Tips on how to actually win a thing: Part 1

So continuing on in the vein of competitions/masquerades, here’s a guide to how to actually win a thing! This is mostly informed by my experiences of epic failure! This part will be focused on the craftsmanship portion of stuff, and I’ll be writing another guide soon about performing.

1. Compete in the right division. Different cons have different rules, but generally if you haven’t won anything or have only won a few minor awards (i.e. judge’s awards and not “best in…” or “1st place…”) you belong in the novice division. As you win awards, you’ll be forced to compete at higher tiers. If you have a lot of experience but have never entered a masquerade/contest it’s probably best for you to compete at the Journeyman/middle division; there’s less competition because there’s fewer people at the higher levels.

 

1a. If your convention has a theme, like Anime Boston often does, you will probably get brownie points for doing a cosplay from that theme. 2011’s theme was “music”, so I did Sheryl Nome & Ranka Lee that year; and communicate this to the judges in order to score those delicious brownie points! Otherwise they’ll think it was a coincidence.

2. Challenge yourself!! Go a little bit out of your comfort zone and make sure you communicate this to the judges – taking risks are often rewarded. Take competition as an opportunity to teach yourself a new technique (like embroidery or a new way of fabricating props); even if you don’t win you’ll have added valuable skills to your repertoire. Do your research on who’s done what in your division in past years to give yourself an idea of your competition; make something with equal or higher complexity to those around you. This isn’t to say that more complicated = better; because if it’s poorly executed it’s not going to make a difference. Simple costumes done well will beat complicated ones done poorly.

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Birb says “go big or go home” and did these two for my first ever costumes from scratch. Still have no idea what the hell I was thinking, but this risk won me a candy crown and a kawaii af trophy! 

3. Give yourself enough time to get stuff done WELL. It’s easy to procrastinate on competition pieces and finish them in your hotel room, but if you’re rushing, you’re probably not putting out your best work. You also won’t have time to make sure everything looks right and won’t fall apart as you’re walking around. Costume malfunctions are a lot easier to deal with at home than at the con. Make fake deadlines for yourself of when different components need to be complete (that way, when you inevitably procrastinate, you won’t be completely screwed) and try to stick to them. Stressing out before the con can often cause a dark cloud over your con experience itself, which isn’t fun.

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Ada/K-san from AB staff saves my ass LITERALLY every year I compete; this year I didn’t give myself enough time to finish my sleeves for Small Lady, they fell apart (kinda, and Ada was there to save the day!) and I wasn’t happy with the way they turned out. 

4. Make everything as neat as possible. This means top-stitching, ironing (bring your own iron if possible, because hotel irons cannot be trusted, but in a pinch, hanging stuff up in the bathroom while showering should get out a lot of wrinkles), lining stuff, cutting all your stray threads…etc. All of this stuff alone doesn’t seem like a big deal, but added up it makes a big difference (especially for judges who like to come up close to inspect your costumes!) This also includes your wig and makeup! Make sure your makeup is a) a thing (because it makes a big difference, especially on stage) b) blended out & c) not running, caking, flaking, etc. Bring a touch-up kit with you so you can fix your face before judging. Wigs should look smooth, have little to no flyaways/frizz (although, if you’ve been standing outside in a security line there might not be a ton you can do about that).

5. Show up on time! Punctuality is important, if you miss judging you might get booted from the Masquerade entirely or DQ’d from craftsmanship awards. You want to be at the place where judging is at least 15 minutes before your judging is scheduled; usually things run late, but sometimes they run early! So make sure you give yourself enough time to get into your cosplay, into the con, and down to the place where judging occurs (people will try to stop you for a bajillion photos if you’re in a group or have a really impressive costume). If I have a 10am judging time, my ass had best be up by 6:00 at the latest and out the hotel room door by 8:15 because getting elevators downstairs (10-15 minutes), security lines (who knows, potentially up to an hour or more), and endless photos (15 min for turning folks down; 30 if you’re being nice and letting them snap) add up quick. If something’s holding you up (i.e. medical emergency, stuck in a security line), do your best to get in touch with the Masquerade coordinator and they might be able to re-schedule your judging for a different time. Communication is the key!

6. Rehearse the main points you want to hit in judging. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get frazzled in the presence of your senpais and everything you wanted to say about your costume goes rushing out of your head.

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It’s yo girl @ judging 

You only have about 5-7 minutes so hit the stuff that you think is most impressive (i.e. you taught yourself this cool new technique or you spent 700 hours working on this costume). Print COLOR reference photos with as many angles as possible (i.e. front and back) to give to the judges (not everyone is familiar with that cool indie anime). You can also print out progress pictures to give the judges a better idea of how your costume was constructed, and if you know your costumes have too much stuff to get through in 5-7 minutes, you can do a little write-up essay of how everything came together (try to keep it short and sweet; judges’ time is limited and they won’t be able to read a novel before the contest!).

