Hi! I’m Rebecca, also known as the cosplayer behind Lion Pride Cosplay. I’m currently a student studying zoology at university and hope to go on to work with lions. I love gaming and it was the fantastic visuals seen in many games that helped coax me into cosplay.
Q) What was your first experience of seeing cosplay in the gaming community?
I first saw cosplaying mainly through following a few artists on DeviantART. I thought cosplay was an American thing until I went to my first con last year and was overwhelmed by the costumes and all the fun, particularly as I was at a con that is mainly anime based, but the amount of gaming costumes blew me away and I felt right at home.
Q) What was it about cosplay that got you interested in it?
I love so many aspects; I love the challenge of turning a fictional outfit into a real physical thing. I love the challenge of using really abstract things to produce certain pieces, and then that feeling when it’s finished to see you’ve finally got that set of armour. I love being in the costume for photo shoots, traveling and the cons. I love playing up to the character a little when in the presence of people who know who I’m meant to be.
Q) What was your first cosplay outfit and why did you choose that particular character?
My first cosplay was my N7 armour. I chose it because I absolutely love Mass Effect, and Commander Shepard is a character I’d love to be in real life. She’s such a strong person, and as I play paragon I feel she is someone I can look up to for many reasons.
Q) How do you go about picking a character to cosplay as? What are your thought processes in the decision making?
At first I write a list of all the characters I love from any game, film or series. I then whittle that list down to those who I would be comfortable being for a day, then shorten that list again to the costumes I think are in my ability to make. Finally I pick one I can currently afford or have time for.
Q) What’s been the hardest cosplay character and costume to produce?
Well I’ve only done the two costumes so far, and I think my N7 armour was the hardest of the two. It was my first costume so I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I’d never worked with EVA foam before and ran into many problems while making it. The overall outcome isn’t fantastic, but I loved being Shepard for the weekend when I wore it and I learnt a lot during that build.
Q) Have you had a personal favourite character that you have cosplayed as and if so, what made it so?
As much as I love being Commander Shepard, I really enjoyed being the Dragonborn from Skyrim. Partly because the costume is easier to wear and not so physically demanding, and partly because it was received so well when I wore it at MCM London Comic Con this October. I had a lot of interviews, footage and photos taken of me, and a lot of compliments. Also it was fun to yell a few dragon shouts at people who asked for it! As we were leaving the con in the evening a group of people even sang the Skyrim theme as we were all walking to the train station, which made me very happy!
Q) How long does it take you to design and create the majority of your character pieces on average? Has there been any Exceedingly long creations?
I usually spend about a day drawing the outfit in as many angles and poses as possible so I get an idea for the size and shapes of the different parts of the costume. Once I’m confident I can make it and I’ve sourced the materials I only really spend a couple of days a week working on it, as I have to put my university work first. My N7 armour took me just over a week of solid work before uni started to get it done in time. My Skyrim armour took a little longer, partly because leather can be difficult to work with, and also I included a lot more detail. Overall I put about two weeks’ worth of hours into it. There haven’t been any super long builds, but my current armour set will probably take a while as it is very large and detailed (I’m making the Warden commander armour from Dragon Age: Origins).
Q) There must be a financial investment when it comes to some of these outfits, have any been fairly extravagant?
Not particularly. I like to call myself a “scrapheap cosplayer”, because I love recycling household scrap materials to make things. I love doing that as it adds an extra challenge, like “how can I turn a yoghurt pot into a rifle scope?” as well as saving vastly on the cost. As a result my N7 armour cost me a total of £50, and my Skyrim armour about £40.
Q) A lot of cosplay creations are far more than just the outfit. A lot need extra props such as your Commander Shepard and the weapons. How important do you feel accessories are when considering a character recreation? Should the same amount of time be taken on getting these pieces as accurate as say your Commander Shepard’s armour?
I don’t think props are overly important. Sometimes an over the top prop can take attention away from the costume and be too distracting, but a prop can also help you to create the character. I personally felt if I was going to wear the armour I would need the rifle as well, because you never see Shepard unarmed when suited for battle. It helped me to also feel physically more like Shepard; I was able to recreate a lot of her mannerisms when holding the gun. I certainly didn’t put the same level of effort into it though as the armour. I only actually made half the rifle, so if you stood behind me you could just see what looked like a plain sheet of foam that was gun-shaped! My sword for my Skyrim armour was the same (only I made the whole thing). I use it more to create character than to be visually impressive. I could hold it in different ways depending on the pose I was doing for photos, and it just helps to emphasise the difference the poses like holding it high above my head in mid-swing for an aggressive photo versus laying it against my side for calmer ones. I just find that a prop can really help add that sort of ambient contrast.
Q) What made you pick your Commander Shepard’s particular look? With so many armour variants and looks, was it hard to pick a particular version? Do you prefer to keep an outfit such as that in a clean ‘original’ look or a more ‘battle damaged’ look?
I picked the default ME2 armour because it just happens to be my favourite. I think it’s the most aesthetically pleasing, and also it’s what the majority of my Shepards wear in my playthourghs, male and female. I originally made it look more clean and original, but I’m currently in the process of repainting it all to look battle damaged. It adds authenticity, and I wish I had the time to do that for when I first wore it, but cosplay is all about going back and changing bits as you get better.
Q) When it comes to photoshoots, how much input do you have in the composition of the shot? How important do you feel location and ‘realism’ is to the overall image?
