Starting Smoll | An Interview with cosplayer DarthSmolly

bombshell, convention, cosplay, Costume, darthsmolly, florida, interview, orlando
Black Widow. Photo by Amplefire.

Growing up, a lot of us wanted to be superheroes. Whether it was Batman, Superman, Black Widow, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or even Mario, Link, Samus, or Lara Croft, we all dreamed of having big adventures and doing great things.  Well, recently, I got a chance to talk to someone who’s been heroes like Lara Croft and Black Widow, and even villains like Poison Ivy.  Her name is DarthSmolly and she’s a cosplayer based in central Florida.  I had a chance to talk to her about how she got into the world of cosplay, where she sees herself going in the cosplay world, and what advice she has for up-and-coming cosplayers.

Scott (GNN): So, folks, I’m here with DarthSmolly, cosplayer extraordinaire. I guess we’ll start with a pretty simple question, and kind of an obvious question, at least for me. Where did the name DarthSmolly come from?

DarthSmolly (DS): Well, my name is Molly, and I’ve always been a fan of Star Wars. So, I wanted to mix the two together and put together Darth and Molly. Well, Darth Molly was already taken on Instagram, so I had to put the ‘S’ in. Which is fine, because my nickname is, “Smolls,” anyway because I’m so small, so I went with DarthSmolly.

GNN: So, to me, the formula for cosplay is dressing up in costumes, plus a degree of nerdiness. Superheroes, villains, storybook characters, stuff like that. For you, which of these came first, the dressing up or the nerdiness?

DS: I would have to say the dressing up definitely came first, although I was a nerd my entire life. I danced when I was a kid, so my sister and I had a trunk where we would just get clothes from Goodwill and thrift stores, and then just pile it all in a trunk. And then during the weekends, we would just invite friends over and just have huge dress-up slumber parties. So, I just kind of carried that into adulthood where I mixed the two together, being a nerd and dressing up.

GNN: Can you remember your first cosplay?  Maybe the first one you were really proud of?

DS: In high school, I made my first Poison Ivy outfit out of an old velvet dress that I bought at a Goodwill. I chopped some of the length off, and then I hot-glued ivy leaves, which I glittered every individual leaf on the dress. And then I wore it with a $10 wig that I got at a Walmart. I was so proud of it.

GNN: I’ve seen on your Facebook page that you’ve done Lara Croft. You’ve done Poison Ivy. You’ve done Black Widow. You’ve done Mary Jane Watson-Parker from Spiderman. Do you make these costumes yourself?

DS: I make some of them and then some of them I’ve had commissioned. My Black Widow was commissioned. That was my first real big purchase as a cosplayer. I got it off of Etsy. It was a little bit of a labor of love. I did order it from a foreign country, and it came in at a very wrong size. So, I did have to alter it a lot with the help of some friends. A lot of sewing and love went into that cosplay. I did make the bullet bracelets myself, and then everything else has just been pieced together for it.

For my Lara Croft, it was just things I had in the closet. And then some knife-work helped roughed it up, and then some paint and some fake blood and then you’ve got a Lara Croft cosplay.

GNN: So, is the Black Widow the only one you’ve had commissioned?

DS: That’s the only one that I’ve had commissioned, yes. I’ve had help with some of my other things with friends. I just cosplayed bombshell Talia al Ghul from the DC comics, and I did have a couple of friends help me with the sewing and then we made the foam armor chest piece together. It was a learning experience for all of us.

bombshell, convention, cosplay, Costume, darthsmolly, florida, interview, orlando
Lara Croft. Photo by fiftyshadesofcosplay.

GNN: Is there any advice you could provide about having things commissioned? Because it seems like a money sink. I mean it’s not like it’s going to cost 10 bucks. Is there any advice you could give, based on your or someone else’s experience, about getting something commissioned?

DS: Definitely check out the reviews. I think that’s a very important thing. There are sites on Facebook where you can resell costumes, and so a lot of cosplayers use that to sell and buy costumes from other cosplayers. And on sites like that you can definitely pop up a question, and say, “Hey, does anybody have experience with this seller? I’m interested in buying something from them.” And the Internet is a great place to find out about a purchase.

GNN: So, do your research?

DS: Definitely, do your research.

GNN: So, was there ever anyone you tried to cosplay as, and it didn’t work out for you? Or it was too expensive?

DS: I would love to cosplay some characters, but I’m also scared of failing them. I would love to do Hawkgirl from DC, but I feel like that’s a very ambitious kind of build with the wings, and the helmet, and her mace. And it’s one of those things where if you do it, I would want it to look good. I wouldn’t want to go out on a con, and it’s falling apart because I did it in a hurry or not well enough.

GNN: Some cosplayers fully immerse themselves in their cosplays. They get the mannerisms; they get the speech; they become the characters. Do you immerse yourself in the characters or just enjoy dressing up and kind of really just looking like the character?

DS: I’m definitely myself, no matter what costume I’m in, I’m still dorky, weird Molly. I’ll be making weird faces at people. I’ll be photo-bombing pictures. I’ll be super weird. I’m still Molly.

GNN: Nothing wrong with that.  So, as we mentioned before, you do Lara Croft, Black Widow, Poison Ivy. Who else is on your cosplay wishlist right now? Are there any new cosplays coming up?

DS: I would love to get a Spider-Man suit; I think that’s like my next cosplay goal, to do some version of MJ in a Spidey suit. I don’t know which one. I haven’t decided. I think a Venom suit would be really cool with that new movie coming out. I think that would be really fun.

GNN: Since this is an interview for Geek News Network, I have to ask you the same question I ask all my interviewees. What are your favorite things to geek out on other than cosplay?

DS: I love Disney. 100%. I am such a Disney nerd. My first Disney movie that I ever got was Pinocchio on VHS. And I was one. That’s been it. Ever since I was little, it’s just been Disney, Disney, Disney, Disney, Disney. When I was little, I wasn’t allowed to do Harry Potter. I couldn’t do Pokemon. So, all I really had was Disney, and it’s been something that I’ve been super passionate about my whole life.

GNN: I checked out your page before the interview. I didn’t see any Disney-themed cosplay. Do you cosplay as anyone from Disney?

DS: No, I don’t. I work at Disney, so I feel like it’s kind of weird to dress up as somebody from where I work.

GNN: So, when it comes to cosplaying, I’ve gone to a few of these events, and it seems as if there are definitely levels of seriousness when it comes to cosplay. There are cosplayers that just go and have fun, and they’re not attached to the con at all. And then there are those that pay for a booth and try to get themselves seen. And then there are the people that the con comes to them and tries to get. What level are you at right now?

DS: I’m a little bit in between going for fun and going with a booth. I just recently was at a booth with The Bombshells Cosplay at Supercon last week, two weeks ago. And it was a fun, but different experience, having to stay at a table, having panels. It was a big learning experience for me. It was a lot of fun though. Getting to connect in a different sort of way. Walking around, you are meeting people, but not in the same kind of sense where if you are at a table. Because at this point, people want to come see you, which is why they’re approaching you.

GNN: So, do you have an ultimate cosplaying goal, or are you comfortable where you are right now?

DS: I’m pretty comfortable where I am right now. I think I would like to brush up on my skills and definitely learn a bit more as a costumer and prop builder, and maybe start making commissions off of that. But I’m definitely happy where I am right now in the middle of all of this.

GNN: So, let’s pretend there’s a meter that goes from 1 to 100. From 1, which is the most fun, with 100 being the most like work. Where are you right now? More towards 1 where it’s pure fun, ore more towards 100 where it’s getting to be all work?

DS: It’s like a good 30. It’s still fun. Making things is fun. It’s a little stressful, but it’s still fun learning how to make something from scratch.

GNN: It seems as though the needle could spike really quickly. I see some of these cosplayers that sit at these tables, and I don’t know if it’s fun for them anymore, but you seem like you’re trying to keep it under 50 on that meter. You don’t want the needle to climb.  I’m assuming this isn’t your only source of income, correct?

DS: No, this is definitely not a business for me. I don’t run it like a business.

GNN: Okay, so as you moved from just cosplaying for fun, making it a little bit of a business, what’s been the biggest hurdle so far in getting more into the serious business aspect of it?

DS: I used to really socially awkward, and I wouldn’t like to talk to people. I was very much in a shell, and very reserved, and slowly throughout each con, I become a little bit more open towards people. I’ll be a little bit more goofy, a little bit more funny, cracking jokes whereas I used to just stand on the floor. I didn’t know what to do; it was very overwhelming. And now I’ve started to embrace who I am as a person, and I think it’s all due to cosplay. Going out and people appreciating things that I do, it just brought me a new life, and it gave me a family, for sure.

bombshell, convention, cosplay, Costume, darthsmolly, florida, interview, orlando
Poison Ivy. Photo by The Project.

GNN: Piggybacking off that answer, you said that you’re trying to learn more about certain aspects of cosplay, and you said now that you’ve got a family. For the most part, are other cosplayers helpful? For example, if you want to learn something, can you reach out and just ask, “Hey how did you do this?” “Where did you come up with that?” Are they pretty cool about it for the most part or is it like, “That’s my secret! I’m not giving you my secrets!” I know I’ve worked with people in the past that didn’t want to teach anyone what they knew because they wanted to maintain their importance.  Is that the way it is in cosplay? Or are people cool about sharing information?

DS: For the most part. Most cosplayers are like, “Oh my gosh, you do Black Widow too! I do Black Widow! How did you do your bullets?” Everyone, for the most part, is very open and they want to help you because that’s the whole purpose of this…to reach out and help others, and they help you. It’s a huge community, and it is a family. I’ve met so many wonderful people through cosplay, and we’ve had crafting parties where we all get together and learn how to make stuff. And we just goof off and sew and hot glue stuff, it’s great.

GNN: Speaking of sharing information, let’s talk about advice you might have for other cosplayers. If someone is a cosplayer, and they’re just going for fun, and they’ve cosplayed a couple of times, and they want to turn it into more, what advice do you have? For example, how would they network?

DS: Definitely networking, I would say go to Cosplay Alley and talk to all the people there. That’s some of the best networking you can do. Go there and ask questions like, “Hey, where are you from? How long have you been cosplaying?” Ask them questions like, “What’s your favorite costume?” “Do you video game?” “What’s your fandom?” And a lot of these people are so open; they’re there to talk to people. They’re there to make friends and to network, and I think that’s one of the biggest things that you could do for yourself, and you’re showing support for other cosplayers as well.

GNN: Good advice. Now, another area where you could give some advice is getting seen. I’ve talked to artists and authors and cosplayers and there seems to be a great conundrum: there are more places to be seen, but there are more people there trying to be seen. So, do you have any advice about getting seen in a crowded cosplay environment?  Obviously, there’s Instagram and there’s Facebook. Is there, any method you’ve used and discovered, “Wow, I’m getting seen more here than I thought!”?

DS: I feel like going to cons, just reaching out on social media, those are the biggest parts for me. Going to cons is amazing, and I love doing it. It’s just very hard to get recognized at conventions because there are so many people. I think getting business cards is a very smart move if you want to reach out and become a better cosplayer. If you’re trying to make it a business, definitely get business cards. I don’t have them, and I’ve realized a lot of cosplayers, as soon as they get their photos taken, they immediately hand over a business card. And I think that that’s something that I may need to invest in, reaching out more with business cards.

GNN: We talked about costuming earlier. Again, cosplay is not cheap. It can start cheap like you mentioned, with a Lara Croft costume made of a dirty tank top, shorts, and a couple of fake guns. Do you have any advice for people who want to make their own costumes without going broke?

DS: If you know how to sew, then that’s amazing. It’s very easy for you. I do not personally know how to sew. I’ve been trying to learn. It’s been a growing process. Thrift stores are your best friend. You never know what you’re going to find. You can go into a thrift store and find an amazing leather jacket for $10 and say, “I can do Black Canary now.” You get a nice leather jacket, a leotard for $5 off of Amazon, a blonde wig, and then you’re set. It’s using your resources and being crafty with what you have.

GNN: Fan interactions are another big thing as a cosplayer. Do you have any do’s or don’ts that you’ve come across in your interactions? Have you done things that you didn’t think were bad, but were? Any advice or how to hold yourself up as a cosplayer?

DS: You have to remember that you’re in the public eye. If people begin to recognize who you are, then you have to remember how you want to be viewed. It’s who are you on the inside that you want to present to everyone. If you’re cosplaying as a character that’s recognized by children, you probably don’t want to be drinking liquor straight from a bottle, flipping people off, or using adult language because that six-year-old’s going to go home and say, “Wow. I saw Wonder Woman chugging a beer.” You definitely have to remember that at conventions there are kids present and you want to reflect your character to that as for the kids.

bombshell, convention, cosplay, Costume, darthsmolly, florida, interview, orlando

GNN: Since we’re talking about cons, what’s been your best con moment as a cosplayer with your fans?

DS: My best moment in cosplay was at Florida Supercon last year. I was wearing my Darth Rey cosplay, which is if Rey went to the dark side. We were out in the lobby, about to go back on to the show floor, and I see the tiniest little girl dressed as Rey. She had the staff and everything. So, I went up to her and she was so excited to see me. She knew that I was Rey because we both had the staffs, even though I was wearing all black. I knelt down and I started talking to her, and I told her that she looked beautiful. We practiced using the Force on each other and then she gave me the biggest hug, and we took the cutest photo. And her smile is 100% absolute just genuine joy. And I think that that’s what it means for me to be a cosplayer, is moments like that.

GNN: How about celebrity interactions? Have you ever had a “geek out” moment at a con, as a fan?

DS: Paige O’Hara. It was also at Florida Supercon. I’m very nervous when it comes to meeting celebrities. I don’t really know what to say to those kinds of people. Like, “I admire your voice that you gave to this character that I obsessed over as a child.” We saw Paige at her booth. I really didn’t want to go because I was like, “What do I even say to her?” Belle was my favorite character growing up. I related to her so much. She was a bookworm; I was a bookworm. I would be in math class reading a book. And I was like, “What do I say to this woman? How do I even go up to her?”

So, my sister and my boyfriend dragged me up to the table and I’m just shaking. I don’t know what to say to her. And tears are already welling up in my eyes. And she’s just like, “Hi. How are you?” I’m like, “I’m fine.” Tears are coming out. She’s like, “It’s nice to meet you.” I’m like, “It’s great to meet you too.” Tears are just flowing everywhere. We’re kind of awkwardly just staring at each other and I was like, “I just love you so much.” We spoke about her painting and her husband playing the beast on Broadway. We talked about what I do as a job. And she’s like, “Oh, I’m coming to Disney for the art festival. Maybe I’ll stop by.” And I was like, “Ha ha ha. I’m not going to see Paige O’Hara.” And then she ends up coming to Epcot for the art festival and I run into her in the bathroom. We spoke about how I met her at SuperCon. Yeah. She’s like, “Oh, I remember you. How have you been?” I was like, “I’m great.” Tears are already flowing again. But that was so magical to meet the voice of your childhood hero in person.

GNN: Those are some awesome stories. I almost hate to do this, but I think it’s important to ask…Have you had any odd or uncomfortable interactions with anybody at these cons?

DS: There’s one I had with a photographer. I don’t want to name any names, but he took a photo of me at a convention and then sent that photo to me. And I was like, “Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.” Sometimes cosplayers can’t afford shoots. So, it’s nice for a guy with a nice camera to take a photo of you on the floor and send it to you for free, so I let him know, “I appreciate that. Thank you very much.”

Then it got a little weird in that he was like, “I’ll take you to dinner. Let’s start doing some photoshoots.” And then he sends me ideas of what he wanted to shoot and it would be nudes. He wanted to shoot nudes. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable with that and he just kept going and pushing it. And I said, “Okay, you’re now being very unprofessional.” And then he took it personally and he’s like, “Well, women just use me for photos.” I stop messaging him and he sent me 87 unanswered messages. He didn’t know where to draw the line. And now he’s blocked, of course.

GNN: I guess some people don’t know where to draw that line.

DS: Yeah. I feel like more people are awkward online. They don’t know where to draw the line between, “Oh, if I said this to you in person, I would probably get a slap in the face.” Whereas you’re anonymous online. I can’t see your face. I can’t interact with you the same way.

GNN: It has to be tough.  You seem like you have to walk the line between being friendly and not putting out a vibe. And it’s not even like you’re trying to. It’s got to be odd, very constricting. It’s like, “I want to be friendly and this guy’s emailed me three times, and I’ve answered him three times. Now it’s four times and it’s getting into a weird area. How tough is that?

DS: You definitely want to be friendly. I want to be nice to people, but once they draw that weird line of making me a sexual object to them, then it’s done. Cosplayers are not your sexual property. We’re not there for you. We’re there for us.

GNN: That’s a lot of good advice, some important advice.  So, let’s move on to the future.  Any events coming up?  Any new cosplays in the near future?

DS: I’m definitely getting stuff ready for Walker Stalker Con [in Orlando, Florida] on August 11 and 12. I’m a very last-minute cosplayer. I’m not one of those that has things planned a year in advance. I know a lot of people that are like, “Oh. I have my next two years of cons planned out.” And they have everything listed out together in a Tupperware box altogether. This is a wig. This is the shoes. These are the tights. Everything is here. The week before I’m like, “Man, am I going to go to this con? What am I going to wear?” And then I just somehow figure it out and make it work for that week.

GNN: So, when you’re sitting and watching a movie or a television show or reading a book, is that kind of how a cosplay comes?

DS: Oh, for sure! With Lara Croft, I saw the trailer. And I was like, “Man. I think I could make a Lara Croft cosplay right now.” So, I ran upstairs, grabbed some tank tops, and ripped them up.

bombshell, convention, cosplay, Costume, darthsmolly, florida, interview, orlando
Black Widow. Photo by 8Bit_Fuzion Graphics.

GNN: Well, we’re getting near the end of the interview, so plug away! Where are you going to be? Where can people find you?

DS: Okay. You can find me at DarthSmolly on Instagram. And also, DarthSmolly Cosplay on Facebook.

GNN: No Twitter?

DS: I don’t do Twitter. It has a 180-character count, I’m too talkative. I think eventually maybe I’ll do a Snapchat. Or open up my Snapchat to the public…but not for now.

GNN: Website?

DS: I don’t have a website. No.

GNN: You did mention the Bombshells? Can folks see any of your stuff there?

DS: Yeah. I’m with The Bombshells Cosplay. We have an Instagram @thebombshellscosplay, as well as a Facebook page with the same name.

GNN: Well, DarthSmolly…that’s about the size of it. Thank you for your time.

DS: Thanks.

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