I’ve resurfaced from a day of deep immersion in WonderCon, which, in case you’re not familiar, is the nerdiest of all nerd weekends in Southern California. I spent the day before at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so, yeah, it was basically the most epically geeky two days ever.
WonderCon is organized by the people who put on the insanely popular and notoriously unnavigable San Diego Comic-Con. It consists of fanboys and fangirls overrunning the Anaheim Convention Center for three wonderful, exhausting days of cosplay, panels, screenings, promotional events, gaming, signings, meetups, mutual admiration, and shopping for collectibles, T-shirts, and merch, even though we don’t have any more room for them in our houses.
From what I observed, this year’s con was pleasantly well-organized. Mailing out badges in advance and scanning them at various points of entry was a great idea. I particularly enjoyed the sight of a dude in a giant cardboard Lego Legolas costume trying to reach his badge while simultaneously squeezing through the narrow scanner gate.
From a feminist perspective, I was happy to see many panels geared toward women and women’s issue on the schedule, including “Entrepreneurial Women,” “Cospositive: Cosplay with Confidence,” “Comics and Women,” “WonderCon Women of Pop Culture,” and a Friday night panel exploring how the #TimesUp movement applies to the comic book industry.
As my sister and I walked the Exhibit Hall, we were pleased to see many more women artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and vendors than in previous years. (There were still a whole lot of men, but it’s progress.) I was able to collect more than 50 business cards from women you might read about soon in No Man’s Land’s weekly Geek Goddess interview series.
I purchased a Captain Marvel T-shirt and a signed illustration of Wonder Woman by artist Leanne Huynh. I also bought my first comic book from one of the convention booths. In the past, I’ve been too intimidated to do that, so that’s progress for me personally.
We chatted with artists and exhibitors — at WonderCon you’re guaranteed to run across at least one person you’ve always wanted to meet or talk to — and spent so much time on the floor, where the air is clammy and thin, that we forgot all sense of time, not to mention basic necessities like snacking, hydrating, or taking bathroom breaks.
Eventually, we did fortify ourselves with greasy food truck fare in front of the convention center, surrounded by gender-bending Harley Quinns, twin Kylo Rens, Daeneryses, and Demigorgons.
My sister, who wore an adorable blue Tardis dress, only had to deal with two awkward and unwanted encounters with guys who lingered too long or insisted on mansplaining the finer points of “Doctor Who.”
Here’s an idea, WonderCon organizers: How about a panel titled “How Not to Be a Creeper” featuring so many geeky celebrities that fanboys won’t be able to resist attending?
For me, the highlight of this year’s event was a panel featuring Gail Simone, writer of Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, and “Clean Room,” and the most recognizable woman in comics, who I Twitter stalk almost daily. Simone has worked hard to cultivate and encourage inclusiveness and representation in the industry.
Her origin story is legend. A comic book fan since childhood, she was working as a hairdresser when she began writing columns critiquing the industry, especially on its more misogynistic tropes. She was eventually approached to write for comics and the rest is history.
During the panel, Simone talked about her first job writing for “The Simpsons” comic book and how scared and inexperienced she felt. She recounted emailing her comic writer friends for advice on basic things like formats and style and how terrified she was that her employer would discover she didn’t know what she was doing.
I found this deeply encouraging because, so many of us — especially women who write or create — struggle with feeling strong enough, or smart enough, or confident enough, or adequate enough to tackle those scary new opportunities that could lead to something bigger. The fear of failure is a supervillain just waiting to deliver a demoralizing monologue.
Even sitting down to write a simple blog post some days can take a surprising amount of courage. I’m sure it’s the same for those of you who sit down to paint, or write fiction or poetry or a screenplay, or simply take some time away from daily responsibilities to do something that makes you feel fulfilled and inspired.
Gail’s advice: If you’re scared, it’s a good thing. Do it anyway. That’s when you’re going to create your best work.
To begin, I’d like to thank you for giving women a voice to express their love of fandoms through fashion. I remember all too well the days when we had to make due with ill-fitting Star Wars T-shirts from the men’s section, or the thrift store, or our boyfriends’ closets.
Because of Her Universe and the geek fashion empire you’ve created, women have so many more options for self-expression and have been inspired to boldly and unashamedly celebrate their love of Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Marvel, Studio Ghibli, and many other fandoms and franchises.
Your pioneering work in the geek fashion industry and your partnerships with Disney and Hot Topic place you in a unique position to create positive change, which is why I’m writing to you about a specific, industry-wide problem that geek fashion designers, manufacturers, and retailers need to address.
I’m talking about the fashion industry’s size problem, which makes shopping for clothes a source of frustration and discouragement for any woman who doesn’t happen to have the body of a teenager. (I’d say that’s most of us.)
Inconsistent sizing, lack of availability of plus-size products, higher prices for plus-size clothing, flimsy and unflattering fabrics and materials, and other related issues often combine to make shopping for geek clothes a fangirl’s worst nightmare.
