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About Cheshsmiles Cosplay
Morgann Elizabeth, otherwise known as Cheshsmiles Cosplay, is a 20 year old college student in Southern California. She’s been cosplaying for around eight years now.
How did you first get into cosplay?
I actually first got into cosplay after discovering cosplay skits and such on YouTube. I was really into Kingdom Hearts in middle school and I found several videos and series people had made with their friends dressed as the characters from the game. I saw how much fun they were having, and how cool they looked, and I wanted to have something like that with my friends.
Do you cosplay just for fun or do you see it as a stepping stone to a future career?
I definitely see it as a stepping stone into a future career. I’d like to work in the entertainment industry once I am out of school, whether it be designing or making costumes for movies, or being on the screen myself, and I think cosplay is certainly helping lead me in that direction.
Do you prefer to make your cosplays from scratch, buy or commission them or a hybrid?
Typically, my costumes are hybrids. I always push myself to my skill limits, but there are some things I know I’m not yet ready to tackle. I’ll buy accessories like for example, my Widowmaker helmet was from JoyCos, or I’ll buy a base garment that I can build upon. Sometimes I’ll purchase a cosplay, but it always feels better to wear something you put a lot of hard work into, so I always try my best to make most if not all of my costume.
How much time do you spend making each of your cosplays?
It depends really. There are some cosplays I can whip out in a few days or weeks, but others I’ve worked on for six months or even more. It mostly depends on the complexity of the costume, how much sewing it requires, and the amount of time I have before the convention.
What is your favorite cosplay you done so far?
I’d have to say Officer Vi from League of Legends. It was really my first cosplay where I sewed and made every little piece and it took a lot of time and effort to finish. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into her, and I have to say I’m really happy with the outcome.
What has been your most memorable experience (good or bad) as a cosplayer?
Kikori Con is a really tiny con up in a little hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 2015, I went up there with a friend with the purpose of taking some great photos and meeting the English voice actor for Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill La Kill: Carrie Keranen. I attended her panel, where she talked about a long-lasting prank with a fellow VA where they leave peppermint bark around each other’s houses and cars and such. Carrie actually hates peppermint bark, and she told us how dark chocolate is really her absolute favorite. Being a fellow dark chocolate lover, I thought it would be fun to buy her some and maybe manage to snap a selfie with her. When I couldn’t find her around the con, I actually ended up tweeting her and she quickly responded asking where I was at. We met up in the hotel lobby, and I was actually dressed as Satsuki, which she loved! We ended up talking about Kill La Kill, cosplay, and conventions for almost an hour! It was really great, and it made me appreciate the English dub, even more, hearing about how much the actors cared and love the show themselves. I guess this is more of a fangirl experience, but without cosplay, it never would have happened!
How do you feel about group cosplays?
I live for group cosplays! I do them frequently with my friends since we do in-character panels at almost every convention we go to. It’s always so much fun to dress up with the people you love as the characters you love.
What cosplays are you currently working on or plan to finish this year?
Right now I’m working really hard on Kindred from League of Legends. I’m doing Lamb and she is doing Wolf. We’ve been designing and working on it for a few months now and we plan on debuting it at Phoenix Comicon 2018 and entering in the Masquerade for the first time. I’ve also got Talon Widowmaker and Valeera from World of Warcraft on my to-do list.
What issues do you see being the most divisive in the cosplay community and how do you feel about it?
With cosplay becoming more mainstream over the past few years, there’s been an influx of people at cons and even more who follow the culture online. While I find this to be a great thing, I think it’s caused quite a bit of ‘gate-keeping’ from fans. I’ve run into too many people who judge based on who you’re cosplaying, how you’re cosplaying, and a lot of guys who try really hard to test female cosplayer’s knowledge of whatever she’s cosplaying from to see if she’s ‘a real fan.’ I really noticed this when Suicide Squad came out, which brought in a whole lot of new Harley Quinn fans.
There were so many comments online slut-shaming girls for dressing up as Harley Quinn and calling them fake fans because they MUST have only just found out about her through Suicide Squad. I saw one guy on Instagram spouting out about how one girl ‘probably never even picked up a comic in her life’ and I was unable to resist replying with “Well, Harley Quinn didn’t originate in a comic book, so I guess it doesn’t matter, does it?” He then turned on me, claiming I must have walked out of the theater and just googled her, otherwise I would have never known she was originally supposed to be a one time character on Batman the Animated Series.
I had my Suicide Squad costume done a year prior to the release, and I’ve actually been a fan of Harley since I was 11, but because of my gender and choice of cosplay, he labeled me a ‘fake geek girl’ with little to no evidence. I really hate this mindset, because regardless of whether or not someone has loved a character since they debuted or if they found out about them a week ago, they’re still a true fan and have every right to cosplay and love the character as much as someone who has loved them for years has. We’re all just a bunch of nerds in costumes, and we should be happy to share the craft and the fandom love with everybody, not just the longtime fans.
