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.
I’m Sarah, or S.M.Z.R., or even momo. I’ve had the handle “smzeldarules” since I was ten years old, because my dad wanted me to have one when I started drawing on oekakies! Meeting Shiya Wind on those boards was a blessing; she’s who got me into the hobby and I started dressing up in 2006. I also was on DeviantART back then too! Meeting oekaki and dA friends in real life makes me cry because it’s my dream to get to meet each other in person! Also, I’m a full-time graphic designer in Buffalo NY. Ironically I currently work at my alma mater; the definition of things coming “full circle!” Like I said in previous answers, I took a break from cosplay at the end of 2009 until early 2014, to focus on college and finding a good job. Getting back in the scene was amazing and I wouldn’t have as many incredible cosplay friends if it weren’t for making my cosplay facebook page, or being as active as I am on twitter and instagram. I love my friends so much!! In 2014, I also reconnected with a local cosplay friend I met in 2009, Rabbit in the Moon Cosplay. I literally would be nowhere without her. She’s my partner-in-crime and we even share a first name too!! I love her so much!!
How did you first get into cosplay?
I started drawing on Oekaki (online Japanese drawing) boards as a kid and met a really talented friend from Los Angeles – Shiya Wind! She started cosplaying, and then inspired me to start in 2006. Meeting her in person at Colossalcon 2015 was so surreal since we’ve known each other for over a decade!
Do you cosplay just for fun or do you see it as a stepping stone to a future career?
I cosplay just for fun! I am a full-time graphic designer though, so maybe some day I can meld the two together more than just helping friends’ out with their business cards and logos (which is what I’m doing for freelance right now!).
Do you prefer to make your cosplays from scratch, buy or commission them or a hybrid?
I do both! Sometimes it’s not even complete scratch too since I hate patterns. I HEAVILY alter a lot of thrift store clothing, and I have a dress-form for draping so it might look like I’m great at sewing when I’m really not. Everyone has their strong points! I’d rather focus on crafting and painting since I love that so much more than sewing. If I decide on cosplaying something out of my league, or if I’m just feeling like buying + altering (because let’s be real nothing is completely accurate), I’d buy online or commission. I started commissioning friends for some projects at the end of 2016 and I really love that aspect too. I offer to finish up what I definitely know I’m able to do myself to cut the time! So in a sense, it’s a collaboration and I love it!
How much time do you spend making each of your cosplays?
It depends! When I made BlackRose from .hack (my #1 dream cosplay as a kid, so I’m super proud of her), I spent a few months on and off since I got sick in the middle of the build. Since I usually alter thrift store things when I make my cosplays, I can usually crank out some costumes pretty fast. It depends on my motivation level too, but ever since I started cosplaying with friends, rather than alone like I used to, that in itself is such great motivation. I think about how much fun we’ll have in costume together at the con or photo shoot we plan to do it for, and I’m really good at managing my time. I’m a stickler for getting things done well before the event just so I don’t have to worry about anything! I think the fastest cosplay I got together was Gau from Final Fantasy VI. I think it was like a week and a half? The wig came in super fast, I already had claws and ears, made the cape from leftover fabric from Lucca (Chrono Trigger)’s scarf, got some green swim trunks and painted them, and ripped up fabric for the accessories. I just REALLY wanted to be him too. I was playing FF6 for the first time while getting him together!
What is your favorite cosplay you done so far?
Definitely BlackRose from .hack, and also Tabby from .hack//Roots. I’m so glad I waited until I was more skilled to make them. I took a long break from big cons from the end of 2009 to the beginning of 2014, so getting back into the scene in Spring of 2014 was intimidating but I got on my feet so fast! There are so many tutorials out there now, and I have so many friends now to teach me new things! Making both of them was honestly such a dream come true because when I was young I never thought I’d be skilled enough to do it.
What has been your most memorable experience (good or bad) as a cosplayer?
I think, getting to see people I’ve known from the internet for over a decade, or even a few years, in person is amazing. I legitimately cry over it because it’s so surreal. It’s even better when I get to cosplay with them while meeting them in person for the first time too!!!! Oh my gosh, it’s so incredible. I had a lot of friends in school but they never really on that “level” of nerd that I am, you know? So being able to do that with others now, it’s like.. making up for that lost time. I just want to scream how much I love my friends all the time. They are my world.
How do you feel about group cosplays?
LOL See above!! I LOVE IT!! Nowadays I usually plan my cosplays around others’ plans that we both love to pieces! I have so many dream cosplays planned, and knowing that I have friends who want to join me at certain cons/events shifts them to the top priority on my list. All of my next projects are not only dreams of mine, but also in progress because of cosplay duos or groups I have coming up!
What cosplays are you currently working on or plan to finish this year?
Right now it’s August 3rd, 2017. The rest of the year I have these left definitely: Seraphita and Grahf (for my boyfriend Raph) from Xenogears, Lyon, and Georg (for Raph as well) from Suikoden V, Chris from Konosuba, Poo from Earthbound, Leena from Chrono Cross, and Dito from Drakengard 3. Also on my docket to get done soon is Ayumi Hamasaki’s Duty album cover/SURREAL PV leopard outfit. She’s been my favorite singer for over a decade and SURREAL is my favorite music video and song of hers.
What issues do you see being the most divisive in the cosplay community and how do you feel about it?
Patreon, skin tone makeup, and “sexy” cosplay. I have my own opinions but choose to stay out of the public arguments because I’d rather spend time working on my cosplays than get involved.
What types of characters or genres inspire your cosplay the most?
