Have Mercy! An Interview with Avera Cosplay

Avera Cosplay is an award-winning cosplayer, artist, and maker best known for detailed armor builds and mashups. She started cosplaying with her family in 2016 and has been honing her skills ever since. A specialist in armor, wigs, and props, Avera uses her expertise to help others in the community create their own cosplays.

We had a chance to chat with the self-proclaimed “con mom,” whose passion and enthusiasm for the craft were obvious as we talked about how she got her start, some of her cosplay creations, her dream project, and some of her con experiences.

Scott (GNN):  So, I guess I have to start with the obvious question…where did the name Avera Cosplay come from?

Avera Cosplay (AC): So, it was my gamer tag. When I started, the first MMO I ever played seriously was Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I logged in, and I was going to be She-Ra because I’m like a huge ’80s She-Ra fan. But the name was already taken. So, I just started putting in, “Ra,” and I was trying to come up with combinations. I ended up mixing– just doing A-B– you know, –Vera. So then it was like, my name, and I was super into gaming. The competitive PVP, I was a guild officer, really into it. Met my husband in my guild. And they were always just stuck. So when we started to kind of dabble in cosplay, it just made sense. Because most of my friends that went to cons with us were our guild. They only called me Avera, they didn’t call me by my real name anyways [laughter], so. And actually, my husband’s name is still Caesar on my phone, that was his gamer tag.

I still haven’t changed it, and we’ve been together for God knows how long.

GNN: Did you meet him gaming?

AC: Yeah. So, he’s like, “Hey, I live in Tampa, you live in Fort Myers.” He’s like, “Want to go to Tampa Bay Comic-Con?” And I tell him I’m going and I’m going to try cosplaying for the first time and that we can meet up and go to the con. I was like, “It’ll be great, we’ll get a beer or whatever. It’ll be fun.” And I had my son with me at the time, but I said, “Okay, we’ll get some lunch.”

So, yeah, about a year later, we actually went on a date, and that was that.

GNN: Wait, a year later went on a date?

AC: Yeah, you know. Because I had lived somewhere else, I had a kid, you know. I had a divorce. It was kind of like, one of those things. But the timing was eventually right, so.

GNN: I guess that is kind of a long drive…

AC: He drove down for lunch one day. And I was like, “Okay, this guy really deserves a shot at the title [laughter].” No, he’s perfect. And yeah, I mean, it’s so weird now. But his friends never knew he was a gamer. Or a nerd.

GNN: Oh boy. He was a closeted nerd?

AC: His Tampa friends. They were like, “Oh, he’s into sports, baseball, cars.” And they’re like, “How did you meet?” I was about to say something, and he goes, “Online, we met online.” And I was like, “We met in a video game.” And they’re asking, “Brian plays video games?” I said, “Brian plays video games for like, 40 hours a night.” Then they figured out, “That’s why he always leaves the bar at 10:00 PM.” I’m like, “Yes because we raid.” He was just like, “Oh, God.” Yeah.

GNN: So, you talked about that Tampa Bay Comic-Con you went to…and you said that’s where you cosplayed for the first time. I always ask people I interview about their “origin story.” Was that your cosplay origin story?

AC: So, my son was probably about eight years old at that point. And I’d been going to cons. I actually worked for GEEK Magazine, and I was lucky enough to go to San Diego Comic-Con, so I had been around cons and had been a long-time geek gamer, whatever.

So, my son wanted to go to a con, but he wanted to go and cosplay. And I just never had the guts to do it or didn’t have any skills. So, he’s like, “I want to be a crying child from Five Nights at Freddy’s.” And I was like, “That is so horrible, but I love it. All right, let’s do it.”

So, we made stuff for him. And then the next thing he wanted to do is be Junkrat. He literally jumped the gun from a zentai and some ribbon to a full-blown armor build. And we were like, “All right.”

So, we made him Junkrat for Dragon Con. And at some point, I think we just kind of looked at each other, and me and my husband were like, “We’re kind of good at this. It looks really good.” So, we just kept going and going and going. And then I started competing, and my son kind of moved on with his life. He drums and skateboards, and he cosplays once in a while. He’ll be at MegaCon, but he doesn’t cosplay. He’s 16 and he buys knives with his friends. I don’t know. But I just loved it. And then once I started to really do the competitive stuff and competing, I was hooked. So, I actually do a lot of it. It’s part of my living. I have a couple of different streams of income, but cosplay is definitely one of them. So, I’m cosplaying 20 hours, making stuff, 20 to 40 hours a week right now. It’s definitely fun. I love it. I love to make stuff, but, yeah, it’s kind of one of those things that just kind of spiraled out of control. It was like, “Wow, this really got out of hand!” [Laughter].