What types of characters or genres inspire your cosplay the most?
I don’t think I have a specific genre that I’m drawn to, but I certainly am drawn to the Femme Fatale types, like Widowmaker, as well as the quirky/crazy villain types like Harley Quinn and Jinx.
What is your favorite part (researching, shopping for supplies, sewing, photo shoots, attending cons, etc.) of your cosplay process?
I really think research, and then attending the con are my two favorite parts of cosplaying. I love putting things together in my head, figuring out new ways to make something, and doing several sketches of my next cosplay. Don’t get me wrong, I like the process of making the costume, but sometimes the stress and the stabbing myself in the finger repeatedly with sewing needles can really get to me, but then con itself then feels like a reward for all of the hard work that went into making my cosplay. Finally becoming the character, and having others appreciating what I’ve made, makes every single needle prick and glue gun burn worth it.
What are your best resources for cosplay materials?
Michaels is a must, as well as Hobby Lobby, Amazon, and Joanns, but I also really like finding pieces at places like the dollar store, and even just from around my house. I really enjoy making my props out of recycled and re-purposed materials.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome as a cosplayer?
My self-esteem used to be really, really, low when I was younger. I had gained a lot of weight during high school, and even though I still cosplayed, I edited the hell out of all my photos. I always wanted to look my best, and I wanted to look a lot skinnier than I actually was. Don’t get me wrong, anybody regardless of size and shape can cosplay whatever they want and they can ROCK it, but I didn’t feel my best. I’d get con photos back and cry because I had a double chin, or because my stomach looked wide, or my arms looked fat. Cosplay used to be my escape from my low self-esteem, but at that point in my life, it was making it worse. I didn’t want to lose the hobby that I loved so much to my crippling self-image. When I decided I wanted to cosplay Ryuko Matoi from Kill La Kill in her famously skimpy Life Fiber Synchronize outfit, I spent four months working out, eating better, and it was NOT easy, but it was so worth it. Cosplay pushed me to become a better me, and to become a happier, healthier, me. I wore that cosplay and I felt good. I’d never felt good in anything that showed so much skin. It was empowering, and I started to love myself and cosplay again. Overall I lost 35lbs and now cosplay builds me up instead of tearing me down.
Have you learned any life lessons during your time as a cosplayer and what are they?
You do NOT have to be the best at everything, I used to make myself sick trying to be a perfectionist and get every single detail right, but once I started taking a little bit of creative freedom I found myself to be a lot happier and my cosplays didn’t suffer because of it. As long as you are happy with the outcome of your work that is ALL that matters. You don’t have to be perfect!
What is your golden cosplay rule that you would share with new cosplayers?
Pattern, for the love of all things good, pattern your props, pattern your costume, pattern everything. It took me years to finally start making my props out of construction paper before I built them and it saved me a lot of time, trouble, and stress in the long run. It’s worth it. Trust me.
How do you feel the cosplay community has changed over time?
It has definitely gotten a lot bigger. When I got into cosplay, it wasn’t exactly a small subculture but I was kind of the weird kid for dressing up in costumes and going to Comicon. Now, these cons are HUGE and when I mention cosplay to people they actually know what I’m talking about and think it’s cool! I think some parts of the community have become a lot more open too, more experienced cosplayers are willing to offer tricks and tips and help to beginners and beginners feel more welcome because of it. Most of the time it’s a very tight-knit and positive community!
If money and time were not a factor, what is your number one over-ambitious cosplay you want to do?
I’ve always wanted to do a rococo version of Princess Peach. The dress, the wig, everything would take so much time, money, and skill that I don’t have quite yet, but I won’t say it’s totally impossible. Maybe one day.
Do you set a budget for each cosplay?
I should, but I don’t. I don’t even keep track of how much I spend. I try and add it up near the end and just cringe because I’ve spent so much. I’m trying to keep track of my spending for Kindred this time, so we’ll see how much money actually goes into my costumes. (Spoiler alert: it’s too much.)
What does cosplay mean to you?
It’s a way to escape the stress of everyday life. Going to cons is like entering an entirely different world sometimes, cut off from real-world problems. It’s also a family to me. I’ve met some of the most amazing people and lifelong friends through cosplay, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Is there anything that would make you stop cosplaying?
I really don’t think so. I worry about getting older and hitting a point where I’m too old to cosplay, but I really can’t see it happening. There’s plenty of older cosplayers in the community, and I think I’ll just keep on going until I physically can’t anymore!
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