Post-EuroCosplay 2017: Interview with Molza Cosplay

It has been one and a half months since the EuroCosplay Championship Finals at the MCM London Comic Con took place and hopefully, we have given Tatyana Anisimova (Molza Cosplay) plenty of time to rest and let everything sink in, before reaching out to her to answer all our questions and give us an insight on the international cosplay competition and her overall experience!

Artflower Fotografie

Hi Tatyana! First of all, congratulations once again for winning the Cyprus Comic Con EuroCosplay Qualifier! You got to represent Cyprus in the Finals at London’s MCM Expo just a month ago, can you describe the experience for our readers?

Hello! Thank you so much for your congratulations! The whole EuroCosplay experience was just amazing! I never imagined the atmosphere at an international cosplay competition that advanced can be so warm and supportive. While I was preparing for it, stressing out and pushing myself to my limits with my costume, I couldn’t imagine that I would get to actually have fun there, but I really did! It felt like camping with your friends, who share your beloved hobby. You have rehearsals together, chat a lot, share your experience and tricks, communicate – it was awesome!

How much experience have you had with cosplay contests so far, both locally and internationally?

I started cosplaying in 2008 and took part in my first cosplay contest a year later, where I presented a cosplay and skit from the manga and anime “Spice and Wolf” and actually won first prize as well as the prize for the audience’s favourite. Since then, I started taking part in cosplay contests once or twice a year. But I should mention here that I was more interested in performance-oriented contests, because I love playing different characters on stage and expressing my creative ideas through funny or dramatic (or sometimes both) skits. My first craftsmanship-oriented contest was during last year’s Cyprus Comic Con – I loved it and I decided to try it one more time.

You are originally from Russia, what can you tell us about the cosplay scene there? How does it compare to Cyprus?

First of all, Russian cosplay stage is, as I remember it to be, heavily performance-oriented and Russian cosplayers are always trying to make some addition to the original story or to interpret it in a interesting way on stage and show it to other fans. That sets apart the Russian cosplay community not only from the one in Cyprus, but from any community in the world, as they have their own distinct “trend”. At least that’s how it was in the last 10 years. Now, the format of the conventions is slowly changing and big skits are becoming less popular. Second, cosplay in Russia has come to a point where cosplayers are trying to make a living from their hobby, for example through working with big companies as cosplay models, creating donation platforms and taking commissions. This means that a lot of cosplayers are now choosing not to make their beloved characters or characters with interesting and challenging costumes, but instead they opt for the more popular characters, ones that will draw attention. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a trend worth mentioning. The Cypriot cosplay community is relatively young to this kind of problems, but it started from a really high point and is developing incredibly fast (I can honestly see a difference even between CCC16 and CCC17!), so maybe we will face it in the near future.

As a permanent resident of Cyprus for the last three years and a seasoned cosplayer with experience abroad, what do you see in the future of cosplay here?

In my personal opinion, the creative process becomes much more enjoyable and easy if you have a real life community – fellow cosplayers to do group project with, to craft together, to share experience with, and also it’s better to have photographers, who are interested in shooting cosplay. These things can boost the quality and quantity of cosplay drastically, and it also helps bring new people to the community. When you’re starting cosplay the amount of things you don’t know can be really overwhelming, but in a team of other cosplayers everything becomes much easier. So I think that group projects can create a much stronger community and that’s the direction where cosplay in Cyprus needs to be developed.

How long have you been cosplaying for? Do you remember your first costume?

My first cosplay was Rakka from anime “Haibane Renmei” (I was and still am, a huge anime nerd!) in 2008, and it actually wasn’t too bad! I didn’t use wigs back then, so I cut my hair in resemblance to the character and it looked kinda cute!

What has been your favourite costume that you created and why?

My EuroCosplay Glinda The Good Witch, I’ve never put so much effort in one single costume!

What has been the greatest cosplay challenge you have faced to this day?

Aside from EuroCosplay (which was a huge challenge for me) one year ago I made a really big cosplay skit based on the popular video game “Undertale”. It was a very challenging project in terms of screenwriting (this game has a very complex plot and a lot of dark themes) and also from a technical point of view (we were using back screens and interacting with video during the performance). More than 15 people took part and it was 17 minutes long. We uploaded the video on YouTube and to this moment it has almost 5 million views – that’s a lot for a performance of this length.

There were some unfortunate comments online that criticised your choice of portraying Glinda the Good Witch because the character was basically wearing a dress as opposed to, for example, armour. Would you care to address those comments?