GNN: It’s funny, I didn’t put one question in my notes because I pretty much get the same answer, but based on what you just said, it seems like you might actually give me a different answer. I think I’ve interviewed probably seven or eight cosplayers. Normally I say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being someone going to Party City and getting a costume and going to MegaCon and 10 being cosplay is actually the person’s income, like an Alison Tabitha, where on the scale do you see yourself?

AC: I would probably be about an 8. I don’t think I could probably pay my bills without my consulting business in it as well, but I’m definitely profitable and beyond just cosplay. I could probably squeak by on just cosplay right now, but I’m doing a lot of commissions, so it’s a lot of work.

There are a lot of people I know that do the Patreon thing and it’s a different kind of hard. So, right now, I’m seven months pregnant. It’s a little bit difficult for me to take on seven commissions in a week, right? So, if I was kind of more mobile right now, I probably would be able to fulfill all my bills and stuff with cosplay, but again, it comes from making stuff for people, and if I don’t feel like doing it, I don’t make money, so that’s the downside, right?

I’m trying to move more into guesting, making money there, making money doing a lot of programming coordination for cons with my marketing skillsets, that’s a little bit more in my vein, and it’s a little less taxing, right? Because it’s very hard to get to your own stuff when you have seven commissions that are all due for MegaCon.

GNN: Right.

AC: And then it’s like a week before MegaCon, and you’re still sitting here in your room painting freaking tentacles for your Ursula costume. But yeah, I would say about an eight. Yeah.

GNN: Yeah, it seemed like a couple of the cosplayers I interviewed, their opinion was you don’t get into the nines or tens unless you’re doing the OnlyFans and the Patreon.

AC: Yeah, you can make a lot of money. I mean, you can make a ton of money doing that. I have a 16-year-old kid and he doesn’t need to know what his mom’s doing. I just can’t. He’s completely embarrassed by me for just walking around in the world. Imagine if my hoo-ha was out there. He would never talk to me again. “Are you really wearing that T-shirt? God mom, not cool.” I said, “Oh, that’s fire,” the other day and he’s like, “Oh my God, mom, don’t.”

GNN: So, I’ve learned that cosplay is about 50% nerdiness and 50% a desire to dress up and be someone else. Some people I talk to were a nerd first and some were into dressing up and acting and that kind of thing…which came first for you?

AC: I was kind of always both, actually.

GNN: Oh, really?

AC: I was my college’s mascot for Syracuse University.

GNN: Really?

AC: Yes, I was a giant orange. My friends were all cheerleaders, and that wasn’t my scene anymore. I mean, I did it in high school because it was competitive. But, yeah, I was like, “Hey, I’m just going to be this giant orange mascot thing.” I liked to make people laugh.

So, I have a weird life. I was a radio DJ. I love weird things, but for the most part, I love making people react. Right? So, character performing was always kind of second nature to me and something I really enjoyed. So, whether it was mascotting or now acting like Mercy, or whomever I’m doing, I enjoy that. I’m also very competitive. So, the fact that cosplay has that aspect definitely is probably what’s kept me around so long. I also like to make stuff. I like to just say, “Hey, if I have pool noodles and some duct tape, can I make these tentacles”?

So, there’s just everything that I really enjoy doing as far as a hobby. It kind of just encapsulates all of them. And I mean the nerdiness is just such a part of my life. I mean, you don’t clock 40 hours in an MMO and not be a nerd.

GNN: Right.

AC: So, yeah. I mean I was definitely…one time, I’m the mascot, and my roommates are cheerleaders and we have a party at our house. And I was DJ’ing, and I stopped playing Ludicrous, and I put on Brak from The Brak Show. I put on his mashed potato song, and there were D1 football players in our room, and everybody just looked at me like, “You’re killing the vibe.” I’m like, “No, this is awesome. Like, you guys need to get on this.” Yeah, so.

GNN: You are awesome. So, utter curiosity, and this doesn’t have to be an exact amount. I just would like to hear the ballpark. How many cosplays do you have in your repertoire that you could dress up as right now?

AC: So, I sell a lot of my older stuff on Etsy just because of space. It’s also nice to see somebody, whatever. I could probably do about twelve right now if I needed to.

GNN: Oh, wow. How many do you think you’ve ever done?

AC: I couldn’t. Five years? I would say probably like 40 cosplays.

GNN: Oh, wow. So, when people buy stuff from you, do people buy whole cosplays, entire outfits, or are people buying just a piece like a helmet or a shield?

AC: So, most of the time my commissions are props or wigs. I mean, it’s usually something doable. Like I just did robotic arms for someone’s Genos One Punch Man cosplay. I did just the arms.

I also do armor parts for other anime characters. There are not a ton of armor parts. A full suit, people will ask about having a full suit down, and I’ll just will flat out tell them, “You can’t afford this.” Someone wanted like a Reinhardt from Overwatch, and I told them it would be like $30,000.

GNN: Wow.

AC: It would be hundreds of hours of work. It wouldn’t make any sense. So, most of the time it’s that, but I do so if I’ve already made it, but it’s just not cost-effective to do it from scratch.

Now, I do have a friend who does full armor builds for about $1,500, but he does it differently, where he’ll do the Mandalorian and he’ll outsource the helmet, and then he does just the Mandalorian, but he’s only doing that character, right. So, I can’t get 100 of those and pull them out. Each one of these is over 250 hours. And I think Plaguebringer is closer to like 500. So, you can’t afford that. That doesn’t make any sense. Plus, it’s hard when you don’t have someone here. All this is built to my body.

So, yeah, most of it is smaller stuff. For MegaCon, I still have to build an ax for Artemis from DC, and then I still have to do a Moon Knight chest plate for a buddy, so stuff like that.

GNN: So, which of your cosplays was hardest to do? I know you won that Supercon with what looked like a pretty damn complicated Mercy cosplay. Was that the most complicated one?

AC: So, Mercy, Warhammer, the mashup is probably the hardest. And she’s not done. I’ll be competing with her in August, C2E2, for the crown. Championships of Cosplay. So, I won at Supercon, and that has made me the southern champion. And then I go to C2E2 in Chicago to be the U.S. champion, to compete for the U.S. title, and then if you win the U.S. title, you go to London for the world title.

So, for the most part, she’s the most complicated because I took on so many new techniques. I really wanted to use her to compete. Since it was the first year that Supercon was going to be a qualifier, and I just went ham. How hard could it be to tool leather? Well, it’s actually incredibly hard [laughter]. Thankfully, I have some really awesome friends. I have a friend who actually did the same cosplay that I did in Plaguebringer, and he is actually a leatherworker. Mine’s a lot of foam. His was actually made of a lot of leather. So I sent him some of my tooling and asked for advice, and he literally circled everything I did wrong. He was like, “Don’t do this, don’t do that.”

And I had sewed for the first time. So, I sewed my skirt. And my friend, who is a historical recreation sewist. And she’s like, “Okay, what are we doing for your first sewing project?” And I was like, “I need a velvet-lined skirt.” And she’s like, “Oh.” And I was like, “Is that hard?” She’s like, “Yeah, velvet’s is a really hard thing to do.” She was thinking like a cotton bag, and I was thinking about this skirt because I need it. So, let’s do it.

We’re also going to be making the wings move. I’m going to be redesigning the backpack. I’m going to make a new skirt that’s going to be flowing a little bit. And the other wrinkle is I give birth on July 25th, and the contest is on August 5th. So, I do not know in what state my body will be in.

GNN: That could complicate things.

AC: Yeah, what will fit and what won’t? So, we’re just going to have to go with it. My mom’s coming down. And I know I probably will have the baby much earlier than that. I always do, so I’m not worried that way. My mom’s coming down to watch the baby. I’m not bringing her to a convention at five days old. Don’t worry. So, it’s just one of those things where I said to my husband, “I know we should probably lay off trying for a little while because I have the Crown Championships of Cosplay,” and he’s like, “Well, okay, yeah.” He’s like, “Maybe we should try to wait a year because you have so much stuff going on.” And then, the next day, I’m like, “I’m pregnant.” But there was no way. I mean, I’m going to be there one way or the other. I’ll have something that fits, so. It’s just one of those things.

GNN: So, would you give that advice to cosplayers? Five days old, too early to cosplay?

AC: Yeah, it’s pushing it.

GNN: Pushing it. Maybe wait a week?

AC: Yeah. I mean, my daughter doesn’t really…she dresses up as princesses right now, but she also wants to be Moon Knight. She’s obsessed with Moon Knight. I have no idea. She wants to watch the show. I don’t know if it’s just the Disney plus banner that’s always up there or something. And I’m like, “I don’t think it’s good parenting to let you watch.” Because you’re two. I don’t know what the rules are. So, she’s going to be at MegaCon on Sunday only, and I think I’m going to have to make her some kind of Moon Knight costume!

