By Rizwan Merchant


Introductions

Lilith_Dark_Stalkers

Lilith from Darkstalkers
Photograph by Kassandra Leigh

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kayla, but I also go by the name of Avalon Cosplay. I’m 22 years old, an art graduate, and a cosplayer based out of Orange County, New York. I’ve been interested in cosplay since high school (about 6 years now), but only started getting into it around three years ago. I loved it since the beginning and there’s no way I’m stopping now.

 Cosplaying

When did you start cosplaying?
I started tinkering with cosplaying back in my senior year of high school, but I never seriously got into the hobby until the middle of my sophomore year of college, around fall of 2010. I was living in a college dorm and away from home, and I had the freedom I had long desired, so I thought it would be the perfect time to get into it.

What got you into cosplaying?
My interest in cosplay came about when I was in high school, doing Google image searches on my favorite anime characters. I honestly had no idea that people went out and dressed up as them on days other than Halloween, and the idea excited me. Not to mention, I am a drama kid at heart and, yes, Halloween is my favorite holiday.

What is your favorite cosplay that you’ve made (or worn)?
My favorite is definitely anything dealing with Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony, either her casual outfit or her gala dress. I honestly can’t decide which I like more. I give every character I do my all, but none of them resonated in me as much as her.

How do you determine what characters you cosplay?
I guess I have a small list of characteristics of character design and personality that get my instant interest in a character. I love the feistier characters, the ones that won’t take crap from anyone, and often ones with a hint of tsundere to them. I also like cuter characters, ones that have brightly colored costumes that give me a new challenge to tackle with fabric and a sewing machine. Of course, if a character’s backstory sticks with me well, they’re on the list.

Raven from Teen Titans G. Edwards Photography

Raven from Teen Titans
G. Edwards Photography

Why do you enjoy cosplaying?
Cosplaying has allowed me to be comfortable with two things that, for many years, I had trouble standing: my body and my personality. In regards to my body, I always felt like I wasn’t skinny or well-endowed enough where it mattered. Now, I’m proud of what I look like, and if I feel like I’m not skinny enough, I work out my self-consciousness at the gym or with some dancing. As for my personality, I’ve been able to become friends with practically everyone I’ve met, so I must be doing something right.

Do you have any dream costumes you want to make or wear?
I have several actually! My first would have to be Midna’s imp form from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I love her design, act just like her, and I can impersonate her laugh pretty well. I’d also love to do Amaterasu from Okami and Alexia Ashford’s first transformation from Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

 

Out of all of your costumes, which was the hardest to fabricate?
So far, the hardest has been a tie between Rainbow Dash’s gala gown, and Lilith from Darkstalkers. I made my gala gown at a time where my sewing skills were beginner at best, and I couldn’t necessarily use a pattern to make it. As for Lilith, I had to search for ways to anchor a large set of demon wings to my costume, as well as keep all the parts attached. I also had to learn how to make a princess seam for the bodysuit, which was a battle all its own.

What are some cosplays you are currently working on?
After Katsucon, I’ll be working on two cosplays next: Ryuko from Kill la Kill, and Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2. Of course, after two months worth of work on my Katsucon lineup, getting a break will be great!

 

Rainbow Dash Gala Outfit Photograph by My Sweet Addiction Photography

Rainbow Dash Gala Outfit
Photograph by My Sweet Addiction Photography

Which costume are you most looking forward to wearing in the future?
In the future, I’ll be remaking my original Rainbow Dash cosplay. I’ve cosplayed her for going on two years now, and I feel like she needs a fresh new look. Longer hair, new clothes, better makeup… she’s just one of those cosplays that I’ll always enjoy refreshing.

Do you think you will ever retire from cosplaying?
Of course, there will come a time when my career and family come before any convention— I mean they do right now, as well—but I don’t think I’ll be retiring entirely for a while. Bringing my future kids to a convention when they get old enough and dressing  them up, if they wish to be, will be just as rewarding as when I did it in my twenties.

 

Have you ever considered wearing costumes outside of conventions, for your day-to-day life?
Other than Halloween and various cosplay events, I haven’t really worn costumes outside of conventions. However, wigs and contact lenses are always in my immediate wardrobe. My hair’s uncooperative today and I hate how dark my eyes look? Time to switch to a blue bob wig and my purple lenses!

 

Do you tend to fabricate/make your own costumes or buy them?
My costumes tend to be 75% handmade and/or altered, 25% assembled. I’ve never bought a costume already made or assembled, and I don’t plan to. I just feel more proud if it’s something I made with my own two hands.

 

In the World of Cosplaying

Female Kamina from Tengon Toppa Gurren Lagaan Photograph by Bryan Lee Cruz

Female Kamina from Tengon Toppa Gurren Lagaan
Photograph by Bryan Lee Cruz

How do your personal views (religious, political, lifestyle) affect your cosplays?
To be honest, I haven’t had many personal obstacles affect how my cosplays come out. However, my parents are a certain factor that can determine how I feel about continuing the hobby. Both are very conservative, whereas I am more liberal, and they feel like it is a waste of money. Be that as it may, I’m having the time of my life and I still have a secure bank account.