Clearly, addressing and resolving these issues isn’t just Her Universe’s responsibility. I’m writing to you, Ms. Eckstein, because Her Universe markets itself as an inclusive fangirl fashion company and lifestyle brand that caters to a diverse spectrum of women.
Your brand prides itself on catering to women and girls of all shapes, sizes, and styles, from plus-size shoppers to kids. The company’s motto is “Fashion for Every Fangirl.” Too often, though, it seems the brand’s actual target demographic is an extremely narrow one, namely young women and juniors with a very specific body type.
My friends who wear plus-size clothing have been talking to me about their concerns for years. This Christmas, however, I had my first personal experience with the geek fashion size problem when my husband gifted me with Her Universe’s adorable, vintage-style Star Wars Endor Landscape Dress.
Since the picture of the model wearing the dress on the Her Universe website screamed “teen heroin chic” more than “40-year-old lady in a cosplay dress,” I probably should have been prepared for the fact that I couldn’t even get the zipper to close halfway on my medium-sized frock.
Now, I comfortably take a medium in every item of clothing I purchase, from T-shirts, to blouses, to dresses, so I was surprised, even shocked, and saddened that I wouldn’t be able to wear the dress to WonderCon as planned.
Around the same time, I was shopping on the Her Universe website for a gift for a family member. I found several plus-size dresses I knew she would adore, including designs from Doctor Who and Star Wars. Every time I clicked on a dress, however, I found that her specific size was out of stock. This happened over and over again, until I eventually gave up and went to another retailer’s site to find what I needed.
Now, it’s entirely possible the Endor Landscape Dress was designed for a younger, slimmer gal than me and I just didn’t realize it. And it seems geek fashion retailers have an ongoing problem with maintaining their plus-size stock, for whatever reason, be it demand or lack of supply.
But if the issue is that companies like Her Universe don’t in reality cater to a demographic of average-size women and plus-size fangirls, then the company needs to be transparent about that.
I polled my friends about their experiences shopping for geek fashion items and they all seemed to have disheartening stories that suggest this particular niche market is just as focused on youth and twiggy, anorexic beauty as the rest of the fashion industry.
By far, the biggest complaint I heard was about inconsistent sizing and labeling.
“I shouldn’t be a 3XL in a dress when I’m a large in a shirt from the same company,” said one of my friends.
Her solution? Switching from companies like Her Universe and We Love Fine to smaller outlets, like Elhoffer Design, that she feels care about her and her body.
Another friend who wears plus-size clothing recounted three failed attempts to purchase items from Her Universe, which culminated in a frustrating and overlong return process. She now has resolved to buy only shoes from the company.
Those I spoke to also described a constant struggle with thin, clingy fabrics and form-fitting cuts that are unflattering to their body types.
“See-through is not what I’m going for,” one of my friends said. “Also, I don’t want form-fitting. My fix for this is wearing men’s T-shirts instead. But it would be nice to have better options.”
Another major pain point for plus-size shoppers is the unavailability of desired clothing items, which always seem to be sold out or out of stock when they go to click and buy them.
“I think most times that I think to myself, maybe I’ll buy that, it’s sold out already,” a fellow geek shopper said.
Then there’s the fact that plus-size dresses and other clothing items tend to cost more than smaller-size items, which is just patently unfair and discriminatory. A quick glance at the Her Universe website reveals the cost of a plus-size dress can run about $10 to $15 more than the equivalent outfit in a smaller size.
The friends I polled mentioned lots of other things they’d like to see change in the geek fashion world, as well, including more dress-length options for taller fangirls and less gender-stereotyping when it comes to designs, like the over-feminized, flowery fashions that tend to be marketed to women and the edgier, artsier fashions targeted at men, for example. Why not make a wider variety of designs available to both genders and let fans decide for themselves what they want to wear?
I realize the problems I’m presenting to you won’t necessarily be easy to solve. Fangirls come in all ages, shapes, and sizes, and have lots of strong opinions. However, the fact that a large percentage of the female geek population isn’t being represented by companies that claim to represent them is a serious concern.
Ms. Eckstein, you’re at the forefront of the geek fashion world. If anyone can raise awareness and begin to address these issues, it’s you.
Growing up as a geek who loved Star Trek and X-Men, Krystina Arielle Tigner didn’t have many positive role models who looked like her to reference, which makes what she has accomplished even more remarkable.
After an accidental brush with convention culture in Atlanta, Krystina was hooked on cosplay, which appealed to her childhood love of dress up, and has since become a rising star in the field.
She’s featured in one of the most irresistible gifs of 2017, a “dance-off” in which she plays Wonder Woman’s twin, Nu’bia, to Gal Gadot’s movie superhero. That instant piece of pop culture heaven has been viewed 35 million times. A Buzzfeed video in which she transforms into four different iconic black superheroes has also gone viral.
