Here at JapanCinema, we love finding the ‘perfect package’ – you know, someone who has it all; talent, beauty, brains and personality. There’s no doubt that this week’s featured cosplayer Paigey is the perfect package. A cosplayer since 2008, Paigey is a true aesthete with a passion for creating visually compelling costumes and constantly pushing the boundaries of her skills. And don’t let her beauty distract you; Paigey is a true crafts-woman who could care less about cosplaying for attention or generating drama. Simply put, she prefers to let the quality of her work speak for itself. While I didn’t know a huge amount about Paigey before interviewing her for the Cosplay Corner, I can now say (in all honesty) that she is one of my favorite cosplayers out there and JapanCinema is very excited to see what amazing project she takes on next.
First off, the basics! You’ve been cosplaying since 2008 – how did you learn about cosplay, what was your first costume, and why did you make it?
Paigey: I actually learned about cosplay through YouTube. I was looking for some videos from my favorite anime at the time and came across a video in which people were dressed as characters from that show. I thought it looked interesting and after some research ultimately decided to give it a try. The first costume I made was Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 because I was really into Final Fantasy at the time and thought it would be a simple costume I could do before my first convention.
While many cosplayers gravitate towards certain ‘genres,’ you draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources (videogames and anime, domestic and foreign). What attracts you to a costume and motivates you to make it?
Paigey: The main thing that draws me to a character is definitely whether or not I feel a connection with them. I’ve only ever made one costume simply because I liked the design (the Blade & Soul armor set), but the rest have purely been for love of a character. I have a wide variety of interests as far as video games and anime go as well, so that’s another reason why my cosplays and character types are so varied. Another thing that tends to be a factor lately is whether or not the costume would be a challenge. I like to push myself to become a better all around craftsman, and so I like to chose costumes that will present opportunities to learn new skills.
Many people think that cosplay is all about accuracy; the best cosplayers being the ones who can make a costume look as close to the original as possible. In your case, it seems like you are comfortable with taking creative liberties. For example, you opted to make Ayane’s costume (from Dead or Alive) out of a much darker color than her original design. Do you think that these creative liberties improve your costumes? Do you think cosplayers can sometimes make the mistake of trying to be too accurate at the expense of aesthetics?
Paigey: I am absolutely supportive of cosplayers taking well thought-out creative liberties with their costumes to improve aesthetics. There are so many factors that people need to consider when making their costumes in order to make it look as good as it can on them. I’ve been blessed with great cosplayers as friends, such as my friend Zaid, who have also encouraged my taking liberties with costume designs through word and deed. In my case, I’ve altered entire color schemes on costumes, changed the fit of certain pieces to make it look better on my body type, used wigs that are much darker than would be considered “accurate”, and all for the sake of looking the best I can in the final product. I think sticking to 100% accuracy all the time isn’t really a bad thing, but sometimes it can take away from a costume or prevent the cosplayer from looking their personal best. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum really, so it’s just all about finding a good balance for you.
With the increasing popularity of cosplay, many cosplayers now actively promote their work online – be it through websites, YouTube videos, etc. In comparison, your online presence is fairly understated. Do you think cosplayers have become too concerned with popularity and attention?
Paigey: I think it’s definitely starting to become an issue within the community. When I first started back in 2008, it was before the “cosplay famous” bug really hit. There were a few well known cosplayers who everyone paid attention to because their work was so great, but that was about it. No one had their own websites except those few people, no one had fan pages on Facebook, etc. I’m supportive of people wanting to get their work out there as artists, but sometimes I wonder if the want for attention is superseding the fandom and craft in some cases. Fortunately, cosplayers who are about the craft and portraying characters still have a strong online presence so I really don’t have any qualms either way. Cosplay is what you make of it, after all.
You make it pretty clear that cosplay is purely about the craft for you, not attention. To date, which costume are you most proud of and why?
Paigey: The costume I’m still the most proud of is my Rydia from Final Fantasy IV. I’m a huge fan of using high quality materials to make my costumes, as well as being a stickler for details. Rydia was really the first costume I went all out on in both respects. She was one of those characters that I have wanted to cosplay ever since I started, and as a costume it’s always evolving as I add to and subtract certain elements from it over time. It’s one of those costumes I really enjoy working on, so I never really want it to end!
