Check out this exclusive photoshoot and interview by our photographer Eric Fiallos with Arizona cosplayer extraordinaire, Rosanna Rocha! You can see the full gallery at the bottom of the page and can find more exclusive shots of this photoshoot at Rosanna’s page here and Eric’s page here.
We will be doing a featured cosplayer every month so check back with us next month with another fantastic local cosplayer! Without further ado….
How did you get started on cosplaying?
I kind of just fell into cosplaying a couple of years ago. My first ever cosplay-cosplay was Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham Asylum. I made the costume for Halloween, and had no idea what I was doing. I sewed everything by hand, which took forever. I wasn’t going for being as accurate as I do now obviously. I also refused to have blonde hair so I wore my dark hair, and photoshopped black hair onto the character photo that I made my name tag off of. I wore her for Halloween, and it just so happened that Tucson Comic Con is at the beginning of November. I remember asking my friends… “Should I wear my Harley Quinn costume? Isn’t that what people do?” Somehow they convinced me to wear it, and even though it was not at all accurate or well done people loved it, and I loved wearing it. I was put on the news, and my parents were so excited for me. I knew from that convention that I liked people appreciating my hard work. I kind of just settled for that moment for a long time till the next year when I managed to score some last-minute San Diego Comic Con tickets. I heard that Damon from The Vampire Diaries had been announced from San Diego, and I was like “I HAVE TO GO!”. Once I got the tickets I realized I had to make some costumes!! So I hopped to it. I had a fashion designer friend named Marisela who I had modeled for. She promised to teach me the basics of sewing in return for my modeling her designs. She guided me, and I looked up to her. My Aunt let me borrow her sewing machine. And then it began. I made my own lame version of Catwoman. I also did Tifa, who I was very proud of because of the accuracy and love for the character. I also made my well-known Mileena from Mortal Kombat. That was THE costume. I still see photos from SDCC 11 of me in Mileena surfacing places. I was stuck in one spot for 5 hours taking photos at SDCC. After all was said and done I couldn’t believe I tackled the biggest one of them all… my parents were so surprised because I wasn’t a crowd person, but I had a blast, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. From that moment on I was hooked. I began making costumes and perfecting my sewing while seeking out all the conventions I could possibly go to. I got hired to work at Devastation, which was a video game convention that occurred in November later that year. I was paid to wear my Mileena, and promote the booth. It was great to do something I was so happy doing AND get paid.
What is your favorite cosplay that you have done?
It is very hard to choose just one. Let’s see, I really love my Red Sonja, and there are many reasons. I am really proud of it in general because it was a whole new material for me. I have never worked with scale mail before so that was a learning experience, and also got to play with Wonderflex a bit. It was a costume outside of my normal fabric. I think it came together very well. I felt pretty in it as well. Silver is a flattering color, and I felt like I stood out. She was one of those characters I was suddenly inspired to make out of nowhere, and I love being spontaneous. The character itself is very strong and I like that. She is also classic and popular. And for some weird reason I’m partial to having red hair–I have done a few cosplays that require me to wear a red wig. If it was easier to dye my hair red I would, but I’ve dyed it black for so long my real hair is set in my ways. I really look forward to doing a snow photo shoot with her.
What other characters have you done?
I have done quite a few characters. I have never sat and thought about it, but I’ve probably produced well over 30 cosplays in my short year and a half I’ve been doing this so intently. I have done a lot of comic book characters from Marvel (Lady Loki, Psylocke, Pixie, X-23, Black Widow, Elektra) and DC (Wonder Woman, Dark Supergirl, Poison Ivy, a couple Harley Quinn’s, Starfire) for my charity groups I take part in. I have done a few anime characters for anime conventions (2 versions of Lucy from Elfen Lied, Princess Mononoke, Totoro, Stocking). I’ve done some movie characters such as Selene from Underworld and The Black Swan. And a couple of video game characters (Tifa, Mileena, Lilith of Borderlands). Next year I REALLY want to focus on more video game character since that is first and foremost my biggest interest. I have a couple of project ideas in my head that I can’t wait to jump on.
What is your dream cosplay? Like if time and money were no object.
My dream cosplay would probably be Lady Sylvanas from World of Warcraft. I really want to go all out and make a hardcore armor character, but the materials are not only expensive, but only sold in other countries. She would take a lot of work because of all the different materials that would need to go into it. I would need to sew fabric, do some intense armor building, probably some leather working, and prop building for her weapons. I do plan on conquering her one day. It just requires a lot of patience and focus. I would need to not produce any new cosplays for a couple of months and put all my money into her… right now, I’m having fun making a couple of newbies a month instead.
What is your best cosplay moment so far?
