Today I interviewed Constantine in Tokyo, a well regarded, popular cosplayer. She also runs a pretty interesting blog called TakoPop.
You can find her main site here
and you can find her twitter page here
HandyAnimeAndy: What was the first Convention you went to? Who or what made you want to go to this Convention? Why?
Constantine In Tokyo: My first convention was an Anime Expo back in…oh gosh, I can’t remember the year! Sometime in the early 2000s. I was 15 years old and visiting family in Pasadena and I managed to convince my father to drive my cousin and I down to the con! Of course, I was a pretty hardcore anime fan in high school, so my reasons for wanting to go to a con are pretty self-explanatory! While browsing through the convention guide for AX, I happened to see an advertisement for Nan Desu Kan – an anime convention in Denver, CO. I lived in Colorado during high school, so NDK was obviously a much closer option for me and I attended that convention that year too. The rest is history I guess.
Andy: What made you first get into cosplaying? Where you already sewing or did you have to learn how to sew from the basics? What was your first cosplay? Did you make it or buy it? Why?
CIT: Well, I first discovered cosplay via the internet – though when I was in high school, cosplay had a much smaller online presence (very different from how it is now). I saw a few snapshots of people wearing costumes based on anime characters and after seeing cosplay in person at Anime Expo, I knew it was something that I wanted to do! I’ve always been very interested in costumes – Halloween was a very serious time of year for me and even before I was interested in anime I loved fantasy, sci-fi novels and film. I think anyone who likes fantasy and sci-fi fiction can understand the appeal of getting to dress up in costumes! Or maybe I just have a tenuous grasp on reality…
Another big influence was my mother – she has a degree in fashion design and made a lot of Halloween costumes for me when I was in elementary school. By the time I was in high school, she had taught me the basics of sewing. I started making my own costumes, Or…I should say ATTEMPTING to make my own costumes. However, when I was a teenager, I really didn’t have the patience or attention span to finish a sewing project all the way.
I suppose my first ‘cosplay’ costume was Jesse from Team Rocket (Pokemon), which I made with the assistance of my mother during my first year of high school. Back then, buying a cosplay costume online really wasn’t an option (hell, the amount of online cosplay resources was miniscule and I remember having very slow dial-up internet). So, if you wanted to cosplay, you HAD to make it yourself. It’s actually pretty amazing how easy it is to buy costumes online now!
Andy: You have a very amazing Cheetarah cosplay, tell me the steps of how you created her cosplay. What in your opinion was the part of the Cheetarah cosplay that made it come to life for you?
CIT: Cheetara isn’t an extremely popular character to cosplay as (though I hope that will change!),I really wanted to do my best to bring her character to life. Sometimes it can be very difficult to translate a cartoon into reality – are there frequently design elements that defy gravity and something that looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily translate well into 3D.
First, I broke down her costume. It really isn’t very complicated – an orange leotard, yellow tights and one yellow sleeve, and orange gauntlet, and orange boots. However, I noticed that in the few cosplays I’d seen of her, that the costume just looked too flat and boring. If you think about the Thundercats, they are an alien species with technology far beyond ours (they’re capable of interstellar travel, for one) but they are also cat-humanoids.
I wanted to combine both of those elements into my costume. I paid very careful attention to my color and fabric choices – the orange fabric I used isn’t regular spandex, it actually has a shine to it that makes it look rubbery (I nicknamed it orange condom fabric). In a subtle way, I think the shiny orange helped bring out the ‘sci-fi’ element of the costume. Rather than choosing a bright yellow for the tights, I picked a more muted mustard yellow. The Thundercats emblem is just cut out of black and red kona cotton then fused and top-stitched to the costume.
To capture the ‘feline warrior’ aspect of Cheetara, I decided to go for a more tribal look when styling her wig. Her hair is very yellow-orange in the cartoon, but I picked a more natural autumn gold wig and then teased it to look wild and untamed. And I used feathers to replicate spots in Cheetara’s hair. I felt it looked more natural than painting black spots onto a wig. Overall, I feel like the wig really compliments Cheetara’s makeup and captures the ‘tribal warrior’ look that I was going for. I also made her bow staff, that added a nice touch to the finished costume.
While Cheetara is a simple costume (and if I remade it today, I’d do a MUCH better job!), I really put a lot of thought into how to bring this character to life. I’m so happy that it’s received such a positive response both online and at conventions!
Andy: What was it about Cheetarah that drew you to cosplay as her?
CIT: Well, let me say that I LOVE THUNDERCATS! My father randomly had some VHS copies of the cartoon that I watched when I was young (Thundercats is actually older than me, so I didn’t watch it when it originally aired on TV). Cheetara was always my favorite – not only because she was the sole female member of the team, but also because she was so intelligent, wise, and mature. It was only a matter of time before I cosplayed as her.
Coincidentally, I also found out that a Thundercats convention ~ ThunderCon / Power-Con ~ was being held in SoCal right around the time I was making the costume. It was such a lucky coincidence that I was able to find out about it (I had only moved to LA about two months earlier), getting to debut my Cheetara costume there among fellow Thundercats fans was insanely fun!
