Cosplay fever continues to grow in popularity both as a hobby and as a spectator sport. To that end, we continue our series searching for some of the stars of the scene. One element that highlights great cosplayers is the ability to portray a wide range of characters (and to do them well).
This time we visit Belle Chere, out of New England, seen at events all around the country.
Q: How long have you been into cosplay?
My first time cosplaying was at DragonCon in 2005.
Q: How did you first get into cosplay (did you go to a convention/event initially out of costume then get into it later, or did you burst onto the scene fully costumed and ready to roll)?
In hunting for a way to become Rogue for Halloween one year, I discovered that, to my surprise and delight, there was a community who got in costume even when it wasn’t Halloween! The forum I involved myself with (now no longer active) was such a positive experience. I met some great friends on there, and through their inspiration taught myself how to sew. I headlong into the cosplay hobby, by the time I was heading to DragonCon, I had a few costumes already made!
Q: Are you a fan of comics/film/TV as well, or was it the costuming that first attracted you towards being a cosplayer?
I’m definitely a fan of the source material. The characters I select to recreate their costumes are characters that evoke some sort of passion in me. I tend to relate to them, be it through shared personal experiences (to a degree), to me admiring their strength, grace, and wit. They’re my role models. Sometimes I wait to create a costume till the ‘time feels right’ – either I feel physically fit enough (Red Sonja) or I feel confident enough (Jessica Rabbit). Much of being a convincing cosplayer is ‘owning’ the costume, and it’s difficult to really embody the character if you don’t feel like you can emulate them, and especially if you’re unfamiliar with the character! I tend to latch onto a character and start collecting back issues/play the game for hours/or watch the movie immediately.
Q: Do you have a particular character or type of character that you like to play? Is it an appeal of their costume to you, or to the character itself?
I tend towards females who are a little rough around the edges, who you sometimes have to question their motives, who are sharp-witted, and usually strong – both physically and emotionally. By that description you’d think I’d love Emma Frost, but I don’t, hah! Occasionally I won’t know a character, but the costume grabs my attention, and so then I start to learn about them. The most recent instance of this has been Witchblade (a costume I hope to finish this year) and Starfire (Perez era, a costume for next year).
Q: Do you tend to roleplay in costume to some extent, or are you your normal self in the costume?
When people are taking a picture, I will take on the character. Otherwise, when I’m at a convention I hang out with my friends and chat, tell stories, make each other laugh, all out of character. However, some characters are easier to act different ways in than others – i.e. being dressed like Deadpool offers much more leeway for crazy antics.
Q: Do you create your own costumes? If so, what was the biggest challenge of getting into costuming? Did you have any help/resources, or did you just grab a sewing machine and glue gun and go for it?
I do make my own costumes. I will always recommend that a beginning sewer find a mentor – be they a professor, family, or through an apprenticeship. It’s certainly possible to teach yourself, but it’s a laborious process that sometimes winds up burning people out through having to learn from mistakes. My second degree is in theatre, and I was lucky to participate in the costume shop’s work study program. I learned a lot of basic sewing from the costume designer, which helped me later land a job as a theatrical seamstress for a Broadway-quality rental shop. That job wound up being much of an apprenticeship, too. It definitely helps to have someone to teach you, but it’s also important to try and push yourself to always improve.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to others who are getting into costuming, or thinking about making their first outfits.
First thing? Do a character YOU WANT to do. Whenever someone approaches me asking me to suggest a character for them to cosplay, that is what I always say. Don’t let other people make a choice for you. Secondly, if you’re going to be making your own costume, be mindful of the amount of detail. Your first costume should probably be low-detail, and within your abilities. Test yourself, then grow from there. Finally, be mindful of your body type. I will never be able to pull off cute, or petite, or slender, or boyish characters, and though I sometimes wish I could, I don’t try to. It wouldn’t look right. But, if you’re absolutely in love with a character and want to cosplay as them, go for it, and have fun.
Q: What do you think about kids at conventions who come up to you thinking you’re actually the character (or does that happen as often as it seems)?
Kids don’t come up to me, usually. I’m fine with that, hah! But I do get quite a few people (including artists and writers!) coming up to tell me that I’m just what they pictured.
Q: Do you have any stories that you’d like to share from conventions?