One of your newest costumes that really impressed me was your Female Shepard from Mass Effect. Can you tell us a little about the construction of this costume? How much time did it take and how much did it cost?
Paigey: Mass Effect is a game I really have a lot of passion for and I really wanted to make the best FemShep I could, but I also knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I asked a friend of mine, who goes by Emilycrossing, if she’d be willing to help me out with the project and lucky for me she agreed right away as it was something unique and new for both of us.
We made the costume out of EVA foam and craft foam over the period of about a month. Emilycrossing patterned each piece directly on me as well as heat formed the foam to suit, and I took those pieces and did all the detailing and painting on them. Overall, the costume was actually on the cheaper end of the spectrum, costing around $100 in materials, but it was on the high end of labor, taking over 100 hours to make. We actually intend to do a lot more work on it but we’re very proud of our work even as it is right now!
Let’s also talk about cosplay as ‘a beauty contest’ for a moment. How important do you think physical appearance is in cosplay? In what ways, if any, does your own appearance influence which costumes you chose?
Paigey: Unfortunately, as much as I wish it weren’t true, cosplay is a physical art and appearance does have an influence on the perception of your costumes. Luckily, cosplayers are a resourceful bunch and know many tricks to deceive the eyes and alter their appearance/body type for a costume. As a very petite girl with a round face, I’ve had to learn a lot of these tricks over the years as well as use my angles while modeling my costumes to make myself appear taller, more curvaceous, older, whatever I really need to do. Makeup also plays a huge part in physically transforming your face for a character. With those tricks up my sleeves, I find that I don’t really consider body type too often or facial appearance when choosing what characters to cosplay.
Currently, there are quite a few people bemoaning the increase of ‘sexy cosplayers’ and ‘fake geeks.’ As a cosplayer who also happens to be beautiful, have you noticed this mindset influencing the reactions towards your costumes?
Paigey: I honestly never had an issue with this until very recently after Commander Shepard was completed. There was a picture of my cosplay posted online and a lot of the comments said things like “she must be a model hired by the company” and “there’s no way she knows anything about video games”. It was disappointing in a way, since I have such a passion for Mass Effect and I play video games often. However, my stance on the issue is that I don’t feel the need to explain myself when people doubt my passion for the things I make or do. I know I’m a geek and I know what I’m capable of when it comes to cosplay, and that’s something I have confidence in. I think that’s the best attitude for me to adopt personally.
One of the things that I don’t think observers really understand about cosplay is how much time, money, and love cosplayers pour into their costumes. On average, how much time does it take you to make a costume? Have you ever had any truly frustrating moments during the construction process that made you feel like giving up?
Paigey: On average, I’d say I spend around a month or two on each costume, sometimes more depending on the difficulty of the design and how many elements are involved. Just like anyone else, I’ve definitely had those moments during construction that I’ve gotten so frustrated that I’ve wanted to give up on some costumes, and on some of them I did quit. There are simply construction issues that seem insurmountable, and you really need to take a step back and decide if it’s worth stressing yourself out over or not. Sometimes, you’ll decide it is worth it and continue pushing forward, which is really rewarding when you finally figure out something that’s really been stumping you. Other times, there’s nothing wrong with dropping a costume, either permanently or until you feel you have the skills necessary.
You also give a lot of credit to the photographers and videographers you’ve worked with. How important is photography in achieving the perfect look for a costume? How do you find the right photographers to work with?
Paigey: Having a good working relationship with your photographers is absolutely essential. It’s something you go in on with someone 50/50. Cosplay is a hobby that is largely online, and having high quality photos really helps accurately portray your work and also benefits the photographers as well with building their portfolio. Having good photographers that you trust is a privilege and something you work at over time. Finding photographers can be a bit difficult at first, but was definitely harder a few years ago. However, if you just network around you’ll be able to find people advertising their services or through mutual friends, and you can start building your relationship from there!
Finally, what upcoming conventions or costumes do you have planned?
Paigey: My convention schedule is never really solid, but tentatively I’ll be attending Youmacon, Ohayocon, Katsucon, and ACen within the next half year. As for upcoming cosplays, I’m currently working on Viola from Eternal Sonata, and after that I have Sheryl Nome from Macross Frontier, Pandy from Dead Leaves, Aria T’Loak from Mass Effect 2, and Wander from Shadow of the Colossus planned.
Want to check out more of Paigey’s work? Check out her sites here: