Let’s Talk Cosplay- Leigh
Cosplay is a big part of many people’s lives, allowing them a chance to step into someone else’s shoes and escape from everyday life. With the rise of conventions sweeping the world, Cosplay is becoming something more and more people are getting into. As a result of this, communities of cosplayers are sprouting up. Some who meet up at different Cons to band together as a ‘Star Wars’ garrison or meeting at a movie release to be ‘The Avengers’. Something that is incredible about Cosplay is the level of detail that goes into the costumes, some spending hours and hours on working out the perfect colours, textiles and even going so far as to include advanced electronics!
We have asked a series of questions to each cosplayer in the hope that we can provide you all with some ideas on how to get started or some tips on how to develop your own craft further!
Today we talk to Leigh, who’s cosplays are, as I am sure you will agree, awesome! He is based in South West England and has been cosplaying for 4 years.
- What inspired you to get started?
That’s actually a bit of a long and not a particularly pleasant story. My wife had tried cosplaying once before, and enjoyed it a little, but neither of us had taken it very seriously. Then, unfortunately, her mother passed away very suddenly from an aneurysm. It was completely out of the blue and a really unpleasant time for her. When she tried to find something to channel her grief in to and something to distract her, it became cosplay, and she became really invested in becoming other characters as a way to cope with her pain.
Initially I only cosplayed as one character in a kind of lazy way to support her, but, although it’s hard to believe such a thing could happen, a month after her mother passed away, my own mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Six months later, and we’d lost her too.
My wife convinced me to get more involved in cosplay as a way to handle the pain. I did, not just at conventions, but joining a charity group, Scary Knights, and I found getting to step in to being another character really helped me distance myself from the pain I was feeling and the grief I was going through. Ever since then I’ve loved it, the chance to become somebody else has always been so much fun to me, and I’ve done a lot of charity work and conventions.
- What would you say has been your biggest challenge to date?
To me, the appeal of costuming is not so much in the making, but in the BEING other characters, and that means while yes, I have sweated, stressed and sworn over making certain costumes, to me, when I think of challenges, I think of the challenges of ‘becoming’ a character. Therefore, probably my biggest challenge was hosting a horror walk through in character as Ash Williams (from the Evil Dead series). It was also probably one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had, but essentially while everybody else in the walk would do one jump scare or appearance, I had to be with the crowd the entire time, delivering Bruce Campbell style one-liners, thinking on the fly as well as following a script, and be an entertaining host at all times to help them enjoy (and be scared!).
It was nerve wracking and challenging, but so much fun, and I always jump at a chance to do it again (I’ve done it twice now).
- Which is your favourite Cosplay you have done so far?
That’s a bit of a tough question, I have a lot, and lot of favourites. To ‘be’, or act like, as my above answer suggested, it was Ash Williams. I’m a big horror nut, but most horror characters are pretty silent or don’t have much personality, so getting to play a loud mouthed braggart was a lot of fun.
I’m also very fond of a few others of mine, I have a Poe Dameron costume from the new Star Wars movies which I love as I always loved the Rebel pilot outfits for as long as I could remember, but once Poe came along, I saw my chance to be a real ‘character’ rather than a generic pilot, and it’s a costume that once I finally had, I felt like I’d achieved a long time goal. I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan, so I’m extremely proud of my Indy costume, which I also think is my most accurate and ‘authentic’ outfit, I really enjoy getting to be Han Solo, especially since I usually do it with Chewie at my side for Force for Charity, a Star Wars charity group.
I also have a soft spot for Loki, which is another special character for me that took me years to finally do, despite everybody telling me I should do it for a long time. Loki’s a very special character to me, predating the Thor movies, where I was interested in his character in Norse mythology, and I even had aspirations of writing my own screenplay about Loki once, when I was teenager, so the chance to do that costume has been really great.
- What has been your favourite Cosplay interaction you’ve had at a convention?
I’ve had a few, but one that springs to mind, I was dressed as Captain Hook (the classic version) at a con, and on my belt I had a lantern with a little plastic Tinker Bell trapped inside that would light up. This little girl and her brother came over wanting a photo with Captain Hook, but I noticed the girl was acting a little odd, overly hyper and trying to keep me talking. I thought it was a bit odd but didn’t think much of it, as lots of kids get nervous when meeting costumed characters. She waited until I was distracted talking to her, lunged forwards, threw open the lantern, and yelled at the top of her voice “FLY AWAY TINKER BELL, FLY AWAY!!!”.
She thought she was saving Tinker Bell from the evil Captain Hook!
- What, if any, difficulties have you encountered?
Probably my biggest challenge is actually down to my ethnicity and skin tone. I’m a quarter Brazillian (or latino) and it shows, I have dark skin and dark hair, and it really does feel like it limits the amount of characters I can play. I can use wigs, but they never look right with my skin tone, only black hair seems to work, and so it stops me from pursuing certain costumes I may want to do.
People say you can cosplay whatever you want, and it’s true to an extent, but because of the charity style work I do, I always feel I need to bear at least a passing resemblance to the character, and that puts a lot of characters out of my reach.
- If you are happy to share, what future Cosplay do you have planned?
My plans are actually a little limited at the moment due to finances. I’ve just finished doing some basic upgrades to a Nightwing costume I have, I’m planning to upgrade two other existing costumes I have, Billy Butcherson from Hocus Pocus which is already part way through being redone, and Eligos, a demon from the TV show Ash. Vs Evil Dead. Currently that’s just a good mask and a cheap morph suit, and I want to build the body properly.
I’m quite keen to put together the new Michael Myers from the upcoming Halloween film as well as I’m a bit of a fan of that series, but I will have to see if finances allow it.
- What advice would you give to someone looking to get started?
Honestly? ‘Just do it’. Yes, I know it sounds like I’m just quoting a Nike slogan. But I think one of the things that holds people back the most is finding the confidence to really go for it. Embrace it, do it, and if it’s for you, you’ll love it. Don’t hold back, and just put yourself out there. You don’t have to make your costume, or buy it, do it however you want, but give it a go and see if it’s for you.
Personally, I advise as well against making your first costume a ‘casual’ one (by which I mean a costume that could double as ordinary clothes, and that people have to ‘get’ to realise you’re in costume). They can be fun, but for your first time, I think it’s good for people to really experience the buzz of being in costume, and for that I think a more noticeable costume helps. But of course, that’s just an opinion and your mileage may vary.
- What items/ tools/ techniques would you say are imperative in a new Cosplayers tool kit?
Velcro and superglue. I don’t go anywhere costuming without it. Costumes, no matter how well made, no matter where they came from, can break, and there’s few problems that can’t be (very temporarily) solved by velcro and superglue!
A massive thank you for Leigh for sharing with us his very personal cosplay journey, cosplaying means something different to each individual and we think it is wonderful that cosplaying helped him and his wife to deal with their grief and let them escape into other characters! Also, that story of the little girl and Tinkerbell is awesome!
If you are looking for more information on the charity Leigh mentioned about, Scary Knights just follow the link here: https://www.facebook.com/ScareyKnights/
Like what you have read? Read the rest of the ‘Let’s talk Cosplay’ series here!