Krystina infuses everything she does with joy, including elaborate cosplays from Wakandan Wonder Woman, to Hamilton, to “Frohawk Rey”; Trekkie-themed photo shoots at Vasquez Rocks; a spread in Cosplay Culture magazine; and appearances at cons, where young fans have been known to seek her autograph.
She’s found herself breaking barriers, becoming an inadvertent role model to future geek girls, and meeting some of her personal heroes — Ava! Uhura! — along the way.
You’re going to want to follow her to see what she gets up to next @KrystinaArielle.
You describe yourself as a “Hollywood cosplayer, pop culture enthusiast, and professional geek.” How did you first discover the world of cosplay?
I have always been into comic books and pop culture, but I truly discovered cosplay for the first time on a St. Patrick’s Day trip to Atlanta with my friend Janna. Our hotel just so happened to be the site of MomoCon. I knew of it, but I had never felt the energy and passion of a convention. I decided that day I would try my hand at cosplay and when I got home I ordered tickets to Dragoncon and the rest is history.
What specifically drew you to this form of geeky self-expression?
I love comics. I love pop culture, and I love dressing up. This field allows me to honor those things and I love it.
Is your love of dress up something that stretches back to childhood or did you embrace this interest later in life?
I’ve always loved to play dress up. We didn’t buy costumes when I was a kid, we just created something. From playing in my Mom’s closet to revamping my wardrobe today, I love style and being able to show creativity.
What do you like about transforming yourself into an iconic character?
Being able to honor the characters that got me through rough times and good times. Most of the characters I portray are characters I have loved since childhood and it feels like a dream come true every time I suit up.
What’s the most challenging aspect of that?
The most challenging aspect for me is being sure that I bring the character to life but still feel comfortable in my skin.
When did you begin to realize that you might be able to take your cosplay to a professional level?
I don’t know that I ever have. From the beginning, I have just followed my heart and that has served me well to this point. I started because I love it, not because I thought it would take off to the point that it has.
2017 was a big year for you! You became an Internet sensation with a wonderful gif featuring you dancing joyfully, dressed as Wonder Woman’s twin, Nu’bia. It’s been viewed about 10 million times. What has that experience been like for you?
As of today, it’s at 35 million views and I’m still absolutely stymied by it. I love that gif. It makes me chuckle every time.
Tell me about how that gif came to be.
After the Gal Gadot dancing video came out, I knew that I wanted to re-create it. When we were on the set for the Buzzfeed video, I recorded it and set it to Britney Spears as a dance-off between Nu’bia and Diana. A dear Twitter friend, @mobius_strip, created the gif and the next thing I knew, it had a lot of views.
People have really responded to it. Why do you think that is?
I think the fact that my joy in that moment is genuine, as was hers. Two authentically joyful people, one being a six-foot knockout with a great smile, and the other having really cool hair, speaks to people, I guess.
Are you a big fan of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman”?
YES! I have probably watched it about six times in the last week alone.
Tell me your geek origin story. Were you into fandoms and pop culture as a kid? If so, what were some of your favorite franchises or fandoms?
My first fandom was X-men. When I was younger, my Grandpa Jack took my sister and I to our first comic book store. X-men was the first comic book I ever owned and I watched X-men the animated series with my family. It will always have a special place in my heart.
As a kid, there weren’t many pop cultural role models to inspire you. In fact, your husband created a “wall of representation” for you to remedy this. Would you mind telling me a little more about that?
When my husband and I first got married, I saw a Vogue issue that featured models that all had natural hair. I cried my eyes out because it was just so powerful. I ended up telling him about how it felt to be a child and not see many characters that looked like me. Characters of color who weren’t sexualized or objectified. Characters that could inspire something in the next generation.
We have this area over our sink in the kitchen and my husband had some art there. One day, he started buying every magazine that featured women of color for me and placing them on that wall. By seeing those pictures, I could feel inspired and see the people that came before me.
Last week, my first magazine spread went up on that wall. When we started it three years ago, I never would have imagined that would end up happening. It’s an amazing feeling.
Do you feel like you want to be a role model for young girls who might find themselves in a similar situation.
I never signed on to be a role model, because I guess I never felt worthy of that title. When I go to conventions now and I see little kids that are excited to the point of tears by my characters, it really puts things into perspective. Whether or not that’s what my intention was getting into this, it is now a reality. I want future little cosplayers to know that they can be strong, inspiring, wear their hair how they want, and that there is space at the cosplay table for us.
As a black woman, what changes would you like to see when it comes to representation in the world of fandoms and geek culture?
I would like to see cosplayers of color represented at conventions in the same way the non-POC cosplayers are. Quirktastc compiled a list of over 500 cosplayers across the country. Having one black cosplayer for every 12 non-POC cosplayers just to meet a diversity quota isn’t acceptable.
There are people with amazing talent and because we are seen as “black cosplayers” rather than just cosplayers, it puts us into this box of being a novelty rather than talent. I want to see more panelists of color, more cosplay guests of color, and less gatekeeping within the community.
What fandoms are you currently into?
