Cosplay From Art: The Power of Brand & Fan Creativity
Stunned joy best describes the look on my sister's face when she sees the two cosplayers at San Diego Comic Con. I had been anxiously waiting for them to get to the booth and stalling an antsy Camilla who desperately wanted to take her (well earned) break! She had no idea there would be two professional cosplay models dressed as her art pieces, "The Heart" and "The Egg Thief". The booth was swarmed with people taking pictures; we had two show stoppers! Many girls over the years have dressed as Camilla's characters and we even organized a Cosplay Walk-Off (competition) two years ago in Vancouver (video) but this never gets old; it's pure magic.
There's something so special about seeing a person transform themselves into someone else, especially if that 'someone else' is one of your characters! Movies, books, T.V. shows, games, manga, comics and anime are the primary source of all cosplay. Cosplay is one of the most incredible forms of fandom; it's a test of a (usually) narrative based property to be embraced by fans. After all, characters come from stories, right? Their developed character attributes and personalities are part of the costume; a cosplayer embodies the character, stepping into the role emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically into the costume.
In this case, cosplay characters have come from art, and the testament to the power of art as a brand is explicit here. The resonance of these characters with fans, known as Helmetgirls, created by Camilla, which I have been actively developing for the past few years, has taken on a life of it's own. In cosplay, convention or pop culture circles, chances are you either know Camilla by name or you recognize the art or the characters.
Meagan Marie, a bright, intelligent, hardworking 'geek' is Community Manager at Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider) and a professional model and cosplayer as well as a blogger. She is "The Heart" (right) and she has shared tons of images including work-in-progress and professionally shot photos in her blog posts here and she wrote a detailed post about how she made the costume here. It's a treat to read about the 'making of' a cosplay costume. This one even has moving parts. You can see more of the two Helmegirls in this SDCC Cosplay Video:
There is a very good reason I stress "intelligent" in my description of Meagan. There is a gross (literal and metaphorical) misconception about cosplay and about girls and women in pop culture - both how they are represented and how they are considered by men. It's a sad situation that many people including Meagan are working hard to change and I support them wholeheartedly. When you go beyond the costumes, beyond that initial yet amazing aesthetic, and delve into the heart of what makes a fan, you arrive at pure emotion and it's expression through various creative outlets. Let's be honest: it takes a hefty dose of self esteem, self confidence, poise and grace to step into someone else's character, even for a day and still know who you are when the costume is off! Talk about brand resonance! I am in awe of this phenomenon and touched to my core that Meagan, Lisa, and many others are cosplaying as Camilla's art characters. I hear through the grapevine that there will be Helmetgirls at Dragon Con in September ... !