GNN: So, when did you make the move? How abrupt was the move from “cosplayer who attends conventions and just walks around” to “cosplayer at MegaCon who has their own booth”?

AC: It was probably around when I started to really win bigger competitions. I started to get smaller ones, right? So, when I started to win, I would say my biggest win was probably with Maleficent at Dragon Con in 2019. And so around that time was when I got my first guesting slots, like local cons in Florida. And then I started to really kind of win bigger and bigger contests. Super Con I won. I won Best Armor at Holiday Matsuri. Then, during COVID, I did a bunch of virtual ones which were pretty big like Gamescom in Cologne, just things that got me kind of more exposure. At MegaCon, I’ve competed two years in a row, and I won minor awards. So, the people know me, you know what I mean? I won Fan Favorite in 2018 and I won a judge’s award in 2019. Not Best In Show at MegaCon, but still enough where they know who I am. That’s kind of just how it started and it just started to snowball from there. So yeah, just been going up and up.

GNN: So, first con, how did it go? Not competing or anything…just attending in a costume?

AC: I was just blown away by people who wanted to take my picture, first of all. It went really well because my son was Crying Child from Five Nights at Freddy’s. We actually had to make his costume, because believe it or not, they don’t make that. I was some sort of Lolita Cinderella, but I used my own hair and just had this dress. I didn’t want like a full ball gown. So, I was kind of some sort of Cinderella version. I was really crazy. The people knew who I was, and wanted pictures of me, and I was still in that phase where I was taking pictures of other cosplayers.

GNN: Sure, sure.

AC: I was definitely not in the, “Does anybody want my picture today?” mode. But my son was just in his element. And he started to cry as we went to leave, and I said, “Why are you crying?” And he goes, “This is the first time I ever really felt like I belonged somewhere.” And I was like, “You know what?” I said, “I kind of feel the same way.” Like I had been to cons before, but the cosplay just was like, took it to another level, right?

GNN: I get that. 100 percent.

AC: And we watched the cosplay contest. And I was like, “Wow, I couldn’t imagine making something like that.” You know? And it just kind of went from there. There was just a feeling of community, I think. Like, “You’re dressed up like a jerk? So am I! Let’s be jerks together!”

GNN: So, again, I’m super curious, and this doesn’t have to be an exact number. How many cons do you think you’ve gone to, all told? Is it over 100?

AC: Yeah.

GNN: Really?

AC: I mean, I went to cons long before I cosplayed. So, the first con I ever went to, I think, was back in 2010 or 2013, probably. I mean, yeah, right now, including the ones that I guess, I’m probably doing anywhere from 5 to 10 cons a year.

GNN: So, in the span of nine years you went from not making anything to doing what you’re doing no…full builds?

AC: Right. Yeah.

GNN: Holy sh*t. I’m 45 and I don’t think there’s anything I do that well.

AC: Actually, It was probably five years. So, I started cosplaying about five years ago, so six years ago. Yeah. We’ll be six years at MegaCon, so.

GNN: What was the hardest thing to learn how to do?

AC: Everything! I mean, the thing is that things aren’t hard to do, they’re hard to master if that makes sense. So, I look back and I’m like, “This is amazing.” And now I look back and I’m like, “That was terrible.”

I started off really hot and heavy. The first thing I really dove into was wig styling. And that kind of came super easy. And then my husband would make the base of our stuff. He has an engineering kind of mindset, so he would do all the base stuff, and I would do all the detailing. And I started to use Worbla. And I had the cake decorating skillset, so I was making Worbla roses. So, I was starting to pick off things that I had some experience with, leaned on other skills that I had already learned, and just kind of started to pick up more and more and more.

Now we’re at the point where I would say there was a time where I was doing all the painting and a lot of the detail work, but my husband was doing most of the construction. And now we’re at a point where, for the most part, we make all of our own stuff. I still do a lot of his painting. And sometimes he’ll do more of the fabrication. If I need to solder, I’ll wire my LEDs, but he’ll solder them together. Or if it requires a Sintra thing that requires welding, that’s not me, that’s him.

Basically, I think it’s one of those things where it’s like you can get into it and you could build something that looks passable, but the hard part is getting to the point where you understand the difference between okay and amazing.

GNN: So, I see on the MegaCon app that you’re doing panels. Do you do any tutorials online?