If you do all this biz, you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance of at least taking home something shiny for craftsmanship! Stay tuned for how to do well in performances!

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On Cosplay Competitions/Masquerades

Okie dokie kids it’s time to talk about my most/least favorite aspect of cosplay: competitions in convention masquerades/costume contests.

I’ve always been a competitive person (I am very, very, very much a Type A personality) so competing in my hobby seemed like a logical jump. I’ve been cosplaying since 2007 (just a wee 12 year old bab) and 2008 was the first year I “competed” (the first two years my groups were just “exhibition” skits, so not judged); I had to drop out of one competition in 2013 and took a gap year in 2014 before deciding to compete again in 2015. It’s 2016, I’m 22, I’ve been cosplaying for 10 years, I’ve been in six “legit” competitions, won two minor awards, and I still have no idea whether or not it’s a good idea for me to continue doing this.

I won a minor award for Sheryl Nome & Ranka Lee (my first from-scratch cosplays) in 2011 in the Novice Division, and a minor award for Princess Small Lady Serenity in the Journeyman division in 2016 – SLS Photo by Sumiko.foto Photography.

****DISCLAIMER**** COMPETITION AIN’T FOR ERRYBODY — YOU DO YOU & WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AS A COSPLAYER.

So, without further ado, tips for entering the Masquerade:

  1. Do it for the right reasons. Do NOT be like me and place your self worth as a person and a craftsman in someone else’s hands (be that judges, the audience, or the peanut gallery on social media). I’m trying to get better at this but it’s difficult for me. You should be doing this because you want to have fun, meet other people, and enjoy a little bit of friendly competition.
  2. Don’t do a skit if you/your group does not have the time to commit to practicing. I’ve made an ass of myself more times than I can care to remember (thankfully under a different pseudonym!!!) on Anime Boston’s Masquerade stage because my group wasn’t committed to practicing. If improv is your thing, check out other cosplay events like Chess or the Dating Game, or consider entering a walk-on if you still want to compete without the hassle of a skit (what I do now).
  3. Do pre-record your audio. It sounds better and makes your life easier because you only need to half-convincingly lip sync your lines. 🙂
  4. Do be on time! For everything! Meeting script deadlines for the coordinator, judging, rehearsal, check-in, etc… don’t be that guy that keeps everyone waiting, if you have an issue (like getting stuck in a security line), keeping open lines of communication is key!
  5. Don’t be a jackass backstage. Little 12 year olds (such as my past self) think that over-used memes are funny and they will use them in their skits. They’re doing their best. Eventually, they will grow up and realize in horror what terrible mistakes they’ve made in their youth, and will make better skits as adults. Making snide comments about others’ skits just makes you look like a nasty person; don’t pretend that you never once thought costume satin was a legit fabric choice…we’ve all been there.
  6. Don’t freaking cheat!! This goes without saying! The judges will know! The con will find out, your rep will be ruined irrevocably because the internet never forgets, and even if you do somehow manage to get away scot-free, your victory will be a LIE.
  7. Don’t be afraid to drop out– seriously. Me making an ass of myself three years in a row all could have been avoided if I wasn’t such a baby about quitting when I know I’m beat and when I know I’m not going to put out the best performance I possibly could. If a skit/con/deadline/life circumstances or what have you are making planning and prepping for the Masquerade more miserable than fun, you should seriously consider dropping out. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. I know cosplayers like to procrastinate and joke about “all aboard the suffering train” but it’s not worth spending the entire con miserable (because when you inevitably lose, Sunday is that much suckier) just to do the Masquerade.
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    Image credit  Meguca is suffering but Masquerades don’t have to be! 
  8. Remember: losing is not the end of everything. Losing doesn’t always mean your costume/performance sucked; it just means judges liked someone else’s better; and honestly a lot of these competitions are very tight (especially in the lower craftsmanship divisions)! Cons are limited in funds, which means not as many people that deserve awards can go home with them. Don’t take it to heart, and use it as motivation to do more complex costumes next time!

 

Adventures at GenCon2016!

Oh dear sweet baby bird Jesus. TheHeavyMetalGM, myself, and two of our other friends embarked on a 14 hour (16 with breaks) journey to Indianapolis from Boston starting at 3:00AM because our fearless GM had a meeting with Pelgrane Press at 6:00pm. I had a grand total of 1 hour of sleep before taking my first 3.5 hour shift, so full of caffeine and a need for speed (not really, I drive like a grandma), we set off on our grand adventure!

