February 1st, 2017
Jesse Gussow

We realize that although we claim to be a Photography, Arts and Culture magazine we have been lacking in the Culture department. We should have some very interesting articles coming up starting with today’s interview with Ottawa-based Cosplayer, Peekaboo. She is fairly new to the cosplaying world and absolutely loves it. The work she puts into her costumes is meticulous, and the details are perfect. There is so much I was interested in finding out about cosplaying and this interview is a real eye-opener!


Where are you from?

I'm based in Ottawa, but you can also find me at conventions around Ontario and Quebec.



How did you get started in cosplay?

I developed a number of chronic health issues in 2013 and needed a hobby between doctor's appointments and returning to school. I never would have predicted investing hundreds of hours of my life in playing adult dress-up at a competitive level.

My mother taught me to sew and read and alter patterns, and I began experimenting with (very poor) prop-making and fabricating techniques.



What was the first cosplay you did?

My first costume was Maleficent, based on the 2014 Disney film starring Angelina Jolie. This was also my first experience requiring a handler, although I didn't understand what a handler was at the time. I made 10" platform shoes and essentially strapped my knees together in a mermaid skirt, so my little 5'4" body had a hard time shuffling around and fitting through doorways. I spent four months putting it together, being extra careful with the intention of competing in the Ottawa Comic Con Masquerade.

My appearance fully reflected my illness at this point and I was feeling incredibly unsexy. I had lost a lot of hair, my normally ultra-white skin was now grey, and you could use the hollows of my cheeks for storage. Fortunately, strapped in to Maleficent, these features were quite fitting.

I've never been told how beautiful I am so many times in my entire life. It is an absolutely surreal experience to receive that level of attention from so many people. I wore the costume all three days of the convention, and spent most of my time standing next to a window for photos. I handed out homemade business cards with the address of a Facebook page I had started the week before, and wore my Masquerade award ribbon like a show pony.



What kind of books and music do you like?

I wish I had the time to read anything other than 4" thick textbooks, but I hope to one day finish Sandman, and get through the Harry Potter series.

I really enjoy classical, piano, disco, reggae, K-pop, and Latin music, depending on what I'm working on at the time. Really challenging tasks require Tchaikovsky.



Star Wars or Star Trek?

I'm not much of a Trekky, and despite the general cheesy awfulness that is the prequel trilogy, I slept in an oversized Queen Amidala t-shirt with gold vinyl appliques for a solid portion of my childhood. It was the first time I fell in love with costuming, and how particularly visually stunning it is on film.



What is the cosplay world like?

In general, there is a competitiveness between cosplayers for awards, social media following, and attention. The biggest, most accurate, sexiest, or most technically challenging costumes are inevitably the most popular. For some, this popularity opens the door to financial opportunities that may even allow you to really quit your day job. This competitiveness can sometimes engender a pretty bitter or negative environment, particularly evident in almost any comments section online.

For others, success in awards or online presence is just validation of our time and effort investing in honing a skill we love. Cosplayers are, for the most part, artistically-inclined geeky people looking for like-minded people to share Worbla tips,("Worbla's Finest Art", is a thermoplastic designed and produced by German company Cast4Art specifically with cosplayers and crafters in mind.) and for spaces and events that allow us to showcase our work. I have met so many mind-blowingly talented people through cosplay, and I'm really honored to call them my friends. At the end of the day, this is all just supposed to be fun. The people you're with really make it fun.



Do you make your own cosplay outfits?

For competition costumes, I strive to build all pieces from the simplest base materials possible. Requirements for Masquerades following the International Costumers' Guild (ICG) guidelines vary by level and Masquerade director, but the goal is a handmade costume.



What did you do before you became a cosplayer?

I was and still am a student. At 22, I'm still the baby of my cosplay group, and I'm really hoping to continue investing as much time into cosplay once I get a grown-up job.



If you had a time machine where would you go and why?

I'd like to see our future, 100 years from now. I hope the arts, cosplay, and conventions are still around - and better than ever. I hope our planet is stable, and we stop killing each other and everything else.



What has been your favourite con so far?

Each convention has its qualities, but Ottawa Comic Con will always be my favourite. Mostly because I can wear the most obnoxiously large costumes I please, but also because of the accommodating staff, my local cosplayers, and the ultra-polite attendees. For such a large convention in a not-so-large space, I don't have too much trouble moving around or chatting and taking photos with other attendees. The Cosplay Lounge is also a major advantage as an exclusive space to dress and put my face on, and it provides a break from the crowd.



Are you the character you are cosplaying or are you always Peekaboo?

I'm always Peekaboo, but I'm sometimes perceived in an unusually positive or negative light depending on the character I'm wearing. Immortan Joe has received a little criticism for being less than sweet and cheerful, whereas Glinda the Good Witch never seems to have an off day. I'm really enjoying experimenting with original characters and designs, where I get to showcase a little more of my own personality.



What cons would you like to go to that you haven't yet?

I'd love to see New York Comic Con, or some of the large conventions around North American. I'd really love to see the costume contests at international-level conventions in Europe and Asia as well.



What are going to be your upcoming cosplays?

I'm currently working on a genderbend of Xerxes from 300, for a Spartan group at Ottawa Comic Con. This costume will be featured in a 16-month 2018 calendar of local Ottawa-area cosplayers, produced by Jessica Harkonnen and Open Shutter Photography. You can preorder your copy here:

I'm still designing a couture headdress and gown inspired by Haku from Spirited Away, which I plan to enter in an international-level Masquerade for the first time this spring. This summer I'll be working on a burlesque design of Jessica Rabbit by Carla Wyzgala, hopefully completed for Fan Expo Canada. Later this year, I'll be trying my hand at some new skills for an original design involving blacklights and shrunken heads.

I'm aiming to compete at nearly every convention I attend this year. After pulling back in 2016 to only one Masquerade, I really missed being on stage and spending some quality time in the greenroom.



How do you feel now when you go to cons and cosplay?

It feels a little bit like home now. I feel like I'm part of a community. I've gotten to know some of the organizers, volunteers, vendors, and guests at different conventions. I'm lucky enough to travel and room with awesome cosplayers - sometimes in group costumes, and sometimes as our own strange little mashup of fandoms. I'm now applying to host panels and I'm hoping to get more involved in the programming at different conventions. I look forward to these events all year, and the process of putting on a cosplay, although tedious, is still one of my most favourite things.

Cosplay started out as a distraction, just something to keep my hands busy and pass the time. Now it's like therapy; I still lock myself away to carve out bits of dollarstore craft foam for hours, but I do it now to keep myself sane. I'm really glad it's turned out to be such a major part of my life. It's connected me with an eclectic, phenomenal group of people, and taught me to find joy and peace in working with my hands.



Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-o cookies?

I recently found gluten-free and dairy-free Oreo-type cookies that are safe for me to eat and life has been better since.


All Photos Courtesy of MTKS

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