AC: I do. Yeah, I do a lot on my TikTok. I do a lot on Instagram for free. I have some that are kind of up on other people’s sites. I’m trying to get a YouTube together to kind of use that platform to do tutorials and stuff like that.

I’m usually doing a ton of panels and stuff, so I enjoy the teaching aspect of it. I think that’s probably something that I really enjoy. Teaching people how to do stuff because stuff can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing.

GNN: Are you one of those cosplayers who watch other people’s tutorials and snidely, make comments? You don’t do that, do you?

AC: No, I’m learning every day. First of all, there are 100 ways to do something. So, I’m always looking for another way. And a lot of my friends are big-time tutorial people. People that we’re friends online or whatever. We’ll pass stuff off to each other and say, “What do you do here?” Share each other’s secrets. I tend to come up with the weird stuff. I lean a lot on cake decorating techniques that I’ve learned in the past and different stuff like that.

So, I’ll have something, and it’ll be kind of off the wall and it’ll get shared by my friend and like, “Can I put this in my new book?” Or whatever. It’s another community of the people who are teaching the teachers, and we’re always learning from each other.

I’ve gotten upset probably once because somebody who I know reached out to me about a technique that I was doing, and then I did a tutorial on, then did the tutorial on it herself. Just took it and I was just like, “Is this real life? Did you just do this?” I mean, most of the stuff that we do, though, has been done by a million people. Right? But when it’s something really specific, like using a plastic grate to airbrush a costume that we’re both making, it’s like, “Wow, you just…,” But for the most part, I’m always learning. You have to be.

GNN: So, I started interviewing cosplayers in 2017 or so. When I first started, it seemed like the cosplay community was one great tight-knit group…everyone was helping each other. Again, this is to an outsider. However, the more I learn, it seems like there might be cracks in the cosplay community, where people seem kind of snippy and judgmental. So, what is it like, honestly? Is it generally helpful and nice and kind? Is it 50% helpful and nice and kind?

AC: For me, I’m older, right? So, I have, like, a “con mom” mantra, and people kind of interact with me in that way. But I just don’t tolerate bullshit. I’m pretty upfront and you know where you stand with me. If you’re not going to be the kind of person that…I don’t entertain it, right?

I think a lot of that kind of stuff comes from jealousy. It comes from people who are looking for validation through social media; it says that they have a lot of stuff going on. It is hard to put yourself out there. It’s hard to put yourself out there day after day. And it’s hard to see other people have success when you’re not. It’s hard to do these things. And you’re talking about, for the most part, a very young group, and mostly female, who also may have body issues, who also may have trauma issues. There’s a lot going on in their lives, usually, and they are not equipped to deal with this kind of stuff, right. So, throughout my life, I have been kind of a minor celebrity as DJing, whatever.

But I’ve learned things to cut off things. I’ve learned to deal with trolls. I’ve learned to not take things seriously. I’ve learned to put people in their place if it needs to be done and not to have that affect the way I look at myself in the mirror. I don’t think that that’s always the case. And I think that it’s a bigger issue. And it’s more of a reflection of just even the influencer society. I’m sure they go through this community. They go through the same things, right? We’re just not equipping our daughters with the tools to deal with what they’re dealing with. And I can see a lot of things coming from there.

And it’s no different than wearing the same prom dress as Ashley back in 1980. It’s just on a public scale, and there’s money involved. So, there’s even more competition. Healthy competition is actually I think, in the actual competition world of cosplay, it is much healthier than Patreon, TikTok, and Twitch, and all these girls who are vying for eyeballs to make money. That seems to be a lot more cutthroat than even the competition space. The competition space tends to be a lot older because you have to have the time, experience, and money to make this crazy shit. And I think that’s really what it is. So, for me, there’s been some people who have really tried to tear me down.

And early on, I just learned to block them and cut them out of my life, and that was it. I rarely get upset with people. I rarely judge people. I don’t care what you do. Go for it, whatever. I will call you if something that you’re doing is bad etiquette; you’re not tagging your photographer; you’re rerunning a costume and sandbagging it just to make money. If you win a major contest and then you go to the Tri-Valley, the Sacred Heart, little, tiny con to just curb-stomp some kids, I will call you out. I’m kind of an etiquette junkie like that, especially with crediting people. But I’m not mean about it. I don’t say, “Oh my God. Just see what so and so did.” I direct message you, like, “Hey, you should really do this, and here’s why.”

But, yeah, I don’t get involved in the drama unless it’s just funny. If it’s something hysterical. I like popcorn. I’m not saying I know. I’ve got to rise above it at all times. I got popcorn. I’m watching. And I’m like, “Oh, what’s going to happen next? Aren’t you dating so-and-so, but you’re here with–” oh, I want to watch this thing.

