Cosplay is an art, not only getting into character but also creating an ever lasting impression; one of the first cosplayers I saw around 10 years thanks to the wonders of the Internet I met her on Metrocon without even knowing it, I met Justine or as she is known 5Foot_Fire_Starter_Cosplay, I met the person who cosplayed as Midna from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and she was cosplaying as Princess Bubblegum along with her boyfriend who had a cosplay inspired in a steam-punk postapocalyptic Finn the Human at MegaCon 2018.
That first reaction where you see someone who creates a positive impression on you, as a con-goer Justine had it on me, because on that short time I was assisting to the conventions I never saw an approach that imprinted a personal sense of fashion and style towards the creation of the character and execution.
The 2017 – 2018 Florida convention season was my first year assisting fully at the cons, and it was a magical experience, not only I met amazing illustrators but also the cosplayers, cosplayers truly are the essence of any con, they can bring magic to kids and adult by their creation and Justine the same person who inspired me to celebrate the work of the cosplayer gave me a moment of her time to interview her.
If you want to know more about Justine, below are links to her Facebook and Instagram pages:
1. What event influenced you to started cosplaying?
Well it wasn’t an event but I’ve had plenty of influence throughout my life and the push in the right direction started when I was very young, like 5 or 6 maybe even younger, it was one morning before school, and my mom and I would have music or tv on in the background while we were getting ready and my mom had been flipping through channels, and she found what would be the first influence to push me in the right direction to cosplay culture.
What she had found that morning was Sailor Moon, now this is going to show my age a bit, before Sailor Moon aired in the afternoon on the old Toonami block on cartoon network (along with DBZ and Godzilla)in the late 90’s it actually aired super early week day mornings on either PBS or another channel that aired cartoons super early on weekdays, but that morning my mom came into my room and proceeded to flip through the channels of my tiny tv (it was also one of those tv with the VCR attached) and she kept saying that I needed to check out this show that she found and that I would probably love it and loved it I did and it was the day that I became fully interested in anime, japan and all other things nerdy and geeky.
From there I didn’t hide away my interests and always found a way to express myself, when I was shy it was through drawing and then eventually it was through musical theater (it was this that really brought me out of my shell) and competitive dance (both in school and ballroom dancing outside of school) and both of those really pushed me into costume design and costume making ( some of my first costumes that I made from scratch were costumes for my ballroom competitions); the only downside of all this was proceeding to get bullied throughout school because of my interests and not having very many friends because of it and I really didn’t feel accepted until college and I felt at home during my time at Ringling College of Art and Design as almost everyone there was nerdy and geeky in some way.
During my time in college I was also in my first serious/long term relationship and my boyfriend at that time was also a huge nerd/geek so we connected pretty well and within the first couple of months of dating he told me about the convention scene and he had been a part of it and had been going to cons like Metrocon and Jacon for a few years now.
It was at that point that I thought to myself how sheltered my life had been and what rock had I been living under, it was then during late 2007 and my first year in college that I started preparing and making my own cosplays and cosplaying.
2. What was your first con? Did you cosplay or went as a mere spectator?
My first con was Jacon ’08 and yes I did cosplay, my cosplays weren’t the best as I didn’t have the skills that I do now, but I managed to throw together a Pikachu hoodie that I converted from a regular hoodie that I had and I designed my first cat girl OC and I also just wore one of my ballroom competition dresses that I made which everyone thought I was cosplaying as a character from WoW so I just went with it and everything worked out.
3. What memories do you have of that first Con?
Everything about my first con was amazing including the bad parts, I seriously wish Jacon was still around it was the perfect first convention and from what I heard and from my own experience nothing tops your first con.
It wasn’t too big or too small, there was plenty to see and do and it kept me going for all three days, I wanted to buy everything in the vendors room and in artist ally, I felt at home and accepted, most people were super nice and friendly, there were so many people to talk to and as a dancer I especially like the nightly raves/after parties.