What kind of reactions do you receive for any alterations and reinventions of character designs and attire?
So far, all positive. The only real reinventions that I do for characters are gijinkas, which for those of you who don’t know, are humanized versions of animal-like characters like Pokemon. Those, or the occasional genderbend. And people have been receiving my interpretations pretty positively!

How do you react to the attention your cosplays generate?
Honestly, I’m floored. The amount of positive attention is surreal, especially when my lack of confidence makes me feel like I only did an ‘okay’ job. As for the negative attention, I let it roll off me like water off a duck’s back. Even the most popular cosplayers get their fair share of trolling and negativity.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable in cosplay?
Uncomfortable in cosplay? No. Uncomfortable around certain people while in that cosplay? Absolutely. The cosplay community, while amazing, is full of creepers and people who flat-out ignore social decency.

What are some of your favorite moments while cosplaying?
Anytime a kid can recognize who I am, and address me as that character, it makes my day. I’ve even been brought to tears several times because a child thought I was actually the character I dressed up as. If that’s not surreal, I don’t know what is.

Do you participate or have you participated in any cosplay contests (convention, online, etc)?
I’ve entered into OtakuHouse, and one small masquerade, but other than that, I don’t normally do competitions. I cosplay for fun.

Have you won any awards for your cosplay? If so, what kind and/or where did you win them?
I did win one award. It was at Vampy Bit Me’s afterparty at New York Comic Con. 4th place, which I got for “just being adorable.” Yup. You read right. I’m still confused.

Humanized GLaDOS from Portal 2 Photograph by Knightmare6 Photography

Humanized GLaDOS from Portal 2
Photograph by Knightmare6 Photography

What was the first event/convention you went to?
New York Comic Con 2009. Not my most fun con experience, but it helped get me into the game.

What is your stance on handmade versus store-bought cosplay?
I believe that no matter what, cosplay to have fun. However, I have two views. The first: if you enter into a masquerade, don’t complain if you bought most of your cosplay and don’t take home an award. The second: a good personality is your most valuable cosplay asset, so flaunt the almighty heck out of it!

How do you feel about those who get into character while cosplaying? Do you get into character as well?
I think it’s WONDERFUL! Cosplay is partially a roleplaying hobby, so if you can recreate the voice, mannerisms, and lines of that character, it just adds another layer of depth to your costume and can make up for anything that might be missing physically. Personally, I love to act as my character for as much of the day I wear them as I can.

Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to meet and have a photoshoot with?
The people I am close friends with now are already all the talent I need in my life. But if I could work with cosplayers and photographers that I don’t know personally, it would be a huge list. Names like Elysiam Entertainment, AshB Images, Stella Chuu, Vampy Bit Me, Ani-Mia, Martin Wong, and many others. Luckily, I’ve met a bunch of these people, and hope to meet more amazing ones.

 Personal Experiences

San from Princess Mononoke Photograph by Dancing Squirrel Photography

San from Princess Mononoke
Photograph by Dancing Squirrel Photography

What would you say are the positives and negatives of cosplaying?
The negatives are basically the types of people you come across that don’t have your comfort or best interests at heart when in a cosplay, and I’ve met many of those. However, the positives outweigh the negatives by far! I’ve met friends I would take a bullet for, people that I consider my family, and idols that I can continue to work to hopefully reach the skill level of one day. I couldn’t ever ask for more.

How do you deal with negative and positive feedback on your costumes?
Positive comments help me move forward. And in a way, negative ones do, too. If people are going to try and waste their time making off-color or hurtful comments, then I owe it to myself not to waste my own time getting bent out of shape over them. If people try to push you down, push yourself up and over them. Make them see that their words hold no weight against you.

 Outside of Cosplaying

Do you have any hobbies other than cosplaying?
I dabble in a bit of everything. I love to draw, for one. Heck, I majored in digital media. I also love to cook anything and everything, dance, sing, act, and do Tarot readings. I also dabble in mixology.

Do you have any helpers (pets) that often assist you?
Nah, I work on my own. However, my mom’s cats love the boxes I carry my supplies in to death. Getting them out is a comedy act.

Is there anything you do outside of cosplaying that gives you ideas of what to do for a costume?
It can come from anything, really! Color schemes in nature, animals—the list goes on! Plus, having friends there to agree with me or give me ideas is a good thing, too.

Finals Words

San from Princess Mononoke 2 Photograph by  A.G. Vask

San from Princess Mononoke 
Photograph by A.G. Vask

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring cosplayers?
Like I said before, your love of the character you wear is your most priceless accessory. No one can tell you how much you love a character, or what you need to improve on in regard to your love. It is measured by you and you alone, so show it off! Also, never be afraid to make mistakes. People who have been into cosplay for years all make mistakes. Shake yourself off, and make those haters eat it.

For more information on Avalon Cosplay check out her social media below:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/avaloncos
Twitter: @AvalonCosplay