It is really hard to narrow down my favorite moment in cosplaying. Charity work with the Arizona Avengers and The Justice League of AZ has been so fulfilling. There is nothing that can be measured by seeing children’s faces light up when they see a super-hero. I have attended many places outside of conventions for my charity groups including parades, hospitals, libraries, schools, zoos, and so forth to entertain and bring smiles to children and their families. I have one memory of these two little girls from Chicago Comic Con while wearing my Dark Supergirl. They were so tiny, but both wear dressed up: one in Supergirl, and one in Batgirl. They ran up to me and were so excited they couldn’t even speak. I have photos of that moment that I treasure of them just looking up at me with these smiles on their faces. I eventually managed to get them to pose and directed them to do the super-hero stance with their fists on their hips and legs apart. I have had moments like these with so many little kids, and it never gets old. My parents love to watch me with the children because they say “it’s as if I’m a different person”. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not, but I’m happy to make my parents proud, and also make myself proud. It is really hard to explain how truly touching these moments are, but the other costumers in my charity group understand the feeling quite well. We all describe it as indescribable.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Biggest challenge in cosplay. Hmm, well, the social aspect of cosplay is quite crazy. I’ve made friends and lost friends all in the same year. Some females are so competitive and fake, users that it takes the fun out of it. I won’t lie and say that cosplay is all lollipops and rainbows because it isn’t. I’ve had my feelings hurt and heart broken in this environment, and I know many others who have had the same experiences. Now I’ve been in this atmosphere long enough to know who to stay away from, who to remain civil with, and who to let close. Getting used to being in such close contact with such a tight-knit group of people is hard especially if you don’t like to be around some them, but you get used to it. It is the one’s that become your real friends that makes sorting through all the bad eggs worth it. The friends that you make that text you when you’re sick or choose to hang out with you outside of costuming. I’ve made a handful of these friends, and it makes up for the fake people who I’ve had to deal with. Another challenge directly related to cosplay is finances. Cosplay is soooooo expensive. It is hard to get money to pay for everything sometimes. That is one limit that is always a strain whether I want it to be or not. I’m very lucky however because my family and my husband are very supportive and help me out whenever possible. I’m so lucky to have such great supporters. Sometimes people are surprised when I talk openly about how supportive my parents are. Some people have tough times with their parents who don’t think highly of the hobby, but I got super lucky. A lot of what I have done in cosplay would not have been possible without my wonderful parents. They were the ones that let me borrow their car to drive to San Diego, put the hotel fees on their credit cards, handed me some cash to feed myself, gave me a kiss and hug and told me to go “rock it.” I have some more than scandalous costumes, and they support me in those as well. My mother is the greatest woman ever. She will be the one standing with me outside of a convention “fluffing” my boobs to make them look “perfect” before I head inside into the crowds of con-goers. It is another moment I treasure when even my grandmother tells me I look beautiful in my Starfire. I’m very blessed.
Have you gotten anything out of cosplaying that you didn’t expect to, and if so, what?
I have in fact. I managed to find my best friend, biggest supporter, and lover: my husband. He is a very talented local artist named Shelby Robertson that runs his own company called American Dischord. I met him through going to conventions, and we just fit. I’m in awe of his art, and sometimes I just can’t grasp how he can draw the way he does. It is amazing! In return, he gets the same feeling when he see’s something I’ve made being worn on my body created from nothing but what was a square of fabric. It is a good exchange. Now, we have sort of teamed up. He draws the character, and I make the costumes, and at conventions we do very well. It is amazing how me simply being in the costume helps the print of the character fly off the tables. I never expected to find someone who I could share this with. I’ve had boyfriends before who were unsupportive and jealous and couldn’t handle what I was doing. It takes a strong man to watch me dress up as Starfire or Vampirella or whoever, but it takes an even better man to draw the character in support of my passion. Okay sorry, enough with the heavy goo goo gaga mushy shit. Another thing I’ve gotten out of cosplay is a hobby. I never really had one before. I played video games consistently, but I never felt that was a hobby to me. I love video games as much as the next guy, but I wanted something more. Cosplay did that for me. I’ve always wanted to explore sewing, and cosplay gives me that opportunity, but also gives me the chance for people to appreciate it.
How do you decide which costumes you want to do? Is it interest in character, similar physical features, cost, complexity of costume, or something else?
I pick cosplays based on a lot of different things. I like characters with strong personalities. I’m not one to pick the shy reserved character to cosplay. I also pick them on my own personal interest. I have many stories of how I played Mortal Kombat with my older brother when I was 5 years old, and how he ALWAYS kicked my butt every time. Mileena was one of my first choices in cosplay simply because of my childhood memories I have tied to Mortal Kombat. I also think about the design of the character. I always say when cosplay stops being fun I will quit. So when I do decide to select a character to cosplay they have to appear fun to make. I like to look at the complexity and level of challenge it would be to make the costume. I also like specific color schemes and the different materials I will need and so forth. I also select cosplays based on how well known or recognizable they are. For example, I chose to do Wonder Woman, not because she is my favorite, but because little girls and boys know her so well, and run up to me and yell “Wonder Woman!!!!” A lot of things go into selecting a cosplay. I also choose them based on a certain point in time. Maybe it is a new movie, or a new video game that just came out that everyone is talking about. Sometimes that inspires me as well.
Are there any cosplayers who you admire or respect and why?