Andy: Another great cosplay you created was Emma Frost, What is it about Emma in your opinion that makes her a strong woman? How did the costume make you feel when you first wore the costume? How did you feel Emma was portrayed in X-men: First Class? What was your favorite Emma costume?
CIT: I like Emma because I feel that she is a fairly complicated character, at least her character has evolved a lot since her first introduction in the comics. Emma is very intelligent and comfortable with her sexuality. Emma has a wicked streak to her as well, that makes her unafraid to use it as a weapon. I have always been attracted to female characters that are smart, but kind of cold and bitchy. Emma is such an ice queen sometimes, I love that about her!
However, Emma Frost wasn’t a character that I necessarily thought about cosplaying until my boss Marcello (JapanCinema.net) said that I reminded him of her. He thought I’d be able to pull her off and that gave me the motivation to make her costume. Emma’s White Queen costume has always been my favorite . I feel it is the most representative of her, and I wanted to show my respect for her character by making it as good as possible.
It might seem easy to just buy a white corset and call it an Emma Frost cosplay, but that’s not the route I picked. I made the entire costume myself out of white 4-way stretch PVC. The corset is steel-boned and 100% finished, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever sewn, it really looks like it was professionally made. The cape is made of matching PVC, is fully lined, with faux fur trim, and a crystal brooch. And the cape is based off the pattern for Darth Vader’s cloak from the original Star Wars, so that’s even more awesome!
But you asked how I felt while wearing her costume. Honestly, even though I put a lot of work into it, I was very nervous to wear it for the first time! Emma is extremely comfortable with her sexuality, flaunting it constantly. I’m not sure I’m not quite the same level as Emma when it comes to that! The costume itself looks a lot like a white bondage hooker, and I was worried that I’d either get kicked out of the Con or arrested for wearing it in public! Maybe I’m too modest, but I was worried, I was also afraid that my fellow con-goers wouldn’t like the costume. That they would dismiss me as a girl in lingerie trying to get attention. Of course, I was completely WRONG! everyone has loved my Emma costume so far and I’ve had people tell me they appreciate the amount of work I put into it! What can I say, it takes a lot of work to look like a bondage hooker! Haha!
As for January Jones’ portrayal of Emma in X-Men First Class, I think she did a decent job but overall, but I thought she was a little too lifeless. Emma’s definitely cold, but I would have liked to see more of a sinister and powerful undertone in January Jones’ representation of her. I wish she had somehow found a way to demonstrate that underneath Emma’s pretty exterior is a razor-sharp and deadly personality. However, I’m a horrible actress, so I’m sure Ms. Jones did a much better job than I ever could!
Andy: Is there a reason why you pick a good bit of Marvel Characters?
CIT: I am definitely obsessed with Marvel characters! I think this is because my connection with Marvel reaches back into my childhood, when I read a lot of Marvel comics and religiously watched cartoons. So there’s a heavy element of nostalgia whenever I cosplay as a Marvel character. I personally feel that Marvel has a roster of very strong and interesting female characters that I relate to. DC certainly has some great female characters, but I feel like Marvel just blows DC out of the water when it comes to this (I’m sure others will disagree though!). While the are a lot of male DC characters that I love, most of the females characters that I feel a strong connection to are from the Marvel universe
When it comes to cosplay specifically, I like cosplaying as female characters from videogames and American comics because I think it suits me better. I’m tall and curvy and honestly I think I just look weird whenever I try to cosplay as a cute anime girl. I like the more mature designs that you find in comics and videogames more than all of that ‘cute girly lacey pink’ stuff. Bring on the strong, powerful women in spandex!
Andy: How do you pick your photographer? What do you do as a Cosplayer to make your cosplay photographs pop?
CIT: This is something that is changing as I continue to develop myself as a cosplayer. When I first started photographing my costumes in 2012, I was happy to just have ANY photographer who wanted to shoot me. I honestly think though that I’m a horrible model, that not at all interesting to photograph! Thankfully though, I have friends who are extremely generous on top of being talented!
Anyone who follows me on Facebook has probably noticed that I frequently work with my friend Jonathon D. Courtot. He has a lot of talent, I really can’t express how much fun it is to take pictures with him! As I move forward with my cosplaying, I’m starting to pursue projects that go beyond ‘girl in a costume’. I am attempting to create something more interesting. I am now trying to represent characters in a different way, or juxtaposing comic artwork with history like my WWII superhero pin-up series. So, I’m starting to reach out to different photographers to collaborate on new projects.
I am also very lucky that I have the support of some very talented individuals when it comes to post-production. I’m not a huge fan of Photoshop when it comes to changing the proportions of your body or the shape of your face, but post-production can really help makes images more vibrant and interesting.
