Cosplayer finds confidence, creativity in Ahsoka Tano

Only four years in and Kendra Davis — aka @princessmahogany — is already a prolific cosplayer, dreaming up wildly creative looks from fandoms as diverse as Disney, Harry Potter, DC Comics, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Lore Olympus, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Fairly Odd Parents.

Kendra is best known for her ever-evolving “human Ahsoka Tano” cosplays, which have earned her notoriety in both the Star Wars and cosplay communities. She was introduced to the character through Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which she discovered on the recommendation of her father.

Aside from sparking her love for George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away, Ahsoka Tano inspired Kendra to overcome insecurities by helping her feel seen and represented. Kendra’s positive feelings about the Togruta Padawan were the subject of a Tweet that went viral after being featured on The Star Wars Show.

Kendra discovered the world of cosplay after watching the animated series Young Justice with her Dad. The show inspired her to start her own blog and attend her first Comic Con, where she first encountered costumed fans and decided to give cosplay a try.

Her innovative makeup, handmade elements, and inventive photography have resulted in collaborations with other artists, made her the subject of fan art, and landed her on multiple best cosplayer lists. 

A crafter and creator who sells her jewelry and accessory designs in the Etsy shop she co-owns with her mother, Kendra has her eye on a career as an actor and screenwriter. Paging Netflix: You’re going to want to remember her name. 

You’re a prolific and skilled cosplayer, a crafter and co-owner of Etsy shop Black Flower Store, and an aspiring actor/screenwriter. You began cosplaying about four years ago. How did you discover this geeky art of dressing up?

My discovery of cosplay goes all the way back to when my father told me about the DC Comics animated series Young Justice. He thought I would enjoy the show and suggested I check it out. I quickly became a big fan of Young Justice and started a blog called YJ Cave. While blogging, I was thinking of content to write about and came up with the idea to feature artwork/content creations from fans of the show.

I eventually came across Young Justice cosplays and was really impressed. And when my dad and I went to our first Comic Con (we got to go to the Young Justice panel!), that is where I got to see cosplay up close. I had a lot of fun seeing all the various cosplayers and taking pictures with them.

Afterward, I did more and more research on cosplay and I decided to give it a try. About a year or two later, I did my first cosplay and have been cosplaying ever since!

You cosplay under the name @princessmahogany. What was your very first cosplay?

My very first cosplay was Abbie Mills from the TV show Sleepy Hollow. I was a big fan of Season 1 and thought her outfit, makeup, and hair style would be easy for me to cosplay.

You’ve done dozens of cosplays, including ones inspired by Disney, Fairly Odd Parents, Lore Olympus, The Dragon Prince, Star Wars, Voltron, Harry Potter, DC Comics, X-Men, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, Scooby Doo, and Game of Thrones. How do you decide what characters you’d like to cosplay?

I prefer to go based off what characters I really like, whether I feel a connection with them or maybe I think their storyline is really interesting. Overall, I usually am a fan of the character. Sometimes I will do a cosplay based off what I clothes I have in my closet and the wig colors that I have. For example, with Ladybug from Miraculous: Tales of  Ladybug and Cat Noir, I realized I had  a blue wig and makeup to create her superhero mask so I decided to do a casual cosplay for that character.

Many of your cosplays involve creative use of makeup. Where did you learn how to produce these looks and why do you enjoy using makeup to create a character?

I learned how to use makeup by practice and error. I also watched YouTube makeup tutorials. I still feel like I have a lot to learn and I’m in the process of really focusing on where do I specifically need to progress on in terms of makeup?

In the beginning, using makeup wasn’t really about me enjoying it but more about that’s all I had. When I started to regularly cosplay, I had just quit my job and wanted to continue with this hobby that I love but didn’t have the money to buy supplies to make costumes, so to be able to still do cosplay, I decided to focus on the makeup aspect of cosplay.

Tell me a little bit about the process of putting a cosplay together. What inspirations, resources, materials, and techniques do you tend to use?

The process of putting together a cosplay starts with me making a list, I break down what I need for the cosplay in different categories like Outfit, Accessories, Props, Hair and Makeup. From there, I plan out what I can make and what my mom can help me make, and items I can buy.

Depending on the costume, I like to buy a foundation piece — for example, a plain dress — and then build upon it with sewing and handmaking pieces for the costume. I like to collect photos of the character I’m cosplaying, look at Pinterest, and research the character’s personality and mannerisms to plan out where to take the photos and what modeling positions I want to do.

You’re especially known for your “human Ahsoka” cosplays, inspired by Star Wars: The Clone Wars character Ahsoka Tano. The Star Wars Show featured one of your Tweets, in which you said Ahsoka made you feel better about how you looked. What is it about her that makes you feel that way?

There are certain features that Ahsoka has, like strong facial features and a wide jaw, that I have as well. Our society favors more feminine, petite features, and I have felt insecurities about the way I look. Being able to share similar features that one of my favorite characters has made me feel a lot better about my own features.