I’m a die-hard original series Trekkie and I love “Doctor Who.”
It looks like 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year in terms of representation with “Black Panther” and the upcoming “A Wrinkle in Time.” What are your thoughts on that?
I believe it’s amazing. Seeing “Black Panther” for me was a powerful experience. To see a young black girl be the foremost STEM expert. Strong fierce warrior women. Characters portrayed as Kings and Queens. It was beautiful.
I am so excited to see “A Wrinkle In Time” and to feel the same way. Ava DuVernay is a truly powerful filmmaker and it is going to be amazing to have Storm Reid inspire a generation of young black girls. Her presence in that film will help some little girl delve into the world of sci-fi and that is beautiful to me.
I fell that we are on the cusp of a very important paradigm shift and I am ready to see what that brings. I hope that seeing black characters portrayed positively will help our society and media do the same. I hope that we will continue to have the tough conversations and that hearts and minds will be changed.
Aside from the Nu’bia gif, you’ve achieved a lot in recent months, including shooting a Buzzfeed video in which you transform into four iconic comic book characters — Misty Knight, Storm, Nu’bia, and Ironheart. How did this video come to be?
I was approached by a fellow cosplayer, Bernie Bregman (The Geek Gatsby). He recommended me and I worked with the amazing (visual artist and writer) Kasiemobi Udo-okoye.
Tell me a little about the Buzzfeed shoot. Was that fun to do?
The Buzzfeed shoot was a really great experience. Everyone was really kind and it was enjoyable.
The video has received an overwhelmingly positive response. How do you feel about it?
I’m really proud of it. Everything that I am currently doing is beyond my wildest dreams so it feels really exciting to have these amazing opportunities. I am really glad that it has been well-received, and that I made my Grandma proud.
Are you a comic book fan? Were you into comics as a kid?
What are some of your favorite titles/characters?
I started with X-men. I am currently deeply emotionally invested in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
Which do you prefer, Marvel or DC?
I honestly like both. There are different characters in each that resonate with me in different ways.
That has been a really cool experience. Just yesterday, a kid came up to me with his copy at a convention and asked for my autograph on his copy. It was a really overwhelming moment. To see my cosplays in a magazine is something I never expected in my wildest dreams. It just came out this month so I am still terribly excited.
You also recently joined the Nerdbot Girls. How did you become involved with them?
I’m a part of an online forum called “Drinking Bros: Nerds” and I met my friend Dana Jane (who is also a Nerd Bot Girl in this group). We met in person at Nerdbot-Con and I ended up clicking with a lot of the girls on that day without them realizing I was the girl Dana wanted them to meet. They took a vote and invited me to join them.
Perhaps the most exciting that happened in 2017 was that you got married. Congratulations! Does your husband share your love of geeky things?
Thanks! Yes, we were married May 28. My husband is not a comic book nerd but he is a magician, so I guess that counts. He has been incredibly supportive of this journey and I am so grateful that he is by my side through it.
Another project you recently participated in was a Star Trek-themed shoot at Vasquez Rocks, which was the location of several episodes of the original series. What was that experience like?
That shoot was organized by a dear friend, Aliza Pearl, who is a cast member on the Geek and Sundry RPG show “Shield of Tomorrow.” We jokingly call ourselves “Uhura’s Angels.” It was really great to be in that spot that I recognized from so many great shows.
You actually met Nichelle Nicols, aka Lieutenant Uhura! Tell me about that!
She is amazing. She is the kindest, most intriguing person that I have ever met. Being able to spend a couple of days with her last year was just beautiful. She’s sharp, witty, and still absolutely gorgeous.
It seems you’ve recently met several of your personal heroes, including Ava DuVernay. What’s that been like?
I live in Hollywood and I have a lot of by chance meetings. The Ava DuVernay run-in was a really big one for me. Two days before, I had been making a list of my goals. One of those was to meet and work with Ava. I told her that when we met. So now I just pray for part two to come true.
Do you make a lot of appearances at conventions?
I’ve been making more lately. I really enjoy the environment and the amazing friends that I have made in this community.
That sounds like a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. What sort of efforts go into this?
For those that do custom builds, it can take months. A coplay look is a complete look. There’s hair, costume, shoes, props. It’s truly a process.
For those of us who don’t know a lot about how cosplay actually works, do you collaborate with a creative team of costumers, hair stylists, photographers, etc., for your various cosplays? Tell me about the process of designing a cosplay.
It’s different for each cosplayer. I love bringing characters to life but I work with some amazingly talented people that step up in the areas where I am weak.
I work consistently with Bonnie Ayala for makeup looks. She did my makeup for my wedding and almost every character I have ever cosplayed. My custom leather builds are designed and executed by Corena Gibson.
The cosplay community has a lot of talented photographers that attend conventions and book shoots through their websites. Photographers like James Rulison, who shot my Cosplay Culture issue photos, my Gwenom and Storm, Gil Riego, Ruy Arena, and, of course, Stefan Pinto.