Even if it’s just doing some simple changes to color balance. Marcello Milteer (JapanCinema.net) sometimes edits my pictures and my friend Eric Swartz (TheArtOfHorror.com) has made some amazing zombie Photoshops of some of my cosplays. I love those guys! Sometimes for fun I’ll also photoshop images of myself, I like putting in different backgrounds mainly. I’m not very good at Photoshop though, so this is really just something I do because I enjoy it, not necessarily because I think it looks super great.
When it comes to taking good cosplay pictures, I’m not sure I really have any secrets because I think I still have a lot to learn myself. But a BIG thing that helps is learning your angles. Everyone is different and certain angles and poses really look good on some people, but then horrible on others. Learning what works for you is key. Additionally, when you’re doing a photo shoot, making slight shifts and changes to a pose can help give you more material to pick from. Slightly changing the tilt of your head or hips can make a big difference. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to get a little silly and stupid at photo shoots. Sometimes during a photo shoot I’ve struck poses that I thought must look absolutely retarded, then discovered that they look amazing. Live and learn!
Andy: What is your favorite part of making and wearing a new costume?
CIT: I’m sort of an impulsive person, so sometimes I struggle with sitting down and constructing my costume. But, I love sewing because I feel like it helps teach me patience, it also forces me to exercise my problem-solving skills and creativity. All of the work you put into a costume feels worth it when you put the costume on for the first time. It really is amazing to see yourself transform into a completely different person! I’ve had a lot of people at conventions tell me that they can’t recognize me from day-to-day; that’s a huge compliment for me as a cosplayer because I’m not trying to look like myself, each costume I wear I want to disappear behind the character.
But the best thing about cosplay for me personally is that is allows me to share part of myself with others and has enabled me to meet a lot of new people. It’s always so awesome when people come up to you at conventions, whether it’s about your costume or just making nerdy small talk. I’ve been cosplaying for less than a year and I feel like my costumes aren’t necessarily the most technically complex, so it means a lot to me to learn that I have people who are interested in following my work as I evolve as a cosplayer. It might not seem like a big deal, but it means the world to me when people take the time to comment on one of my photographs online or interact with me via my Facebook page. I honestly can’t express how much the awesome and supportive people on my Facebook page inspire me to make bigger and better costumes. I hope they’re reading this interview, because I love them all!
Andy: What is your favorite cosplay memory so far?
CIT: I don’t know if that’s an easy question to answer, but two recent conventions that really stick out in my mind are Comikaze Expo and ThunderCon from last year. Comikaze Expo was the first time I got to do a group cosplay with my friend Angi, it was also my first ‘comic’ convention (previously I had only attended anime and sci-fi cons). The entire atmosphere of the convention was so much fun and everyone was so friendly it was super cool.
Thundercon/Power-Con is an awesome convention. The convention is dedicated solely to Thundercats and Masters of the Universe (He-Man and She-Ra), it attracts a much smaller crowd with very specific interests. I’m definitely going back to that convention this year. I am looking forward to hanging out with everyone again. EVERYONE, from the attendees to the guests is so friendly and happy to be together showing their appreciation for a very niche fandom. The environment is much more relaxed than bigger conventions. Guests of the Convention will actually just walk around the convention halls and hang out with attendees! It’s a blast.
Andy: Why did you start TakoPop? What do you feel you bring to your blog that no one else does?
Well, TakoPop.com isn’t my ‘blog’ (I have one of those on my website ConstantineInTokyo.com), it’s a full-blown cosplay website offering cosplay interviews, tutorials, editorials on important cosplay-related topics and much much more! TakoPop.com has a staff of very talented writers who contribute with very insightful commentary on cosplaying and convention culture. I’m lucky to have so many passionate people contributing TakoPop , we are always looking for new writers, so anyone is welcome to apply or submit content.
I started TakoPop for the sole reason that I love cosplay. I didn’t really feel like there was a website dedicated to taking a deeper look at the hobby. TakoPop isn’t just about posting cosplay photos, we spend a lot of time writing editorials, interviewing creative individuals, and making tutorials and other resources. I want TakoPop to be a place where people are encouraged to discuss the more controversial issues within the community. I want it to be a venue that works to promote all of the amazing work that cosplayers and photographers produce every day. We launched the website in January 2013, we’re already receiving a huge amount of traffic on the site. I really encourage anyone interested in cosplay or conventions to check out TakoPop.com!
Andy: What conventions do you plan to be at this year? What cosplays will you try to make this year?
I have a big long list of costumes that I’m either currently working on or have planned for this year. 2013 is definitely going to be a huge cosplay year for me. I have a lot of exciting things I’m looking forward to making. I’ll also be attending a very long list of conventions. But, it’s still early in the year so I don’t have a finalized list yet! Well I just attended Wondercon – March 29-31st in Anaheim, CA. I have three new costumes to debut and am super excited! I’ll likely also be attending Fanime, Anime Expo, SDCC, Dragon*Con, and one or two conventions to Texas. The list just keeps growing!
Her Facebook is down right now, but as soon as it is back up we will post a link in this interview. Thanks to Constantine for the interview!