GNN: So, have you ever met anyone you were cosplaying as?

AC: We met John Cena when my husband was Peacemaker. I think that could be the closest we’ve ever gotten.

GNN: What did he think?

AC: It was pretty early on after The Suicide Squad came out, and he was like, “Oh, my God.” My husband’s dressed as him, but he’s not the same proportions.

GNN: Right.

AC: So, it kind of looked like…yeah, he was like, “Oh, my God.” It was really cool. Yeah. I kind of do more obscure character mashups, but I have met Mercy a bunch of times. The voice of Mercy from Overwatch. She loves it. She knows who I am now. She knows me because I’ve done so many of her characters, and she’s amazing. She’s just one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

GNN: So, what has been your coolest con moment?

AC: There’s so many, so many self-absorbed ones! I’m trying to think of something that’s a little bit less like winning and winning contests.

Actually, you know what? Me and my friends after Tampa Bay Comic Con, we tried to go into the pool, and there were 20 of us, and it was the first time we’d ever hung out. And this is how you know you make friends forever. We tried to break into the Marriott pool late at night and they wouldn’t let us out, so they kicked us out. So, we all went into the gym in our bathing suits because you could get into the pool from the gym.

We all just pretended to be working out and there’s like a chick in a bikini on a treadmill. And we’re all just like pretending to pump iron. And the security guy is just standing there looking at us and we’re like, “We’re just working out.” And he’s like, “Okay.” And so all of a sudden, we all just run and jump into the pool and we’re promptly corralled. I think I started playing We’re Not Going To Take It by Twisted Sister on my phone. And it was really…yeah. Making con friends is always a good one. But yeah, that was probably my epic moment.

GNN: Nice.

AC: Beating security.

GNN Now I have to ask the flip side question. You’re an attractive woman and you cosplay. You don’t go over the top showing a lot of skin like some cosplayers I’ve seen, but have you ever had a weird or uncomfortable con moment?

AC: Weirdest? Like a creeper?

GNN: Yeah…or any other weird experience?

AC: I’ve never really been…I’ve never had that. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve always had family with me or if I just have resting bitchface. I’m also a big Viking kind of woman…my family, I come from giants.

So, I’m a big woman, and I just don’t give off that vibe. I’m older, too. I feel like being with my husband and my kid usually at all times keeps some of those people away.

I did have someone once, actually, there was a guy who was probably I want to say…and I don’t think he was right in the head, but he was probably about 20, maybe. Like 18, 20 and my son was 8. And he was definitely hitting on my son and that was not cool. I didn’t really know what to do, and I was trying to keep my husband from killing this person. He was like, “Are you a boy”? And my son was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “You’re kind of pretty to be a boy.” I never thought at seven I’d have to deal with that stuff. But, okay, that was probably the weirdest thing that has ever stood out. I think he asked him, “Can I buy you an ice cream?” And I was just…I didn’t know what to say.

Finally, it was almost like an edge, like my son was on the edge of like a cliff and I didn’t want this guy to upset him and he react physically or something. So, I just kind of slid in between them and I was like, “Hi.” And then I got a little bit more like I could say whatever. I was like, “You need to leave.” But I was far enough away where I was like, I didn’t want to…I just wanted to…I’m sure I’ll deal with it. I’ve had friends that have been grabbed or whatever.

GNN: All it takes is one person to ruin a con or make you uncomfortable. I always ask because I want anyone reading to be aware.

So, at this point in your cosplaying career, do you make everything you wear? Do you purchase anything at this point?

AC: So, for competition pieces, everything is made except for like, my bra. So, if it’s a competition piece, it’s head to toe. The wig is usually made. It’s not just a store-bought wig. It’s usually like wefts are put in and stuff like that, head to toe.

If it’s just something like for MegaCon, for example, I’ll do a character and I’ll take some shortcuts if it’s just like me having fun, right? So, for Polka-Dot Man, for example, I bought the white suit and then I added the polka dots and airbrushed it and made the belt. And I make a lot of it, but I will take shortcuts here and there especially with fabric because I don’t sew, right? I mean, I have sewn. I have sewn, and I will sew, but I don’t sew. I’m not like, “Hey, let me whip up something.”

