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Monday, April 15, 2024

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May Jean Cosplay In Conversation with Ali Raphael

Recently I got to sit down with Emerald City Comic Con 2022 cosplay champion, May Jean Cosplay, and now a judge for the same said contest at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con 2023. She was also just announced as a judge for Sakura-Con in April too! May Jean Cosplay is also hard at work on her cosplay she’s taking to compete in for C2E2 2023, which takes place a few weeks after ECCC this year. How she manages to it all with so much on her plate including conventions, competing, Grad school, and being a full time nurse I’ll never know! Despite her busy schedule she was kind enough to sit down and chat in person about everything cosplay, competing and staying on schedule. 

Ali: What made you get into cosplay?

May Jean: When I was in school, middle school/ high school, I was an art kid. I was always drawing and painting, doing extra art classes and I really liked anime and video games too. I don’t really remember how I stumbled across it, but this was also when Yaya Han was just starting out as well and I just stumbled across her. These cosplay forums, early tutorials and just thought “oh my gosh! I want to do that too!”. I felt really inspired, and then I went to my first convention. Sakura-Con 2005, back when it used to be held at the airport Hilton. I ended up going to my mom, since she is also really creative (sewing and hand making). I asked her to teach me how to sew because there was this dress from an anime I wanted to cosplay in, it ended up a very rudimentary black dress, the seams were just not really and it didn’t fit me well. In the end, it was something I made, and long story short I got into cosplay as a teen.

Ali: What do you mostly focus on when choosing who to cosplay as? Video games, anime, comics, or movies?

May Jean: I tend to choose to cosplay characters from things I love, mainly games, because for me I have a connection with them. When I’m not working, studying or in the middle of a cosplay project, you can find me playing video games. Although, I do find my interest drawn to characters that have beautiful elaborate designs too.

Ali: What is your drafting process for a cosplay? You see a character, you like it- what do you do next to get to that final point of having a complete cosplay?

May Jean: It always starts with a game company announcement, I see a design and think it’s so gorgeous, I need to make it. Recently, there was one full of concept art for Malzeno from Monster Hunter Rise, it’s kind of the same thing in my process. I start with the concept art, draw it out,  then I break it down into pieces I’ll need to make and what kind of prop or weapon I want to make. The first step of my process, the actual crafting process, is duct taping my whole dress form and drawing it out by hand from there. Cut out the pieces and use them as patterns. If it’s for a competition piece, I’ll try to make as much of it as I can, draw out as much of it as I can. That way it’s pretty straightforward to say I made this whole thing from scratch. But also, to prove to myself I can do it is a good feeling. I start with the concept art, break it down, draw on the dress form, and then start building the pieces from there. 

Ali: Do you always try to look just like the character or do you put your own twist on them?

May Jean: I enjoy screen accuracy to an extent, but I think you can take any design and adapt it to fit you and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are definitely times where I’ve added or removed whole sections of a costume, just because it fit me better or more comfortable to wear or just more convenient to store. 2D or 3D designs are not human anatomy friendly, you take a flat piece and put it on you and it’s not going to sit the same way it does the character in the game. As  you see in games, they can be jumping with a piece of metal on their chest and it looks like it’s bending with them, thus defying the laws of physics. I do think everything is adaptable, and the main point is to have fun. No matter what you or the character you want to cosplay as need to be similar, and screen accuracy doesn’t matter that much, because again it’s about being comfortable and having fun in cosplay.

Ali: Have you worked with lighting in your cosplays before or plan to in the future? It’s becoming more of a trend to add LED’s to cosplays now.

May Jean: I have worked with a lot of LED lighting and animatronics in my last few projects. I started a few years ago when lighting started to get popular, I started with very simple circuits and worked my way up to an LED strip that you just hook up to a battery. These days I’m programming micro controls to do certain patterns, animations, and move motors. It’s pretty cool, and a lot of it is has great resources online and you can learn how to. 

Ali: Who are some of your inspirations? People you look up to in the cosplay world?

May Jean: Yaya Han was one of my earlier inspirations, I just remember stumbling onto her website and seeing some of those really early costumes she made and feeling really inspired. Later on there were other people who popped up and got really well known on social media, like Kamui Cosplay for example. Through her tutorials I started learning the basics of animatronics and what not really early ones, and once you learn the basics you can advance from there to do so much more. Another one is Kinpatsu Cosplay, it’s along the same lines because she puts out a lot of cosplays and has branched out into doing competitions. It’s been really inspiring to see how far people have gone from where they started before and when I started following them. 

Ali: What are your aspirations with cosplay? What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to be like the people you look up to, this being your full time job, an icon? Or are you trying to see how far you can go?