Heh, you’re giving me a lot of freedom with this interview. I’m not going to bash, but I will say this… I admire and respect the cosplayers that are legit. I’ve met too many “popular” cosplayers that are well-known, and they turn out to be as fake as the cosplay they put on. Or they are big-headed and rude. I remember seeing one very popular cosplayer at San Diego. She was posing for a photo, and I was so excited to see her. I wanted a photo with her. I was wearing my Mileena, and before I could figure out what was going on all the photographers surrounding her turned on me and I couldn’t get to her. Her little 5 foot self looked around in confusion, made eye contact with me, yelled at her handler, and literally stomped out of the convention. It was quite a scene. That was disappointing to say the least, even though she is probably the best seamstress in this business. I’m not going to give her any respect based on her personality. I don’t care how “famous” you are, if you’re ugly on the inside then your costumes don’t mean jack. I DO however respect the cosplayers that make their own cosplays. That is probably the BIGGEST thing for me. If you didn’t produce what you’re wearing yourself then I lose interest. It may seem stuck up, but when I spend weeks making something – putting my blood, sweat, and tears into something – it means so much more. So for those who also do the same, I know how hard it had to be, and how much patience was required. I once had an old friend in cosplay who tried to insinuate that I don’t make my own costumes, and that was probably the biggest slap in the face. Nothing makes my blood boil more. I have so many “friends” here in this scene that I do associate with, and they don’t make their own cosplays, and it just kills it for me. I don’t really understand why, but it just turns me off when I know the seamstress standing next to them is the reason they are wearing the costume at all. Give me a break. It is like girls with their fake boobs, YOU DIDN’T EARN THOSE! Ha ha, inside joke.
How do you deal with negative comments online or in person?
Let’s see, negative comments… I don’t really get too many of those in person. People don’t have the balls to say anything to my face, but online I do get a lot of negativity. One of the bigger things is my piercings and tattoos. A lot of people claim that it takes away from the integrity of the cosplay. I consider myself an alternative cosplayer. I’ve been wanting to make some sort of group or website for alternative cosplayers. I suffer a lot of negative critiques because I’m alternative whether I’m in cosplay or not. If my cosplay is of good quality and I made it myself who the hell cares how much metal is in my face? I’ve learned to brush it off, and keep kicking. It has become kind of my signature now. It is a part of me. I’m true to myself. There are days when I wasn’t in cosplay and I chose to sit in that piercing/tattoo chair and I was doing something I wanted for myself, not for cosplay. I think cosplay has definitely improved my life, but it isn’t my entire life. I won’t change what I look like based on cosplay. I typically don’t respond to people who say negative things online. The one thing I do respond to is if people claim I only do this for money as a model, or my costumes aren’t made by myself. I mainly just correct their off-point statements.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for people wanting to get into cosplay? Like groups they might check out, places to research, places to learn costuming or sewing, etc.?
I get a lot of questions about this. My biggest suggestion is to look online. You Tube and how-to’s are magical things. You can get many visuals and explanations online. The great thing is that there is never really one set of way to do something so you can explore those. Talking to other cosplayers and asking their opinions is always nice too. Because if they are someone who has DONE it then that is the best feedback you can get.
What are some of the problems you have had with making your costumes and how did you solve them?
(Especially if there was some cool MacGuyvering going on.)
Let’s see, one thing that I definitely MacGuyver in cosplay is boob support. I feel I definitely mastered the art of wearing teeny costumes and specializing a custom bra for the costume. I’ve shown a lot of broads how to do this, and I know for a fact some of your popular cosplayers that you see with the clear strap running across the middle of their boobs learned that trick from me. I also rig special panties sometimes. I feel uncomfortable not wearing a bra because of the size of my breasts so I always have to make a special bra to go with the costume. I’m sure a lot of girls want their chest to look as good as possible. Creating a customized bra is just the thing for them. Most of my MacGuyver’s are for my own personal comfort. Another thing I do is cut the top of the elastic off on pairs of nylons to make them small enough to pin to the tiny bottoms of my costumes so I have the smooth leg look. That is another thing I do for comfort. I’ve recommended this to other females as well.
If you make your own costumes, are there any specialties you have, and what do you want to improve your craft in?
I would say I am the best with fabric. I sew and sew and sew. A couple of my costumes like Elektra and Psylocke are all fabric. I think that is why they are done so commonly. They don’t require a lot of outside work other than sewing. I would like to begin expanding outward into armor and leather. I’ve worked with a little bit of Wonderflex, and believe me it isn’t as easy as one would think. Leather looks like a pain in the butt, but it is durable and I would like to learn that as well. I think that being more multifaceted in cosplay easily means better quality costumes. I know they are common costumes, and I’m willing to admit I did one at one point, but those costumes with those simple black cat suits are so boring and lame to me now. Black Cat, Catwoman, and Black Widow where all you need is some sort of belt or headgear aren’t a challenge to me, that’s why I try to stay away from those. There is a reason you go to SDCC and see 50 Black Cats walking around. You get a catsuit online and slap a store-bought corset on and ta-da you’re done. I may have started off small, but I want to produce things that demand respect and aren’t all that common. I want to get better at everything so I can make complex stuff that steals the show!
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A huge thanks to Rosanna for taking the time to do this exclusive photoshoot with us. You can follow her on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/rosanna.rocha.cosplayer.