Sewing (working with fabrics, beading, embroidery) and crafting (working with foam, worbla and 3D printing) are two completely different sets of skills and without personal experience with both, you often can’t tell which costume is harder to make: a very complex ball gown or a very complex armor. That’s why on some cosplay competitions there are different nominations for different types of skills: best armor, best prop (sword etc), best sewn costume, etc. But if we are talking about EuroCosplay, where all types of costumes are judged together, if you take a look at its top 3 costumes for the last few years you will see that 70% of them are sewn costumes. Why? This question has been addressed to the judges a lot throughout the years, and they answered it a few times on judging panels. Basically, you get/lose points for your costume according to two main criteria: accuracy and construction. Accuracy means that you should look exactly like your character, with all the details and proportions, while construction means that your costume should be well put together and all techniques you used (sewing, crafting, prop-making, wig-making, etc) should be on an impressively high level.

EuroCosplay tend to choose sewed costumes, because with armor costume it is more difficult to match these criteria. First, a lot of armor characters from games and comics have unrealistic proportions or elements, which are very hard to recreate in real life. It could be extremely wide shoulders, or very long legs, or constructions that just don’t follow laws of physics. Second, even if you managed to make a costume that complex, you still have to perform in it on stage, so your costume should be able to handle basic movements (walking, raising arms, holding a weapon) without falling apart. And third, EuroCosplay judges favor sewed costumes because, on their opinion, popular craft materials like worbla and EVA foam are very user-friendly and easy to work with. As they said in one of their panels, you can make your first armour from EVA or worbla following a tutorial on the Internet and it will most likely look good. You can’t do the same with sewing, you need years and years of work to make something impressive. I personally love to look at big bad-ass costumes on stage, like Warhammer 40K or Warcraft, but you need to understand that EuroCosplay is a craftsmanship-oriented contest, and the judges will be trying to find all flaws in your work, with looking at the costume up close and comparing it to the source material, whereas if you are someone sitting in the audience you can really only guess on how well each particular costume was made.

Tatyana with her Cosplay Helper, Alexia Pissa, who assisted and supported her throughout the entire process of the competition and our Head of Cosplay, Helen Christofi.

What do you think are some of the most prominent issues that affect and divide the cosplay community?

I think bullying in general is the main problem in the cosplay community. It is so harmful because a bully can choose literally any aspect of your personality or costume and use it as an excuse for shaming: your gender, race, nationality, language, age, body shape, height, facial traits, quality of your costume, its accuracy to the source or historical accuracy (happens all the time with source materials that were based on a real historical period, like for example with the video game “Witcher”), your choice of techniques etc. You can be bullied because of somebody’s personal vision of the character or because another cosplayer, in his\her opinion, did this character better. Occasionally some objectively controversial cases can happen in a cosplay community, mostly associated with cultural appropriation, but bullying is always an awful response to any situation. It is very unfortunate because there are a lot of people who want to cosplay, but with all these negative discussions under photos of other cosplayers they are afraid to even try.

How do you go about choosing which character to cosplay as? What characters and costumes generally inspire you?

99% of the time I cosplay characters and fandoms that I’m currently in love with. I am generally attracted to good stories with interesting characters, so when playing a character on stage or taking part in a photoshoot I have a deep context and understanding of what I’m doing. As a result, most of my cosplays are not costume-focused, but character-focused, and some of them are relatively simple!

Do you have an ‘ideal’ cosplay costume that you dream of creating one day?

Right now I’m becoming more and more interested in movie/musical cosplays. I’m still not sure how far I can go with different techniques, but I would love to make Sarah’s ballgown from the movie “Labyrinth”.

We really enjoyed watching the live screening of your EuroCosplay performance at our Halloween event. Describe to us your mental state just before getting on that stage, what was going through your head?

I had rehearsed my skit a lot and, to be honest, I’m really used to stage, so I wasn’t worried too much. Instead, I was trying to bring myself into the right mood for the performance. “Wicked” tells the story of two really close friends, Glinda and Elphaba, who went through a lot together and just less than 5 years ago, me and my friend decided to cosplay these characters together, because we thought we matched their personalities perfectly. And we did it! It was all done in a bit of a rush, my dress was only 30% complete, but it is a memory I treasure very much. Currently, we live in two different countries and she is going through a hard time in her life and with my performance I wanted to do a little tribute to her, to our friendship and all the things we went through together. So I was thinking about her.

Would you say you were pleased overall with your performance and presentation at EuroCosplay? Is there anything you would have liked to have changed or done differently?