Avera Cosplay - PDM

So, for Ursula, for example, there’s a skirt underneath it, and I got that online. I’ll do stuff like that a lot of times. And there are characters where it’s like I want to do them, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it, and I will buy stuff. I have pregnant Wanda. I wanted to have that as a backup for MegaCon in case I got uncomfortable in armor. But I was not going to sew it. I just want to have that.

So, I don’t make everything every time. I wouldn’t do as many costumes, right? So, there’s just not enough time to make everything, every time.

GNN: So, what’s the difference between “go to conventions and have fun” cosplayer and “compete and win and make money” cosplayer? Clearly, you’ve made the advancement from not even doing it to doing what you said like you’re on an eight. Other than the obvious hard work and skill, is there something, like a little bit of luck? What is the difference?

AC: I mean, it’s just like starting your own business, really. Right? So, there are skills. I don’t necessarily think that anything that I do is talent. It’s all skills. So, yes, you have to have skills.

There are paths forward in the cosplay world that don’t involve making your own crap, right? I mean, Patreon is a perfect example of girls who do not make their costumes, but who are making money on it. So, it’s not even acquiring cosplay skills. It’s marketing skills. It’s networking. It’s really starting a business. And I think expecting it to come easy is just silly. Right? So, it’s work. And I treat guesting like a job, and I treat cosplay…50% of my cosplay I treat like work. The other 50% is still me running around like a jerk and having fun. But it is really…you’re ready to work.

And I think most people, the answer is that it’s not work. They want this to still remain their hobby. And you know what? That’s fine. No one says that you have to go from walking around a con to guesting it, right? But the one thing I say to people who want to get into guesting is: it’s work. You have to create a resume. Now, it’s a media kit. It’s not a resume-resume. But you got to create a media kit. You have to bring something to the table, you have to market yourself, you have to reach out to people, and you have to actually start doing the leg work. And when you get to the con, that’s your interview for future cons because it’s a small community, and everybody talks. Are you at your booth on time? Is your booth presentable? Have you invested money to make your booth look nice? And I know, no, you can’t start off with everything right away, but you do need a banner. And you do need to make stuff to sell, or find prints to sell, or whatever it is. Are you doing panels? Did you put work into the panel?

I mean, for me the best guest that I as a coordinator, because I do a lot of coordinating, too, the best guests are not always the ones with the largest following. A lot of times, they’re just the people who were willing to work the hardest. I have a girl who doesn’t have a ton of following, but she does an anime sing along or she does an anime trivia, and she does a lip sync battle every con that I do with her, and they’re huge draws. And she’s working nonstop, and she finds– makes the prizes herself. And I don’t have to worry about her being at her booth or being where she needs to be. And I’ve had guests with huge followings who are like, “I’m not going to judge the contest because I’m going to leave early”. And you’re like, “Okay. This will be your last time doing this”.

GNN: Right.

AC: I’m telling everyone I know. So, I think that’s the biggest part. It’s just making the commitment to put in the work and not even working hard at cosplay, but treating it like a job. And I think that that’s the thing that most people don’t want to do, and I don’t blame them. I don’t either. I would never be good enough. But I played video games every night from 8:00 P.M. until 11:00 PM. for years and years and years. Besides the fact that I wasn’t good enough, I don’t know what it would have taken…the amount of work and effort that it would have taken to become a professional video game player, I was not willing to put that in there.

GNN: Right.

AC: It’s okay to keep it as a hobby. You don’t have to. And there are multiple paths forward. It’s not just the best crafters. There are also character actors. There are people who make a living as princesses and do princess parties. There are people who are very good at streaming and Twitch and chatting, and they grow their Patreon following, and they come up with new content all the time. There’s nothing easy about being a girl who makes a living on Patreon. Those girls have to have content every day. They’re literally coming up with new content every day. I work on a costume for a month sometimes, and that’s a month worth of content. But it’s one thing. They are literally in a new costume every week at the very least. And I can’t imagine the amount of creativity it would take to be able to come up with that stuff. And business acumen. These girls, they know their algorithms. They know what they’re doing, and it takes a lot of work to learn that stuff, so.

GNN: Right. Yeah. And then again, another path. I mean, Cecil Grimes is 95% marketing. He has one costume. It’s one character, but his booth is amazing. And he gets people to come in as walkers and he’s always got people at his booth.

AC: And he goes all the way to Germany for cons. You know what I mean?

GNN: So, do you think you’ve hit your ceiling with cosplay? Or is there some way to bump it into 9 or 10?

AC: I have not. No, I’m going all the way. I haven’t had drones coming out of my gown. No. I don’t have any qualms. I probably will not be winning C2E2 this year, and that’s fine. I have goals, whether it’s BlizzCon or TwitchCon. I’m not guessing MegaCon. I want to win a major circuit or a major, major convention.