I have a lot of input on the composition of photos. I have particular shots in mind, and being a photographer myself means I understand how I can create that physically. I’ve only ever actually had two proper photo shoots with another photographer. I usually take my photos myself by setting up the shot and putting my camera on the timer and running to my mark to pose on time! That’s how I did for my snowy Skyrim photo set. In regards to location I feel like a more realistic setting certainly adds to it. I feel much happier with the photos I got of my Dragonborn cosplay in the snow than I did of Commander Shepard in my back garden. Even though the focus of the photograph is on the character it really does help create the right atmosphere for showcasing the costume.
Q) What have been the reactions to you and cosplayers in general that you have seen from public both at conventions and elsewhere in public?
I love traveling in costume because of the different reactions you get from members of the public. Some people are really interested and will ask questions about where we’re going and how I made something. I’ve even had people asking for my photo on the trains and streets before! Some people laugh a little at us, but not in a nasty way. They can tell we’re having fun and being a bit silly on a train in a costume and can appreciate that. Some people look down their nose at us a little and show obvious signs that they disapprove, but they don’t bother us. I can say I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had any of the horror stories happen to me from the public while in costume, partly because I’m very careful about where I go, what I do and who I’m with so it removes many elements that could result in a negative situation occurring.
Q) What’s the cosplaying community like as a whole? Are they all generally supportive of each other or are there different sub groups inside the community?
For the most part, cosplayers are very supportive of each other. Many are kind and will offer constructive criticism which really helps you improve, as well as lending you ideas on how you can do certain things and even uploading tutorials. Naturally like anything there are groups of people that can be nasty about it all. I’ve been subject to lots of abuse from “You’re too fat and ugly” to “Your costume is sh*t”, but I never take it to heart. If that happens online I am lucky in that my followers are often quick to put the troll in their place, and that sort of comment only happens once for every 20 or more positive comments I get, so there’s no point in paying attention to it. If it happens in person I just walk away from them, I don’t have time or patience for trolls and it never bothers me. Being a female means you can also get other attention that you may not want, but I’m quite good at quickly telling people “no”. Particularly with my Skyrim armour because I show a lot of leg even though it isn’t a sexualised version of the armour some men have felt the need to try and touch me, but a swift swing of the sword arm usually gives them the message that I’m not up for that. Again I just leave that situation as quickly as possible for my own safety. A few times I’ve also barged into that situation if I see someone who is obviously uncomfortable with what someone is doing to or with them but they don’t have the confidence to say no. I know what it feels like in that situation, and also people have helped me in the past. It just shows that even though there are negatives of the cosplay community there is always someone willing to help you in various situations. It’s a real shame that there are these extremes, which is why I support the “cosplay does not equal consent” programme started by 16-bit Sirens. (Editor addition – If you are interested in finding out more about the “cosplay does not equal consent programme from 16-bit Sirens then you can find out more by clicking on this link: http://www.16bitsirens.com/consent/)
Q) Cosplay seems to have taken off more in the past few years, do you have any thoughts as to why this might be?
It could simply be that more people are discovering it. I wasn’t aware cosplay was even a thing in the UK until last year (I honestly thought it was just a Japanese and American thing). A lot of people are more open minded these days about it. Some people still don’t get it; the rest of my family for example think it’s very weird to go to a con, let alone make a costume and pretend to be someone for it, but they can still appreciate that it’s a thing I love as well as the time and effort that goes into a costume. That, combined with how contagious passion can be probably means more people can accept it and are even willing to give it a try.
Q) What’s been the stand out moment for you during your cosplaying? positive or negative.
My best memory is probably the first time I wore my N7 armour. It was to my second con, the first one in costume and as I got off the last train at the venue I heard about 5 boys from several compartments behind me yell all at once “OH MY GOD LOOK IT’S COMMANDER SHEPARD!!” They were so excited that it made me feel really confident, and I was so happy that my costume was already being well received when I had only just gotten off the train!
Q) There seems to be far more female cosplayers around compared to males. Are there any reasons for this do you think considering in recent months there has been a lot of talk about the majority of games having male character leads and a supposed lack of strong female lead character? Surely with more male characters you would expect to see more male cosplayers?
A lot of cosplayers get around that by gender-bending characters to make them female, or they just make themselves masculine and can portray their characters very well. I think that costume making as a whole is still seen as a very female hobby, which is why a lot of males are not willing to try it, but that is changing. Also people are realising that sewing doesn’t have to be a girly thing, and for those who still dislike it I argue that making armour with heat guns and foam is masculine but it’s something I do.
Q) How do you see cosplay in general evolving in the future? Are there areas that it can expand into and are there more lavish characters to be explored?
I think in general it’s going to keep getting more and more popular. In the past year or so even news crews have been reporting over the weekend of the larger cons and showcasing some of the fantastic cosplayers. Also recently there seems to be an increase in those who are willing to push themselves and try to create really large and impressive or physically demanding costumes. I’ve seen all sorts from Warhammer Space Marines to Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon where someone walked on all fours all day, or the GLaDOS cosplayer who hung herself on a frame all day to get the right shape.
Q) Do you have any words of advice for anyone wanting to get into cosplay or wanting to step up a gear in regards to their outfits and the characters they want to portray?
I would just say to go for it. I dove in at the deep end and just loved it. I really wish cosplay is something I had discovered long ago. I just love creating costumes, going to cons, being the character and making new friends. It’s such a great ego boost and has made me much more confident about talking to people as well as challenging myself to build more, bigger and better costumes and props. Even if you’re not creative start off by looking at buying a small prop or simple costume and go to a con. Cosplay isn’t all about making your outfit, it’s about going somewhere and having fun being the hero you’ve always wanted to be.
You can find me on:
personal website: http://www.lionpride.co.uk