Monday, December 23, 2013

Plus Size Cosplayers Speak Out Part 2

A few months back I posted Part 1 of a 2 piece article focusing on plus size cosplayers and the prejudice that they face. The article was met with positive feedback and I am delighted to feature two more talented and creative artists. Meet Joe Andrusky and Salemstitch Cosplay. Joe and Salem chat about their love of costuming and also talk candidly about body image and the community.




Joe Andrusky Interview

Victoria: How long have you been a fan of all things geek?

 Joe: I was a geek before geek existed. I was 5 in 1970, and at the time there were only 3 networks, and the local channels would show reruns of Batman, Star Trek, Lost in Space and Gilligan’s Island. Growing up a fan of these shows and seeing it evolve into a whole culture has been an awesome experience.

 Victoria: Who is your favorite superhero?

 Joe: Batman, again growing up with The Classic version, I have to stick with Adam West, Michael Keaton’s Batman to me stayed as close to the original story of Batman and the Joker, from Bob Kane.

 Victoria: Tell me about dressing up as Kris Kringle himself, Santa Claus! What events do you attend? How do children react?

 Joe: Children are usually pretty up on Santa, they know if you’re real or a helper guy. I comb everything out so the hair and beard look natural, and not like I just got a perm, ya know. A lot of study time goes into the character, and the suit has to look good. Kids know. I’ve never really had any bad experiences. It started as a business venture in the early 90's, I would attend Christmas parties, corporate events, and for a few years was my hometown’s Santa. It was awesome to sit in the Santa house, talk with kids, and see the wonder in their faces when their talking to you. I would watch every movie to be able to answer any question a child would have. The Tim Allen movies were a cool bridge from the Santa Magic to the Techie age. But the coolest part of all is being able to give back to the community. I usually booked myself tight on Christmas eve (home visits, businesses etc), but would stop at a hospital to visit or do something like that on my way home. From a cosplay standpoint, when you put the suit on, you become that character, and playing Santa is no different. That is why you watch movies, listen to songs, make sure your suit looks as close to perfect as possible, Kids can pick out a Helper, but when you have them believing you’re the big guy, that’s priceless. One year, I had met some friends at a restaurant that I had worked at years earlier. It was Christmas eve and a family was in the back of the room and had a 5 year old boy with them. I was still in costume and he kept looking over at the table. I went over to their table and started talking with the family, and he asked me about the North Pole, so I took him over to the window and outside were snow covered pines, and I told him I see this everyday. He thought that was so cool. When he asked how I finish everything in one night, I had to go back to the explanation from Ernest Saves Christmas, start at the prime meridian and go backwards through the time zones and you finish one day later. When I finished, I thanked the family and lil fella for their time and went on my way, since it was my busiest night. I left him with the sleigh bells I had in my bag, and went to change. On the way out the dad came past the table and paused he had to do a second glance. I wished him a Merry Christmas, and he told me I made a believer out of him. That makes it all worth while and It’s not just about what the suit does for me, because playing Santa is fun, It is about what kind of awesome memories you can give someone else by being that character.

 Victoria: As a plus size male, do you feel limited in choosing what characters to dress up as?

 Joe: It’s funny, I have 2 opinions about this that may sounds like conflicting views, but I’ll throw it out there anyhow. For myself I do feel limited, cosplay should be a fun thing, people should be whoever they want to be. I am definitely not a pc person, but I am realistic. I’m certainly not gonna rock the latest Superman outfit. I think there are very few characters for big guys to fashion themselves after, but inside, we are all heroes, so go for it. Personally I would stick to something that suits my build. I think the industry should look at that demographic, walk around a con and see who the fan boys are, every size and shape, and they should be making a character or characters that more bigger guys can identify with. I would have loved to see what Chris Nolan would have done with the Penguin. The coolest thing I saw for a big guy was at The Gotham Gathering in Niles Ohio a few years ago. A guy was dressed as Capt Chaos from the Cannonball Run Movie. I seriously had to get a pic with this guy, because some people I work with now always said I looked liked Dom DeLouise, so it was fun for me.

 Victoria: Have you ever dressed as Santa to a convention?

 Joe: Not yet, but it’s a good idea. I have actually thought about it. I have a show I’m attending in December, so it is a possibility.

 Victoria: Any other costumes you have planned for the future?

 Joe: Sherriff Buford T Justice, Harry Mudd or maybe even my own Capt Chaos.


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Salem Stitch Cosplay Interview

Victoria: What was the first costume you created?

 Salemstitch Cosplay: My first “real” costume would probably be Claudia Donovan from Warehouse 13. I decided to do it when I lucked out on this really awesome leather jacket that had cloth sleeves (on clearance as well!). I added skinny jeans, a purple tank and black Converse. Plus this gave me an excuse to dye a pink streak in my hair! My boyfriend created his own version of a Tesla gun for me to carry, and of course I had the purple gloves. Since this is my favorite show on TV right now, I had no problems watching old episodes for research!

 Victoria: How many characters have you brought to life through cosplay?