I want to definitely move more into prosthetics and more into sculpting and casting, like creature casting and stuff like that. I think that that’s kind of where my interests lie is doing a lot more of that. There’s a character from World of Warcraft who I really want to get working on, and she’s a Naga, which is kind of like a Gorgon. So, I want to get into animatronics. There’s a lot of stuff that I really want to do. Definitely not anywhere near my final form.

GNN: Nice.

AC: So, my long-term goal is to just get it to a point where I’ve achieved the things that I want to personally and that I can start to pass on and just continue to pass on knowledge and teach younger kids how to do this stuff.

GNN: That’s pretty badass. That’s cool. So, if right now I could snap my fingers and you go you could have all the abilities and all the skills and all the resources to make any costume you want right now, what would that be?

AC: Okay. All right. I’ll show you…this is my dream here. She’s Lady Vashj from World of Warcraft. And she has arms that I would need to have moving independently. And then she’s got the long tail, and I want the snakes in the head to move.

GNN: She looks incredible. Would your legs be what move you or would you have some sort of motorized way to move?

AC: So, my legs would be from here to here. They would stop here, and then this would be not my legs, obviously. This would be like a tail that moves. And this would be articulated so that it moves when I walk. Yeah. So that would be what I would do.

I can’t do any of the stuff that’s required right now to make this suit. Check back in a few years! [laughter] But, yeah, for the most part. The other thing, too, is my dream characters, they were, honestly, the first thing I tackled, so I would do different versions of them. Maleficent and She-Ra were my two “I have to have these,” but I like old-school Maleficent, chaotic evil, Maleficent. Not like Angelina Jolie, “my boyfriend hurt my feelings, so now I’m evil.” And I like She-Ra ’85. Because the new She-Ra is great. I love it, I watch it. But it’s a kid and I’m not so I like the older woman. So, I just would do different versions of them.

Avera Cosplay - Maleficent
Photo by Bridy Bruno Photography

GNN: Now, it’s time to talk about where folks can find you online. First, they can Google you at Avera Cosplay. You’re on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Etsy, right?

AC: I have Etsy, yep.

GNN: Do you try to funnel people to Facebook? Is that your main social media account?

GNN: No. Instagram and TikTok are the two main platforms I use. I’m @avera_cosplay on both. And I try to keep the content slightly different, or at least it’s not like I’m constantly posting the same exact reel, but it does get to be…if there’s a big tutorial or something like that, for the most part, they’re going to be on either TikTok or whatever and pictures on Instagram. I’m the most active on Instagram, I would say.

GNN: Do you have a website?

AC: I do have averacosplay.com, but it’s kind of just kind of like a place where the links are to stuff. I do stream on Twitch. I haven’t in a while because I’m pregnant and I don’t want to be about that life.

GNN: Okay.

AC: But I’ve been streaming. I was streaming a lot of my builds and stuff during the quarantine, so I need to get back to that. That was super fun. But, yeah, it seemed to be like the same five people, but that’s okay. That’s okay.

GNN: So, where can people find out where you’ll be in the near future?

AC: So, this year I will be at MegaCon. I will be at SpaceCon, which is in Fort Myers. I’m guesting there. And then I will be guesting…well, I’ll be at C2E2 competing in August.

I’m actually not going to be a DragonCon this year, which is like super sad. It’s like the first time in a long time and it’s like my favorite, but I just can’t make it go and C2E2 and infants. I was supposed to go to SuperCon as well, and that is too close to my due date to be safe. So I will be at Anime St Pete in September. I’m guesting. And then I will be at a new con, Holiday Cosplay and that’s going to be in Tampa Bay at the Tampa Bay Convention Center. It’s brand new and I’m doing all the programming for it. So, I probably won’t even be in cosplay, but I’ll be hanging out, and then home back to seal the deal of the year. At Holiday Matsui and C2E2, I will be in. I will not be guesting. So, if you want to see con mom having some white wine at 1:00 AM, those would be the cons to go to.

GNN: So the last question I have, and I end every interview with this. This is Geek News Network. What are you geeking out on right now?

AC: Right now? I’ve been watching Moon Knight, and I like that. And I’m really excited for Obi-Wan Kenobi, huge Star Wars fan. So that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

GNN: Well, it’s been great talking to you. Thank you very much for your time. I guess I’ll see you at MegaCon!

AC: Alright. Thank you so much. I’ll see you there!

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