A long time anime and videogame fan, Texas-based Melfina has been cosplaying since 2004. In addition to cosplay, Melfina works as a graphic designer and her passion for the arts clearly translates into her wonderful costumes. A naturally quiet person, cosplay gives Melfina a chance to show off her theatrical side and take on characters very different from her day-to-day persona. A super sweet and beautiful person, Melfina has the rare ability to bring to life both adorable ‘moe’ anime characters as well as tough videogame vixens! Check out the interview below…
First off, introduce yourself! How old are you, where do you live, what do you do, etc.
I’m 25 and recently moved to the DFW area of TX. I’m originally from Wisconsin, though I’ve become quite intolerant to the cold having lived in the South for most of my life! As for what I do, I currently work full-time as a graphic designer for a marketing firm, which is mostly creating print ads and signage for stores. Art is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, whether it be sketching, painting or taking photographs, so studying graphic design seemed to be the natural choice when I went off to college. I mostly draw anime-styled stuff, like anime fan-art or original characters, though I also like experimenting with more illustrative styles, too.
I chose to go by Melfina for cosplay purposes since that’s the name of one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite anime of all time, Outlaw Star. It was one of the first full anime series that I watched, and I still love it because it holds a special place in my heart. I feel like I’m very similar to Melfina in some ways, since she’s very quiet and soft-spoken, but also questions everything and is pretty curious and not afraid to explore different things as the series progresses. Sometimes I think it’s pretty odd that I like cosplay, since I’m normally pretty shy and like to avoid attention, but I think the theatricality of the hobby really appeals to me as some sort of expressive outlet since it’s a bit flashier than what I do in my day-to-day life. It’s given me a lot of confidence over the years.
How long have you been involved in cosplay and what encouraged you to start?
Melfina: I started cosplaying in 2004, so that would make it about 9 years now. I started watching anime in my early teens, and I think that’s what really made me want to cosplay initially. I didn’t even know what cosplay was back then, but I just knew that I wanted to dress up as certain characters that I liked because it seemed like a fun and creative idea. Of course, back then I didn’t have the sewing know-how or the money to really sink into it, so it was more or less a pipe-dream at the time. Then when I got a little older, my mom showed me the basics of using a sewing machine, and I made a few really basic costumes, though I didn’t really have an event to wear them to since there weren’t any conventions in my local area (the Florida panhandle). I heard about a few conventions elsewhere in the state, and Anime Festival Orlando interested me, so I made plans to go. AFO 2004 was my first convention, and it was a great experience! It was like a mini-vacation where I could dress up and be surrounded by people with similar interests.
Tell us a bit about the process you go through when choosing and making a new costume. What is it about a character or costume that inspires you to recreate it? How long does it typically take you to complete a new costume?
Melfina: I tend to plan pretty extensively before I start on a costume. I spend a lot of time deliberating on how I want to attempt certain aspects of a costume, and I do some research to see what other cosplayers have done to get an idea of what I like and what I don’t. I cosplay as characters that I like first and foremost, and while love for the character was definitely the strongest inspiration for me to make costumes when I first started cosplaying, over the years I’ve come to consider things like how flattering the outfit would be in real life, would I be able to pull off the character reasonably well, and how practical/comfortable it would be for a certain time of year. I think being able to relate to a character in some way is really the most influential part to me, though, because I’m not going to feel too motivated to put in the hours of sewing and crafting for a character I don’t like. I’ve completed costumes in as little as a couple of days, to as long as 6 months. It really depends on what I have going on at the time that I’m working on it. Nowadays with work eating up a lot of my time, it usually takes me at least a month to complete something.
To date, what costume are you most proud of? Which costume has attracted the most attention?
Melfina: I am most proud of my Sister Esther Blanchett costume, since that is the costume I’ve spent the most time on to date, and I was pretty fussy about including all of the details to the best of my ability. It was hard since all of the reference images I had were different in some aspects, though! So I ended up having to use my best judgment as far as that was concerned, and I took my favorite aspects from each different reference picture. I also feel like I learned a lot from using different skill sets on that costume, not just from sewing, but from sculpting the metallic pieces and doing the extensive amount of paint work on the metal pieces and the under-skirt.
My Fluttershy costume has garnered a lot of attention, surprisingly! It’s such a simple costume that I was really taken aback, but I guess My Little Pony is so widely known that that fact makes up for the simplicity of the costume itself. I’ve only cosplayed as Fluttershy to one convention so far, but I had people who weren’t even part of the convention ask for pictures with me and my group, and little kids who instantly recognized who I was.
Is there a particular aspect of cosplay – sewing, prop work, wig styling, make-up – that you struggle with? What is the part you love most?
