If you don't know it by now, cosplay is extremely popular. This trend was first picked up by students in Japan and the USA when anime and manga were introduced to the shops and television for the first time during the late 1970s. The unusual plot lines, colourful characters and ridiculous over-the-top acting inspired creative fans to start thinking of costume and makeup designs for them to re-live key moments in their favourite episodes.
The practice of wearing costumes to entertain people soon became important in its own right. Event managers teamed up with the big film and television studios to host their shows in a dedicated hall or convention centre on a specific date to promote or sell merchandise and increase the number of fans. Cosplayers suddenly became an important resource to do all this promotion – and so the world of professional cosplaying was born.
How is this a career?
Cosplaying may seem like a bunch of people with a lot of free time on their hands, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Many cosplayers hold a degree in fashion or social media marketing in order to get connections with companies and studios that advertise on popular media sharing sites such as YouTube or Instagram. The more a cosplayer promotes that particular game, anime or movie, the higher the chance of being sponsored to official events or movie openings to increase interest amongst the public at large.
Cosplayers who do a version of a famous character or design their own original personalities also often have degrees in photography or graphic design. Many cosplayers try to downplay their profession by saying that what they do is a type of hobby, in order to ensure their fans that they are not being forced to pay to see them perform in public.
How do I get started?
Cosplayers often begin with very little resources at their disposal. Whatever money you have will be spent on props, wigs, discount outfits or last year's makeup brand. Students especially like starting fan pages on Tumblr or Facebook to sell their fan art or rent out costumes. Remember to also be on-point with your social media game. This can be your most important support group to help launch your career if you are very serious in becoming a famous cosplayer.
What must I always remember about this career?
One thing professional cosplayers value more than anything else is privacy. Many famous cosplay celebrities will not have more than two or three sentences of information on their social media accounts. A few have even spoken out against fans who fell madly in love and started stalking. Most cosplayers who experience harassment are female but a few who are male or identify as having another gender experience online bullying just because they interpret characters differently. Remember that haters gonna always hate - ignore the nasty comments and go ahead and rock that costume!
Another factor that will make you have only ten or over ten thousand fans is how realistic your cosplaying looks. From the buttons you use on your coat to the colour of eye contacts you wear, every detail you put on will be scrutinised by a judgemental public. Do not cosplay as Wolverine from X-Men if you don't even have hair on your face. Also, do not cosplay as Ada Wong from Resident Evil if you do not own a red Chinese dress or have a prop version of her famous handgun. Cosplayers become famous simply because their characters look consistent and their costume or makeup game is on point.
Here are some tips for that cosplayer in you!
When deciding to buy – Do you really need to order that Kamen Rider suit or realistic gun off eBay? Try making a test version to save yourself the money. Also, do not use aluminium foil to replicate a metallic surface – it will tear easily and does not stick well with many types of glue. Invest in a large tub of metallic paint instead.
When body painting - You can choose any good brand of powder or water-based paint (some examples of good international brands are Mehron or BenNye), but applying it on your skin takes skill. Test the paint on a small patch of skin on your arm or leg to see how long it takes to dry and if you have any allergic reactions to the paint. NEVER USE ACRYLIC OR OIL PAINTS as a substitute – they will ruin your day by preventing your skin from breathing properly, forcing you to sweat uncontrollably.
When in public – People will always stare or make comments and take pictures. Remember to be confident in yourself, and if people ask questions, please entertain them by answering and not looking like you're lost.
In case of emergency – If you are afraid that your costume starts to sag or fall apart, remember to book a private room or location before the event starts and have a friend next to you at all times to help solve the issue. It will get very crowded so try and make a shortcut by exploring the location a day or two before the convention starts.