CliffsNotes from Comic Con: Cosplay, Confidence, and Charity

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend Los Angeles Comic Con. With it’s annual October Halloween adjacent date, (at least until next year) LACC has always been a big event for cosplay. From parents who bring their children to this typically smaller and calmer event (complete with candy from ‘trick or treating’ at the vendor booths), to the detailed and screen accurate costumes of serious adult attendees, this convention is a magnet for cosplay.

While there, I had the opportunity to speak with featured convention guest Cheyenne Jaz Wise an avid (and awesome!) cosplayer, about costumes, creativity, and charity!

Happy Halloween!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Cheyenne Jaz Wise as Leia

Conn8d: How did you get into cosplay?

Cheyenne Jaz Wise: I joke all the time, I kind of didn’t have much of a choice! My mother is a seamstress, my grandmother is a seamstress. So, I always grew up sewing and crafting. My parents got married on Halloween. I have always loved to dress up and stuff. The thing that got me started, it’s a cheesy story, but to be honest, it was my own way of doing self therapy when I was really dealing with some really intense depression.

It gave me a way to borrow other people’s confidence. I don’t always feel good about myself, but Starfire (of Teen Titans) does! I might not always feel confident, but Leia does.And the characters I pick are like that. Cosplaying started as a therapeutic thing, just for me. And I really enjoy it and I’m good at it.

Conn8d: Do you make all your own pieces?

CJW: I make 90 percent. If it’s something that I can just buy from the store, I’m not gonna make a white button up shirt! (Laughs) There a couple of pieces like that I just buy off of Amazon. But I make most of it, I am a seamstress by trade. I have a wardrobe tech for a show in Vegas.

Conn8d: When you’re choosing my characters to play, how does that look? What is your process?

CJW: I kind of have two variations; either it’s a character that I really connect with. That’s part of the reason I’ve done like 20 Starfires now, because she’s my favorite-I have a literal Shriner in my house! (Laughs) I have a problem!

But sometimes they will also just be a costume that I find to be a fun challenge. I’ve done that a couple of times or I’ll say a piece of art that really inspires me. Like when I did Princess Leia, as I know you guys are a Star Wars publication, I did Leia with afro puffs because I have a friend who did a piece of art like that. I said,”Well I have to do it! I need that in my life!”

Conn8d: We all needed it to happen!

CJW: So sometimes I do a costume [due to art] like that or just I want to solve something challenging. And sometimes, I just haven’t read about that character in a while. Also sometimes if I want to sew a type of thing, say I haven’t made a ball gown recently, I’ll do that.

Wakanda forever!

Conn8d: If someone wants to get started doing their own cosplay, what advice would you give?

CJW: Advice that I always try to give people is: You don’t have to go in and spend a million dollars.

A lot of people come into cosplay and they see how much really high end suits cost, and really expensive fabrics and it feels like they really have to go really full in on that [intimidating] level. They really burn themselves out.

For 90 percent of us, Cosplay is always only ever going to be a hobby. Even though I have a following and I’m guesting here at LACC, this is still a hobby for me. I have a full time job.

There are very few people where this will end up being their livelihood, and that’s not really the point. Obviously, I’d be happy if it did work out that way, that’s not why I cosplay at all.

I’d tell someone just starting to do it in a way that makes you happy within your budget and to pace yourself. Joanne’s coupons get mailed to you and emailed to you and they will let you stack them. Do that!

Conn8d: Hot tip!

CJW: Love them!

Conn8d: What other kinds of activities do you do with cosplaying? Is a convention like this the main outlet that you have to display your projects in or are there other ways?

CJW: I am glad you asked, because this gives me the perfect segue! Beautiful. There’s lot of ways. The main reason that I do a lot of cosplay is because I do love to do [photo] shoots. I love to bring stuff to life. I tell people all the time, I could just make cosplay and sit in my room and be happy. I just like to make things.

I am also a member of a charity in Las Vegas called Critical Care Comics. We go visit sick kids in character. I do the Teen Titans Go Starfire a lot and we go visit them in character. We bring them comic books. We try to distract them from what’s going on in their lives. So that’s a big special that I focus on cosplay for.

Conventions are fun but I enjoy guesting like this because I can also hide behind a booth. You know, when I’m done [interacting] I can go there. But it’s really fun.

Conn8d: Are there any challenges you find with cosplaying playing in public, especially as a woman? What kind of advice would you give for women getting into cosplay?

CJW: Definitely, I mean you saw that big giant man, that’s my boyfriend. I rarely ever go to a convention without him. Because as much as it shouldn’t be a thing, some costumes can be really revealing. It’s just easier to have [someone with you]. Basically I would strongly advise to have a buddy if you’re going to be in cosplay at something like this. If they’re in cosplay too, that’s cool.

But even if you have a friend who doesn’t want to cosplay and they’re okay with being there with you and holding your bag when someone asks to take a picture [that works]. If someone’s kind of creepy, it’s good to have another person with you who know where you are and can hang out with you.

Conn8d: Sad, but true.

CJW: Yeah.

Conn8d: I think I might already know the answer to this, but what is it who is your favorite person to pass cosplay? What is a favorite costume you have made?

CJW: That’s like asking me what’s my favorite child at the moment! (Laughs) In terms of character, Starfire has enabled me to do so many amazing things. And she’s a character that means a lot to me. I guess I’ll say her but even then if you ask me which version of her I’m not able to pick. I just can’t.

I get to go and be Starfire and distract kids because she’s so silly. Especially in Teen Titans Go her. I get to use that in a way that’s like positive for other people. And then I got to do George Perez in this outfit. He e-mailed me because he’s a fan of my cosplay. I’ve got to have cool experiences like that around this character.

Conn8d: This may be less hard but in terms of just the process of making a cosplay or doing something really interesting in terms of like how you make the costume, is there an experience you would pick as a favorite? Or some really unusual that you’ve done to create a costume?

CJW: From a construction standpoint probably the costume that I’m the proudest of is I did Sombra from Overwatch. I’m terrible at the game, butthe minute her trailer dropped, I was like I want to do this! A friend of mine who is actually here [at the convention] somewhere is a 3D printer. He helped me print out all the prop pieces. We sanded them all together and painted everything.

And that was really outside of my comfort zone. I had to learn to do a lot of different things for it. And it was a really cool experience. I also made it in two weeks because I’m a lunatic. (Laughs)

Conn8d: That’s quite the the timeline!

CJW: I really get into these things where I’ll get it really excited to make something. And Boom.

Conn8d: Laser focus.

CJW: Yeah. That’s it. I am on that!

[Cosplay] gave me a way to borrow other people’s confidence.

-Cheyenne Jaz Wise

For more information on Cheyenne Jaz Wise, her cosplay and charity work, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and visit Critical Care Comics.

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