 Salemstitch Cosplay: I’ve done quite a few characters now. Claudia doesn’t get worn near as much as some others. Black Widow was meant to be just something for the Avengers premiere, but it’s turned into one of my most requested costumes. I would say I probably have 7 costumes right now, and more on the way! I debuted both Wasp and Sonic the Hedgehog at this year’s Dragon Con, both sewn by the uber talented Teh Princess Cosplay. I want to always make sure that my collaborators get the credit they deserve!

Victoria: Do you feel that plus size cosplayers are often overlooked and under appreciated in favor of the scantily clad?

 Salemstitch Cosplay: I believe that ANY cosplay will be looked over in favor of a busty chick wearing a chainmail bikini. Unfair, but true. I’ve seen instances of someone spending hundreds of hours on a beautifully elaborate costume, only to be passed by for the sexy Smurf/ Pikachu/ Iron Man/ whatever. If you are plus size, you tend to get completely overlooked sometimes. We have a catch 22…if a bigger person wears something that completely covers them, we’re unnoticed because we don’t show enough skin. If they wear something revealing, they’re told to cover up, because no one wants to see that. I see comments over and over about how no one wants to see the 300 pound Slave Leia (somehow this is ALWAYS the reference trolls use) or Superman with a beer gut. The world of cosplay is sadly still aimed at the stereotypical comics/ sword-and-sorcery target audience of undersexed males. Folks forget that geeks come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. A lot of us are trying to get this narrow-minded view out of there and spread a banner of acceptance. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the sexy Han Solo or the barely covered Spartans, I happen to enjoy looking at them myself! But I am saying that there are other options out there. Don’t look over the guy with the wings that took thousands of hand glued feathers next time.

 Victoria: What advice would you give someone who is plus size and wants to try costuming but is hesitant to take that first step?

 Salemstitch Cosplay: For any new folks, I say do it! Don’t let the opinion of a few trolls weigh you down. I am completely fortunate that I have an awesome group of cosplayers who push me to do costumes that I’m not sure of because they know that I can pull it off. They help to give me the confidence that I need to wear things like a skintight bodysuit. And if any of us overhear anyone saying anything negative about a costumer, we’re all quick to step in and defend that person. I guess my number one advice is Don’t feel like you’re alone. Find a group with the same interests who have your back. I’m not talking about people who will automatically say you look good in anything because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. I mean folks who will give you their honest opinion and will tell you when something doesn’t quite work. People who will give their never ending support no matter what you do and who will stick up for you against the trolls. Because the trolls are almost always there, no way around it. Number two is Spanx is your friend! How do you think I pull off a vinyl catsuit when I’m a size 16? I know I’m a big girl, but I do my best to smooth everything out. Lumpies and bumpies are the worst thing to have to worry about when wearing a costume. Invest in some really good undergarments and dance tights. I have no illusions about how I look in a leotard without a girdle, so I always make sure I’m wearing the proper foundations underneath. Number three (and the most important) Make sure you are comfortable wearing your costume. If you have never gone out in less than a t-shirt and jeans, don’t wear the Slave Leia your first time out. Okay with showing leg but not chest? Go for a cutesy Lolita dress. Other way around? Think medieval wench or even an elaborate pirate. If there is a costume that you are dying to wear but know that it simply will not work for your body type, then figure out a way that it can work for you. With Wasp, we knew that I am too top heavy for the dress to simply be strapless. So I had the top part boned to hold its shape and if I am working a daytime event, I wear an extra bandeau top underneath so my boobs are not showing quite as much. Every costume can be altered in a way to work with any body type, in my opinion. So go! Do it! And if you need that shot of confidence, come find me and I will tell you exactly how awesome you look.

 Victoria: Do you feel that costuming has become more about body image and less about the actual craft? 

Salemstitch Cosplay: I wouldn’t say that it’s all about body image. Yes, a good portion of it is, but a lot of us still care about the craft itself. I’m a sucker for some beautifully done seamwork. I suck at it, so I love seeing someone who can do it really well. I noticed that this year, especially, I’ve gone up to a lot more people asking how did they do that with a wig or what did they make that shield out of? I think that if you look at a cosplayer and all you can see is their body type, then that makes you shallow. I’ve seen some excellent heavyset Captain Americas, and also some awesome Jessica Rabbits with no curves. It’s all in the construction and the attitude. You can look identical to the character but if the right attitude isn’t there, it just doesn’t work. That Jessica I mentioned? She had no boobs or butt, yet worked that room like it was her own personal runway. She was freaking amazeballs.

 Victoria: Where can people contact you and view a port of your work?

 Salemstitch Cosplay: The group that I mentioned is the League of Columbus (https://www.facebook.com/groups/113797935333626/?ref=br_tf). We’re a group that doesn’t charge for appearances, all we ask is for donations of which 100% goes to charity. My personal page is www.facebook.com/salemstitchcosplay. My goal is to teach body acceptance and gender acceptance through cosplay.

1 comment:

  1. Cute! ^^
    I don't know the character (sorryyyyy) but I think that the wig's color fits you really well!
    This reminds me that I want to cosplay characters with glasses too... XD

    Costumes

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