May Jean: I’ve thought about that too, and I don’t necessarily think that I want to make this a full time career, because I already have a full time career. I work as a nurse in a hospital and am in Grad School, pursuing education. That all shares the other half of my passion, energy and time. I kind of just want to see where I can take it and how far I can go. You know, it all started with making costumes, going to conventions and now I’m getting involved with the conventions, doing panels, and doing contests. I’m not sure what the next step would be after that, other than keep doing what I’m doing already and getting as involved as I can.

Ali: Do you go back to your older cosplays and revamp them? Or do you just move on?

May Jean: Try to take the more comfortable ones and reuse them as much as possible, I think we’re kind of in this culture right now where people are buying costumes, wearing them once and getting rid of them. A lot of that is influenced by fast fashion, I always try to re-wear costumes as much as possible and reuse them, so they can be worn multiple times. I have kept a handful of them for booth displays, which I’m looking into doing and the rest I break down for parts. Like an old car, take the electronics out of it, foam out of the back, you know whatever I can reuse.  Or I’ll gift/second hand things to my family since they like to go to conventions dressed up too. 

Ali: What are some of your essential tools you use when crafting a cosplay? 

May Jean: Oh my gosh! Well, a whole room in my house is dedicated to this now. I think as far as absolute necessities, you need a couple good pairs of scissors for different things-your sewing scissors, and your craft scissors. I have a basic sewing machine I haven’t upgraded because it works. I do tend to use my desktop computer a lot for 3D modeling and printing software, and then programming my lights. As far as basic tools, scissors, sewing machine, and soldering kits. For non-essentials like 3D printers, cutting machines or a laser cutter, I don’t think they are totally necessary but you can do really cool stuff with it. But for the tools you’ll use a lot, you’ll want things to cut with, glue, supplies to use to make your costume in the first place. I have a backstock of foam in my closet I’ll go back to and make things with. 

Ali: Let’s talk about competing. How did you get started competing in cosplay contests? Was it as soon as you started cosplaying? Or is it more recent?

May Jean: I definitely didn’t start off competing, it took a few years and cosplay contests started getting more and more popular and available. I feel that every convention has its own contest now, and I started doing this for fun and I still do. I first started with small convention contests, like GeekGirlCon (in Seattle), and a few others and worked my way up from there. The point when I started doing well in the contests, was when I started going “ok, maybe I can try this at a bigger convention and see how it goes”. It’s a nice way to get your toes wet at smaller cons, and it’s really motivating to do your best work and look forward to it. 

Ali: What are the conventions you will be going to this year that you can tell us about?

May Jean: I can say for sure that I will be going to some local Pacific Northwest conventions, Emerald City Comic Con, C2E2 (since I have finals to compete in), Sakura-Con, Rose City, and I’m thinking about Youma Con (and maybe competing there too). These couple of local cons have been a tradition with my family, and we go and have fun.

Ali: My biggest question I wanted to ask and talk about is deadlines. How do you keep a deadline for cosplay?

May Jean: Oh god! I feel like if you have enough projects planned out simultaneously, there’s a point where you have to plan things out and organize them. Some people use cosplay planning apps, OneNote. I myself like to use Google Calendars, I’ll put notes and tasks and plan two to three months out for the really big builds. I’ll set tasks on certain days and check them off as I go and finish them. I also use a note app, where I can put my checklist and my to do list. That way I can keep those files for later and look back and see how much I spent on a project or how long it took me to finish it. 

Ali: Are there any cosplays you have coming up you can tell us a bit about?

May Jean: I can finally share that I am doing another Monster Hunter costume. I’m trying to have that one done by the end of the summer so I can bring it to Youma Con. I’m doing another Final Fantasy, and working on some big animatronic wings to bring to Rose City Comic Con. That’s also another challenge for myself this year too, traveling. 

Ali: Do you have any tips for people just starting to get into making cosplay and competing?

May Jean: Take care of yourself. Take breaks, eat, sleep, drink water, and bite off small bites. Not more than you can chew all at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and something you feel comfortable making and adding in challenges later. Also, don’t feel intimidated when you go on social media and see these cosplayers who have multiple awards and have made these massive builds with 15 different types of media in it, it takes time to learn and get to that point.

Thank you so much to May Jean Cosplay for letting me take some of your time! We look forward to seeing you at ECCC this weekend and cheering you on at C2E2!!!!

If you want to follow along with May Jean Cosplay online here are all her socials!

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/mayjeanw/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mayjeanw

Ali Raphael
Ali Raphael
Ali is a professional workaholic but likes to add more to her plate by reviewing comics/books/ tv shows/movies and anime. In every other waking moment, she breathes books, manga and anything Marvel. Every day she wishes she was a Part-Time Avenger, instead of a full-time Target employee.

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