This is Ms. Fortune from the indie fighting game Skullgirls. Thanks to the powers of a gem, she’s kind of built like a puppet. She can cast out her limbs, throw her head at her opponents, and turn her tail into a weapon. The yarn ball is because she has a special move where she uses a large red one to tangle her enemies, or play with it as an award for a victorious brawl. Ms. Fortune was my favorite character to play in Skullgirls!. I saw a lot of myself in her besides physique, such as her energy and playfulness. She’s also just so badass and confident. I had to cosplay her. So I did.

At the time I created the cosplay, it was the middle of the semester at University. With no sewing machine of my own and a tiny budget, I repurposed, bought, and tweaked most of the cosplay. I already had the contacts, wig, shorts, yarn ball, and acrylic paint. When time and permission allowed, I assembled the choker, tail, bra, leg… things, and utility pouches at a friend’s place or in the theater department’s costume workshop. To paint the tights, I would actually wrap plastic wrap over my legs before putting on the tights so that I could paint them.

I always like to learn something new with each of my cosplays, no matter how big or small the lesson is. It’s definitely a learning process, and a big part of that is making mistakes - mostly during the construction process and, God, do I make a lot of them! Even in the pictures, which were during my first run of this cosplay, a few things are obvious. But you learn through trial and error. Sometimes things end up working in your favor! I couldn’t get the tail to stay erect day of. I attached the tip to dental floss, which can act as a strong thread, and attached that to my glove. I liked having that extra movement.

When I’m Ms. Fortune, the response is so energetic and empowering. People were ecstatic that I shared their passion for the game. It’s always a brief moment of human connection, but it’s there, and it’s a wonderful burst of escapism where you ARE that character. It’s my favorite part of the whole experience. She’s such a fun, badass character to emulate, and I think the effort was appreciated. I got really into it!

Once, someone in the dealer’s room told me that Christina Vee was signing autographs nearby. Christina voiced Cerebella, who kills Ms. Fortune at the end of their storyline. I should preface this by stating that I’m far sighted, have astigmatism, and have a very bad habit of not wearing my glasses on the con floor. So, with glasses in my con bag and not on my face, I immediately ran over to her very large (and blurry) sign and pretended to be indignant. “YOU KILLED ME!”

I did not see the podcast interviewers with her until I was much more closer up. I apologized profusely. Thankfully she got such a great kick out of it! Every cosplay has its story, and this is one of my favorites, even if it is a bit of a cautionary tail. Also, practically everybody asked me if I could take my head off. The answer is still no, I cannot. Sorry.

The first time I was introduced to cosplay – and ever saw cosplay, really- was when I attended a concert at Anime USA with a friend of mine. We went for one night for the sole purpose of attending the Versailles Philharmonic Quintet concert, one of their first in the states. And when I saw all the cosplayers, I don’t really know what to say except that I was instantly enthralled. Instantly. Some of my favorite movies are The Lord of the Rings original trilogy, and part of that love was the inspiring efforts of Weta Workshop and the wardrobe teams. So seeing stuff like that in person? And realizing that anybody, including me, had the potential to do that, even on a smaller scale? Blew my mind. My mind was made up. I was going to cosplay.

For my debut, I decided I wanted to be Road Kamelot from D. Gray Man, one of my favorite manga at the time. I thrifted and repurposed most of the parts. A friend of mine who works with metal made me her cross. The one major downer was the wig. I did some research on spiking wigs and cutting bangs, but it still ended up looking like an atrocity. I was better off going to the con wigless, so I did. I went without doing her makeup, too, because I was a bit discouraged about the wig.

I don’t remember how most of that day went. It was a long time ago, and I was so overwhelmed by the convention. Nobody really approached me, which is always a little disappointing, but I had a blast, and I felt like I fit in. But then, at a panel, my dad struck up a conversation with a cosplayer sitting nearby us, who happened to be dressed as a protagonist from the same series. She looked amazing. I don’t remember much from that interaction, but I remember that she was really friendly and encouraging. We bonded over our love for the series. She complimented my sorry attempt, offered to do my forehead crosses, and encouraged me to keep going.

It’s a faint memory, but I still remember how profoundly grateful and moved I was by her comradery.

If I could go back in time to give myself advice, I’d say that one of the most important things to realize in this community is that the only person you’re competing against is yourself and you’re improving on your own time, not somebody else’s. Don’t stress or be discouraged when you think you’re not as good as your peers. Trust me. You are. I’d also tell myself “If nobody died, everything’s fine.” It’s a hyperbole that reminds me to breathe. Cosplay mishaps are not the end of the world. You’re going to make mistakes, often and hard. When that happens, you need to walk away, especially if you’re frizzled out and frustrated beyond relief. Sleep on it and get back to the problem the next day, the next week, or, yes, even after the con. I promise you’ll make things work. Also, for the love of all that is holy, wear your glasses.

At first, I was nervous to tell my parents about cosplay, but they were surprisingly cool with it! They’re very supportive, though maybe a little weary at times. Cosplay is not a tidy hobby. I don’t really talk about cosplay at work, as I try to keep that mostly separate. But my close friends are very supportive, though they themselves prefer not to cosplay much. I didn’t really need to explain anything to them as we all share similar interests. They support me with their advice, the much needed aid at cons, and influence my pick of characters. A close friend of mine even helped brainstorm and really godfathered my name. The past two years, I’ve even gotten my partner to cosplay with me. Cosplay is much more fun when you share that experience with others!

Part of what makes cosplay so important to me is partially because there’s a great satisfaction in knowing that you brought to life a character with your own two hands and knowledge. I’m the sort of person who likes to keep themselves busy by challenging myself. Cosplay is such an innovative hobby. You have to push yourself and learn new skills. It’s a great moral booster and the escapism is wonderfully freeing. It’s helped me feel that I have control over my life, and further, that I look damned good doing it. So, really, cosplay has really strengthen me as an individual.

- Helio Pixy