Cosplay with Merry Meri Williams
by Travis Hedge Coke
I love cosplay. I love the commitment. The effort. I love professional, semi-pro, amateur, diehard and dilettante cosplay. Very centrally, I love dress up. I sew a little, I’ve designed corsets and performance outfits, been a buyer for some low budget productions. I talk the kids into crazy outfits all the time, at least around the house. I don’t cosplay, have not cosplayed in twenty years, because it is a whole whole whole lot of work.
So, I love that other people cosplay. They are my heroes, especially if they look cool doing it.
I adore Meri Williams, who I’ve known long enough to understand her cosplay game is immaculate. I know that she kicks ass. And, I know that she knows much more about cosplay than me.
Travis Hedge Coke: How long have you been cosplaying?
Meri Williams: For eleven years. And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
Hedge Coke: What brought you into cosplay?
Williams: So, way back in 2008, I attended my first convention with no other information or knowledge about cons, besides knowing that it was going to be a gathering of anime/manga fans. I was walking around in plain clothes and was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw nearly everyone else dressed up in costumes. That was my first time being exposed to cosplay and I instantly wanted to do it, too, because it looked like so much fun. The following year, in 2009, I cosplayed for the first time and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Hedge Coke: Any advice for people dealing with cosplayers?
Williams: The best advice I can give is: please keep in mind that cosplayers are people. They’re people with families, careers, responsibilities, and most importantly, they’re people with feelings. Cosplayers are often harassed and ridiculed for their hobby. We’re called slackers, weirdos, freaks, perverts, sinners and many other hurtful things just because we sometime dress up as the fictional characters we love. Kindness is key when interacting with cosplayers, just as it is with any other human being and any other situation.
Hedge Coke: Advice for cosplayers?
Williams: Cosplay for YOU. If dressing up and getting into character is something you love, then do it because you love it, not because you’re looking to please or impress anyone else.
Hedge Coke: Are cons getting better about making things good (and safe) for cosplayers?
Williams: Yes! There are many, many conventions changing rules and enforcing them more strongly in order to keep cosplayers safe from predators. The “Cosplay is not Consent” movement has really changed the convention environment for the better. I hope that it continues.
Hedge Coke: What do you know now about cosplay, that you wish you knew then?
Williams: I wish I had known years ago that there was much more to cosplaying than just putting on clothing. There’s sewing, wig-styling, art, makeup and body-painting, craftsmanship, sculpting, etc. All are skills I would have loved to have practiced and perhaps perfected much sooner.
Hedge Coke: How much should you do yourself? Is it okay to ask or pay someone to sew for you, buy a pre-made piece or modify one?
Williams: This completely and totally depends on the cosplayer and what they want. If a person wants to make a costume completely from scratch, then by all means! It’s a great way to flex your creative muscles and also learn new skills! That being said, it is also entirely acceptable to commission pieces that are outside your expertise. I don’t believe there is any shame in buying a costume, though there are plenty of “hard core” cosplayers who would say otherwise. I say that people can cosplay however they want. Buying a pre-made costume doesn’t make them any less of a cosplayer and doesn’t make the experience any less fun.
Hedge Coke: How important is makeup to a look?
Williams: The right makeup can definitely make a cosplay POP, but I wouldn’t say it’s always 100% necessary. I once encountered a Beast Boy cosplayer who didn’t paint their skin green to match his complexion. I still knew that person was cosplaying Beast Boy, even without the makeup. Of course, there are some who would argue that makeup can be the be-all and end-all of a cosplay, right down to painting their skin to impersonate another person’s race. This kind of makeup is NEVER okay. Regardless of the character being fictional, regardless of the fact that it’s “just a costume”, race-facing is unacceptable.
Hedge Coke: Who are you dying to cosplay as, but haven’t?
Williams: Tia Dalma from Pirates of the Caribbean! She’s a dream cosplay of mine
Hedge Coke: Cosplay: Only for events, or good for a random Tuesday or Thursday?
Williams: This definitely depends on the setting. I wouldn’t say wear that Megatron cosplay to church or to work, but donning a cosplay outside of conventions or photoshoots can certainly be fun and is a great way to meet people!
I don’t think I would ever want to do a mecha-themed cosplay, such as a Gundam, for example.
Hedge Coke: What comics/manga have the best clothes/looks?
Williams: Oh, goodness, there are so many candidates! Revolutionary Girl Utena, Saint Seiya, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Hellsing, My Hero Academia, of course Marvel Comics and DC Comics; the list goes on! It would be impossible for me to pick my all time favorite
Hedge Coke: You love a character, but you don’t look like the character, maybe somebody says the look won’t flatter you? Do it anyway?
Williams: Absolutely! Provided that you are happy and comfortable with how you look. If so, then what others think doesn’t matter. I have cosplayed many a character that I loved, but looked nothing like. As long as you are having fun, being respectful, and are happy and confident, that’s what counts. Cosplay whoever you like!
Hedge Coke: What is the best reaction you’ve ever seen to a cosplay?
Williams: Oh, wow, I’ve seen so many amazing and heartwarming reactions to cosplay. I think the best one, however, has to be when this little old couple happened to wander into a convention I was at several years ago. Both the husband and wife had to be in their early seventies and appeared to be completely lost, but instead of being critical or judgmental of all the cosplayers, they were extremely kind and positively elated by all the costumes. They stopped cosplyers for pictures and hugs, asked questions about what was going on and how people made their costumes; it was absolutely adorable and the best cosplay reaction I’d ever seen.
Hedge Coke: What is the worst?
Williams: I’ve witnessed many aggressive and negative reactions to cosplay through the talented cosplayers I follow on social media. I’ve seen people online get absolutely shredded because of their cosplay, usually due to someone thinking their costume isn’t accurate enough. You’d be amazed at how ugly it can get.
Hedge Coke: Do people try to quiz you about the character? Catch you out?
Williams: Sadly, yes. It’s very annoying and it’s something I wish nerds wouldn’t do to their fellow nerds. I’ve never understood why some people feel the need to “expose” cosplayers as “false nerds”. This doesn’t always just apply to cosplayers, either, but anyone who proclaims to be a fan of anything. Others instantly feel the need to quiz you and it’s so dumb and unnecessary.
Please visit Meri at her Facebook page, her Patreon, and for some fantastic food and drink recipes themed after some of our favorite characters.
Cosplay with Merry Meri Williams
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