By Jennifer Ravensong
Conventions, or “Cons” as they are called, are a ton of fun! This is obvious by the sort of attendance you find at most of them. The largest Con in 2016 (Anime Expo) had over 100,000 warm bodies, with the next “top 10” coming in at around 20-30 thousand on average. And these are just the big cons, there are small local conventions and gatherings year round, all over the world. But what do you do at these events and why are so many drawn to them?
Conventions offer a wide range of activities to their attendees and everyone goes for different reasons. There are celebrities, creator s and special effects people from every fandom imaginable, offering photos, autographs and meet and greets. Trust, the lines to see most of these folks are long, and they often cost a bit of money, especially the headliners.
Another popular reason to attend is the panels and shows. There are usually a variety of performance groups, interactive workshops, game rooms, costume contests and panel
discussions that run the gamut on topics. These are great ways to compete, learn or be highly entertained. And of course there is always the nightlife events that surround a con. Both those festivities hosted by the convention, as well as business and private parties that are in tandem with the event. These can defiantly be a hoot! But what I love most about conventions, as a cosplayer, is another aspect.
As a costumer, I spend countless hours sewing, designing, creating, trying on and going over the details of my outfits. Cosplayers take pride in what we do. The creation, the cobbling together, the theatrics and other factors come together and are driven by passion. We get excited and want to share that excitement with people who share the same interests.
My favorite part about cons is seeing friends, checking out other people’s work and talents, and finding cosplays of my favorite characters and photo shoots. I enjoy taking photos of others and posing in my creations. This process brings our childlike envisionments to light and puts it out there to burn alongside everyone else’s. That is one hell of an energy to be around! When you go to a con you will see countless photo shoots, both professional and people using any device handy. If you want to take a pic of an awesome costume, just ask the cosplayer and they will likely oblige (so long as they aren’t eating or resting or something, we all need a break). While wearing cosplay is exciting, fun and fantasy like, it is also exhausting!
Fact: Cosplayers are almost always uncomfortable. Cat suits are cold when it’s cold and hot when it’s hot. People are wearing paint on their skin, contacts, wigs, corsets, insane heels, massive armor, masks…..or on the flip side very little clothing sometimes. Some costumes require “handlers”, people to help navigate cosplayers around the con. A handler could be needed for a variety of reasons, including size, or bulk of the costume, the cosplayer not having visibility, stilts, bodyguard, someone to hold things, etc. Most costumes are not built for convenience and some are absolutely a challenge to wear! We do this for the effect and because we love the characters, but let’s face it, very little I just mentioned was akin to sweatpants and your favorite t-shirt.
We walk ALL OVER the place at cons, often miles. We go without food or beverages for long periods of time and do all sorts of poses that fatigue the muscles, in all sorts of weather and conditions. Some costumes make bathroom breaks impossible without basically taking everything off and some of us are just crazy enough to have lineups of costume changes (sometimes as many as 5 in a day). This is a lot of hassle…..but again we do it for the love.
The feeling you get when you become your favorite character is damn hard to beat. It is however blown out of the water by the feeling you get when a little kid gets excited that you are their favorite character. I feel like I actually do create some magic when a little girl refers to me as “Widow” and tells me I’m her role model. Imagine the rush you get when someone screams your character’s name across a parking lot and showers you with excitement. This happens! Complete strangers hug and jump up and down like 5 year olds sometimes. It’s because we are having fun and aren’t afraid to show it.
So if you go to a con and see cosplayers getting excited, getting tired, or waiting in copiously long lines to see their heroes speak in a panel, I hope now it makes a little more sense. We do it because we are damn passionate about these fantasy worlds we have discovered through books, movies, animations and more. They come to life at cons and it is the passion of cosplayers that acts as the catalyst. For in the end, all the world’s a stage and we are merely the players.
By Jennifer Ravensong