My process is to decide on a character, which usually comes from a list of beloved characters from my childhood and curate my head to toe look. I fancy myself a stylist in my head. I just do cosplay instead of runway. I am very fortunate to be able to work with an incredible group of talented and creative individuals.
Is there an element of acting to cosplay? Do you have to kind of “become” the character?
There really is, in my opinion. Certain characters, like Gwenom, who is my only villain at this point, have to be presented with a certain confidence and swagger. I do enjoy that aspect of it. To get into character as Gwenom, I listen to “Monster” by Kanye West. Each of my characters has a theme song that puts me in the mood to carry myself as they would.
You’ve cosplayed as Nu’bia, Storm, Deadpool, Hamilton, Gwenom, a Hogwarts student, and one of my personal favorites, “Frohawk Rey.” Do you have a favorite?
Wakandan Wonder Woman. Her war paint, combined with the costume and weapons, made me feel truly powerful.
Are there any dream cosplays you’d like to do in the future?
Definitely Vixen and Moon Girl.
I understand that you sometimes like to slip a little “casual cosplay” into your everyday life. Tell me about that.
I like to wear simple outfits with odes to my favorite characters. Star trek pins, color schemes that match a certain character’s identifiable outfits. I just enjoy it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring cosplayers, especially those who worry they don’t fit the cosplay “mold”?
Drop the idea that there is a mold. Nothing is wrong with making your costumes, nothing is wrong with commissioning. There is no right way. Cosplay is a creative outlet and a form of SELF- expression. If you expect everyone to love everything that you do or to do things exactly as you do, you are going to spend a lot of time disappointed.
Be yourself, and be comfortable. Do this because it means something to you or gives you an outlet to express yourself. It can be intimidating but just stay true to yourself. You don’t have to be a professional costumer to be a cosplayer. Its costume play. Play and do you.
It looks like you spend a lot of time at L.A.’s Magic Castle. I’m jealous!
As I said earlier, my husband is a magician. I actually got my associate member pin before my engagement ring. It’s an amazing place.
Have you actually attended the Houdini Seance?!?! Spill the beans!
We actually did the seance for the first time in January for my birthday! It was an absolutely wonderful experience. It’s truly magical.
You’ve said you want 2018 to be a year of “chasing dreams and achieving goals.” What are some of the goals and dreams you’re currently pursuing?
I have a lot of auditions coming up and I hope this will be the year I get to see my acting dreams realized. My goal overall is to be true to myself. To be kind to myself and to live and do things that make me happy. That seems simple but we tend to focus more on others than self-care. This year, I will take care of myself and my family.
What mark would you ultimately like to make on the world of geek culture?
If nothing else translates, I just want my love of what I do to resonate with people, because I feel truly blessed to be able to do it. I have no clue what is next on this path but I am going to keep making kids smile, and making my inner child happy.
This week’s Geek Goddess interview is an exciting one because we’re featuring our very first serious cosplayer, Sara Parrott, who is also a professional costume designer.
For those of us who have never attempted it but have witnessed elaborate and exotic geek creations at conventions and other events, cosplay can be something of a mystery, but Sara expertly lifts the veil on the inspirations and techniques involved in this endlessly entertaining art form.
When she cosplayed as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen at Anime Expo, her handmade costume had fellow “Game of Thrones” fans pledging their loyalty to her.
Raised by writers, a theater kid since the third grade, Sara vibrantly expresses her passion for a dazzling array of fandoms, including “Game of Thrones,” “Harry Potter,” “Doctor Who,” Marvel, DC, Disney, and Star Trek. She’s also quite the playgoer and bookworm (Pssst, jealousy alert: She’s got tickets to “Hamilton.”).
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see her dream of becoming a professional cosplayer come true.
You are an experienced cosplayer and a professional costume designer. How did you first become interested in the art of costuming and what drew you to cosplay?
My parents tell the story that I’ve always been interested in costuming — I’d come home from preschool and, when asked about my day, would detail what everyone was wearing.
I started costuming because of my love for Halloween. My first homemade Halloween costume was 2006 when I was in sixth grade; I was a hanged colonial girl. My freshman year of high school, I met my mentor, Sarah Mgeni, and started seriously considering costuming as a career, and have been working steadily since then.
What are some of your cosplay highlights over the years? Tell us about some of the characters you’ve transformed yourself into.
My first cosplay was Misa Misa from the anime “Death Note” at San Diego Comic-Con in 2007. I hadn’t even seen the series yet, but several friends told me I looked like her, so I put together a cosplay just from things I had in my closet.
My first cosplay when I started taking it very seriously was “Age of X” Dazzler for Stan Lee’s Comikaze (now Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con) in 2009. She’s an X-Men from the comics, and I picked her costume from the “Age of X” series mostly because of her striking eye tattoo.
One of my proudest cosplays is definitely Daenerys Targaryen from season three of “Game of Thrones” for Anime Expo 2014. With the help of my mentor, I patterned her tunic, sewed a mock-up, and sewed the real thing. I also weathered the leggings, styled the wig, and hand-sewed the web pattern on the bust of the tunic. A lot of work went into her, and I’m very proud of how she turned out.
