By Rizwan Merchant

Kairi from Kingdom Hearts Photograph by Geoff Sierra

Kairi from Kingdom Hearts
Photograph by Geoff Sierra

Editor Note: Cute Classy Cosplay was chosen as the Wild Card Team at Anime St. Louis to represent the Eastern region of The United States at the 2014 U.S. World Cosplay Summit Finals at Anime Central 2014. Cute Cosplay Cosplay is comprised of two Louisiana Cosplayers SanctuaryMemories and Oolala Cosplay. The winner of this competition will travel to Japan for the International World Cosplay Summit and compete for America against representatives of the other countries involved in the WCS.


Introductions

Tell us a little about yourself.
SM- My name is Michelle! I’m 25 years old, and I’ve been cosplaying for about fourteen years. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. I go by the cosplay alias “SanctuaryMemories” and love everything CLAMP, lime green, vintage, chocolate, and sleeping!

OO- My name is Brigette. I go by the name “OoLaLa” in the cosplay community, which is also my on air name for Lafayette’s Rock 93.7 FM radio station, where I work as a DJ/radio announcer. I am a lover of video games, anime, rock music, and Magic the Gathering. I’ve been cosplaying for about 10 years. I’m a model for Charisma +2 Models and Talent and I’ve also voiced minor bit-parts for the North American releases of a few anime titles for FUNimation. I also really love chocolate and coffee.

When did you start Cosplaying?
SM- 2002.

OO- 2004.

What got you into Cosplaying?
SM- When I was in high school, a friend told me about a con coming to our hometown, which was a first for Louisiana. I asked her what people do at such things, and among the things she told me she mentioned “cosplaying.” I didn’t know how to sew back then, but I definitely threw some good ‘ole closet cosplay together.

OO- I was working at a videogame store, and some people came in and recruited me to be a mascot/cosplay model for their new convention, “Mechacon,” that was starting in my hometown of Lafayette, La. I worked for them for 7 years, during which I learned a lot about cosplay and started making costumes of my own.

What is your favorite Cosplay that you’ve made (or worn)?
SM- It’s lame for being so simple, but my Haruno Sakura from Naruto Shippuden is my favorite. I’ve had that one since 2006, so it’s the oldest of my costumes I still own from way back when. I guess I really like my June May too.

OO- KOS-MOS from Xenosaga episode I.

How do you determine what characters you Cosplay?
SM- Mostly, it’s based on what Brigette and I are really attracted to at the moment, or what groups we’re invited to join in.

OO- I visit the fortune teller in Zelda… just kidding!
Ummm… a combination of things really. If another cosplayer or cosplay group invites me to do a series… I’ll pick the one that i fit the personality of… or one where I really like the costume. But if I’m picking one to do solo… I have a list of characters that I admire and love what their wearing. Usually heroic women from games or stoic automaton-ish women. I also like picking stuff that is a challenge to create.

Why do you enjoy Cosplaying?
SM
- I’ve always loved creating things, so this is pretty much the ultimate in creation every time. I get to work with so many different things and learn a lot of new skills. I also love to be able to embody so many different characters I admire. Meeting people is also a big plus for me, because I love all of the friends cosplaying has brought into my life.

OO- It feeds my inner art school graduate… It’s a creative outlet, and it gives me the chance to embody the characters I love. It also feels so amazing when people see me as their favorite character and come to say hello. It’s like I get to be a part of a fantasy world together with so many wonderful people who share a common love of video games and anime.

Do you have any dream costumes you want to make or wear?
OO-  Lots of ‘em actually. Lemme break out the list… *scroll of paper rolls out onto the floor and into the next room* Rydia from Final Fantasy IV, ALL other versions of KOS-MOS from Xenosaga, Milla Maxwell from Tales of Xillia, Calintz and/or Reith from Magna Carta Tears of Blood, Diao Chan from both Dynasty Warriors 6 and 7, Gwyndolyn from Odin Sphere, Lenneth from Valkyrie Profile, Miki from Chrono Cross, The girl (Purim) from Secret of Mana, Vraska and Lilliana from Magic the Gathering

SM-  I always say it’s Sailor V because that’s the costume I’ve wanted to make since I first started cosplaying and I just keep putting it off (she’s my favorite character! I have to do it right)! But, I also want to do ALL the costumes Sakura wears in Naruto, and I’d really like to make a plug suit.

Out of all of your costumes, which was the hardest to fabricate?
OO- KOS-MOS from Xenosaga episode I… There are so many armored pieces and these things attached to the skirt that looks like torpedoes… It was a lot of worbla/wonderflex… not to mention sewing upholstery vinyl (I wanted her to have a utility feel, and less costumey, because she is an android).

June May  Photograph by Josh Hart

June May
Photograph by Josh Hart

SM- I’m going to go ahead and say it was June May from Cloth Road. I could only find one reference picture, and it didn’t show the back very well, which is where the majority of the design was. Cloth Road also isn’t cosplayed very much, so I pretty much had to make it up as I went, because there wasn’t really anyone else’s work that I could look at. Since it’s basically just a dress made out of flowers, I spent months researching flower types to try the ones I thought were in the picture, and then I wanted it to light up. It was ridiculous, and the skirt ended up weighing close to 20lbs by the time I was done.