When I started cosplaying Human Ahsoka more, I would sometimes look in the mirror and think negatively about the way I look, but then I would immediately think, at least my face fits cosplaying Ahsoka and she’s beautiful. So over time, dressing up as Human Ahsoka made me feel more positive about myself, plus she’s a badass character so I always feel great cosplaying her. Sometimes cosplay can definitely help you gain confidence.

I understand it was Ahsoka who got you interested in Star Wars, and it was your Dad who introduced you to Ahsoka and The Clone Wars.

Yes, he did! My dad watched the Clone Wars before I did and would tell me about the show and that he thought it was pretty good, especially the fight scenes. One day he brought up Ahsoka and how he thought I would really like her character and because he suggested for me to watch Young Justice in the past, I decided to take his suggestion and check out Clone Wars. And I got hooked and became a fan of Ahsoka very quickly!

So what was your reaction when you heard that Disney is bringing The Clone Wars back?

I actually cried. Which is very rare for me as I don’t really cry over the geeky stuff I like, but I was just so happy that I would get to experience new Clone Wars (ok, mainly just Ahsoka, haha) episodes when they air!

Plus, this will be my first time watching The Clone Wars at the same time as everyone else, since when I first got into the show it had been off-air for YEARS! The Ahsoka fandom holds a special place in my heart. Clone Wars Ahsoka has brought me a lot of happiness and great memories, so I was and still am very excited about the new season!

You’re constantly creating new, innovative variations on Ahsoka. Tell me about how these cosplays have evolved and why you love to experiment with this character so much.

I’m really inspired by fan art of Ahsoka, that is how I got the idea to cosplay as Human Ahsoka. When I first started to become a fan, I was looking up what the fandom was saying about her on Tumblr and I came across fan art of Ahsoka as a human and I was really inspired by it.

If I never saw fan art of human Ahsoka, I probably wouldn’t have ever cosplayed her. I’ve tried to stay on top of new fan art but haven’t really seen anything new, so now I just go based off of my own imagination.

I read you’ve made a lot of friends while cosplaying Ahsoka.

I have! I’ve met some wonderful people. I’m always surprised by how friendly and welcoming the Ahsoka Tano fandom is. Friends that I’ve met, like Avery Tano (The Fangirl Awakens), Kelly at Team Ahsoka, Rex on Leave, and Rebel Girls Cosplay are all Star Wars fans and content creators and have been so supportive of my Human Ahsoka cosplays and truly inspired me to continue to create Ahsoka content.

Aside from your awesome series of Ahsokas, what are some of your favorite cosplays that you’ve done so far?

Thank you for the compliment on my Ahsokas! My other favorite cosplays are Perfuma and Mermista from She Ra, Scavenger Rey, and Bumblebee from DC Superhero Girls.

You’ve cosplayed a lot of characters from Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. What do you like about that series?

I really enjoy that the series has a mixture of action, comedy, princesses, fantasy, and great friendships! The show has a lot of emotional depth to it but it’s also hilarious. Plus I think the art style is really beautiful.

You recently participated in a Dreamworks sponsored She-Ra meetup at San Diego Comic-Con. What was that experience like?

The experience was tons of fun! It was my first time going to a cosplay meetup. I was really nervous at first and felt maybe I shouldn’t show up to the event but I’m really happy I did. Everyone, from the cosplayers to the She Ra staff, was so friendly. It was awesome taking group pictures and even getting a preview book of the She Ra graphic novel!

You do a lot of collaborations with other cosplayers. How do these collabs come about and why do enjoy doing them? 

When I first started collabing, I would post on my Instagram story asking other cosplayers who would like to collab with me. I make sure to explain what type of collab I’m looking for and a few themes/characters I’m thinking of doing. Lately, I haven’t had to ask anyone to collab as cosplayers have come to me asking to collaborate.

I enjoy doing collabs because it helps with meeting and connecting with other cosplayers. Sometimes cosplay can be a lonely hobby for me as I don’t know any cosplayers in my city so I use this way to have fun, be social, and add something new to me cosplaying. It’s really rewarding making connections. Cosplayers like Elle Enchanted, E.G. Cosplay, Hidden Crown Cosplay, and Start My Spark, I have met and became friends with through collabing.

You’ve been featured by the media on several lists of plus-size cosplayers and black cosplayers to follow. What does it feel like to be recognized in this way?

It’s always shocking and I really appreciate that these writers decide to feature me! It’s definitely something that I’m grateful for and always surprised by!

I noticed on Instagram that a lot of artists have drawn or created art of you in some of your cosplays. That seems really cool! What’s that like?

Another thing that I’m shocked about, haha. It’s really heartwarming to see people make art based off my cosplays. The fact that they take time out of their day to draw me is truly something else and I just love their art! The art pieces are always saved on my tech devices or on my Instagram story highlight and I’ll always keep them.

As a cosplayer of color, is there anything you’d like to see change in the cosplay community?