TWO WORDS: RETRO JRPGS They are my life, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t be cosplaying as much if it weren’t for them. I cosplay mostly from video games because an interactive story where you play as the characters usually entrance me a lot more than anime does. (It’s why I watched way more J-dramas than anime when I was in school, so I’m behind the times!) Character-wise, I usually fall for either the geeky nerd tech person, the small tragic person who doesn’t deserve their pain, or the tan badass chick that won’t tolerate your stupidity. It’s even better when the character is a mixture of more than one of those 😀 My favorite fandoms are: Chrono Trigger, .hack and Drakengard/NieR!!
What is your favorite part (researching, shopping for supplies, sewing, photo shoots, attending cons, etc.) of your cosplay process?
Process-wise, I love painting!!!! I loved painting since I was real young so it was no surprise. Making armor is such a cool feeling because being someone who started this hobby in 2006, there weren’t as many things or techniques available back in the day like there are now. I struggled with making armor out of cheap hard plastic from Michael’s and it was horrible (I’m looking at you Aigis from Persona 3, made in 2008 kill me) But I do really love photo shoots too, especially when they’re with friends. Seeing ourselves in our badass costumes, no matter how much they might fall apart throughout the day (I always carry safety pins, velcro, and super glue just in case), really takes the cake.
What are your best resources for cosplay materials?
Amazon, JoAnn’s, Michael’s. I live in Buffalo NY so we don’t have many “cool” fabric places like Toronto or NYC, but at least Toronto is 2 hours away if I really want some special things. Also online, of course. I’ve gotten fabric from fabric.com, FashinoFabricsClub, and also Etsy occasionally. I usually get my wigs from Arda or Amazon/eBay but do own some Epic Cosplay wigs as well. My Lana (Hyrule Warriors) wig was a one-off from Purple Plum Inc and I love it. I wish they had a wider selection though, they always have very specific styles.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome as a cosplayer?
Probably becoming a cosplay judge. I myself never think I’m “good enough” since I can’t sew very well and never really competed before. But I have some amazing senpais that have taught me a lot and I’m incredibly more confident than I was when I started judging contests in 2015. They know that even though I might not be able to do some things myself, I still know what is acceptable and not acceptable in craftsmanship contests. I used to be so incredibly nervous. Now it’s like: “Hey Sarah you wanna judge the contest?” Me: “Say no more fam I’m there” I also do have some cool things to offer for panels, especially when I get to collaborate with the other guests. So I’ve got that going for me too, I guess? I just honestly never thought I’d be doing that kind of stuff, it’s still so crazy to me!
Have you learned any life lessons during your time as a cosplayer and what are they?
I can’t think of anything too specific, but I think since getting back into the community in 2014, I started to increase my already in-progress life lessons. Treat each other with kindness, have no expectations, and just have fun. If something or someone is causing you stress, stop, take a deep breath, and do something about it. Whether that be confronting someone about an issue, or avoiding an issue altogether: No one should blame you for doing what is right for your comfort and sanity.
What is your golden cosplay rule that you would share with new cosplayers?
HAVE!! FUN!!!!!! This hobby is amazing; you get to become a character you’ve always strived to be and/or build. Don’t think about “doing them enough justice” – your love for the character/fandom shows just because you are cosplaying them/from it.
How do you feel the cosplay community has changed over time?
See above answers – I’ve seen this hobby grow and change in the past 10 – almost 11 – years, even during my time away from big cons. With more and more people joining, the controversy will happen of course; it’s inevitable. I just choose to stay out of it. But I do love the fact that there’s so many tutorials and people willing to help each other out! I do enjoy saying “back in my day” too, I mean who doesn’t? “Back in my day, we had to solder our own LEDs… NOW THEY’RE JUST 5 BUCKS AND LITERALLY EVERYWHERE. Dang kids are spoiled these days.”
If money and time were not a factor, what is your number one over ambitious cosplay you want to do?
It’s hard to pick just one impractical almost-impossible over-ambitious cosplay… – Willie Trombone from The Neverhood – and Pascal from NieR: Automata They both mean a lot to me ;_____; The Neverhood was a huuuge part of my childhood; one of my childhood friends and I used to play it on her home computer all the time and Willie is a symbol of her kindness and our friendship; he’s just so lovable and tragic. Also, it’s such an obscure game, and I love the obscure life. I’ve cosplayed the No.7 version of Emil from the first NieR so I’d love to do more Drakengard/NieR characters that have that extra WOW factor! (Also side note: Emil from NieR is my favorite character in anything ever!! I’m a huuuuge DoD/NieR fan and have been cosplaying human Emil for a lot of cons because he’s my baby!)
Do you set a budget for each cosplay?
Yes! I don’t jot down specifically, but it does help looking at thrift stores first to see if I can just modify something. Definitely saves me sewing time and of course, money!
What does cosplay mean to you?
It means fun, laughter, friends and dressing up as a fictional character that I adore so much to the point of just wanting to literally make their clothes and embody them and their personality.
Is there anything that would make you stop cosplaying?
Probably not. Those 4.5ish years of not making things really set me back. Like I said, it’s like I’m making up for lost time! I have such amazing friends that are willing to cosplay with my potato self, so as long as they don’t stop I won’t either! I also think I might be the reason some of my friends keep doing it too. There are fandoms that we just adore so much; we can’t stop without making costumes from those fandoms and wearing them together! Sometimes I’d post a photo in my Future Dream Cosplay Duos/Groups Facebook album and say who I’d want to cosplay, and people would be like “YOU’RE LIKE 8 YEARS LATE.” I’d be like LISTEN I missed out when this was a thing now I want to bring back the thing (nostalgia is a beautiful thing).
You can follow and view more of Smzeldarules here
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