You often cosplay with your brother. Do you guys tend to bond over geeky interests?
Since about 2010, I’ve cosplayed with my brother. His name is Sean, he’s four years younger than me, and about a foot taller than me. We’ve always been close, and we both love Halloween, so having him cosplay with me seemed totally logical. His first cosplay was a Hunter zombie from the “Left 4 Dead” video game franchise, and he hasn’t looked back since.
He’s a huge nerd, and proudly so, and we’ve been able to bond over a variety of fandoms. We got into “Harry Potter” at the same time, he tolerated my “Twilight” love, and we were both raised on “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” Disney, and “The Twilight Zone.”
Where have you cosplayed? Do you have any favorite or special memories from your cosplay experiences?
I’ve cosplayed mostly in the Los Angeles area, but I did get to cosplay at two conventions in the Washington D.C. area while I was going to school out there.
I’ve attended San Diego Comic-Con (I can’t wait to go back one day!), Anime Expo, Stan Lee’s Comikaze, WonderCon, D23, and Anime Los Angeles, as well as AwesomeCon and MAGFest. And I recommend all of these conventions! I’ve had such wonderful experiences at all of them.
One of my fondest cosplay memories is having other “Game of Thrones” characters pledge to me whenever I wear Daenerys. I was not expecting such a personal reaction to her, and it was so cool to see people react to the character so deeply.
To those of us who aren’t good at this sort of thing, designing and making your own costume sounds very daunting. Could you walk us through the process of creating a cosplay outfit, from conception to execution?
The first step is what I consider the least reliable: inspiration. Sometimes, I’ll watch a TV series or a film and like a character’s look and want to cosplay them. Other times, I’m inspired by a specific piece of art work — official or unofficial — of a character and will want to cosplay in a certain look or style.
The second step is planning. This is compiling research images, sketching, studying various patterns and fabrics, and ultimately making my shopping and to-do lists.
The third step is building, which is the sewing, re-sewing, hemming, painting, gluing, all the messy stuff that somehow ends up happening the night before you’re supposed to wear the costume. It’s also the place where I lose time every single project — I don’t mind sewing for several hours straight until three in the morning, but my to-do list and sleep schedule would like to object.
And the final step is the most important: wearing the cosplay and having fun! As much as cosplay can seem like a competitive and elitist hierarchy (a perception the community is working to change), it’s just a bunch of nerds dressing up like their favorite characters and having a good time.
You’re a “Harry Potter” fan. How did your interest in J.K. Rowling’s novels come about? How does this interest manifest itself in your life?
I actually don’t remember where or when exactly I got my first “Harry Potter” novel. I remember starting to read the series in second grade (2002-2003). While I didn’t attend any book events for “Harry Potter,” I did see almost every movie its opening weekend.
I’ve made many friends because of my love for the franchise. I am absolutely one of those people who takes sorting characters from other franchises into their Hogwarts houses very seriously.
What Hogwarts house are you?
I have heard you are also quite the Disney fan. Do you go to the park a lot?
I do! I grew up with an Annual Pass, and I finally have one again after going to college out of state. While I was in college, I even participated in the Disney College Program, which meant I worked full-time at Disney California Adventure for eight months and took two classes for college credit.
What other fandoms are you passionate about?
Oh, boy. It’s a pretty lengthy list. The major ones are Disney, Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Star Trek, “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “Doctor Who,” and “Game of Thrones.” I also love the whole “Law and Order family.” I’m a fan of an assortment of animes, mainly “Sailor Moon,” “Fruits Basket,” “Soul Eater,” and “Fairy Tail.”
I read a ton, so picking my favorite books is like picking my favorite children, but easily in the top are: the “Shiver” series by Maggie Stiefvater, “Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side” by Beth Fantaskey, “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, and the “Beautiful Creatures” series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Did your geeky inclinations originate from childhood? Both your parents are writers. Did that have something to do with it?
My parents are both huge geeks as well, and I was raised on some major fandoms: Star Wars, Star Trek, the original “Twilight Zone.” I also read a lot, which is why I was introduced to “Harry Potter” so young, and then I was a huge “Twilight” fan. They raised me to have a critical eye for good stories, and they fostered a love for well-written characters in me that continues to show in which fandoms I participate in now.
Were you a theater kid? What were some of your formative theater experiences?
I’ve been a theater kid since I was in third grade. At my church, during weekly Wednesday evening services during Lent, we do skits that have evolved into full “television episodes” that include parody songs, all enforcing the Lenten reading for that week. I started being involved in those in the third grade, and I started doing school musicals in fifth grade.
