Masters of Disguise
By Meg Dahlenburg
Twerkin’ Gherkin (Tasharni Coralie) as Harley Quinn from DC Comics
Photo Taken by: Shutterwolf
After their day jobs, they stay up late at night sitting on the floor of their living rooms, measuring lengths of extravagant fabric. Clay and crafting foam litter space, along with spools of multi-coloured trims and threads, not to mention a wig collection that would rival Cher’s. Who are they?
They are Cosplayers.
These pop-culture enthusiasts attend conventions such as Supanova or Comic-Con, dressed in costumes of their favourite fictional characters. While some buy costumes, thousands of Australian cosplayers make them from scratch, investing time and money to participate in cosplay competitions. Within this global phenomenon, some have become ‘professional’ cosplayers; their day job is to make guest appearances at conventions worldwide, judging competitions, and, in some cases, publishing books on crafting techniques.
Major Sam Cosplay (Samantha Mansfield) as La Carlotta from Phantom of the Opera
Photo Taken By: Creed Photography
A few years ago, Samantha Mansfield (otherwise known as ‘Major Sam Cosplay’ on social media) was also a national representative for Brisbane cosplayers. In 2015, she won the Australian Championships of Cosplay with a dazzling, gold-embellished recreation of La Carlotta from The Phantom of the Opera. This gave her the opportunity to compete six months later in Chicago, where she came home with the title of ‘International Champion of Cosplay’, placing first in the final competition. Her proven level of expertise has made her a sought-after competition judge, having gained experience judging competitions in Australia, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
Growing up watching Star Wars and discovering the costumes were made in Australia, Miss Mansfield’s interest peaked. While studying costuming at TAFE she learned the skill of millinery, and from there she designed, constructed and sold hats for races and fashion events. Her cosplay endeavours started in 2011, entering competitions immediately. “It was a confidence builder,” she explains, “for me, it isn’t about taking home a prize; it’s about pushing myself to create the best costumes I can”.
Currently, she works part-time in fashion retail and works on cosplay during her time off. “Right now, my focus is to maintain consistency,” she says, “I want to keep making costumes and share my knowledge so I can help other cosplayers”. Ultimately, she would like to see her costumes on the big screen or on stage, but her current work gives her time to pursue cosplay and she is continuously looking forward to her next big project.
Cameron Weaver as Usopp from One Piece
Photo Taken By: Creed Photography at the Madman National Cosplay Championship
A Brisbane local who was a special guest at the recent convention Oz Comic-Con is Tasharni Coralie, also known as ‘Twerkin’ Gherkin’. Her duties as a guest included judging the Championships of Cosplay competition, her first time doing so in her hometown after gaining experience as a guest and judge at conventions in regional Australia. She has come a long way since her first costume in 2010: Misa from Death Note. “She is a gothic character and my mum had a lot of black clothes, so I raided her closet,” she explains, “I couldn’t even decide which colour lipstick to wear, so I did half of my lips in one colour and the other half in another”.
Once she learned how to make her own costumes, Miss Coralie realised how being a cosplayer had positively impacted her life. “It helps with my depression and anxiety. I’ve found that sewing gets me out of my head and I focus on what I’m making.”
Miss Coralie chooses to work in fashion rather than pursue cosplay as a career, and she is the sole accessory maker for vintage fashion label Kitten D’Amour. There she creates homewares, jewellery, hats and more, utilising skills developed through cosplay. She has no intention to be a professional cosplayer, saying “if it were me, I would hate all of my costumes by the end of it. I’d be throwing wigs at everybody”.
For some cosplayers, the hobby has allowed them to explore different creative avenues and expose career paths they previously would not have considered. Cameron Weaver began cosplaying in 2011, with a costume he bought on eBay and the next year he taught himself to sew by watching YouTube tutorials and consulting a friend’s mum for advice.
Through cosplay, Cameron learned how to do makeup for different characters, leading him to a Diploma of Screen and Media Makeup which he is currently completing. “I would love to be a professional makeup artist,” he says, “but particularly, I want to bring attention to cosplay makeup and teach people how to bring fiction to life with different makeup techniques”.
In September, Mr. Weaver represented Queensland in the Madman National Cosplay Championships in Melbourne with his friend Kate, in addition to their win of the State Championships in Brisbane earlier in the year. The duo competed as famous Nintendo characters Mario and Peach. “Almost everyone in the convention will have played Mario games before, so we want to use childhood nostalgia and do something entertaining for those watching the competition.” Not only did their humorous performance charm the audience, but their construction technique impressed the judging panel enough to place third in the finals.
Every cosplayer has a story of how they entered the community, what they love about it and what they have got planned next. It is a community which only continues to grow, helping talented individuals find creativity in a rather unlikely place and share that with others who have the same love for artistry, self-expression, and pop-culture.