I had the opportunity to chat with Riley (Stark Raving Cosplay) and Dera (Wild Cat Cosplay) who together form OTP Cosplay. For you who don’t know OTP is terminology for One True Pairing which individuals in fandoms use to describe characters they want to see together. They have been Cosplaying as a couple since 2010 totaling 8 cosplay couples and will soon be adding their 9th. They hope to add armor work to their repertoire with their upcoming League of Leagends cosplays.
What got you into cosplay?
Stark Raving: “Actually Dera (Wild Cat Cosplay/the other half of OTP) and a mutual friend are a big part of why I got into cosplay. They had been to several conventions in the past and asked me if I wanted to go to AnimeNEXT in New Jersey with them, but they told me last minute they were dressing up. I always loved dressing up for Halloween so I decided I’d put something together the night before to wear. I was up all night sewing details and making the weapon to go with it because, well, I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to go all in. That day at ANEXT I met so many awesome people that I decided that day to attend Otakon the next month. We all went together, had a blast and began making plans for out next con and cosplays. I’ve been going to every con I can afford in cosplay ever since.”
Wild Cat Cosplay: “When I was a kid I always wanted to dress up as certain characters from Disney movies and TV shows that I loved. As I got older and I finally went to my first convention, I saw other people cosplaying and wanted to join in on the fun. So ultimately a combination of my inner child and other cosplayers got me into cosplay.”
What does cosplay mean to you?
Stark Raving: “Cosplay is a hobby that became so much more as the years went on. It introduced me to a whole world I never existed. And through cosplay I’ve learned many things about myself. The first time I put on a cosplay for a convention, I just thought of it as dress up. I quickly learned there was so much more to it than that. It’s about appreciating the character and paying homage to them. It also gives me an escape from the stress of real life; I basically get to step into someone else’s skin and be them for a day. I enjoy acting in character (though I admit I slip up quite a bit in my excitement) and seeing how other people react to seeing that character come to life. Cosplay also helped me get in touch with parts of myself I’d been ignoring; I’d struggled with some gender issues for a few years and my self image was less than stellar. The support and love I’ve gotten from the community, and especially the friends I’ve made, have helped me learn to love myself for who I am. I started out crossplaying, but as my confidence grew I added a few female cosplays to my repertoire.”
Wild Cat Cosplay: “To me, cosplay is a creative outlet and a great feeling of accomplishment. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a costume and wearing it for the first time. Finishing a detailed prop alone is enough to make me dance around my house. Cosplay has made me feel like I’m skilled at something enough to give advice. It’s also a wonderful escape from the usual day-to-day. I can go to work for 9 hours, come home and dress up as a video game character or a protagonist from an anime to go take pictures. Cosplay to me also means confidence. I’ve never felt so confident in my whole life as I have coming into this community. Along with that, the people of the cosplay community are extremely accepting and welcoming. I’ve made tons of friends over the years and have come to connect the word “cosplay” with “friends”.”
Who was your first cosplay?
Stark Raving: “My first cosplay was Reno from Final Fantasy VII. I really liked his character when I played the game, and it was something quick and easy to put together for my first convention. I bought a jacket and white dress shirt, sewed the zipper in, made the EMR(Electro-Mag Rod) out of PVC pipe in an hour, and used my real hair plus red spray and a ponytail made of a chunk of hair I cut out of a cheap wig from the party store. I later remade the EMR and got a quality tail for my hair, but the jacket remained the same and I still have it to this day. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it.”
Wild Cat Cosplay: “That depends on what is considered a “cosplay”. The first one I actually worked on was alternate outfit Sakura from Street Fighter IV. However during my first AnimeNEXT, I threw together what I called “Sexy No Jutsu on vacation” which was a dressed concept for Naruto’s Sexy No Jutsu. Surprisingly I got pictures taken in that even though it was a last minute decision that morning and I didn’t think anyone would know what I was!”
How do you choose who to cosplay?
Stark Raving: “Mostly I just cosplay characters who I like, but I also consider how well suited I am to be them. I stick to tall men and women (I’m 6′ tall), and I consider the character’s build and face as well. There have been one or two characters that I have opted not to cosplay because I didn’t think I would do them justice, and if I don’t think I’ll do them justice, I usually won’t cosplay them. However, there is a large list of characters I would love to cosplay (I keep a folder on my Facebook to keep track and get friends’ opinions) and many of them probably won’t happen due to time and money constraints. That’s where my relationship and cosplay partnership comes in. I almost always cosplay with Dera. In fact I think I can count on one hand the number of cosplays I have done without her (and its kinda awkward at the con to be honest). If one of us really wants to cosplay something and the other isn’t really into it then we may cosplay separately, but usually we cosplay mutual interests, or we introduce the other one to whatever it is we love and hope they find a character they want to be. It’s always an agreement and we both do our best not to force anything on the other (it’s rude and cosplay is too expensive to do characters you don’t like) which can be hard but we make it work. Once characters are picked, we decide when to debut them and schedule accordingly.”
Wild Cat Cosplay: “Part of picking a cosplay for me is having a little meeting with the other half of OTP Cosplay, Stark Raving Cosplay. She and I will usually find characters from a game, anime, etc that we enjoy and decide to add them to our to do lists. Generally I go for characters that I truly enjoy and connect with. Recently I’ve tried to go for cosplays that push my abilities as a cosplayer, but not so far that I’d want to quit. I also try to pick cosplays that I will find fun to make. Maya from Borderlands 2 is a perfect example. I love her character, she pushed my sewing limits and was definitely a challenge, and the props alone kept everything fun.”
What is it like to be part of a couple cosplay and how did you to meet or decide to cosplay together?
Stark Raving: “Dera and I met through a mutual friend and became friends very quickly. We actually started cosplaying together before we started dating (less than a year before) as part of the same cosplay group (Blue Steel Productions). We were all friends who liked to cosplay and, well, group cosplays are fun so we decided to cosplay together as much as possible. Years later only 3 of us still attend cons and cosplay regularly, but Dera and I still work together. We cosplayed several couples as part of a BSP group and it was a blast to wear them, act like the characters together. We don’t always cosplay couples, but we pretty much always cosplay from the same series/game/ect. We however have one rule because of our own comfort: we do not cosplay characters who are blood related. We have nothing against people who enjoy incest pairings, but they make us uncomfortable and we’d kinda feel weird acting out any affection toward each other while we were wearing the cosplays. I actually love cosplaying with her though; I always have a partner to help me with sewing, with getting into character, and a companion all day at the con. Also, it keeps awkward situations from happening at group meetups if there is a pairing someone wants or at the con in general. It’s rare, but occasionally someone will get a little creepy and forward and having a buddy, especially a significant other brings the chances down to almost nothing.”
Wild Cat Cosplay: “Riley (Stark Raving Cosplay) and I met through a mutual friend of ours back when we were both in college. We were originally in a large cosplay group with our friends and cosplayed together with them. As time went on, it became just the two of us. Cosplaying as a couple is tons of fun. We usually end up as characters that are paired together, whether by fans or by creators, and we just go with it. We’ll take pairing pictures when asked for them and enjoy having the “couples banter” going. That’s especially fun with Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. We’ve gotten very good at talking over each other.
I honestly believe my favorite part of cosplaying as a couple is being in character. Riley and I have been known to falling into the personalities and conversations of our characters for the duration of our building and sewing. During conventions and in pictures we try to convey our best performance of our cosplay, copying facial expressions, body language and whatever else we can to get as close to being the characters as we can, particularly when together.”
Anything else you would like people to know about you or cosplay?
Stark Raving: “I started out with strictly closet cosplay and commissions, but lately I’ve begun making 80% or more of each cosplay from scratch. I didn’t take lessons, I’m teaching myself and learning tricks from friends. I just want people to know that they should never think they can’t accomplish anything, there is always time to learn and improve. I’ve even started taking small commissions which is really exciting. I’m also an amateur photographer, and my page is Dapper Moose Photography. I mostly shoot cosplay and nature (animals and plants) but I’m hoping to learn more and broaden my horizons.”
Wild Cat Cosplay: “When I first started cosplaying, I either bought clothes from the store to make “closet cosplays” or had things commissioned that were harder or impossible to find, Seras Victoria from Hellsing Ultimate being a prime example. However over the years, I’ve learned how to make my own props and taught myself how to sew. I want people who are either just starting to cosplay or are hesitant to get into it because of skill to see that with enough patience and love for the characters and craft that nothing can stop you from improving and gaining experience.”
In addition to making a special appearance at Cosplay Sunday they will also be giving a lecture “Being the OTP: Cosplaying as Couple” where they will discuss different aspects of cosplaying as a couple from trials and tribulations to the excitement and joy when hard work pays off. If you are interested in cosplaying as a couple or if you just want to find out more about what makes them tick then don’t miss Cosplay Sunday, only 3 days away!
Don’t forget to RSVP to the event here!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alyssa Hesse is an intern at SPARKBOOM™ and studying Business Management at Adelphi University. When Alyssa isn’t working, she can be found on her unicycle or with her three cats.. When she graduates next year she hopes to make a career in industrial stage management.