Cosplayers of the Month: Straight Line Association (October 2014)

Being the Cosplayer of the Month isn’t about how big of a following you have; but rather doing something amazing that both cosplayers and those who have yet to Cosplay can look up to and say ‘Great Work!’. It’s all about community; and there is no one who truly embodies this more than the Tri-State Tag Team of Melanie and Lara – better known as Straight Line Association!

What they lack in followers, they make up for in precision, dedication and an overall ‘Bring It On’ attitude! So let’s travel back to NYC and get to know these ladies a little better.

Straight Line Association Link Zelda 2

Melanie (left) as Zelda and Lara (right) as Link from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The story of Straight Line Association began in 2008; and a lot of it has to do with a girl named Jessica. Back in 2006, Melanie met Jessica while preparing for a Student Ambassador trip to Japan. As Melanie recounts, “Jessica noticed I was wearing a Full Metal Alchemist sweatshirt and we haven’t stopped talking since”. After attending two anime conventions (Anime Next & Anime Boston) and seeing all the costumes performances during the annual Masquerade, they knew they had to get a group together and compete next time. Jessica said she knew some people who’d be interested; and one of them was Lara.

Now Lara had know Jessica through the anime club at their high school, so when Jessica asked if she’d be interested in cosplaying, Lara decided to give it a shot. As Lara recounts, “I knew about cosplay and always wanted to try so I agreed, even though I had never been to a convention before. Through Jessica, I met Mel and the rest is history!” The only piece of history that’s missing is where the name “Straight Line Association” came from. Well like all the best things in life, it started with a joke.

Originally the group was called O.K.A.M.I. – “crazy acronym for something” as Lara puts it. Though when Jessica was having trouble sewing in a straight line, they joking started calling themselves “Straight Line Association + Jessica”; and after a while the name stuck.

Jessica (far left) has since moved away to Japan; but the group will never forget where it all started, with this Final Fantasy Cosplay from Anime Next 2008

Jessica (far left) has since moved away to Japan; but the group will never forget where it all started, with this Final Fantasy Cosplay from Anime Next 2008

Origin stories aside, the most incredible thing about these two ladies is their teamwork. Like most cosplayers, they only choose a costume that they feel a particular connection to. According to Lara, they “always have different cosplay ideas on the back burner”; but it always comes down to costumes they’d look good in. Melanie says everything from age to height is taken into consideration not only when deciding which two characters to cosplay; but also which one will cosplay which. Though whereas their individual costumes might be up for debate, their individual strengths remain unchallenged.

When she’s not cosplaying, Melanie is finishing up her last year of law school. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to being precise and going the extra mile to plan something out, Melanie’s got it covered. Though to be fair, Melanie sometimes puts too much of herself in her work. She’s had so many accidental cuts, burns, etc that they actually have a running joke that each time she attempts a costume, Melanie has to make a blood sacrifice to the Cosplay Gods.

Straight Line Association Mars Jupiter

Lara on the other hand is a full time graphic designer for a cosmetic company. So whether working or cosplaying, she gets to use her creative side to its full potential; and neither wigs styling nor expert paintjobs can hold her down. Though when push comes to shove and time is of the essence, she has no trouble “summoning [her] spirit animal, Tim Gunn, and making it work”.

Together they have learned a lot and pulled off some great costumes; but nothing would prepare them for this past August when they were selected to be the official Kill La Kill cosplayers for Otakon 2014. As if cosplaying one of your favorite characters isn’t enough, being selected to attend the panels with the actual voice actors is an incredible honor. They both worked extra hard to not only get the costumes perfect; but even the mannerisms. Melanie even recounted how “everyone kept mentioning how I mastered her intimidating stare. I actually worked really hard on that.”

As always, I like to ask the Cosplayer(s) of the Month how they define cosplay and what people can get out of it most. For graphic designer Lara, cosplay is just another creative – yet albeit sometimes expensive – outlet/hobby. Seeing cosplay as a creative outlet is exceptionally important for Law School student Melanie who otherwise wouldn’t have many ways to express her creative side. Though beyond all this, there is one aspect of cosplay that they always hold themselves to – handmade.

Cosplay for me is taking nothing and making something out of it. Seeing my work start from a thought and move all the way to completion is a huge satisfaction for me – Lara

To make something out of nothing is truly a fantastic feeling. Though whether you compete against others or yourself, there’s always that feeling of community in cosplay that makes it most admirable. Whether you make friends or plan group costumes, “it’s a great bonding experience” – as Melanie puts it. Though it’s not just other cosplayers you can bond with; but non-cosplayers as well.

I also love the reactions from people whether it’s my family, a stranger, or people that have been following my work. I’ve had people run up to me, hug me and tell me that I’m their hero. It’s kind of nuts since the only thing I did was make a costume and wear it but if it also makes someone else happy, it’s even better. – Lara

So what’s next for Straight Line Association? Well you can actually see them this weekend at New York Comic Con where they will once again work with Aniplex and return to help with the Kill La Kill panel. Additionally, you can also see them debut their Sailor Uranus and Neptune costumes – which are looking amazing by the way! Further down the line they even have Might Morphin Power Rangers and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood cosplays in the works, which are going to be awesome!

I could seriously go on and on about these two. They have their own styles; but come together to make some truly awesome costumes. More than that, they learn from each other and just have fun doing it, which is what cosplay all about! And if they need to add a performance to their cosplay; all the better! After all, they did win Best Performance at Otakon 2010 for their Pokemon Remix of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” … yah, THAT happened – and there’s video evidence!

To keep up with these Pokemon Master rising stars of Cosplay, be sure to ‘Like’ Straight Line Association on Facebook. Also if you’re attending this year’s New York Comic Con, then keep an eye out for them; and meet this month’s Cosplayers of the Month!

*All photo credits go to their original takers, including but not limited to Adam Jay, Daniel Seiter, and Senén Llanos.

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