Cosplay has long been one of the best ways for fans to express their love of a character or franchise, bringing fans together to geek out about common interests. That spirit of fan innovation and a positive community shines through in the work of cosplayer CutiePieSensei.
CutiePieSensei was introduced to cosplay when she went to her first convention with her boyfriend, who is now her husband. She was always interested in nerdy stuff, but didn't know people gathered en masse to celebrate it until her boyfriend suggested they go to Anime Weekend Atlanta. She was sick and unable to attend, but the items he brought back made her eager to go the next year.
The following year, the couple came across MomoCon while walking the campus at Georgia Tech. Between the costumes and all the different vendors selling items CutiePieSensei normally didn’t see in stores — including a pair of cat ears she purchased — she was hooked.
She went to a larger convention later that year, saw more complex costumes, and decided she had to try it herself. The first cosplay she made was Korra from The Legend of Korra.
“It was pretty simple. I didn't know how to sew anything, so most of it was comprised of glue and things I hodgepodged together,” CutiePieSensei told SYFY WIRE. “It doesn't look too bad, looking back at it, all things considered.”
After Korra, her next big project was Widowmaker from Overwatch. With this cosplay, she learned a lesson that she now imparts to others: Don't dive in too deep right away. For this costume, she didn’t have a sewing machine or know how to make props. She was a novice, and yet she decided to create a costume that needed a bodysuit sewn from scratch, with body paint, lights, and a prop gun. She needed to do all this for one project when they were things she’d never done before.
“That was a struggle, but the benefit was that when I finished it I was like ‘Nothing will be as hard as this,'” she explained. “I picked up a lot of new skills just with that one costume, because it was all new. Now I feel a little bit more confident doing things.”
CutiePieSensei works full-time as a concept artist for a video game studio. The skills she's developed in that job, namely fleshing out vague notions into more concrete ideas, have come in handy with cosplay. It's all design, after all. The skill has been especially useful when creating her iconic mashup cosplays that feature a combination of two characters.
The mashups started when she was trying to come up with a big idea for DragonCon. She wanted to create something really cool with perhaps some armor, and her husband suggested she combine Kill la Kill with Sailor Moon. When developing such a mashup, her background helps her combine characters without letting one overpower the other. She sees what makes each character unique and chooses those aspects to include and combine.
For that first mashup, she gave giant shoulder pieces, a high boot, the straps, and the color scheme came from the Kill la Kill character; Sailor Moon provided the buns, ponytail, and bows.
Just as with her game work, CutiePieSensei has a very methodical approach to cosplay design.
“I try to look at how other people approach it and see what I like and what I don't like about different people’s approaches,’” CutiePieSensei said. “If it's a design that is original like a mashup, I'll spend time researching both the characters and take the time to go into Photoshop and draw something out and just spend some time doing some actual concept art so I can have a reference point myself. If I run into a problem halfway through making the costume, I can always change the design, because it's mine, so that's helpful.”
With that reference material in hand, she then breaks it down and decides what she needs to make each part and how she would approach it. After buying materials, she spends a few weeks on crafting and about a week on painting and final touches.
CutiePieSensei’s cosplay includes characters like Kid Flash, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman. Her social media encompasses the community spirit of cosplay as she keeps a message of positivity front and center. It’s an important aspect of cosplay to her, since she believes lately “it's really easy to get hung up on the negative things.” She said if you’re not careful, the community can be negative, especially since it’s become more mainstream. People will give their opinions when they don’t cosplay themselves or know much about it.
“It's very easy for people who are trolls to come in and make you feel bad about yourself, make you feel like you're not good enough,” she said. “Being a black cosplayer, I've received countless racist comments and people telling me, 'You don't look like this character, why are you doing it?' I know a lot of other cosplayers get those kinds of messages too, whether it's a race thing or if they're a different body shape. I've had tons of people tell me that it's hard, and they've been discouraged from even doing it because they don't want people to say those types of things about them.”
CutiePieSensei said it’s important to have positivity as a message because the whole point of cosplay is to have fun, make things, enjoy these characters, be around nerds like you, and be in a costumed group that will geek out about it all together.
“The fact that people being mean and making you feel bad about yourself is making its way into the community is really crappy. I’m trying to keep it light because I feel like at its heart that's what it's supposed to be,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun, and it’s not supposed to be bad, so I try to delete negative comments. I make sure I'm very vocal in terms of making sure people feel good about themselves and know it doesn't matter what you look like. You can be anyone and do anything. That's the whole purpose of this. To become someone else.”
CutiePieSensei’s message, positive attitude, and amazing cosplay are inspiring others and keeping the community a welcoming place for fans who want to make costumes to show their passion and share it with others. She said she’s received many messages from people who say they decided to start cosplaying because of her, and many have said they were scared until seeing someone who looked like them made them feel OK about trying out cosplay. For CutiePieSensei, these messages were eye-opening, as she didn’t realize her impact. It makes her feel more confident to go out and cosplay, and makes her really glad she’s doing what she’s doing.
Luckily CutiePieSensei will continue to make stunning costumes and be a positive force in the cosplay community. In fact, you’ll want to see what she’s coming out with next. She said she received a lot of requests in February for a Black Panther-related cosplay, and she's already been working on one. She will be sharing it with everyone at the end of August.
Get to know her better here: