Welcome fellow cosplay enthusiasts to another week of the #BehindTheCosplay! This time we catch up with New York based cosplayer and prop maker GeishaVi!
I first meet GeishaVi chilling outside at New York Comic Con, in that congested underpass food truck area where cosplayers congregate. If you ever head to NYCC, you might see a horde of them balancing beers and empanadas on their gear in spare moments away from the mobbed con.
Let’s meet her and head #BehindTheCosplay!
GeishaVi hails from Pittsburgh and has been cosplaying for a number of years. On this particular day, we’re cosplay-watching the annual POC photo roundup for ForAllNerds. Interestingly, I think she may have been the first Black woman Bowsette I’ve ever seen in person. This detail makes a special kind of sense, considering some of her background led to breaking ground for WoC cosplaying in general.
We appreciate GeishaVi taking a moment to share some to Quirktastic readers. To view more of her awesome cosplay and directly support her endeavors, check out the following links:
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA. For those familiar: 3 Rivers, Black and Gold, “Steel Curtain” Steelers, *hockey penguin creeping in the shadows singing* “Doo Be, Doo Be, Doo*, lol. Oh and they filmed that iconic football stadium scene in Batman at the Pittsburgh Steelers stadium!
Do you live there now?
I moved from “The Burgh” to New York City when I was still in high school. I’ve since spent my time learning the ropes of living in “The Big Apple” ever since. I’ve always wanted to be here since I was a kid so the transition was awkward at first but adaptable overall.
What originally inspired you to start cosplaying? Were there particular characters that captured your imagination, specific cosplayers you knew and/or admired, or anything else that prompted the pursuit?
I’ve loved being in costume since I was a child. But I didn’t start officially “cosplaying” until after I met my best friend. So know I’ve been in the wonderful world of cosplay for 16 years!
Much of my work has developed into creating original characters. A lot of fantasy literature, mythology, global anthropology, music, foreign films and folklore from around the world infulence my cosplay choices. I’d often imagine myself as a comic hero or villain as a kid and combined that with my love of fashion as I got older to create a truly unique form of artistic expression.
Definitely Starfire from DC’s Teen Titans. Because she’s usually portrayed as thinner, paler, and sexier than myself and plus size girls were never encouraged to cosplay sexy characters. I do not feel the need to change who I am and, as a result, I’ve won multiple awards for my Starfire cosplay and people now always associate me with her.
Characters, villains poison ivy, Catwoman, Evil Lady was my prom dress, traditional Japanese/Chinese/Mongolian dress.
What do you recall as your first “I’ve finally arrived” moment as a cosplayer?
Definitely when I won my first cosplay costume competition! When I took on the challenge of cosplaying Starfire from DC’s Teen Titans, I did so knowing that many women that previously cosplayed her didn’t look like myself. If I listened to the critics that follow what the mainstream standard of beauty says, then I’d have to hate myself for even existing. This has been an ever growing problem for women and men for years. For people of color this gets compounded X10. Despite this, I did not allow harsh critics and superficial standards of beauty to stop me from believing in myself. I’ve grown a strong foundation from loving myself and positively embracing who I am. With support from my caring family and friends I was able to conquer that challenge which gave me the courage to compete and later win as Starfire!
How much of your general kit is homemade/DIY and how much is purchased, give or take?
Probably 70/30 purchased vs homemade. Most of the stuff I purchase, sculpting tools, glue gun, blow dryer, respirator, etc. Though many things I purchase I use in other ways than originally intended. Hair spray, blow-dryer, wood glue, tin foil, masking tape, for example are all used in various ways when I work on a project. A lot of my sculpting material is non traditional as I’m always looking for ways to make things lightweight. Currently tinfoil and various types of tape have been a great base for my recent commissions. I know I’ll be creating a few DIY texture stamps soon for a few future projects as well.
What’s the best con that you’ve ever been to, and why?
Calgary SciFi Comic and Entertainment Expo! I’ve had the pleasure of being a cosplay guest for this convention and it’s one of the most memorable honors ever since. During my stay the convention heavily promoted inclusivity, diversity and body positivity. Cute signs where posted throughout the convention reminding folks too. It held such a warm and welcoming atmosphere amongst staff, guests and attendees. It was like a heartfelt family reunion. I appreciated the attentiveness of the staff especially when providing personal security escorts and handlers. This is definitely something that other conventions should add because it does provide needed safety for the cosplay guests. Along with a comfortable, functioning Green room which allowed me to store my belongings, change costumes midday and have a quiet space when I needed a momentary respite from the bustling crowds. On a professional level it was splendid. From a casual attendee level it’s definitely a convention to attend if you haven’t gone already. Many thanks to everyone at Calgary Expo, I’d love to visit again in the future!
If you had one piece of advice to offer people who are new to cosplaying, what would it be?
Buy a Respirator!
But also, as a cosplayer, especially in this day and age, you need to be more body positive, because we all started at the bottom as newbs to this activity. Some of us may have adapted quickly to sculpting or makeup or sewing. But we all started from Step One. I want to tell you right now that you don’t have to be perfect in order to cosplay! You don’t need the perfect body, you don’t need the perfect materials. As cosplayers we have to start remembering what made cosplay awesome. Cosplay is an activity where you transform your creative ideas practice learning new crafts. Perform skits to come out of your shell socially. Make new friends that share the same interests like video games, music or Manga. We come together as a community to express love, happiness, healing and friendship.