Melfina: I always struggle with something on every costume I make, but I think prop and armor-making consistently boggle my mind. In the beginning, model magic and craft foam were my go-to’s for hard surfaced items, but they aren’t the most durable solutions unfortunately, unless you’re very careful while wearing the finished costume. And uh, I tend to move however I want when I’m in costume, so I’ve come to learn that I need to make my costumes out of more durable stuff if I don’t want to lose my mind wondering what broke off my costume every ten seconds.
I love working with wigs and makeup, since those are the parts that really put the icing on the cake. I still struggle with them both at times, since wigs don’t always cooperate, and I don’t always wear makeup on a daily basis. But I certainly enjoy working with both a lot – I love seeing how much of a difference makeup makes, and how many different techniques there are to achieve a certain look. Every cosplayer has a different way of doing makeup, and I find that really interesting. I also really love the modeling/theatric aspect of cosplay, especially with posing for photoshoots and performing skits. Not that I have a whole lot of skit experience to speak of, but the few skits I’ve been in were really a lot of fun and rewarding to be a part of, especially a Code Geass skit which came to fruition thanks to help from my two best friends, Matt and Momo. I used to be absolutely terrified of being on stage, in front of a camera, or being the center of attention in any kind of way, so I feel like cosplay has helped me cope with that fear.
You mention being a naturally shy and quiet person. Were you nervous the first time you wore a costume to a convention? For cosplay newcomers who might also be a bit shy about walking around in crazy costumes, do you have any advice how to build confidence – be it wearing a costume at a convention or posing for pictures in a public location?
Melfina: Oddly enough, I wasn’t all that nervous about cosplaying for the first time. I knew ahead of time I wouldn’t be the only person in costume, so that definitely helped a lot. Receiving positive feedback from other con-goers and cosplayers really calmed my nerves (when I was actually walking around at the con), too. I think my advice to newcomers who struggle with stage fright or shyness would be to try not to focus so much on what other people are going to think, cosplay for yourself, and know that everyone’s in this together. I know that’s really easier said than done, and it probably sounds a little corny, but I’ve found that cosplaying as characters that I whole-heartedly loved helped to sort of distract me from thinking about what others might think. Most cosplayers at cons are cosplaying because they like a certain character or design, and ultimately, because they’re a big dork who likes to dress up. And if that doesn’t help, bring a friend along – especially with going on stage, having a friend there for moral support can help a lot.
As far as photoshoots go, I’d say knowing your location and practicing/looking up poses beforehand can help a lot with nerves. The more prepared, the less stressed I tend to be.
You’ve moved quite a bit over the years and have had the opportunity to cosplay in a variety of states – from Florida to Texas, etc. Have you noticed any differences within the cosplay community in these different regions?
Melfina: The cosplay community in Florida is varied depending on the region, but pretty close-knit considering. Most of the conventions tend to be smaller, so you see a lot of the same people over and over at each convention, especially with conventions in Central and South FL. That was great in that it felt very much like an “extended family” sort of get-together, though it also had its drawbacks, particularly where drama was concerned. Up in the panhandle, conventions/the cosplay community was non-existent until just a few years ago, and now it’s sort of lumped into the community of The Southeast. Texas, on the other hand, seems to have more of a variety of different sized cons. A-kon is huge compared to everything else in Florida, and it’s entirely anime. Texas seems more spread out – there seems to be a Houston cosplay crowd, a DFW crowd, and an Austin crowd … I haven’t gone to very many Texas cons yet, but the ones I’ve been to so far have seemed pretty different from that of Florida.
There’s always a lot of talk online that the Florida cosplay community is particularly full of drama. Was this your experience in Florida?
Melfina: I never experienced drama first-hand while in Florida, but I do know the state has a reputation for a lot of drama. I think being so far out in the stix kinda sheltered me from that, and I tended to only hang out with people I felt safe around, I guess? Though, this kind of leads to what I was talking about earlier about Florida being a very close-knit community, with seeing a lot of the same people at every con, so I think drama might have been amplified or perpetuated due to that.
Katsucon seems to be your ‘must see’ convention – what it is about that convention that brings you back year after year?
Melfina: I think Katsucon is my favorite convention so far! Last year was my first year going, but prior to that I’d always hear people gushing about how great of a con it was, so I really wanted to experience it for myself. The venue (The Gaylord National Resort) is beautiful and great for getting pictures taken, and it seems to be that con that cosplayers bring their really spectacular costumes to. Also, I won’t lie, I really wanted to see the WCS pre-lims! I think, now, it’s also that con that a lot of my friends and the cosplayers I really admire go to, and I enjoy it for that reason a lot.
Finally, what are your upcoming conventions and costumes?
Melfina: Katsucon 2013 will be my next con! After that will probably be Anime Matsuri, A-Kon, Anime Fest, and the rest is kind of up in the air, though I’d love to go to Fanime, DragonCon, and Otakuthon in Montreal … too bad my budget can’t live up to my cosplay visions of grandeur [laughs]!
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