Word of the Nerd is pleased to present to you one of our most popular features, Cosplayer Spotlight. We feature new and talented cosplayers from the cosplay community. Be sure to check back every day to catch some up and coming new cosplay talent or get a look at some well established and already famous members from the world of cosplay.
About Harley Cyn
Cyn Shepard (Harley Cyn) is a professional artist and performer with a strong nerd-and-geek background. A modern Renaissance gal, when she’s not creating art she can be found coding programs and building computers or watching quantum physics documentaries while casting two-part silicon rubbers. Flip the coin over and you have a child-at-heart who still watches cartoons, eats sugary breakfast cereals, and sings karaoke. Born and raised in the South, Cyn is actively growing her own studio, ICreate, in Arizona and working on a non-fiction book proposal for publication in 2020.
How did you first get into cosplay?
I started by making Halloween costumes for myself as a kid then graduated to hall costumes at conventions. I’ve been making full-scale costumes since I was 17.
Do you cosplay just for fun or do you see it as a stepping stone to a future career?
Both! I have fun going to conventions and events in costume and I love posing for pictures, especially with other people. I also make money by selling props, costume pieces, and accessories that I make for other folks to cosplay with. It’s my dream to have my own studio of creative professionals one day.
Do you prefer to make your cosplays from scratch, buy or commission them or a hybrid?
I make my own stuff. It fits best that way and costs a lot less than trying to buy it all elsewhere.
How much time do you spend making each of your cosplays?
I work on cosplay a couple of hours every day, at least. Some days I work from the moment I get up to when I sleep at night.
What is your favorite cosplay you done so far?
I love my Harley Quinn outfit from the original Batman Animated Series. The body suit is like getting to wear footie PJs in public. So easy, not too hot or too cold.
What has been your most memorable experience (good or bad) as a cosplayer?
I think the most unique experience I’ve had was getting to meet Alice Cooper at his annual Orphans Luncheon. He and his wife are the nicest, most generous people. The kids obviously really enjoyed being there. The Coopers fed folks personally. I’m honored to say I’ve eaten macaroni dished up by Alice Cooper. He insisted I have two helpings. You can’t say no to a rock god when macaroni’s on the line.
How do you feel about group cosplays?
I love group cosplays. If the chemistry is right you can have lots of fun. I prefer to do cosplay photo shoots with other people when I can because the photos are more exciting.
What cosplays are you currently working on or plan to finish this year?
More Harley Quinn outfits, as she’s my signature character. I’m also nearly done with Bombshell Joker’s Daughter and Wednesday Addams. I’m about half finished with a Princess Leia and Harley mashup outfit. The next cosplay I’m thinking hard about doing is either Batgirl from Killing Joke or Bombshell Batwoman. I would love to add a Marvel gal to my repertoire but I haven’t found one yet I really connect with apart from Mystique (who is too blue for me to want to do) and Death from the Infinity Gauntlet.
What issues do you see being the most divisive in the cosplay community and how do you feel about it?
Cross-culture play is a big issue. Some folks think it’s disrespectful and racist to dress in an ancient Egyptian outfit or to paint one’s skin green. Too many people these days are way too eager to be offended.
What types of characters or genres inspire your cosplay the most?
I do a LOT of Harley Quinn cosplay. We share a similar personality so I don’t have to act much when I’m cosplaying her. I just do what comes naturally. Apart from her, I tend to gravitate toward dark and zany characters. Villains and spooky types. Horror, video games, and comics play a large part in inspiring me.
What is your favorite part (researching, shopping for supplies, sewing, photo shoots, attending cons, etc.) of your cosplay process?
My favorite part would have to be the kids I meet at events. Kids love seeing their beloved characters come to life. Every time a child recognizes me and wants to say hi or get a picture, I feel like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.
What are your best resources for cosplay materials?
I use JoAnn, Michaels, Home Depot, Amazon, and eBay primarily.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome as a cosplayer?
Money and time. I have to balance my time between a family, a job, a home-based business, and two charities. Having a family to support and a business to maintain, I’m constantly on a shoe-string budget and having to improvise because of it.
Have you learned any life lessons during your time as a cosplayer and what are they?
Because of the charity appearances I’ve done, I’ve been around a lot of kids in the hospital or who are in foster care. I’ve learned from working with them just how hard some folks have it and it’s inspired me to try to bring a little joy into the lives of people like them. These kids and their families are so resilient to make it through some of the challenges they have endured. If I can help make their lives any easier, I will.
What is your golden cosplay rule that you would share with new cosplayers?
Before committing to a costume idea ask yourself: How am I going to use the bathroom while I’m wearing this?
How do you feel the cosplay community has changed over time?
More non-fandom folks have jumped on the bandwagon as the pastime’s gone mainstream. There’s less freedom to do what you want. People expect movie-quality stuff and Photoshop physiques from cosplayers when that’s just not possible. There’s also a shady attitude that’s grown that intimates if you aren’t in model shape and you can’t make brilliant costumes, you shouldn’t do it at all. It used to be anyone could throw on a costume they liked and nobody cared as long as it wasn’t indecent or dangerous.
If money and time were not a factor, what is your number one over ambitious cosplay you want to do?
Dark Lili from Legend tops my list.
Do you set a budget for each cosplay?
No. I just start buying for it months in advance and slowly collect what I need. Once I have everything, I make the thing.
What does cosplay mean to you?
It’s my creative outlet and a way to connect to other people. Cosplay has helped me through the loss of my parents in many ways.
Is there anything that would make you stop cosplaying?
Lack of money. That’s about it.
You can follow and view more of Harley Cyn here
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