Roshawn interviews avid cosplayer LTC America. Let’s read on to see what this well-spoken lady has to say.
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Red-Headed Mule: What got you into cosplay?
Ltc America: I actually have no idea. My first homemade costume was Batman when I was about 3 years old, for Halloween – I obviously didn’t make that one. I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of creating a costume (or at least helping, when I was younger).
Halloween was always my favorite holiday growing up because I could become anything I wanted, and I loved running around in character, so I’ve kind of always been cosplaying. As a teenager I became aware of comic book conventions, and that set the idea in my mind that I could actually dress up whenever I wanted to!
RHM: How do you describe cosplay to someone who isn’t into cosplay?
Ltc America: Explaining cosplay to people who don’t do it can be tricky, because their first reaction is always either that you’re a) really weird or b) really cool. I just tell them that I like to make clothes and costumes, and people usually think that’s cool. Usually they want to know more about it, and then I tell them that I actually dress up and act as a character for a day or two.
RHM: Have you had friends that decided to cosplay because you’ve introduced them to it?
Ltc America: I don’t think I can take credit for anything like that, except that one time I did convince my Dad to go to WonderCon with me as Indiana Jones. He actually made the costume himself and did a great job because he made everything as authentic as possible.
Ltc America: In the 10 years or so that I’ve been cosplaying, I think the community has grown a lot more open. There will always be elitism in this community, but I think people have begun to understand that you don’t have to look a certain way in order to be a certain character… or that it’s really about the kinds of friends you make rather than the amount.
Costumers are much more supportive of each other than they were when I first started. I also think the general public has become more accepting of costumers, for the most part.
RHM: What led you to start making your own costumes?
Ltc America: Again, I think my parents really encouraged me to take up my own interests and really helped me out in that regard. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t know how to sew! I asked them to help me make some pretty strange Halloween costumes over the years and they never backed down from a challenge. I think that sentiment has been permanently instilled in me whenever I work on a costuming project.
RHM: How much time and effort do you put into a costume? From idea, prep time and then finishing?
Ltc America: Ideas are pretty quick. I usually take an hour or so and sketch out some ideas, but normally it doesn’t take long. Working on a project is what takes time, and that can range anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how complex the costume is and what else is going on in my life. Right now I don’t have much free time, so it’s a great time to work on my (relatively simple) Toph costume.
To give an idea of time, both Hit-Girl and Harley 2.0 took approximately 3 months of spare time to work on. Cap took about a month, but I’ve consistently added to it over the years. Each project is on-going, when I can find something to add or touch up.
RHM: Nowadays, you see people on YouTube and Instructables creating costumes for people to mimic. Do you think it has become more socially acceptable now that superhero and anime are getting more and more popular?
Ltc America: Definitely, and I think it’s really cool! It’s about time that people recognized the hard work that goes into costuming rather than focusing on the misconception of comic fans as being nerds with no social skills. I actually hope the “how-to” trend continues – my friend Kit Quinn has recently made such a video and I had so much fun watching it that I wished it was part of a series. The more the comic sites feature costumers, the more socially accepted we are, in my opinion. It’s all about being seen as people rather than as objects.
RHM: What is the costume that you are most proud of?
Ltc America: I’m most proud of Captain America. I made the costume back in 2006, when I was new to the convention scene (but not new to costuming). It was the only costume I was initially nervous to wear out in public because I worried whether people would “get” it. I wanted people to see me as Cap, not as American Dream or “female Cap” or whatever. Just plain Cap.
I didn’t see any other gender-benders until a few years later, and now it’s become a costuming trend. I think it’s really cool because people are finally realizing that you don’t have to match a character’s exact traits in order to portray that character. This is a subject that is very close to my heart because I identify with Cap in more ways than you know.
I should add that the reaction to my Cap suit when I first wore it was extremely warm and welcoming from the costuming community of the time, and I will always be grateful to the more experienced costumers who encouraged me to not be nervous about wearing a costume that didn’t match my gender. I think people do get it. Cap will always be one of my favorite characters, and I think he would approve of the way people come together to encourage one another to be brave whilst costuming.
Ltc America: I’m not sure I understand the question… I never make a costume without conducting some extensive research on not only how the character looks but also how I want to interpret that character’s costume. I don’t normally make costumes that I haven’t seen portrayed yet. I made Hit-Girl after I had seen Kick-Ass, even though I was pretty sure before I saw the movie that I would do it. I hope that answer makes sense!
RHM: At some conventions, you go and see a huge number f people in costumes. Some make sense, some don’t. But there is always a select few that stick out. Keeping that in mind, besides creating the costume, what else do you feel goes into a successful cosplay?
Ltc America: You have to bring your own energy into a costume. The people that stand out to me are the ones who are playing a character (as opposed to just standing there), who are welcoming and friendly, and who are really having fun with their character. Also, I love it when a costumer is willing to take creative or unconventional photos.
For example, Steven Meissner and I took a really great forced-perspective shot of his (super-tall) Power Guy and my (super-small) Atom. That’s someone I want to keep costuming with, because I know he’s very creative.
RHM: What is your dream project?
Ltc America: Oh man… I have so many ideas. I think it would be really satisfying to make a WWII-era Cap suit for myself, like the suit from The First Avenger. It would be an excellent upgrade to my current suit. It would be a learning project, to work with new materials, but it would also feel natural and familiar.
I think working on that would feel really fulfilling. (Of course, I also have some other dreams that may be a lot less plausible, such as Kira from The Dark Crystal and Infested Kerrigan from Starcraft!)
RHM: With plans like those, you’d have to assume you are very much into the cult classics and video games as well then. Do you have plans for any other non-comic related costumes?
Ltc America: I’d really love to make a suit from the Ender’s Game series, partly because it would give me a chance to work with making hard materials like armor. Since Ender hasn’t been a movie yet, all I have to go on is the visual from the comic version of the story. (Does that count as non-comic?) It’s not really a concrete plan, though – just something I’d love to work on.
RHM: Do you plan on attending any conventions in the near future?
Ltc America: I always go to WonderCon, whether it is in SF or LA. I probably won’t be to SDCC again, at least not for a long time. My dream is to go to Dragon*Con and New York Comic Con… someday, when I have the time and the money!
RHM: I have to admit, the first time I met you it was at WonderCon and you were Hit Girl. You were the first cosplayer I had ever taken a picture with and you really sold my wife on the costume as well. She was giddy the rest of the day and kept looking at the picture.
The crazy part is that my wife had JUST seen the movie and you looked EXACTLY like her. So that really made our time at WonderCon and I am sure you hear things like that all the time. What would be your favorite fan photo ever, besides ours of course ;)
Ltc America: That’s so sweet! I had no idea that was your first cosplayer-meeting photo. It makes me so happy to hear that someone was pleased with my costume, because the best part of wearing it is seeing others smile, really.
And believe me, I get just as giddy when I see other people – even friends I’ve known for years – costuming as some of my favorite characters. As for favorite fan photo… hm… it’s a hard question because I honestly love meeting everyone. One of the really special things about con is that you get to meet people you’ve only ever talked to online, and those pictures really mean a lot at the end of the day. I don’t think I have a favorite, but it’s always fun when people want to get in character with me and strike a heroic pose or something. Those pictures always turn out the best!
Ltc America: Have fun, be brave, and try not to care about what other people think. The costuming community is actually very welcoming and a lot of us love to help others out however we can, even if it’s just friendly encouragement.
I wish I could tell you not to be worried about the inevitable rude people, because they do exist. But as long as you’re focused on having fun for yourself, it will be a lot easier to grow a thick skin and brush off the haters. And the best bit of advice – make friends!! Friends make everything more fun.
RHM: If you could cosplay with any one famous person (living or dead) as a character they portrayed or opposite them, who would it be?
Ltc America: This is an excellent (and really tough) question. A few years ago I would have said that meeting Stan Lee while dressed as Cap would be at the top of the list, but that happened in 2008 and I’ve honestly never gotten over it. I’d love to meet Chris Evans and get a double-Cap photo. I’d also love to be Harley to meet Heath Ledger and Christian Bale as Joker and Batman.
RHM: As one in your position, I am sure you have more than your fair share of loyal fans. Do you find it to be difficult to market your cosplay talents?
Ltc America: This is another hard question, because I try not to think of people as my “fans”. It’s much more rewarding to make friends, and the Internet has really helped in solidifying the relationships I’ve formed at cons over the years – as well as creating the opportunity of meeting costumers I’ve only ever talked to online!
There is one thing I’ve always done on here, and that is to protect my name and my identity. It may seem paranoid, but I’ve met my share of creeps and crazy people, and I’m glad I’ve only stuck to posting about my costuming life. Posting about comics, movies, and costumes never feels like a chore… hehe! I think people pretty much get who I am, and they understand that my identity doesn’t really matter in the long run. I’m just a girl who likes dressing up.
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