As you know, cosplay (costume-play) is the biggest defining aspect of any quality Comic Book convention- however it’s so much more than putting on a pair of tights and donning a cape. When it comes to dressing up at a comic-con, there’s no ‘playing’ around with cosplayers. These artist take their craft seriously and they love doing what they do. Our latest Geek of the Week is professional cosplayer Monika Lee. Not only does she do tremendously creative cosplay but she also understands the ‘heart’ behind the art:
When and how did you get into the art form of cosplay?
I discovered the world of cosplay when I was 13. At the time, I was really big into anime and through association, I found various cosplay websites. The idea of dressing up as the characters I was so transfixed with was really captivating and before I knew it, I was on eBay looking for my next cosplay outfit.
What was the hardest part of pursuing your cosplay interests?
The hardest part is balancing school and this hobby. I can’t just request time off work and fly anywhere, I have to talk to professors and manage my schedule/work. And even if I am able to manage some time away, I come back buried in schoolwork and projects. In addition to that, it’s also been tough managing a budget for creation of all my costumes, which is why I sell prints of my costumes to fund future projects. (http://monikalee.storenvy.com/)
Were your friends and family initially supportive? How about now?
My family didn’t really understand at first, mostly because the community was still sort of “closet”. As the years have passed, though, they’ve become extremely supportive and they even come to Dragon*Con. And now that the cosplay and the geek community have begun to commercialize, it’s a lot easier to explain to family, friends and strangers about what I do. It’s also become less strange to people and more “cool”. Cosplay has become something that people can really relate to—portraying your favorite character or wearing a beautiful outfit can really boost your confidence and help facilitate new friendships with others who share the same interests.
What is your favorite costume and why?
Riiiiiight now, my favorite is my Diablo 3 Wizard. The actual creation of the costume was a blast for me since I was able to incorporate many different techniques to make it. I also spent way too much time over the summer playing Diablo, instead of making this costume…haha. But, there are just so many fantasy-like details in this costume—when I put it on, I’m like, “Yeah, I’m a badass wizard.” And I feel like I could go running around casting spells and whatnot.
Cosplay is so much more than just dressing up in tights- to you, what is the ‘heart’ behind the art?
The two main things that keep me coming back are the creative processes and the people. Sitting down and getting the creative juices going on a costume is my favorite thing. I can literally sit for hours and just brainstorm about how I want to make something, how I want it to look and what I can use to achieve the look I want.
Aside from that, though, there are some amazing people in this community. Not only is everyone just incredibly talented, the personalities are awesome. I have so much fun at conventions just hanging out with my friends and meeting new people. Everyone is so hilarious and everyone gets your jokes about all the nerdy things you like. It kind of makes you sad to leave cons because you realize you have to go back to “the real world” where no one gets your Portal jokes, haha
Can you speak into how ideas like fear and failure affect you as a cosplayer?
It can always be frustrating when you spend hours making something and it comes out, well, looking like crap. That’s always part of the process, though, because you don’t learn anything from never failing. I always try to keep in mind that, though I’m really serious about cosplay and I love it a loooot, it’s a hobby at the end of the day. The world won’t end because I messed something up on a costume or if someone online makes a mean comment about me.
Do you have a favorite cosplay moment from one of your many adventures?
I have a blast at most every convention, but one of my most memorable moments was during SDCC this past year. My friend Jess and I were in a pedi-cab leaving the convention center to change out of our costumes and our driver noticed some cameras around another pedi-cab. He swung around and it turns out it was Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill filming a BBC special about SDCC. We started freaking out and they told us we had nice costumes and to have a great Comic Con. Their accents were so cute…haha. (http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2012/07/doctor-who-cast-travel-san-diego-by-pedicab-sing-bohemian-rhapsody/)
What contribution would you like to leave to the cosplay community?
I would just love for more and more people to join this community and love it in the same ways that I love it. I want to show people that cosplay isn’t just dressing up and that there’s so much more to it. And I really just want everybody to stop hating on others for not being geek enough or for being a girl in this community because it ain’t worth it, man! Just be a nerd and love everybody!
What kind of advice would you give to future aspiring cosplayers?
Manage your time and budget, yo! If you find yourself literally dying because you’re rushing to get a costume finished, plan ahead next time instead of waiting last minute!
And remember why you love cosplay—if you’re doing it for the attention, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons! A self-confidence boost and a little bit of attention comes with cosplaying, but if you’re just striving to get “famous”, seriously re-evaluate why you’re cosplaying. Cosplay should be about your love for the fandom, the creative process, the amazing community and more, not about how many likes your picture gets on Facebook.
Finally, which conventions can we plan on seeing you at in 2013?
First convention of the year for me will be Amazing Arizona Comic Con. I may also be at Calgary Expo in glorious Canada. And I will for sure be at San Diego Comic Con and Dragon*Con. I’ll also often decide a month before to go to a convention, so follow me on Twitter/Facebook to see where I’ll be at!