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DEAR GOD PLEASE DON’T LET US CRASH!

I survived crossing the most hated Hudson river bridge in upstate N.Y. (it’s always under construction so it only has one open lane and looks rickety af), got me some Tim Horton’s coffee and TIMBITS at a rest stop, and promptly went the fuck to sleep after passing the baton at Buffalo. Ohio is terrible, never go there. ONE LANE HIGHWAY. ONE. LANE. Also Kaisch so yeah.

At 5:50 we finally located our hotel and got ourselves checked in. Sean raced off to his meeting while Jess and I finished assembling our cosplays like true veterans in this field. Staff at the Hyatt were all 1) super nice and 2) wearing Star Trek uniforms for the duration of the weekend, which I thought was super cool! We meandered on over to will call to pick up some tickets and handicap wristbands for myself & Jess2, and the customer service folks were probably some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.

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WE SURVIVED! 

In line, there were a LOT of dudes leering at me (even in Muggle mode, with next to no makeup, in a knee-length dress, and smaller boobs than usual because I can’t wear a real bra in aforementioned dress because I made it too small like a dink) so I was pretty nervous to go to the con in a skintight bodysuit the next day. I’m used to creepy weeb dudes ogling me in cosplay, but not so much outside of it. Thankfully this was the only incidence of creepy dudes being creepy, which is more than I can say for most anime cons…

We moseyed our way down to Scotty’s Bewhouse, which had two specialty beers & a bunch of events for GenCon; which is super foreign to me. I’m used to the host city pretty much hating convention goers so it was really cool to see one embrace us for once. We all slept like babes and were mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the convention!

Thursday I was Padme Amidala from Attack of the Clones and Jess2 was Leia Organa from A New Hope:

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THE NUMBER OF DUDES THAT MISTOOK ME FOR LEIA ALL DAMN DAY THO. Fake geek boys are real, fam. I think at the end, there were only 5 people that recognized I was Padme, even when I had Jess2 with me! I also forgot my white tights for my under my pants, but aside from that I’m pretty satisfied with how these turned out. We met up with Mark of Campaign Coins (they’re amazing, please check them out!), and Sean and I went to a 13th Age Adventure Building workshop, which was super fun! I almost died (not really, but came close to passing out a couple times) of heat exhaustion because the convention center decided: “oh 60,000 people crammed in here with 100 degree temps outside? Nah, A/C’s optional” until Friday. I network with some other gaming researchers at a couple of really cool women in gaming panels, and met up with the lovely Anna from Go Make Me a Sandwich (she’s so cool! I’m still freaking out!). Sean & I went to a Star Wars mass battle over Coruscant which you can read about here.

Friday I cosplayed as my Inquisitor Lavellan from Dragon Age Inquisition; I made the coat on Tuesday so there are A LOT of fit issues that I need to fix eventually. It’s not entirely accurate because I have a love/hate relationship with bias tape and I’m not competing with this so IDGAF. Jess2 was kind enough to do my vallaslin and my good friend Emily made my beautiful flower crown! I whipped some buns in my round of Anime Trivia, got to chat with the creators of 13th Age, checked out the Nerd Circus event (really cool!) and played Cards Against Dragon Age that evening.

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Saturday Jess & I were our Eeveelutions and won a Hall Cosplay Contest Award (woot!).

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We went to the Cosplay Contest, which was REALLY FREAKING WEIRD. Only 1 judge (aside from the people running the contest) was a costumer/crafter, the other two were just special guests of GenCon. There were next to no skits (so it was pretty boring), the categories for entries made no sense (Mary Poppins = pop culture but Disney’s Belle = historical?????), and audience cheers determined who wins best in show out of the first place winners in each category (what the flipppppp). There were, however, cash prizes for winners of each category and first place took home free tickets to GenCon2017, so perhaps I’ll compete next year! However, I just want to take a moment to freak out over the amazing craftsmanship that TWELVE YEAR OLD Kazaradigital put into her Sabine Wren cosplay (she won the children’s category handily, I might add!). She made everything herself with only a little bit of help!!! WHAT EVEN. I can’t wait to see what she puts out next, her craftsmanship is impeccable!

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Photo credit to the Indy Star 

After the cosplay contest, I got to meet JediManda, and went to the D20 Nerdlesque Extravaganza later that evening. Definitely worth the $20!

Sunday arrived far too quickly; Jess and I cosplayed Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time.

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Our main objective was hunting the exhibitor’s hall for loot. I picked up a Shaymin (and very nearly grabbed the Mega Ampharos there too, but maybe another day…) Pokedoll and some tumblers from the Pokemon Center. We said our goodbyes to the lovely folks at Pelgrane Press, and returned to our room to change & checkout.

And with that, our first Gen Con experience had come to a close!

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It’s over, isn’t it?

So overall, great convention, will definitely be back next year (and next year, GenCon falls on my birthday, so maybe I can convince Sean to fly out there instead of driving…)!

Cosplay 101: Dealing with Creepers

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No, not these… credit to the Minecraft Wikia’s vignette3

Conventions are supposed to be a fun time for everyone, but nothing kills your vibe faster than some creep proposing that the two of you go back to their hotel room for some “one-on-one time.” There are bound to be a few bad seeds at a convention simply because of statistics; stick a lot of people in one place, and a few of them are bound to be jerks. If you’re a woman at a con, your chances of being harassed are pretty high, especially if you’re in cosplay (& yes, men are harassed at cons too, but typically at lower rates).

Here’s my guide to dealing with these jerks:

1. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. I don’t care what you’re wearing, how you’re posing, or what series you’re from. There is absolutely no excuse for someone sexually harassing another human being, even if it’s “in character”; there are some lines you just do not cross. They’re the person in the wrong, not you. It also literally doesn’t matter what you’re wearing; someone groped my chest at a con when I was cosplaying Maid Hungary from Hetalia – she’s covered from neck to mid-calf, and I’ve gone surprisingly unscathed as Lion version Sheryl Nome. Creepers gonna creep.

2. Use the buddy system. If you’re with a friend, people are usually less apt to make a gross comment. If you do have to split up, make sure you set up times/places to check in with each other. This also gives you a convenient way to extricate yourself from a creepy person’s “conversation” with you. Call your friends if they’ve missed their check-in time with you; taking the call will be an easy out for them if they’re in trouble.

3. DO. NOT. Go anywhere private with someone you don’t know! Just don’t, even if they seem perfectly normal/not a creep. Take a friend with you if you’re working with a photographer you don’t know, have them stand behind the photographer to make sure there’s no panty shot stuff going on if that’s not what you’re going for. This sort of garbage can happen at cons. Your safety should be your #1 priority.

4. If someone’s creeping you out by talking to you, and you feel comfortable doing so; loudly tell them that their behavior isn’t appropriate. This draws attention to the two of you, which will hopefully make you less of an appealing target. Sometimes, people at cons are just realllllly socially inept and don’t realize their behavior isn’t appropriate, but this is usually a rare occurrence. If they back off and genuinely apologize, you just have a well-meaning dingbat and not a predator, hurray!

5. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting them, try to get a good look at their badge (most cons have your real name printed in a small font, and some let you pre-pick your large font “badge name” online and have it printed on the badge — this makes it easier for con staff to look up their info), what they’re wearing, and their build/eye/hair color. Go to convention security, tell them what happened, and give them all of the relevant info. They’ll be on the lookout for Dudebro McJerkface and will probably boot him from the con, because chances are, you’re not the first person he’s harassed this weekend.

6. If you’re not the confrontational type and need to get away from a conversation, hopefully your friend is calling you because you missed your check-in time (make sure your ringer is on full blast). Take the call and use it as an excuse to get away “oh sorry my friend needs my help with a costume in our hotel room, catch you later” and get the heckie outta there. Alternatively, you can say that a panel you want to see is starting soon (but sometimes people are persistent and will insist on going with you) or that you need to go back to your room and change for a photo shoot (and some people are even so persistent as to want to come with you AND your boyfriend to your room…). Sometimes, people just can’t take a hint & you’re gonna have to be flat out with them and say they’re making you uncomfortable, and you’re leaving now.

7. Hopefully, things never escalate beyond a gross conversation or comment. If someone touches you without your permission, ALL BETS ARE OFF, no playing nicey-nice. Here’s what to do in that situation:

  • Step one: Yell something to the effect of “how dare you touch my _______ without my consent/did you seriously just _______ my ________?!/don’t touch me again!” This draws attention and witnesses, and hopefully someone will overcome bystander effect and intervene.
  • Step two (optional unless they’re holding on to you, ONLY DO THIS IN SELF-DEFENSE): Hit that jerk. You need to get away from this person quickly, so do only enough to get away – don’t try to incapacitate them. Getting the groin is usually the best way to get them to drop.
  • Step three: Find your nearest human and ask them for help if you don’t immediately see someone who’s part of con security. Explain what happened, then go to con security.
  • Step four (optional): Talk to the police if you want to press charges.

& that is your bird’s guide to dealing with creepers at cons! Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with this, but now you have a handy protocol of what to do if you do!