On June 27th, 2008, I was at Wizard World Chicago. I was dressed as Anna Mercury, ‘working’ with Avatar Press and creator/writer/Guest of Honor/internet-Jesus Warren Ellis. The character Anna Mercury is outrageous (and I love her) all curves in studded black latex, blazing red accessories, guns holstered everywhere, and a red, curly wig that rivals Peg Bundy’s hair. One of my first impressions of Warren Ellis in person was him gruffly accepting and dismissing the gathered line’s cheering for him, before he looked to me with a look that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting him to DISlike me, but I otherwise didn’t know what to exactly expect from him. The look he gave me was one of sincere appreciation and gratitude. He came up to me (who can’t seem to think of anything to say other than ‘It’s so good to meet you’ and ‘I loved [enter name of any one of his comics/novel here]’) and gave me a big hug. When he pulled back, he patted my waist a couple times and remarked, surprised: “Wow, you’re all real under there! I thought you were corseted!” I laughed, and he broke the ice just like that.
Later on in the day, however, the entire convention center fell still as the announcement was made that Michael Turner had passed away. The moment of silence was profound. Whether you were a fan of his work or not, you couldn’t help but feel the sense of connectivity between comic fans that day.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to someone who’s about to go to their first convention in costume (for either guys, gals, or both)?
Don’t forget to eat. Don’t forget to keep hydrated (alcohol dehydrates, sorry to say). Take a break. Go to the bathroom BEFORE you get in costume. You might need aspirin or Band-Aids. Break in your shoes BEFORE the convention (that goes doubly true for corsets). Do makeup tests before the convention, too. Most of all: Have Fun. If it’s not fun, why do it?
Q: What are your thoughts on the current state of cosplay at conventions? Is the demographic changing, are the costumes improving or declining, are there more people into it or fewer, and just on the events themselves – are they more cosplayer friendly or less these days?
Cosplay is undeniably becoming a hobby that’s becoming more and more attractive to a wider array of people. I sure wouldn’t call it ‘mainstream’, but geek culture has become a multi-million dollar enterprise, so as it becomes more socially acceptable to enjoy the media, people feel more comfortable stepping out of their shell and into a costume. Plus, I’ve never been to a convention that has shunned cosplayers – every convention seems to welcome costumers as a part of the fun of the event – so that’s a huge encouragement. Some comic artists even celebrate cosplayers! So while I love that more fans are genuinely getting interested in the hobby, and wanting to learn how to craft and sew, unfortunately it’s also attracted those who have no real interest in the source material and who purely do it for the attention. With major outlets (ie MTV, G4, Yahoo, etc) giving coverage of conventions via pictures of cosplayers, people wind up costuming just in the hopes of being seen online. With that comes the cheap, out-of-a-bag, uninspired, and inaccurate costumes. To me, that’s pretty sad, though I try to focus on the newcomers who are genuine fans and who are interested in learning a fun craft.
Q: What’s your favorite event of your annual calendar and why?
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend multiple conventions, but my favorite, without a doubt, is DragonCon. I love it – it’s the only convention I will attend every year, come hell or high water. Nathan Fillion said it best: ‘It’s like an orgasm that lasts over an entire weekend.’ Not only is it Mardi Gras for geeks, with fantastic costumes at every turn, but it’s filled with great people. I have made so many friends at DragonCon, from all over the country (and international, too!). It’s a completely relaxed environment, not only for the attendees, but for the artists and celebrities too. SDCC is where people go for business and big entertainment; DragonCon is where everyone goes to have fun.
Q: You are especially noted as being one of the best in class cosplayers for a number of your characters (Rogue, Dawn, and Ivy are most often mentioned), what’s your thoughts of being held in such esteem and respect by your fellow community members?
My husband frequently informs me that I’m oblivious. I don’t think low of myself, but I typically believe that the number of people who admire me are much fewer than other people tell me. I suppose I’m humble, and I intend to stay that way. I also intend to constantly improve! The reactions I get from people help keep me on top of my game; I always appreciate constructive criticism. Every time I set out to do a costume, I aim to not only challenge myself, but to make it better than what I’ve previously done. However, I’m never beyond sharing ‘secrets’ with other costumers, so if you ever want to know how I did something, or are trying to troubleshoot a costume, throw me a line! I enjoy helping, and I encourage other costumers to do the same.
You can find her and keep up with her latest convention exploits and costume creations over on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bellecherecostume
To see more of her costuming work, we submit the following gallery for your enjoyment: