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 NineLives Cosplay
Hi, I’m McKenna! I’m a graphic designer by day (and Jedi by Knight). I’m 23 years old and currently live in Raleigh, NC. I’m a graduate from the NC State College of Design, where I double-minored in Graphic Communications as well as Art + Design.
How did you first get into cosplay?
Growing up, Halloween was always a big event for my family. My parents would help me make elaborate costumes where no detail was overlooked. As a child, I used to watch all the special features of my favorite movies to see how professionals brought ideas on a page to life. This creative passion and attention to detail brought me back to costume and prop making through cosplay in late 2015. What started out as a hobby has grown into a passion and an incredible learning experience. Through cosplay, I have learned to experiment with materials, how to budget, how to problem solve, and how to break a project down into manageable parts.
Do you cosplay just for fun or do you see it as a stepping stone to a future career?
A little of both! I’ve always been creative and like to find new ways to express myself. As a kid, I looked forward to Halloween every year so I could plan and create my next over-the-top creation. Costuming has long been a source of happiness. Since graduating from the NC State College of Design, I am constantly surrounded by design and art. I am a graphic designer by day and have actually included some of my costumes on my online portfolio. My boss recently told me that my costumes gave me an edge over other applicants, and they decided to hire me (in part) due to that skill. Even though they expressed concerns that I would outdo everyone at the office Halloween party 😉 Down the road, I’d love to incorporate more costumes into my portfolio as I continue to learn new creative skills.
Do you prefer to make your cosplays from scratch, buy or commission them or a hybrid?
I definitely prefer to make all elements of my cosplays from scratch. I have nothing against closet cosplays or those who make/take commissions, but for me, the majority of the fun comes from actually creating the costume. Sure, running around at a con as your favorite character is awesome, but there’s an extra level of pride when you can say, “hell yeah, I made this!”. People often tell me that they don’t know where to start a project or are afraid they will mess up. I guarantee them that I’ve felt the same. But regardless, I jump in with a “let’s see how this goes…” attitude. Sometimes it works, sometimes (a lot of times) it doesn’t. But no one gets it right the first time, so just keep trying.
How much time do you spend making each of your cosplays?
This can vary greatly depending on what I’m working on. I’m a terrible procrastinator, so some costumes, like my Poe Dameron x-wing suit, was made in less than a month. My Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: Rebels was made in under two weeks. However, I often go back and make several rounds of updates to these costumes. My first version of padawan Ahsoka from Star Wars: The Clone Wars was made in early 2016. Since then I have made two rounds of substantial upgrades to the costume, and even a full year later, I’m still considering tweaking a few final details.
What is your favorite cosplay you done so far?
Padawan Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Hands down. Ahsoka reigns supreme for me due to several reasons…the sense of pride of seeing what my first version looked like vs the current version, which received such a warm and enthusiastic welcome at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. The AMAZING people that I’ve met because of the costume and the wonderful memories from hanging out with fellow characters like Obi-Wan and Anakin. The worldwide community of Ahsoka cosplayers is one of the best groups I’ve been a part of. Instead of being competitive, we help each other create the best version of Ahsoka that we can be. And finally, the character herself. So much thought was put into Ahsoka’s journey and while I watched The Clone Wars (and later Rebels) I saw a lot of myself in Ahsoka. I felt this connection to the character and it inspired me to cosplay her.
What has been your most memorable experience (good or bad) as a cosplayer?
I could write a book about the positive experiences I had at Star Wars Celebration alone! I was able to meet the creator of Star Wars TCW and Rebels, Dave Filoni. He shook my hand and I received one of the world’s longest side-hugs as he stood next to me for a photo op 😀 I was also able to meet the incredibly sweet Ashley Eckstein, the voice actress for Ahsoka Tano and fangirl behind the Her Universe clothing line. I was invited to join an army of clone troopers to parade around the convention. They all made me feel so welcome and part of a huge family. Now they address me as “Commander Tano” on Facebook. Finally, getting to meet all the little kids. I can’t express how awesome it is to have a child come up to you and ask if you’re the real Ahsoka. I always tell them to feel my lekku or to rub my orange skin and they can judge for themselves. When they feel the flexible headpiece and see that my paint doesn’t rub off, their eyes always widen with shock and amazement…”SHE’S REAL!”. As far as bad experiences, I’ve had to deal with some negative comments on my social media pages lately. While it’s easy to ignore these comments or just flat out delete them, it still amazes me that someone took time out of their day to be negative to someone else :/
How do you feel about group cosplays?
Love them! Hate them! It’s all about the group of people you’ve got. I’ve had some wonderful experiences with smaller groups of veteran cosplayers. Everyone got their work done on time and we rocked it. I’ve also been in larger groups, with some less experienced cosplayers and even some who had never cosplayed before. I ended up having to make almost everyone’s costumes and while I tried to warn them about what exactly they were getting into, the con scene really wasn’t for them. In the end, I’ve learned to plan far in advance!
What cosplays are you currently working on or plan to finish this year?
Currently, I’m making small repairs from Celebration and am starting on some upgrades to old Ahsoka costumes and two new Ahsoka costumes! Besides my favorite togruta, I have an ongoing list of dream cosplays that is constantly changing. I usually don’t have a set schedule, but this year could see a Blue Squadron x-wing pilot, Will Turner, Director Krennic, Gogo Tomago, and stealth suit Captain America.
What issues do you see being the most divisive in the cosplay community and how do you feel about it?
Drama. There is so much drama in the community that it’s caused entire regions to become toxic. Unhealthy competition, spreading false rumors about other cosplayers, and even blackmail are issues I’ve either had to deal with personally or have had friends deal with. It feels like everyone’s scrambling to become “cos-famous” and will do whatever it takes to get there. I have no tolerance for drama or gossip and will not participate.
What types of characters or genres inspire your cosplay the most?
The most influential have probably been Star Wars (shocking, right?). I basically had the original trilogy memorized by the time I was 4. Growing up I always watched the special features to see how that effect was created or how they made a specific costume or makeup look. And the SW universe has expanded so much since I was a kid! It is constantly offering new characters to be inspired by.
What is your favorite part (researching, shopping for supplies, sewing, photo shoots, attending cons, etc.) of your cosplay process?
As selfish as this sounds, I LOVE having my photo taken while in costume. I consider it a compliment when someone asks me for a photo, and I’m very lucky to have some very talented photographers as friends. After trying my own hand at photography, I have the utmost respect for photographers and their art. And I mean come on, they make me look like a badass! Who wouldn’t want that? It’s a great confidence boost ;).
What are your best resources for cosplay materials?
I spend a lot of time online hunting for everything from reference photos to fabric to tutorials. If you’ve got a question about a particular cosplay, I’d bet that someone else has also had the same question. It takes some patience to search the web until you find what you’re looking for, but you can stumble upon some invaluable resources.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome as a cosplayer?
The fear of failure. I constantly have to tell myself not to worry about a project and just dive in. I find myself putting off working on certain projects because I’m afraid I’ll mess it up somehow.
Have you learned any life lessons during your time as a cosplayer and what are they?
I’ve learned that everyone’s passionate about something. Whether it be sports, movies, tv shows, or books, everyone should be allowed to freely express their fandom. If that means I paint my face orange and run around with a bunch of plastic space soldiers for a weekend then so be it ;). Do what makes you happy.
What is your golden cosplay rule that you would share with new cosplayers?
To steal some advice that George Lucas gave to Dave Filoni: “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t ever be afraid of trying something, of putting your creative content out there for the world to see. No, not everyone is going to like it. There will always be someone who wants to disagree. But the people who support you will outnumber the haters every time.
How do you feel the cosplay community has changed over time?
Considering I’m still a bit of a cosplay n00b, I’m not sure. I’ve only been involved for a little over two years, but I’ve seen some of the best and the worst that the community has to offer. I’m sure I haven’t seen it all yet. My hope is that the community will learn to support each other and leave the unhealthy competition behind. We’re all just a bunch of nerds playing dress up. No need to make it a negative experience.
If money and time were not a factor, what is your number one over ambitious cosplay you want to do?
Definitely Rapunzel from Tangled. Time, money, and skill level are all issues at the moment. I’d want to nail every detail in her complex dress and go full out with a beautiful, braided, light-up wig!
Do you set a budget for each cosplay?
Usually, no. But I typically use cheaper materials and stretch them as far as I can. As a recent college grad, money isn’t exactly plentiful, and I’m trying to save up to buy a house. You can work wonders with 99 cent craft foam, my friends!
What does cosplay mean to you?
Cosplay is a huge stress reliever for me. It provides me with an escape from reality where I can run around as a Jedi for the weekend and forget about the paperwork waiting for me at work or that I need to do laundry or have my oil changed. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. It helps keep the childish wonder alive.
Is there anything that would make you stop cosplaying?
Probably not. Realistically, I don’t see myself cosplaying until I’m 80, but even if I’m not the one getting dressed up, you can bet that my grandkids will have the best Halloween costumes in the neighborhood ;).
You can follow and view more of NineLives Cosplay
- Kutsu Photo
- Faulkner’s Fotography
- Tristan Dudine Photograph
Check out our other cosplay features here
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