My experience was mostly good and I will never forget it and in a strange way I loved how it also introduced me to the negative side of cons and cosplay, that being that there are some toxic people in the community that aren’t as accepting and who think themselves as elitists who believe not everyone should cosplay, you should only cosplay in your race, gender, size, etc., that you should only make your cosplays and never buy them and other ridiculous beliefs and I’m glad that the community is trying to put an end to people like this as going to conventions today I don’t see as many toxic people like I used to.
4. How was the process of creating your first cosplay?
I have two first’s, my first cosplay in general and then my first legit cosplay, my first cosplay ever was my original cat girl design, I don’t have any pictures of it but it was all white and it had an ero-lolita feel to the design. It wasn’t my best work though as I didn’t have the skills and knowledge that I do now as I pulled what I call “a project runway” and glued the entire costume together with fabric glue, I have since gone back and remade and redesigned my original cat girl cosplay
My first legit cosplay was Midna in her imp form from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and I chose her for my first legit cosplay because for one, the game just came out and the character was super popular and two, it was a cosplay that I’d be able to make look good without have a strong skill set; but of course had to be different and instead of using a body suit, I used a bikini that I altered and painted and did everything else in body paint, I also chose not to make her headdress as I was again trying to be different and not like everyone else that was cosplaying her at the time but I also suffer from terrible vision so unless I pick a cosplay that lets me wear my glasses I’m normally blind while in cosplay and at conventions and with her headdress covering one eye it would have limited my vision even more.
Either way I chose my cosplays like I do currently, by popularity or by just by how much I like the character and design, and after I make that decision I proceed by looking up references, gather materials (I’m a budget cosplayer so I try to use what I have or recycle materials from thrift stores or I normally always know someone who is trying to get rid of sheets or curtains ) and when it comes to the making of the cosplay I normally already know what I’m doing or how I’m going to make something before I even start.
5. How were the reactions of your first cosplay?
I got tons of great reactions from my first cosplays, but the most important ones were for my original cat girl design as not only was it my first cosplay ever, but it was my first original character as well and everyone loved it, although you could also say who doesn’t like a cute cat girl cosplay. In general, besides loving the cosplay design itself most people were amazed and surprised that I chose to do an OC for my first as even most experienced cosplayer aren’t even brave enough to cosplay an OC in fear of others not understanding or liking it enough so that they won’t get attention.
Overall, I say that if you love an OC, be brave and go for it as it you love it and if it’s something that you’re interested in then the final product will probably better than what you think, as in general, people that are really into something normally produce better results. Then when I thought that it couldn’t get any better than that, I’m pretty sure people lost their minds when I debuted Midna. I first wore Midna to my second convention (and said convention also no longer exists), but I of course wore her on Saturday, the main day of the con. I remember my college boyfriend and I waking up at 6 am that morning to get me ready, the body painting process took 6 hours so we were able to finally leave the hotel room just after noon and as soon as I exited the elevator I was met by a swarm of people who wanted pictures of me and I probably stood in place for about an hour straight before I was able to move again. Shortly after all that I was approached by con staff who also loved my cosplay and urged me to enter in the cosplay contest as they told me that the judges would love my work, so I built up the courage to enter.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it through the pre-judging as the room that they had it in was below freezing inside and it just got to a point that I couldn’t stay and wait in there any longer seeing as all the I was wearing was a bikini and body paint. All the praise I got for Midna greatly boosted my confidence and self-esteem as a cosplayer.
6. How do you see the evolution from then to know on your art?
As a cosplayer and seamstress who is completely self-taught, I am still evolving, in total I have been sewing since the early 2000’s and I’ve been cosplaying since ’07 and it amazes me that I can now tell people that I’ve now been cosplaying for 11years. When I started all those years ago, I was actually too timid to use my sewing machine so I just hand sewed and glued my costumes together and when I was finally brave enough to start using my sewing machine, I asked myself what the hell have I been doing, and I never looked back.
Now my cosplays and costumes look professionally made or look as though they could be sold in a store as my work is much cleaner and is less likely to fall apart. I am currently trying to teach myself embroidery and would like to learn more skills in using leather. Over all I feel like I am at a half way point in my journey as I’m not the best but I’m far from the worst.
