( photo :  Pete Imbesi    )

( photo : Pete Imbesi )

Growing up, I had low self-esteem and considered myself an ugly duckling. I found that hiding behind a mask was the only way for people to get to know me before they judged me. I was always very creative and had a flare for drama and the arts. I used that to create my own costumes and I liked adding my own touch to what I cosplayed. I really started to get into showcasing my creations at my first NYCC in 2006.

Each year, I pushed to learn more about the craft and try to make my costumes better and better. Like many cosplayers, we put our love for a character behind our inspiration to create them in real life. I geek out every time I get to meet some of the cosplay greats that I followed on Instagram, to me, they're the real celebrities; they're the ones I'd pay to see.

Believe it or not, I was able to catch an episode of Voltron while living in the Philippines early in my life, but it was called "Beast King GoLion" out there. In the US, I grew up in the 80's and loved watching the version that became known as "Voltron: Defender of the Universe". I've been a fan since and have even caught the other incarnation back in 2011 called "Voltron Force". Now, the obvious, I'm a huge fan of the new "Voltron: Legendary Defender". The animation, development of story, and voice acting is inspiring!

The process was a huge undertaking, I've never attempted cosplay on this scale. I had to be convinced by my cousin to even attempt such a project. The motivating factor was to enter my first professional cosplay competition (The Eastern Championships of Cosplay at New York Comic Con). I started gathering reference material from screenshots of the Netflix show and what was available on the internet.

From there I drew up some sketches and began by crafting the Paladin armor... Only to find out that the entry deadline for the Eastern Championships was due in September, thus putting the Paladin armor project on hold. As a result, I kicked the designing and crafting of Voltron into high gear. First crafted the head to get my initial proportions down and then worked from the bottom up. Crafting the feet and legs around the stilts was the first big challenge while making sure I could walk while wearing the entire contraption. Because I work during the day, I could only work on this in the late evenings. I had to make sure it didn't cut into family time and was able to work 4 hours every night (in between diaper changes and feeding times for my 6 month old boy). 25 days later, I was able to get a finished product submitted and another day to complete the sword. No rest for the weary though, I jumped right back into the Paladin armor project once I completed Voltron.

Honestly, I was not expecting the love and attention I received. My mother taught me to be humble and to never let anything get to your head. This whole experience has been surreal and the new found attention I've started to receive is a overwhelming. At the convention, I literally was beside myself. Both my meager social pages on Tumblr and Instagram just blew up. I was receiving notifications, retweets, reblogs, reposts, likes, etc... every second. I believe someone was counting my steps at the con and the most he'd seen me take were 6 steps before being asked to stay in place for a photograph. Because of the love of the art and the fans, I endured the 12 hours in the stilts. I even came back for more on Sunday! I couldn't be more happy to see all of the support and appreciation for my art.

There are so many [great moments] this year. Being able to share the stage with some of the best cosplayers in the world, winning 1st place in the "Larger than Life" category, placing 2nd for "Best in Show", and to have all of the attention a celebrity would get (even for just 2 days)... The best thing for me was the reaction I received from Rosario Dawson. While making my way backstage for the competition, there was a set of closed double doors. As I approached, an entourage opened the doors to reveal a surprised Rosario. She stopped dead in her tracks and wanted to take pics with me. Due to the nature of the helmet and mask I was wearing, I couldn't emote my excitement for having met one of my favorite people in the world! My knees went weak!

I learned that I should be more confident in what I do and that the hardest critic is myself. After this weekend, I now feel that I could become someone that could inspire others to make their own and to also feel comfortable in their own skin. I've even been convinced to hop back onto Facebook to create a fanpage for my cosplay

-- Law Renz (New Jersey)

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