I've always been a big fan of cosplay but not being a cosplayer myself gives me the perspective of being on the outside looking in. I see the awesome photos and successful cosplayers really making a name for themselves through social media and personal marketing but what I don't see is the stuff that goes on behind the scenes. There's a bunch of stuff in the background that I didn't know about and that made me curious. Lucky for me, my friend Courtney Stark was kind enough to lend me some of her time to sate my curiosity and to help people get a closer look at another aspect of the cosplay community.
What's the draw in cosplay? What do you think it is that inspires people to take it up?
There’s a multitude of reasons why some people are drawn to the cosplay community. They see people dressed up on weekends on the train or trams going to conventions and events or photosets posted on social media and become attracted to this art form and want to figure it out for themselves, or there are more personal reasons, such as discovering a new side of themselves, finding a community or a sense of belonging somewhere, or to do something to distract them from “real life”
What personally got you into cosplay?
I got into it through friends who I met through my colleagues when I was working at a local video games store. I wanted to see what it was all about and learn how to make things, such as armour and weapons. I figured it would be useful for work events and promotions. One of the first cosplays I stumbled across just happened to be a cosplay of a Dunmer from Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
What was the shift like going from doing cosplay as a hobby to turning your work into your own personal brand? What were some particular challenges surrounding all of that?
It’s rather challenging, to be honest. Turning your hobby into your own personal brand is understanding the mechanics of running your own personal business and that you are in the public eye and you have to find a way to have your viewers and clients satisfied.
By that, it’s posting regular and genuine content. Of course it’s going to become work. Being kind to your followers/clients also goes a VERY long way. People are going to want to see new content, new appearances, photo shoots, and videos and so on, and they’ll want to hear from you.
For anyone thinking about going public with their cosplay, what's some advice you would give them? What can they expect?
My biggest piece of advice in moving your cosplay into the public eye is to not expect thousands of followers instantly and to give people a chance to get to know you and your work. Once you start gaining momentum with, for example, a Facebook fan page, you’ll need to understand how you can manage yourself as a brand.
People will want to hear from regularly and see new content, and of course, that content has to be your own. Think about what you do at work, how you maintain a professional image while on the shop floor or in the office, and how you can transfer that to cosplay. Don’t do or say anything your boss wouldn’t do.
How do print sales actually work? For example, how much of it goes to the photographer, to the site hosting your prints, etc.
Some people prefer to use a platform such as Storenvy or Etsy for their print sales. But this is where it gets tricky. They have to have the photographer’s permission to sell the prints and by rights, the photographer has to take one portion of the print sales. The photographer would sell the prints and give part of the takings from print sales to the cosplayer, and by rights, it should be split 50/50. In this context, the cosplayer is merely just a model for the photos, and the photographer is therefore, the creator and author of that piece of artwork.
Once the photographer clicks the button to take the photo, by law, they are the owner of that photo and it is their intellectual property. There are some cosplayers that abuse and ignore this and believe that because they are in the photo, they deserve the full rights to said photos, and there are also some that even choose to take their own photos and sell their own prints. Starbit Cosplay from Norway is not only an extremely talented cosplayer, but her own photographer in most cases and sells the prints she makes.
What made you turn away from having a public presence in the cosplay community and shutting down your Vakarians Cosplay page?
It lost its shine for me. I was working full time and studying full time, and still am, and it just became repetitive, and like I was doing assignments every night, making sure I had them completed by this date for this convention and so on. It became really stressful for me as I had all these deadlines for projects.
Every now and again, I hear about some pretty harsh stuff in the community. There was a recent article about a photographer who preyed on cosplayers for nudes. How common is that kind of stuff? Have you ever experienced anything like that in the community?
You know, it’s becoming more and more common but it also isn’t. It’s one of those things, when it rains it pours. I see it as there are some people whose minds aren’t exactly there and they just don’t have anything better to do.
They probably believe they’re doing it in good faith but they’re unaware of how the community is going to receive it and how it’s going to damage their name.
I guess some just want to watch the world burn, right?
Personally, I have never experienced any kind of distasteful behavior at conventions and on social media. Other than the occasional Facebook stalker, it has all been smooth sailing.
Let's close happy, yeah? Who are some cosplayers you admire? What about them makes them stand out to you?
Kamui Cosplay and Lightning Cosplay, both very talented German cosplayers have been my biggest source of inspiration over the past few years. I also admire Volpin’s work and there is one person who I extremely admire and that is my dear friend Eve Beauregard. She works so incredibly hard at work and on cosplays and she’s seriously one of the most beautiful people on this planet.
I also love the work of my friends Mel and Shenae from Guzzardi Art and Cosplay who are just insanely good at everything they do. What stands out to me the most from all of the aforementioned is just how multi-faceted they are in terms of their art, from crafting from worbla and thermoplastics to doing digital painting and so on. I can’t begin to explain how much I love their work!
Lastly, is there anything else you want to say to the cosplayers out there both new and experienced?
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” – Gandalf.
There's certainly a lot that goes into cosplay beyond just the costumes themselves. There are a lot of things to consider for those who want to turn their hobby into something more. I definitely admire these guys for the work they put in, especially those who maintain a steady social media presence to keep up their brand. Big ups to the great photographers out there as well. Last but not least, I want to send a big thank you to Courtney for taking the time out to talk to me.