7. Which is your favorite cosplay? And Why?
I don’t have just one favorite cosplay, but I do have 4 cosplays that I would consider my favorites each for different reasons. My first favorite is my original Persephone design, this cosplay was my third original, but it was the first really elaborate cosplay that I made, and it took over a month to make. Second would be my Rosa Farrell cosplay from Final Fantasy 4, Rosa was my second really elaborate cosplay that I made and Final Fantasy 4 is one of my favorite games next to Final Fantasy 6 and Rosas design it more on the simpler side I took inspiration from multiple artists and styles to come up with the design of the cosplay.
Lastly would be sans from Princess Mononoke and Princess Bubblegum from adventure time and I put these two together because these cosplays are redesigns by Hannah Alexander (I have made a total of 5 Hannah Alexander cosplays as I’m completely obsessed with her work) but I love wearing sans because I feel like a bad ass and with the armor, spear and being covered in blood splatter people at conventions go out of their way to avoid me and stay out of my way but I still get plenty of people who want a picture or I hear people say from a far how awesome my cosplay is because they are too timid to approach me and ask for a picture because I intimidate them. I also feel just as badass in Princess Bubblegum just more over the top and elegant like a princess and both cosplays are some of my most recent and best work.
8. Do you get into the character you’re cosplaying?
I will sometimes get into character, but it really depends on if I like or know that character or if I can even do the character justice. I have a background in acting and musical theater and because of that and how I was taught I feel that being able to do the character justice is really important so if I don’t think I can do the character justice I just wear the costume. This happens most of the time anyways as I’m more into the costuming part of cosplay; but if I like the character enough to the point that I know a lot about the character other than the costume and I feel like I can do them justice I will get into character.
9. What has been to cosplay with your boyfriend? How has been the process of cosplaying as a duo?
Cosplaying with my current boyfriend, Andrew, is perfect, what makes it perfect is that I am a shy extrovert that loves being out and about and around people but I have a very hard time going out and doing a lot of things on my own so I am so grateful to have someone to do the things I love with as my biggest fear is loneliness and I over all hate being alone.
If I wasn’t with Andrew, I would have a hell of a time trying to go to conventions, unless, of course I have a good/close friend that I could go with; plus, doing couples cosplays are so much fun as for those few times I do get into character I then have someone to interact with and whether one of us has an elaborate cosplay or both we tend to be a beacon for attention even if we are cosplaying from different genres.
Then with Andrew being an introvert, he wasn’t sure if he was going to like the attention or being in the spotlight but after I first got him to cosplay with me he ended up loving it and he always tells me that being at a convention not in cosplay isn’t the same any more. It’s also nice to always have a handler as well as I like to wear super elaborate cosplays with trains and capes that drag on the floor so I normally need help getting in and out of cosplays and I normally need help holding parts of may cosplay while out on the convention floor and like I said before, I suffer from terrible vision and sometimes I just need a pair of eyes, although it does irritate my boyfriend when while at a convention he’ll get all excited and tell me to look at something just to realize that I’m blind without my glasses and can’t see what he’s so excited about.
As for the process, it definitely makes everything more time consuming as my work load is doubled because I make Andrews cosplays along with my own so there are times when I’m making 8 plus cosplays for one convention, for an example I will be making a total of 10 cosplays for Megacon 2019, that’s 5 for each of us, one for each of the 4 days and one for each of us for the main after party. I treat every other year as a down year where I don’t make that many cosplays and just switch my line ups from the year before, like what we wear for Megacon this year we will wear to Metrocon next year and we will most likely wear what I make for Metrocon this year to Megacon next year.
But it’s not all bad as while I do all the sewing Andrew helps makes the props and helps with painting said props and armor, although I’m hoping to teach him how to sew seeing that I have two machines and hopefully he will be just as good a seamster as I am a seamstress. Like myself Andrew understands that although cosplay is fun it is not always comfortable or easy and just like myself he loves it over all but hates just a handful of things like having to wear a wig, large amounts of body paint and having to help me in and out of cosplay and help me with my cosplay while out on the con floor as I regularly hear him ask me why I can’t make more cosplays that are more simple. Overall Andrew and I love cosplay and love cosplaying together, we take the good with the bad and we both look to further our skill set and knowledge together.