A lot of how I do and view theater has been influenced by three men: Tom Gerhold, my middle school music director; Mark Tennyson, my middle school director; and Michael Balsley, my high school director. I’ve been in a wide variety of shows, and every time I was supported but also told to test just how far I can go. I was never allowed to stay in my small comfort zone, which means I’ve long since conquered my stage fright. And these lessons have come in incredibly handy with my cosplay work, as people want to interact with the character instead of me, sometimes.
The first musical I participated in was “Godspell, Jr.” in fifth grade. I had to be off-book, learn choreography, and know harmonies. It was a huge test of how well I could perform, even as an ensemble member.
My favorite middle school theater experience was definitely “Checked Out.” It was my first experience with an original work, and I continue to love working with original scripts. It was definitely frustrating at times, remembering to learn new lines as changes went into the script, and one performance we did an entire scene completely out of order, but it was so much fun being the first people to perform a play.
My favorite high school theater experience was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s my favorite Shakespeare play, and being able to be an actor (I was Snug the Joiner) and an assistant designer in such a wonderful, magical, colorful world was an incredible learning experience for 16-year-old me.
You participated in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in high school. Tell me about that adventure.
I’ve done the Edinburgh Fringe Festival twice now, and I’ve loved it immensely both times. I went with my high school, one as a student and once as an alum, and we spent a few days in London before taking the train up to Edinburgh. In between rehearsing and performing, we were allowed to go see other shows, and we also organized a few group outings like to the Edinburgh Castle. Being able to walk down the street and exchange flyers for your show with flyers for someone else’s is such an incredible experience. You couldn’t walk anywhere in the city without seeing a flyer or someone in costume.
Do you go to a lot of plays or shows? What are some of your favorites?
I try and see as many shows as I can. I go to all the shows at my high school and now I go to all the shows at my brother’s college. My family also has season passes to the Pantages, which has been so enjoyable.
I’m a fan of a lot of the classic movie musicals like “Oklahoma” and “The Music Man.” I’m a huge Sondheim fan, and I also love “Waitress” and “Dear Evan Hansen.” My favorite play right now is “Gruesome Playground Injuries” by Rajiv Joseph.
Are you a “Hamilton” junkie, like the rest of us?
Absolutely. I probably know every word in the show by this point, and I’m so excited that I have tickets to see it next month.
You attended George Mason University specifically so you could major in costuming. Why did you decide you wanted to pursue that?
I chose George Mason specifically because I was able to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Technical Theater and Design with an emphasis in Costume Design. Most other universities don’t have an option to major in theater design, so I’d have to major in general theater and take one or two design classes.
I’m very happy that I chose to get a four-year degree. It not only gave me four years in a classroom environment to learn as much as I can about design, as well as participate in four years of productions, but I also met so many amazing people, learned about my love for horror films because of a class I took, and minored in mass communication.
Do you work as a costume designer now? What would your ideal career look like?
I work as a costume designer now that I’m back in Los Angeles, yes! I’m so excited to be able to say I’m a working designer as opposed to an aspiring one.
I’m not quite sure what my ideal career looks like right now, because I’m still exploring what I like the most. I’ve worked on middle school and high school theater, and TV movies, but I’m still curious about how much I’d like working on a television series.
I’ve read that your dream is to be a professional cosplayer? Would that be difficult to achieve? What would you enjoy about it?
My absolute dream is to be a professional cosplayer, yes.
It’s difficult because it’s hard work. It’s constant social media presence, cranking out new content on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis, and making convention appearances ideally every weekend during the convention season.
I think I would really enjoy it. Conventions and costumes are two of my absolute favorite things in the world, so being paid to do both, and to encourage people to do both as well, would be a dream.
You have your own IMDb page, which most of us can only dream about. How does that feel?
I actually didn’t know I had an IMDb page! That’s so cool! It really solidifies to me that I’m a working professional.
Oh my goodness … were you actually a wardrobe assistant on the “Princess Rap Battle” video?
I was! My mentor, Sarah Mgeni, has been the costume designer for several of them, and she got me on-set for the “Maleficent vs. Daenerys” video as her assistant. It was such an incredible experience. Everyone was so sweet and we all had so much fun with the whole process.
As a cosplayer, I’m sure you’ve had a chance to really observe geek and convention culture. As a woman, is there anything you would like to see change about that world?
I’m fortunate enough that I’ve seen some changes in geek and convention culture in my time attending. There’s been a real shift to include amateurs and families in the convention scene, as well as an acceptance of geek culture in mainstream culture as a whole.
I’m hoping that one day I’ll stop seeing warnings posted on social media about creepy and inappropriate men attending conventions. The horror stories I’ve heard of photographers keeping secret up-skirt cameras rolling, or men making lewd comments at cosplayers, is enough to make me uncomfortable trying to attend conventions without companions.
What’s the next big release or event (movies, TV, books, theater, etc.) you’re looking forward to?
I really need to start keeping a separate calendar for all the releases I’m looking forward to!
