing the overall look!
I feel that advancing into becoming a professional cosplayer does not affect cosplay as a hobby because you are still doing something that you love and are passionate about. A lot of professional fulltime cosplayers are still extremely passionate about costume crafting and focus on how to best portray their character of choice.
Talking about cosplay as a whole, what do you consider the most challenging element in giving life to a character?
I think that there are two elements that are equally important when it comes to cosplay. Cosplay stands for costume + role playing. Costume preparation is very important, as it’s a crucial element to the whole cosplay idea. Lots of research has to be done, both costume and character-wise. Whenever I choose a character to cosplay, I search for high resolution pictures of the character (front and back) to see the costume details. For those who make their own costumes, this process will take the longest time, as there are lots of things to consider; for example: What’s the costume cutting like? What fabrics to use? How do I make the prop? How to I add the details on the costume? etc.
After deciding on the costume style, I re-draw the costume design in my sketchbook. Next, I write down a list of what I need to buy to get the costume started. I absolutely love fabric shopping. I could spend hours in the fabric store! Some materials that I can’t buy locally are available online. After getting all the materials I need, comes the difficult part: drafting the pattern for the costume! Every costume has a different design, so pattern drafting is extremely important to get the costume cutting right. Honestly, drafting is my least favorite process of all; but again, it’s very important.
Costume aside, make-up and wig are equally important. I think both make-up and wig is what completes the whole look of the costume. Since lots of effort is spent on the costume, it would be nice to pay more attention to make-up and wig styling as well. Different characters have different facial features so it’s really fun to experiment with make-up! Usually I do a make-up and wig test before actually going out for an event or actual photo-shoot. Cosplay make-up is thicker than the usual one because it looks nicer during photo-shoots, so it’s okay to go a little overboard. I get my make-up inspiration from Japanese fashion magazines and also from online tutorials.
Finally, it’s the character portrayal. This is very challenging, and honestly I have more to learn in this aspect. I think it’s crucial to understand the character’s personality and emotions. That way, you will be able to portray the character better. Before a photo-shoot I do additional research on how the character is like, and look for photo inspirations that would suit my character. Lots of preparation needs to be done for a photo-shoot, such as location, day or night shoot, etc. I think the photographers play an important role too, as their ability to capture the feelings and emotions of the photo makes it much more believable. So, much love for photographers out there!
What was the most rewarding memory you have related to cosplay?
To me, the most rewarding memory is every time I manage to complete a costume. Of course, there are times when I have doubts. Before I decide on a cosplay project, often the difficult design of the costume makes me question myself: “Will I be able to turn this into reality?” I’m quite serious and stubborn when it comes to making costumes; I’m not a perfectionist, but I like to make sure that the costume comes out as accurate as possible. Sometimes I get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way I want, and I might get discouraged. Lots of patience is needed when it comes to sewing. That’s when the love for the character kicks in. I tell myself “Yes, I can do this. Soon, I will be able to wear this!”
Thinking about the character that I love is what drives me even more to complete the costume. Words can’t describe my feelings when I complete a cosplay costume – I’m just too happy and excited! It’s also heart warming when cosplay brings me to people who share the same passion. I love meeting cosplayers and friends, we could just talk the whole day during events, admire each other’s costumes and share our thoughts. It’s equally rewarding when fans of the series/character that I’m cosplaying tell me that they love it. Sometimes I get e-mails and messages telling me that they like my costumes, encouraging me and also looking forward to my future costume plans. That really gives me the extra boost and I get even more inspired to learn more about costume making and gain new skills
Also, through cosplay I’m able to meet passionate people from around the world. It’s really exciting how people from various parts of the world can meet due to the same hobby – cosplay. So far, I have friends from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. Although sometimes we might not be able to communicate much because of the language barrier, we can still be close friends because we share the same passion, cosplay.
I’m really thankful for being able to discover this hobby. Through cosplay I picked up many skills that 7 years back I wouldn’t have imagined I could. I used to dislike sewing during my elementary school days and, ironically, sewing is now my favorite past time! It has been a wonderful journey for me with lots of happy memories, and hopefully there will be more to come in the future!
Last, but not least, please tell us a few words about your collaboration with AFA.
Currently I am under talent contract with AFA to be a part of their AFA Cosplay Star group. I am really grateful to be discovered – given a chance to be a part of Anime Festival Asia and grow my talent with them. It has been great and I had many wonderful memories appearing as guest cosplayer on stage, to share my cosplay passion with people out there! Recently I was a guest cosplayer for Funan Anime Matsuri and travelled to Singapore alongside Kaname (Japan), Clive (Singapore), NATUMI (Taiwan) and Angie (Malaysia). It was a great experience for me, being able to meet new people and make friends! It was an eye opener for me getting up close with different cosplayers and sharing thoughts about cosplay and costume-making.
As for future plans, I will be present at AFA Indonesia 2013 in September, and also at AFA Singapore in November! I’m getting excited already and can’t wait to start working on new costumes exclusively for the event. Please do look forward to my future works!