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Tell us all about your first cosplay experience. When, where, what.

Well, back when I first started going to cons, I thought costumes were neat, but couldn't really make one on my own. So at AWA '97, a fellow friend/coworker of mine had a skit idea and was looking for someone to be a male Ranma. It took some convincing, but she finally got me into the costume she provided and I found myself in the line for cosplay, never having seen one before in my life. Honestly, we were terrible, the best line being me shouting that I was a man... but I won a judges award because of some martial arts I performed on stage so I thought it was really cool, and the experience was very different. I liked meeting new people and looking at all sorts of costumes. From that point, I decided that I wanted to make my own costumes and compete some more.

How important is it that your costumes look exactly like the character you're portraying?

It is VERY important. I do give myself some leeway when it comes to wig styling (I can't do that well, nor do I cosplay characters with complex hair anyways), but the costume and accessories are what I spend the most time planning and making. I have a minor background in art through school, so I'm good with proportions and copying designs from 2D to 3D. Sometimes things don't come out as accurate as I'd like, but I am usually very happy with the results. As to why I feel the need for accuracy, it's a matter of my own competitive nature and wanting to make a costume that does justice to the character. If I'm going to make such-and-such character, I'm going to do the best job I can so that people look at it and say, "Wow! That's great!" I love it when people recognize the characters and compliment the costumes. I get a real kick out of seeing the ways people react, and not just to my own costumes.

How much time and money do you budget for a new costume?

Well, I've had to slow down quite a bit over the past few years due to limited finances. Since I compete only once a year now, I don't make many expensive costumes. Instead, I'll toss together an occasional hall costume for comfort. Those I don't really plan for any specific con, so they just get done when they get done. Also, I try to spend less than $100 on any hall costume (including the wig). But for my competition costumes, I'll scrounge anywhere between $200-300 to put it together since I prefer to save the complex costumes for competition, like my recent Go Nagai robots (Aphrodite A and Boss Borot). If I'm going to compete, I want to go all out and be tough competition, especially now that many cosplayers are becoming quite skilled and challenging to go up against.

What benefits of cosplay are there that you would explain to the parents of a new fan?

Well, there's the friendly attention of con-goers who want to take pictures. You can meet lots of new and interesting people just by wearing a costume. Then throw cosplay in as the perfect outlet for creativity. Take any skill you learned in art classes from grade school and up, and you can apply it somewhere! And you can also learn lots of new things by talking with other cosplayers, getting tips and advice. Although it can suck up money, I think it's better spent creating something with love and dedication than a lot of other things young teens/teenagers could be doing instead.

Are there any differences between an SF ( sci-fi ) costumer and an anime cosplayer?

Considering that my actual experience outside of anime cons is rather limited, I can't say anything definite. But from the cons I have attended, I've noticed interesting things. For one, anime cosplayers are MUCH younger, so you will see a lot more daring costumes. Hand in hand with the age is the budget for the costumes. At the sci-fi/fantasy events I've attended, the costumers are generally middle class and can afford to put more money towards their favored hobby than the average anime cosplayer. So the costumes can be very complex and ornate. But the biggest difference that I've noticed is creativity. Most anime cosplayers are dressing as actual characters from a show, game, etc. There are very few cosplayers in anime fandom that do complex, original costumes. And that's something that is all over the sci-fi/fantasy events. Personally, I like both aspects. It's great to show my affinity for a character by dressing as him/her, but it's also an intriguing challenge to make a costume out of an original idea. That's something I'd like to do some day.

Where do you find inspiration in life?

Wow... kinda hard for me to nail that down, actually. Well, my family is a big part of my life. I chose to live near my parents, because they've always been very supportive and loving. And then there's my two roommates, Rob and Duane. Although our relationships are very odd, I wouldn't be the way I am without their presence in my life right now. Rob's been the impetus for a lot of my costumes the past few years and Duane, well, he's always there when I need him. And together, they keep me grounded.

How has your involvement with cosplay changed since the beginning?

Well, I went from competition, to judging occasionally, to assisting staff at Neko-con and finally to running a few cosplays at two local Virginia conventions (Anime Mid-Atlantic, Anime USA). I've found that over the years, the best way to see the changes I want in place at competitions, is to make those changes myself. I was very fortunate to be the first coordinator at AMA, because it allows me to lay out the groundwork for the type of competition I would enjoy myself. Each year brings new changes, so it's a constant growing process, but I've found it very challenging and hard to do. If you haven't noticed by now, I LIKE challenges... Anyway, my biggest interest in how cosplay competitions are run is in the judges' panel. Most conventions run their cosplay events differently and the awards often reflect the attitude of the con. Since I think craftsmanship is key to any costume event, I put an equal (if not more) emphasis on craftsmanship judging and awards.

What predictions would you make about the future of anime and cosplay in America?

Hmm... I think things will be continue on their currently obvious path. I predict the average fan's age will continue to drop since more and more young teens are getting into conventions and anime in general... I think we'll see less and less Sailor Moon costumes as more recently aired shows on Toonami take precedence in teen fandom. Honestly, I have no idea... *shakes head*

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

Oh, I don't know. In Virginia, doing something. I'd like to continue staffing at my favorite cons and making a few costumes. I'd really like to expand into more sci-fi events, just to try something different, but we'll just see where life takes me next. I think Rob still want me to learn to ride a motorcycle! :)

See Tikki's profile here

What things about cosplay would you like to see changed?

Personally, I'd like to see a streamlined system of some sort for skill divisions in place at any given competition. The ICG (International Costumers Guild) has set guidelines many years ago, but most anime conventions still leave their cosplay competitions open to all ranges of skill, which leaves the newbies against experienced veterans. I find this unfair and see that it can really dishearten anyone just getting into the hobby ("You mean I have to compete against THAT?!") I'd also like to see the point system that utilizes entertainment genres (such as drama or comedy) as actual categories to be dumped and squashed. They are biased towards the genre listed, cutting out any competitor that has something different planned for the audience to watch. That's been a pet peeve of mine for years.

Any rumors to dispel?

Other than the occasional "She's a b**ch!" I don't think there's anything to dispute. All I can say to the random negative comments that make their way back to me is to please keep in mind just how busy I get at cons. And well, it takes me a while to warm up to new folks sometimes... *shrugs*

Tikki, I remember the first time I saw you in costume was at Anime Express a couple years ago. I had never seen a costume with built-in missiles and I was impressed with your enthusiasm. Competition is one thing, but clearly you have a passion for cosplay that is contagious and it has been my pleasure seeing your work come to life. Good luck in all you do!

Garry aka Prof

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