So what is ‘Cosplay’? Short for “costume play”, you’ve probably seen it before on the internet or in person at conventions. Though do you actually know what it means? Do you ever stop to wonder about the person behind the mask, or wig, or fully automated Ironman suit? Well that is exactly what I’ll be exploring in my new “Cosplayer of the Month” section, where we will get a chance to meet some of the amazingly talented men and women behind the costumes, and learn a bit more about the cosplay community itself.
So where do you start when there are countless cosplayers all over the world – each with their own unique styles and specialty? Honestly, there is only one choice: Katie George, also known as Katie Cosplay.
She’s the ‘Girl Next Door’ with a Masters in Cosplay. Seriously though! She graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Costume and Makeup Design, has 10 years of experience in which she’s made over 80 different costumes and even represented the US at the World Cosplay Summit in 2012. Though a cosplayer is much more than just the sum of her/his costumes and awards. I got a chance to chat with Katie and learn a bit more about the person under the wigs and armor.
Now I first met Katie last year at New York Comic Con; and I can honestly say that whether in person or through hectic back and forth messages, she is one of the most charming and down to Earth people you could ever meet. In fact, I didn’t even realize she was a professional cosplayer at first – again, sorry – but as it turns out, she doesn’t even consider herself a ‘professional cosplayer’.
I’ve been known to promote my Storenvy to sell a few prints, costumes, or wigs; but I still would never call myself a “professional cosplayer”. I don’t cosplay for a living – it’s still just a hobby that’s funded 99.99% out of my own pocket.
So just because someone is absolutely amazing at cosplay and has tons of awards, it doesn’t necessarily make them a ‘professional cosplayer’. Come to think of it, it actually doesn’t even seem fair to think of cosplay in terms of ‘professional vs nonprofessional’ because those who are able to make a living off of it are few and far in between.
I think the cosplayers that get into this to make a living off of it are the exception, not the rule. Like, less than 1%. The other 99%+ are just nerds who wanted to represent their fandom in a fun, creative fashion, who might have happened to gain a few followers along the way.
At the end of the day, you have to love what you do. Whether or not you make a ton of money or win award after award, you have to love cosplay first and foremost. Katie confirmed that if there were one cosplay rule to live by – a Cosplay Commandment as I joked– it would absolutely be “Thou Shalt Cosplay for Thyself!”
Now as I said earlier, there’s a lot more to a cosplayer than just costumes and awards. So when Katie isn’t working on a new costume, she’s working at an awesome Marketing company based in Atlanta. Now before you ask, yes, her coworkers know about her ‘secret identities’ – and find it really fascinating. Though whereas most people might keep their work and creative sides separate, Katie takes what she learned from both and uses it. From Katie-themed 12 Days of Christmas to Mother’s Day Countdown – based on her mom’s favorite costume choices -, Katie knows how to keep her fans smiling. It’s adorable and silly reasons like these why I feel the title ‘Cosplayer Next Door’ just suits her perfectly.
I get a big kick out of taking what I learn from my job and adapting it to my [Social Media] pages with a silly, Katie-twist. Although I positively LOVE the idea of being “the Cosplayer Next Door” (that is SO marketable!), I’d say we’re ALL “cosplayers next door!”
As you can see, “one of the most down to Earth people you could ever meet”. When she’s not working or cosplaying you can find her going out with her friends, eating – she loves eating – and just generally being fun and social. Though beyond that, I had heard rumors of Katie’s deep and all-consuming love for all things karaoke. Well since my friend and I are huge karaoke-ers, I had to find out for myself just how true these rumors were – and what her go-to songs were.
YOU HEARD RIGHT! I love karaoke way too much. I try to always mix it up every time I go, so my friends don’t hear the same songs over and over again, but my classic go-to’s are “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” from Hercules and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” because I LOVE a good power ballad!
Considering Hercules is my personal favorite Disney movie, I HIGHLY approve of those go-to song choices. Hmmm, note to self: Have a massive karaoke night with Katie.
With all this experience, it’s hard to imagine that there’s anything Katie can’t handle – at least in terms of cosplay. Though as any cosplayer will tell you, there’s always something new to learn and skills that can be sharpened. Katie’s sewing skills might be second to none; but she admits that her prop making skills are “pretty weak,” which is why she has yet to finish a Catwoman costume she started approximately two years ago for The Dark Knight Rises. Katie reveals that, “tackling her belt/goggles/mask makes me keep putting this costume off month after month after month… “.
Though despite all these setbacks, I’m confident she’ll add those skills to her resume soon enough and finally finish that Catwoman costume pur-fectly. Why? Because if cosplayers are anything, they are some of the most creative and tenacious people you will ever meet. No matter how simple you start, every success and failure teaches you something that you take with you for the rest of your life – whether in costuming, work or life itself. You just have to be open to it.
Though sadly, there will always be a few people that take a more critical/closed minded approach than others. There has been a fair amount of outcry lately about what some people refer to as “Sexy Cosplay”, which are costumes that are a bit more revealing than others. Some say it’s a disgrace to cosplay while others – most – still see it as the freedom of expression and creativity that all cosplayers are given. Now Katie usually strives for total – or close – accuracy in her cosplays so she’s never taken part in it that much; but I still wanted to get her opinions on the matter.
There’s tons of cosplay out there as well as very different levels of acceptance depending on what country you’re in. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sexy cosplay as long as everyone’s having a good time. Just because one cosplayer wouldn’t have fun designing, making, and wearing sexy cosplay, it doesn’t mean they can project their values onto all other cosplayers…. But that’s certainly not to say that if the perfect idea struck me, I wouldn’t do it due to some moral objection to sexy cosplay.
Just because someone decides to make a sexy version of a costume, it doesn’t make them any less creative than the people who aim for 100% accuracy. And it certainly doesn’t inherently say something about the cosplayer’s morals either. I completely agree with Katie here. “Too many cosplayers waste precious time and energy hating sexy cosplay online or at cons instead of enjoying what it is about cosplay that THEY enjoy.“ Again, it all comes down to that Cosplay Commandment of “Cosplay for Thyself”. If you are so busy being critical of other people’s costumes and choices, you’ll miss out on what cosplay is all about.
In closing, I asked Katie what she thought the BEST thing about cosplay was. What was the one fact that not only makes it worthwhile for her; but also can make it fun for anyone? Well if this article has taught you anything, it’s that cosplay is never so cut and dry. Though there are two perks of cosplay that stand out above the rest.
I think cosplay can be a great confidence booster for those who are shy – unfortunately, I’ve never been shy, so I don’t get to reap those benefits. But cosplay is also a wonderful way to make friends. All my closest friends and even my significant other would not be in my life were it not for cosplay. If that’s not a reason to be glad I discovered the hobby, then there are still a million others.
So there you have it folks. Hopefully you learned a little something about cosplay and one of the amazing people who do it. So next time you’re at a convention, give it a shot! Whether for new friends or a newfound confidence in yourself, there is so much to gain and enjoy.
I’d like to take a second to thank Katie George again for this interview and hope to see her at this years New York Comic Con. Either way, be sure to check Katie out on social media – Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – to keep up to date on her latest projects to see what’s coming next.
*All photo credits go to their original takers, including but not limited to Joseph Chi Lin, Paul Tien, LJinto, JwaiDesign Photography, Affliction Cosplay Photography, Martin Wong, Sweet Sensation Photography and many more.