I definitely would like to see less racism in the cosplay community. That includes black face and leaving racist hateful comments to POC cosplayers. I would also like to see more support for people of color. A lot of times cosplayers of color have to be absolutely perfect in their cosplays or be very sexy to get the same amount of support of non-people of color who cosplay.

I see many cosplayers of color who are skilled and put so much into their cosplays and struggle to get support and then they have to deal with racism on top of that. It’s definitely sad, but that’s how this society is.

The Etsy shop you co-own, Black Flower Store, offers fandom-inspired items, including jewelry and accessories. What first sparked your interest in crafting and creating?

My mom sparked my interest in crafting and creating. She co-owns the Etsy shop with me and has always encouraged me to create. Ever since I was a kid, my mom and I would create various art together. Crafting and creating is truly a passion of mine!

What prompted you to open Black Flower Store?

I can’t exactly remember but I do know I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, my mom is a business woman, and I have always felt inspired to create my business and felt confident in starting new businesses because I grew up seeing her being fearless in the small business field. Plus, I wanted to make extra money while in college so I one day came up with the idea to make things to sell and co-own the business with my mom.

One of your most popular items is a stunning necklace based on one worn by Sophie Turner, aka Lady Sansa, in Game of Thrones. Did you create that for one of your own cosplays?

Thank you so much! I mainly created the necklace for my shop. I was getting into Game of Thrones (I started watching during Season 7) and I wanted to create something that I could sell as a cosplay accessory and saw Sansa’s necklace and decided I would be able to make it. I did decide at one point that I wanted to cosplay as Sansa and wear the necklace. My mother and I are now working on Game of Thrones faux fur capes that people can buy for cosplay and as a Halloween costume.

You’re a fan of DC Comics and webcomics. How did you first discover comic books?

After my dad introduced me to Young Justice, I wanted to get into the geek community and read comic books since I love superheroes, so I went to the comic book store and picked up some issues. I enjoyed them a lot but I ended being more into webcomics, haha.

Why are you a DC girl? What are some of your favorite characters from the DCU?

DC Comics was my first introduction into the geek world so it has a special place in my heart, plus I genuinely enjoy the characters, storylines, and their message about what it means to be a superhero. My favorite DC Comics characters are Batman, Young Justice’s Black Canary, Young Justice’s Artemis, Young Justice’s Kid Flash, Robin/Nightwing, DC Superhero Girls’ Bumblebee, and Vixen.

What about webcomics? What are some of your faves?

I’m happy you asked! I love Lore Olympus, Age Matters, and Edith. I read others but those three are my ultimate favorites. I like reading webcomics that have characters and storylines that are relatable. I also like storylines that are funny. Reading webcomics is new to me and I’m loving this way of storytelling!

Can you give us a hint as to what other cosplays you have planned for the rest of the year?

I’m currently working on Sea Ra (Mermista from She-Ra) and Halloween costumes/cosplays for October! I also plan on making a full Ahsoka Tano cosplay (still haven’t decided between her Togruta version or a human version) for the new season coming up.

Are there any dream cosplays you’d like to do in the future if time, expense, and effort weren’t an issue?

I would love to do Togruta Ahsoka. I know I can make her Montrals and Lekku but I just have been putting it off, haha. I would also like to do Princess Tiana’s green ball gown dress from The Princess and the Frog.

Ultimately, you’d like to be an actor and screenwriter. Why are you interested in these particular fields?

I have always loved storytelling and those two mediums are the ones I am most passionate about. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to act and be a writer (I realized I wanted to be a screenwriter a few years ago). I have always loved performing (I used to be a dancer for 5 years) and entertaining others so acting and writing is really up my alley and I hope to have a career in it one day. I have a love for film and video production and it’s an art medium that has brought me a lot of joy and being able to create my own work is something I’m striving for.

In an ideal universe, what would your future acting/screenwriting career look like?

My ideal future career would involve me writing and acting in my own productions. I would love to write a few short films and webseries for my YouTube channel, while having a movie and/or TV series on Netflix. I want to collaborate with other filmmakers and act in their movies and TV series as well. The genres I want to act and write in are sci-fi, fantasy, action and adventure, and comedy.

Before I let you go, I noticed that you list Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as one of your fandoms. As a fellow Austen fan, I’d like to know how you got into that.

I can’t exactly remember how I got into the fandom but I do know I loved watching the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice that would air on E! News years ago. I was always so excited when it came on because I thought it was such a romantic movie. I think my growing interest in Shakespeare and taking a British English class in high school prompted me to really get into Jane Austen!

I’m definitely in the Pride and Prejudice fandom. I watch the movie at least a couple times a year. One year, I watched the movie every day for at least two weeks, and I enjoy reading posts on the internet from people in the fandom.

But more importantly, who is your favorite Mr. Darcy?

AHHHH, Matthew Macfadyen! I fell in love with the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie so he’s my favorite! He played Mr. Darcy so well and pulled of the brooding, socially awkward, but deep down inside caring gentleman!

 

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