“Thor: Ragnarok” (11/2/17), “Black Panther” (2/16/18), “Justice League” (11/17/17), and “Aquaman” (12/21/18), obviously. I’m also very excited for “Professor Martson & the Wonder Women” (10/13/17). I’m happy Halloween is almost here, so “Happy Death Day” (10/13/17) and “The Snowman” (10/20/17) are very exciting releases. And I’m a Disney kid, so I’m counting down the days to “Coco” (11/22/17).
I’m very bad at keeping up with television, so I’m not counting down to any releases. My DVR and Netflix queue are both testaments to how much television I have to catch up on.
The only book releases I’m keeping an eye on — because, again, my bookshelf and library list will both tell you how far behind I am — are “Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window” by Steven Levenson, Benjy Pasek, and Justin Paul (11/21/17) and “Killer Fashion: Poisonous Petticoats, Strangulating Scarves, and Other Deadly Garments Throughout History” by Jennifer Wright (11/21/17).
Who is your favorite Doctor?
Eleven was my first — my first episode was actually the 2010 Christmas special “A Christmas Carol” — but Nine is my absolute favorite.
And just for fun, what is one iconic costume you wish you had designed?
It’s a tie between Scarlet O’Hara’s green dress in “Gone With the Wind,” Lydia Deetz’s red wedding dress in “Beetlejuice,” and Mary Poppins’ red and white dress in “Mary Poppins.”
About the Geek Goddess Interviews:
No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We’re always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who might be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email, email@example.com.
I’m sure certain people will scoff when I say that in June a movie changed my life. Or maybe it didn’t quite change my life, but it changed the way I saw the world and it changed the way I saw myself.
In June, I saw Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”
After decades in development limbo, DC’s long-awaited comic book adaptation arrived exactly when I needed it most, after months of demoralizing political and social setbacks for feminism and female wellbeing in general.
Despite what James Cameron says, “Wonder Woman” is a feat of female representation the likes of which Hollywood never seemed capable of delivering before. The fact that it also became the biggest hit of the summer, breaking records left and right, was just icing on the cake.
Sure, “Wonder Woman” is a deftly written, wildly entertaining, gracefully executed, slickly produced big-budget comic book movie. It’s also so much more.
As star Gal Gadot charged into battle, bullets pinging off her silver gauntlets while soldiers cowered in the trenches, for perhaps the first time, little girls did not have to stretch their imaginations far to put themselves in her place. They were finally granted the same delight boys have long enjoyed, watching Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Batman, or any other epic hero on a hero’s journey to save the world.
For grown women, the experience was even more profound.
Starved for female cinematic role models of power, strength, courage, compassion, intelligence, and heroism, the sight of Gadot’s Amazon warrior presiding over kick-ass action, not as a sidekick or sexual object, but as a three-dimensional hero who reflects back to us all that is best about our own humanity, was revelatory and unexpectedly cathartic.
There were tears. I assure you, they were tears of joy.
That said, it would be foolish to assume “Wonder Woman” changes everything.
For all we know, Hollywood will jump on the female-led action movie bandwagon for a couple years before going back to business as usual. The worlds of science fiction, fantasy, videogames, comic books, cosplay, and TV and movie fandoms will likely remain minefields for women to navigate. Girls and women will still have to fight for their voices to be heard, in fictional worlds as well as the real world.
What has changed then?
Personally, I’m feeling more hopeful about the potential for women to step up and take their place at the forefront of geek culture, to blaze trails and envision ourselves in roles we thought we might never assume.
This hope has inspired a new project, a blog dedicated to the voices of women who are passionate about fandoms of all kinds. It’s no coincidence I’m launching this endeavor the day before “Wonder Woman” is released in digital HD.
The title of the blog? No Man’s Land. Because this project is very much in the spirit of Wonder Woman but is by no means limited to the subject of Wonder Woman.
My intention is that No Man’s Land would be an outlet for the resources and skills I’ve honed during a more than 15-year career as an entertainment editor, film critic, blogger, and freelance writer.
Most of all, though, I want to have fun, and I want you to have fun too. This will most often take the form of shameless and enthusiastic discussion of all our favorite geeky things.
So we’ll be talking about Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, and Harry Potter, and Stranger Things, and comic books, and anime, and comic book movies, and conventions, and television shows, and books, and collectibles, and cosplay, and whatever other nerdy thing we happen to be obsessed with at the moment.
And Star Wars. Lots of Star Wars. Because it’s Star Wars!
No Man’s Land will also endeavor to highlight the stories of women who are passionate about various fandoms and express this in fascinating ways, in pioneering careers, creative pursuits, unusual hobbies, family activities, and many other avenues.
We won’t shy away from talking about feminism, politics, social issues and perhaps even subjects that are painful, complex, or controversial.
Guys, despite the blog title, this is a space where you are welcome. We’d love your thoughts and contributions because we know so many of you are on our side.
Readers, I’d love it if you would function as my lasso of truth by offering your comments, feedback, suggestions, content ideas, pitches for guest posts, or whatever is on your mind.
Let’s get out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the battlefield.
Photos: Heroic Hollywood, YouTube, CBR, DC Comics.