For cosplayer Victoria Schmidt, dressing up as Princess Leia or Oola from Star Wars or any of the other dozens and dozens of costumes she's created and worn over the last decade is all about expressing herself. Schmidt, one of the heroes of Syfy's new docu-series Heroes of Cosplay, which premieres Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 10:30 p.m. ET, joins eight other cosplayers as they traverse the world cosplaying at conventions and competing in costume competitions.
“Each episode we're going to a different con, and you're going to see us each go through the experience of a costume from start to finish and entering a competition,” Schmidt said. She believes Heroes of Cosplay will help “get cosplay recognized for what it is and dispel any misconceptions about what it is not.”
Schmidt got into cosplaying during high school, when she joined an anime club. Since then she's co-founded the geek girl fashion style blog Set to Stunning, she was chosen by Lucasfilm to be its Princess Leia on the Star Wars 2007 Rose Parade float in Pasadena, and she has signed on with Wizard World conventions to help out with exhibitions and artists at their shows, and to be a cosplay coordinator.
“Across every genre that I watch, whether it's Japanese cartoons, American cartoons, comics, movies, TV, whatever, I'm just always drawn to heroic characters. Characters that have qualities that I either wish I had or wish I could express better. They're usually funny or charming. If you want to go for physical qualities, they've got great physical attributes. If they don't have a superpower or something, they're an example of the best you could do as a person if you really put your mind to it. Look at what you can accomplish. That's a very admirable quality. I'm drawn to characters that are a little darker, moody, or have secrets, but they always try to put on a brave front, because those are qualities that you like to admire. People who have been through maybe terrible things, but you wouldn't know necessarily,” said Schmidt.
When it comes to her characters, Schmidt admits she's a perfectionist. “A good portion of us like to do it in such a way that we look exactly as the source material,” she said.
“I think a lot of people in the hobby are just perfectionists on some level, and this is how they channel it. At the end of the day, it is a hobby, but obviously there are so many people who have a hobby and they're crazy intense about it. I mean, look at any football fan out there painting themselves or going crazy about the score of a game. So for us, because it is an expression of your fandom, you're just wanting to get it right. For me, I just like things to be correct,” she said.
“I think it's just something about wanting to be the best that's out there. You can't be the best unless you look perfect. A lot of the times when I am looking at a costume, 99 percent of the time I'm doing it because I'm crazy about the character and the outfit, but sometimes if I see someone who has done that outfit already and just phenomenally nailed it, my desire to do the costume dwindles to zero. Because some part of my fan obsession has already been satisfied that a true representation of that character already exists now. So if someone's already done the Bat Girl that I wanted and they just nailed it, some part of me is so happy, but also so sad because I know I can't do it better. My desire to want to do it isn't there as much. Like 'Well, they've already done it as well as I think I could, and I'm just going to leave that there,'” said Schmidt.
Luckily, there are plenty of characters that don't fit into that category for Schmidt.
“It all comes down to ... who you love so much that that's how you want to express yourself?” she said.
Check out the gallery below for some of her favorite costumes.