What are some Cosplays you are currently working on?
Both- Mostly upgrading and embellishing our WCS Fushigi Yuugi priestesses for finals. We’re currently working on finishing Tifa and re-vamping Terra from the Final Fantasy series, then next on the list are Love Live! idols, Wood and Flower Clow Cards from Card Captor Sakura, and Diao Chan and Sun Shang Xiang from Dynasty Warriors (from 6).

SM- Oh! And revamping our Angelic Layer costumes. We really need some priorities, haha.

Which costume are you most looking forward to wearing in the future?
SM- MORE NARUTO!! Making a new Sakura, and OoLaLa is going to be my Sasuke!!

OO- Gwyndolyn from Odin Sphere.

Do you think you will ever retire from Cosplaying?
SM- I might someday, but I don’t see it in the foreseeable future. My to-do list keeps growing instead of shrinking.

OO- NEVER!!! Okay, maybe when we’re like 90 years old or something…

Have you ever considered wearing costumes outside of conventions, for your day-to-day life?
Both – Yes!! Sometimes we do!

OO- I wore my KOS-MOS when I was in a few Mardi Gras parades with my radio station, and my Chun-Li costume to Wal-Mart after a midnight launch for Street Fighter IV.

SM- I used to do this a bit when I was first getting into cosplay. I don’t really do it now, unless I’m a con, then I might not change before dinner or something like that, but I don’t dislike wearing my costumes in public, so I could do it.

Do you tend to fabricate/make your own costumes or buy them?
OO- We ALWAYS make them – that’s half the fun of it!

SM- When I was first starting, I would buy a few pieces here and there and revamp them to my needs, but, yeah, we’re definitely in the position to make 99% of everything ourselves now.

 

In the World of Cosplaying

Oolala Cosplay as Terra  Photograph by Dinner For Two Photography

Oolala Cosplay as Terra
Photograph by Dinner For Two Photography

What experiences in your life have changed the way you Cosplay?

SM- I can think of two experiences off the top of my head where my approach to cosplaying has taken a dramatic turn. In college, an event happened that made me take a break from making costumes for a bit. I ended up diving back into cosplay very strongly after almost two years, and began focusing on making more elaborate costumes than I had before, and I haven’t stopped cosplaying since. The other event was back in 2009. I was suddenly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. That has made my cosplay production move a lot slower, so I produce fewer costumes a year than I used to, and sometimes attend fewer events than I’d like to, but overall, I’ve managed to stay the same.

OO- Watching panels at conventions has introduced me to new materials techniques that have improved my craft over the years, such as resin casting, worbla, wonderflex, and apoxie sculpt! Knowledge is POWER!

What kind of reactions do you receive for any alterations and reinventions of character designs and attire?
SM- Reactions are definitely positive these days. We come from a generation where it wasn’t really the “in thing” to make alterations to a costume, but to make the most accurate version of the costume possible. We’re just finally getting into reinventions, and our friends are really supportive of our growth, and so is the community, which is currently being overwhelmed with reinvented characters.

How do you react to the attention your cosplays generate?
SM- Thankfully, the majority of the time, its positive attention, so that makes me really happy. I don’t really consider myself on the popular end, so when people notice my work, I get a little giddy.

OO- It makes me really want to “be in character” even more, especially when you hear someone in the convention hallway calling you by your character’s name.

What are some of your favorite moments while cosplaying?
OO
- Quite a few people told me that the floral designs on my Terra cosplay from Final Fantasy were the most accurate and like the artwork. I strive for accuracy, especially with patterns and designs.

SM- When Karmaluna cosplay gave me a hug when we placed in the WCS qualifier, and Emily whispered to me how proud she was of me. She’s really watched my performances grow over the years. Also, when I received Rynn’s judges award a few years ago for my Princess White Rose costume. It was a super special moment for me, because I always really admired her Princess White Rose costume, so it was super touching that she liked my work.

Both: When Yaya Han wanted to take a picture with us for HER Facebook when we were in our Eyria and Nariya Escaflowne costumes. She’s a big Escaflowne fan :)

Do you participate or have you participated in any cosplay contests (Convention, online, etc.)?
SM- Yes. I participated on and off for most of my career, but since 2008-ish, I’ve been competing in cosplay contests pretty regularly.

OO-  Yes!

c3.1

Fushigi Yuugi Group at World Cosplay Summit 2014 Qualifier at Anime St. Louis Photograph by Greg of Archon Masquerade.

Have you won any awards for your cosplay? If so, what kind and/or where did you win them?
SM-
World Cosplay Summit Midwest Qualifier 2014 Wild Card
Judge’s Award (A-Kon 2013)
Best Overall (Louisiana Cosplayers’ Christmas Meet-Up 2012)
Judge’s Award (Anime Weekend Atlanta 2012)
Judge’s Award (Anime Matsuri 2012)
Best Craftsmanship (Mechacon 2008)
Best Look-a-Like (SunCoast Animania Event 2007)

OO-
I received a judge’s award at IkkiCon 2012 for my KOS-MOS, at Coast Con 33 in Biloxi myself and the other MechaCon mascot won Best of Show, and even though I never entered it in a contest, my Terra from Final Fantasy VI was selected to be in a cosplay print calendar for my talent agency, Charisma +2 Models and Talent.

