Tell us about yourself! What’s your name, what was your major, and what year are you in?
My name is Len and I’m in third year graphic design. Cosplaying is a very important part of my life.
Tell us about some of your past cosplays. Which one is your favorite? What do you have in the works?
My favourite past cosplay is this character named Poharan from Blade and Soul. She’s this pirate princess girl and she uses this big Gatling gun. When making my cosplays I buy a whole bunch of different materials that I can splice together. I convert household items into armour. I started doing cosplay when I didn’t have a lot of money so I needed to get creative. Poharan gave me the most opportunity to explore the materials that I already had. My sister helped me sew it, and she taught me how to use the sewing machine. It was a lot of work taken upon myself rather than just buying a cosplay, including the wig itself. I had to dye my wig and slice it in half. Right now, I’m working on a cosplay that involves a lot of scavenging for different clothing and materials that I can use. It’s a little more high fashion rather than something outlandish with armour and leather.
Tell us about how cosplay has affected your life (socially, economically, etc…).
Cosplay has affected my life very much. It has helped me figure out my gender identity and has made me feel more confident about my appearance. Growing up, I was never confident with the way that I looked and was scared to leave the house. Cosplay gave me a starting point to jump off of because for me, I wasn’t exactly myself in cosplay. I was hidden behind a mask and dressed up as a character. Cosplay has also helped me overcome the anxieties that I had about having to look a certain way. It played with the way that I looked and I got more used to looking at myself in the mirror. I’ve met so many people, have made so many friends, and have become more sociable. Not only in cosplay, but outside of that character as an individual, becoming more outgoing and willing to speak to people. Cosplay has taught me how to go up and say “hi” to people. Perhaps this was because they were wearing the same thing as I was, or cosplaying from the same series. Economically speaking, that has always been an issue on my part and only recently have I started working to save up for more cosplays in the future.
Tell us about the cosplay process. How long does it take for you to put the costume/hair/makeup together?
I spend a few days planning out and sketching out ideas. I’ll scout around on the internet and dollar stores for materials. I’ll secure items such as small accessories together with Mod Podge and nail polish to make them look more shiny. I’ll work on the small accessories first as I’m waiting for shipments of other materials to come through. When putting it on before a convention, it depends. At least an hour. It’s kind of nerve wracking when you’re putting it on because you don’t want it to break. I’m always anxious about that. Especially the contact lenses, I still feel squeamish. My makeup also takes at least an hour. First step, I put on my makeup. Then I put on the clothes. After that, the armour. Fashion tape is my best friend. Finally, my wig. If it’s a long wig it’s best for it to go on last so it doesn’t get tangled.
Because this issue is being released on Halloween, let’s talk about earlier in your life. Were you big on dressing up for Halloween when you were little? What were some of your costumes? Tell us about them.
I loved dressing up for Halloween. When I grew up, my mom would make my costumes for me. I remember her staying all night to make a mermaid costume for me that had sequins and everything. I then started buying pre-made costumes from party stores. Throughout high school I started making my own costumes. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have a character in mind. I would create this cool makeup look, or come up with my own characters. When I started cosplaying more, I just started wearing those for Halloween.
How has your art practice affected your cosplay and vice versa? Did you incorporate your cosplay into your past work at OCAD?
A good example would be my first year photography course. We had to do a project of a self portrait, and we needed to make the portrait look nothing like us. I wore a big puffy grey wig, I erased my eyebrows, and I changed my eye shape with makeup and contacts. Because of that class, it impacted my cosplay career. It encouraged me to do more photoshoots because I now knew how to take photos and edit them myself. In terms of cosplay impacting my design career, it has taught me how to scavenge for materials and have more of a creative eye. It’s helped because I have a lot of hands-on type classes. Sketching has helped as well. I would begin to plan out my cosplays by sketching them out. It was an easy transition into my program because that as well required a lot of sketching. It’s already a skill that I had picked up earlier.
Do you have any advice on how to pursue an artistic hobby separate from school work/professional practice?
Since I started cosplay so early in my life, I would definitely say that to pursue another artistic hobby, it will make you nervous. But it is worth pushing forward and continuing. It is worth it. It’s okay to take breaks. Sometimes school gets in the way. But it’s okay. A hobby is a hobby. Prioritizing is very important.
To see Len’s past cosplay looks, click here.
Interview by Zoe Roiati
Photography by Zain
Make up by Noor Awan