This week’s Cosplayer is Charlene, or Shichosama. Charlene is a cosplayer originally from south Flordia, but now based in Virginia. She has amazing costume construction, fantastic attention to detail and she’s super pretty! Charlene has a lot of experience working for conventions, but always makes time for cosplay. We did an interview with Charlene to find out all about her cosplaying experiences.
Why did you start cosplaying? What was your first costume?
I started cosplaying because when I was in high school I was obsessed with anime. When I heard that there was an anime convention nearby I knew I had to go. After doing my research online, I knew that a lot of people dressed up as their favorite characters. So I decided to try and make my very first cosplay, and since then I haven’t been able to stop.
My first cosplay was Kikyo from Inuyasha.
What is the main draw of cosplaying for you?
I love cosplaying because it is a entertaining and very fun process. Everything from planning the costume, to buying the materials, to actually making it is always a fun journey. The best part is wearing the finished product at a convention or photoshoot, because it allows me to share my hard efforts with my peers, and most importantly my friends that cosplay, photograph cosplays, and go to conventions to have fun.
What types of costumes do you tend to lean towards?
I tend to cosplay only female characters and usually I prefer to cosplay characters I know and love. But there are times when I’m asked to cosplay a character I don’t know to be part of a group, but I’ll make the effort to research my character beforehand. I’ve cosplayed anime characters, video game characters, and ponies so I am willing to dress up from any geeky genre.
What would you consider to be your “cosplay specialty?”
If I had to pick a cosplay specialty, I would say that would be sewing. I am very much into detail and try my best at perfection, which is why it can take me months to finish just one costume. I hope to improve my skill with styling wigs and making props and armor, but that is going to be a dangerous and slightly hilarious adventure.
What are some ways you have been/are involved with the cosplay community?
Like many cosplayers I’ve shared my cosplay projects online through sites like CosplayLab, Cosplay.com, ACParadise, and Facebook. I can’t say that I have a large fanbase or have a huge involvement in the cosplay community, even though I still consider myself a part of it. I am friends with cosplayers and photographers of all creeds and I am always supporting their work through “likes” on Facebook, verbal and written praise, and spamming them with texts. I think in that sense, I’m more of a sideline cosplayer who is more concerned with supporting her friends and the cosplayers I admire, over promoting myself in the community. However, at conventions I’ve done my share of costume judging and participating in cosplay related events so I’m sure I’m slightly recognizable in the Florida costly community. I’ve only entered a handful of competitions and I can’t say I fancy myself as a competitive cosplayer.
You have been very involved with working for conventions. What cons were those, what did you do, and how did you balance cosplay w/work at the con?
I’ve mostly worked with YasumiCon in Miami, FL and Florida Supercon in Miami, FL. At YasumiCon I’ve worked alongside my friends who ran the convention and did whatever I could do to help. The same can be said for Florida Supercon where I volunteered and staffed the longest. I’m close friends with the convention chair so I helped him however I could every year that I attended. In 2012 I was the anime department director and was in charge of all things anime, including guest relations and programming. This was the most challenging year since I had actual responsibilities and couldn’t goof around all weekend long. Even while staffing and volunteering, I found ways to cosplay. There are times where I’m more focused on performing the job than being in costume and will run around in a t-shirt and shorts, but I don’t think there has been a con yet where I haven’t cosplayed at least once that weekend. I’m also always in costume during costume pre-judging and at the actual costume/cosplay contest.
How does cosplay fit into your “everyday” life?
Cosplay has been a wild ride for sure. I’ve been cosplaying since 2004, so I’m reaching the 10 year mark next year. This hobby has changed so much since I started. The materials are easier to get, there are a billion tutorials online to make just about anything, there is no longer just one or two cosplay sites to show off your work, and so much more! And I must say that my friends really make cosplaying worthwhile. I’ve met SO MANY wonderful men and ladies through this hobby and I can not imagine life without knowing them. I may not be able to see them very often, but when I do it is like time never passed since I last saw them. I always find myself bugging them to dish out their craftsmanship secrets and usually they are happy to share, which I immensely appreciate. I can say that I’ve learned 80% of my own costuming skills through all of them. Without them, I would have stopped cosplaying a long time ago. I love the craft very much, but it doesn’t feel fulfilling until I can wear the costume at a convention with some of my closest friends.
Your best/worst cosplay experience.
My best cosplaying experience was definitely Katsucon 2012, during the year of the World Cosplay Summit USA finals. Katsucon always has talented cosplayers, but this year so many people brought their A game. It was great seeing everyone in such elaborate costumes, but even though I didn’t make anything too exciting, I had a great time working with photographers I hadn’t worked with before and cosplaying with new friends. DragonCon was another great con where I got to cosplay with cosplayers I would only dream of meeting in person. There was no shortage of cosplayers or talent at this event either. I went for the first time in 2012 and it was like attending my first convention again, I was so excited and caught up in a whirlwind of fun all weekend.
I don’t think any single convention could be considered my worst experience, but I will share one experience that made cosplaying less fun than it should. One year I decided to wear a costume I wasn’t completely happy with, but I wore it anyways because I thought it looked fine. I was only going to take a few pictures with friends and would change afterwards. I heard someone making fun of my costume behind my back and they weren’t even in costume. I shrunk and walked away feeling hurt, then I got out of that costume and got into another, and did not take pictures with my friends because I felt awful. When I told my friends what happened they offered to try and shoot the costume again later which cheered me up, they also commented that it looked fine and that I was crazy to change out because of a stupid comment by some nobody. My self-esteem has never been great and back then it was even worse, I never felt comfortable in my skin. I think if that happened now I would turn around and tell them to step off. I’ve learned that every cosplayer will hear from harsh critics and be criticized for the smallest and stupidest things. Even the most seasoned cosplayers can have bad experiences that can be started by a snarky comment, but you just have to brush it off and move on. I know that my friends will stand behind me and that’s all that counts.
What advice would you give to other cosplayers/people who want to start cosplaying?
My only mantra for cosplay is that it is just a hobby and for fun. I admire those who can turn it into a business but no one should aspire to be a professional for monetary gain or popularity right off the bat. There are so people that will strive for these things, but no one new to this scene should work towards that. Instead, make cosplaying something enjoyable you can do in your free time. Cosplaying who YOU want to be and not worry what people will say or think. Since cosplay has become mainstream, it is hard to avoid the negative spotlight when you debut your very first costume. When I started, everyone was bad at sewing and it was rare to see a well crafted costume that wasn’t bought online. Nowadays, both bad and great costumes will get negative attention for one reason or another. NEVER be discouraged by this, cosplaying should be something you enjoy and you should not do it to only please others. Don’t worry if your sewing, wig styling, or prop making sucks, everyone starts somewhere and it can be improved through practice and perseverance. Every top notch cosplayer has had a costume they want to set on fire, I know I have. Just focus on having fun and sharing the experience with friends and it will turn out just fine.
(photographer credits in order of appearance: Nicholai Andrews, Fenyx Design, Eurobeat Kasumi, Soulfire Studios)