What was the first event/convention you went to?
SM- Numa Rei no Con in New Orleans, Louisiana back in 2002. It was a great free convention, but it stopped after Hurricane Katrina.

OO- Mechacon 2005 in Lafayette, LA.

What is your stance on handmade vs store-bought cosplay?
SM- It doesn’t bother me at all! As long as everyone is enjoying themselves and giving credit where it’s due, it doesn’t matter, does it? I mean, cosplaying is for everyone, but sewing might not be.

OO- I think store bought is fine, as long as you don’t plan to ever enter it in any sort of contest. I personally don’t like any store bought costumes… they never look as good as when they are handmade. Nothing beats a custom-fit costume made by one’s own hands…

How do you feel about those who get into character while cosplaying? Do you get into character as well?
SM- As I get older, I find it a little harder for me to get in character for a whole weekend. If I’m in a group though, I’ll definitely go along with what others if they’re acting in character, or be in character for children, or something of the sort. I’m proud of the people who can stay in character all the time, I think I’m just turning an old lady. Haha.

OO- I love to be in character. And I love it when others are in character as well. Unless they are cosplaying someone terribly rude or mean… Then perhaps being not in character is better.

Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to meet and have a photo shoot with?
OO- Well, not a cosplayer by technical definition buuuuut, the one and only Felicia Day… I love everything about her. But if it were a cosplayer, Yaya Han. I’ve met her, but would be SUPER HONORED to cosplay with her and do a photo shoot. <3

SM- Beautiful photographers, come to me! I actually really admire Bryan Humphrey’s work. All of the cosplayers I admire, I’ve met, I just haven’t gotten a chance to have a photo shoot with them yet, but hopefully one day, our stars will align!

Personal Experiences

White Rose/Kos-Mos  Photograph by Geoff Sierra

White Rose/Kos-Mos
Photograph by Geoff Sierra

What would you say are the challenges of Cosplaying?
OO- Gravity and science! Sometimes the real world doesn’t want to behave like anime physics, like hairstyles or weird floating ribbons… ya know?

How do you deal with the constructive criticisms that you receive on your Cosplays ?
SM- I get really nervous when people want to give me constructive criticism on my work, even if I’ve requested it. However, I’ve realized over the years that you have to take everything people say with a grain of salt to your emotions. Sometimes, people have really great ideas that can really help you improve your craft, even if you chose not to implement it on the current project.

OO-It’s nice to get other perspectives on my work. I welcome it :)

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring Cosplayers?
OO- Learn everything you can at convention panels, ask other cosplayers questions. Like I said earlier - Knowledge is POWER! Don’t be afraid of asking for help. Real cosplayers give advice when asked.

SM- And never give up! Everyone started somewhere. As long as you’re having fun, you’re doing it right!

Outside of Cosplaying

Escaflowne Group Cosplay Photograph by Geoff Sierra

Escaflowne Group Cosplay
Photograph by Geoff Sierra

Do you have any hobbies other than cosplaying?
SM- I’m normally a pretty busy person, but I like to garden. I also like to draw, paint, or do anything creative. I love to write short stories in my spare time. I also recently started kayaking.

OO-I love playing video games, Magic the Gathering, I collect action figures, I love going to rock and metal concerts, I love broadcasting and working in radio (it’s an art form), I love audio and video editing and production, photography, acting, building stuff, and dancing (I was in ballet for twenty-something years… It’s still a hobby, though I haven’t done it in the last year or so.)

Do you have any helpers (pets) that often assist you?
SM – I have two dogs; a terrier mix named Dragonfly and a Siberian Husky named Meeka who love to be in everything.

OO-I have a cat named Link (who is no help at all when making cosplays… he usually tries to eat my thread and elastic… grrr…) But then there is my boyfriend :) He is very helpful. He’ll often pin things for me, or hold up costume parts while I attach stuff together for really complicated pieces.

Is there anything you do outside of Cosplaying that gives you ideas of what to do for a costume?
SM- I watch a lot of television, read a lot of fashion magazines or blogs, and play on the internet a lot. I also work in a fabric store, so I spend a lot of time looking at fabrics and notions and going, “this is really neat! It’d be great for x-character!”

OO- Sometimes, yes… I’ve taken many years of ballet, and have always wanted to do classical ballet versions of my favorite characters wearing point shoes and tutus… Also Mardi Gras versions of characters since I go to all the parades down here in Cajun-country…

Final Words to the Readers:

OO- Live long and prosper! ;)
SM- Never give up on your dreams!

For more from Cute Classy Cosplay, check out their social media below!
Group Facebook: facebook.com/cuteclassycosplay
Twitter: twittter.com/c3cosplay
Oolala Cosplay Facebook Page: facebook.com/oolalacosplay
Official Oolala Cosplay Website: http://phantasmalgirl.wix.com/brigetterosegoudeau