I am pleased overall with my performance – I received high scores on it and received a lot of compliments afterwards, one of the judges even said, that she was crying during my performance! But, as I previously mentioned, I had started working on this dress 4 years ago, without thinking about any costume-oriented cosplay contests and with a limited set of skills, so I was compromising in some constructional aspects. I was very surprised to have won the Cyprus EuroCosplay Qualifier and tried to make my costume as accurate as possible in a very short period of time – but unfortunately I just didn’t have enough of it. Next time I will be making my costume especially for EuroCosplay, with all the new knowledge I have acquired!

Describe to us the process of making your Glinda costume. How long did it take?

The whole costume has taken ~700 hours of work! I started making this costume 4 years ago, and in the last 1,5 years I spent practically all my spare time working on it. About 90% of this time I spent making layers and layers of sequins beading on the skirt. The skirt consists of 46 petals (exactly as many as in the musical) of different sizes covered in waves of sequins and I used 6 different types of them to make a gradient effect. Overall, it took approximately 80 000 pieces, each and every single one of them I sewed on by hand, every petal took me on average around 12-15 hours of work. For EuroCosplay, I added extra layers of sequins, completely remade my magic wand (part of a costume, that I’m really proud of, made from wire, crystals and papier-mâché), necklace, added a few layers of underskirts and styled a new, more accurate wig.

What is your favourite part of your cosplay process? For example, is it researching which character to portray, shopping for supplies, sewing/crafting, painting, performing, photoshoots?

Most of all I love performing my character on stage, at the convention or during a photoshoot. I also love screenwriting and creating skits. Aside from the stage, I recently started to love beading and embroidery work, it really calms your mind.

Do you have any favourite materials that you prefer to work with?

I love to work with different combinations of fabrics and textures in order to create a really unique and complex look. In my opinion it’s one of the most interesting things about sewing.

Is there an area where you feel you need to improve?

I really need to improve my crafting skills. Up until now I was making really simple things, like necklaces and hairpins, but I need to upgrade!

What are your three top tips that you wish to share with cosplayers wanting to compete in EuroCosplay?

First – choose your costume and make it with EuroCosplay in mind. I already mentioned that some types of costumes have better chances than others, but there are always exceptions – for example, in the previous year Czech Republic won with the costume of Pharah from “Overwatch” (fully-crafted costume). Think, what are your strongest skills in costume making, where can your talents truly shine?

Second – choose a character or design that you really like. Your passion will keep you motivated through the whole process, and that love will show on the costume.

Third – have fun! What struck me the most during my EuroCosplay experience was that nobody in the room had any idea who was eventually going to win. It’s not a regular cosplay contest, where there are three-five best costumes that one will immediately notice and those costumes will end up competing for the awards. In EuroCosplay all the participants are already the best in their home countries, all their costumes are beautiful and amazingly crafted and nobody knows what the judges are going to choose. So everyone is trying their best without thinking about what they are going to place and just have fun with fellow cosplayers!

Sketch Turner Photography

Your significant other is also an experienced cosplayer and in fact, Sergey was our 2015 1st place Cosplay Contest winner with his Invoker look from Dota 2! What is it like to be married to another cosplayer?

It is always cool when your spouse shares your hobby! We were in the same cosplay community for a few years and after one of my cosplay performances, Sergey came to me and asked to give him a part in one of my future projects, whichever one. After a few months, we started dating. And yes, he takes part in almost every one of my cosplay projects, we help each other with costumes, choose characters together – perfect relationship!

Do you often cosplay together in a group and give each other advice? How similar or different would you say your approach and technique are to each other?

Yes, we do projects together at least once or twice a year, but I really want us to cosplay love couples more often – so I am always searching for characters that will suit us well. Sergey is better at crafting than I am but he is hopeless with wigs! (laughs)

Have you decided on your costume for the next CCC Cosplay Contest? Can you reveal to us what it is?

I’m not sure yet, but I really love the movie “The Great Gatsby” from 2013, it has great costumes and maybe I will take part with one of them at CCC.

Where can someone see your cosplay creations and follow your work?

I have a very active Instagram page and a little bit less active Facebook page, and also a DeviantArt – you can follow me wherever is more convenient to you! 🙂

Any last words you would like to share with cosplay and Comic Con fans?

Cosplay is an amazing hobby! I developed so many skills and met so many amazing people because of cosplay, and I certainly can’t imagine my life without it now. If you want to try cosplay yourself, I strongly encourage you to do so!