[Cosplay Computer 2020] Exclusive Interview with Ellemonade

Ellemonade is a rising star in the local cosplay community. As an alumni of the Riot Games Student Ambassador Program, she also loves to game and produce livestreams. During Cosplay Computer 2020, we asked her about her stance on body image and self-confidence when cosplaying.

If you couldn’t get enough of her segment during the event, keep reading to find out more about our local fiery-spirited Tifa in this extended interview!

Disclaimer: Answers may be edited for clarity of reading comprehension.

How did you get into cosplay?

When I was growing up, I was always exposed to performing on stage and with that came the aspect of costuming and dress-up. I was a huge fan of anime when I was younger, but my interest eventually phased out as the people around me didn’t follow it as much. I always knew of the concept of cosplaying but never got the guts to try it.

It was only when I started gaming again and fell in love with a character and related to her so much that I wanted to dress up as her! It was supposed to be a one-off thing but more cosplan eventually snowballed into another, and another… and another. 

What do you like about cosplay and the community?

I think a key element for anybody to stay within a community is the feeling of belonging. Most cosplayers that I know really feel a sense of attachment to the cosplay community and I can agree with that too. As it is a hobby, most of us start cosplaying without many expectations but just to have fun. It might seem daunting at first, but I really love that the community is super inviting and are always ready to help one another as long as you are genuine!

You’re best known for your amazing cosplay of Tifa from the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and you’ve spoken about training to fit the part. Could you tell us more about your training regime? 

Tifa is my dream character (and waifu ehem). When I was first exposed to games when I was a little girl, Tifa was the embodiment of compassion, femininity and independence all in one. Thus when I decided to cosplay her remake version, I made sure that I did her as much justice as I could from the cosplay to the body, to her personality. My regime consisted of over a month’s worth of workout, an hour a day, and intermittent fasting. I love food so this was really challenging for me but so worth it at the end!

Aside from being a cosplayer, you’re also a proficient ballroom dancer. Would you say that dancing played a part in building your confidence for cosplay?

Ballroom dancing essentially was a foundation for many things for me. It not only taught me to understand my body’s movements but has also brought me confidence in performing and a good base for physical activity. Honestly, it was difficult growing up under such stress as I was constantly comparing myself to others due to dance being such a visual sport.

Eventually, I stopped dancing because it did not align with my passion and interest at that time, but it’s funny because I couldn’t stray too far from it anyway! Even now I have my own cosplay dance group, Kiss Marry Kill, and I compete in cosplay skits that push my abilities further. Overall, I would say it did help me build confidence but ultimately it also came from me putting myself out there to learn new things. 

You have participated in a number of cosplay competitions. Have you ever felt nervous before going on stage? If so, how did you overcome it?

Of course! No matter how many performances I have done, no performance is ever the same. I’m always nervous yet excited to show the world all that I have been practising for. I always advise people that when you’re about to go on stage, you can be nervous but don’t be scared – because you shouldn’t have to be!

Think about why you wanted to perform in the first place, what you wanted to show and what you want to leave the audience feeling. Channel all of that, feel the adrenaline and just do your best!

Any tricks or tips you use to calm your nerves before going on stage that you would like to share?

I would say the best way to kill nerves comes from the practice sessions themselves. If your nerves really cannot be overcome, try to simulate your performances beforehand. Do costumed trial runs, have someone sit in front of you and watch until you feel comfortable. The idea is that you rehearse enough times that when you put on that costume, you automatically run the same muscle memory from how you’ve practised it before. 

As for the mental aspect, I would advise contestants to focus on themselves and remember why they wanted to step on the stage in the first place. Keep that in mind, flip that switch and perform to the best of your abilities 🙂

What are your thoughts on cosplayers who feel insecure about their cosplays because they don’t resemble the character or other cosplayers they see online?

Every cosplayer strives for accuracy and sometimes there are just characters that we love that we don’t resemble. Although cosplay is very visually based, I believe that it isn’t entirely about resembling the character the most, but instead more of making the character and the cosplay as your own. Everyone’s body type and facial features are different. Unfortunately, we aren’t all born with anime eyes. Instead of beating yourself up over it, try to imagine how the character would look like as a human, and how it would fit you instead.

I’m sure not everyone will agree with my sentiments but I believe for any cosplayer, the top priority should always be your own happiness when you cosplay and not others’ opinions (although it may be nice to have encouragement!) 

There are cosplayers who feel insecure when they don’t get their photograph taken despite putting their all into their costumes. What is your opinion on this problem? How do you think they can become more confident in their cosplay and the fun of it and not get caught up in a most-picture-taken validation mindset?

Haha, honestly as much as it is daunting for us to approach photographers to take our photos, it is just as daunting for photographers to approach cosplayers – especially ones that they don’t know!

I remember when I first started out, my cosplay was a mess but I tried my best to meet photographers and even one photo was already an accomplishment for me. At that time, I was cosplaying Makoto from Persona 5 and my closest friends were the other characters from the game! At times where you feel that no one is approaching for photos, go ahead and ask them instead! A simple friendly “Hi are you a photographer?” would be more than enough to break the ice.

However, my honest opinion is that unless you’re looking to earn your living through cosplaying, there is really no reason to get caught up in a “most-picture-taken” competition. Even until this day, my memories of cosplaying Persona 5 with my friends is one of my most cherished memories as I had a great time despite being a complete newbie. 

First of all, I go through this too, and sometimes I do feel pressured to do something I don’t want to. Sometimes I get lost because I’m putting myself out there too. To anybody who has put themselves out there, they know the ‘high’ they get from being accepted by the online community, and that’s what keeps them going. Because they feel accepted, they want to keep going on and doing more and give people what they want to see. Over time, you kind of get lost in the sense of who you actually are.

I know it sounds very philosophical, and everything but the easiest way to do it is to just keep constantly analyzing yourself; with what you started with, with who you are, keep re-evaluating yourself. This goes for life advice as well. It doesn’t matter whether it’s like yesterday or in 50 years. You should always re-evaluate yourself as a person.

A lot of people can easily claim like, “I’ve never changed. I’m the same person I am on the page. The same person I am in real life.” But you know, until you really really take a step back, you will never notice that even the slightest of changes may have happened. And it’s not bad. It’s growth, you know. It’s like the people around you and how they influence you. The things that you take and you see that are interesting.

Moving forward to the actual topic of it. So, for me, I started my page fully for gaming. I didn’t actually want to jump into cosplay. It’s actually pretty ironic, but when I started doing cosplay–and I do a few that are a little bit more provocative–I did have like some doubts in myself, you know, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I starting to become like a different person that I didn’t want to be when I started?” And for that, you kind of need to find a balance for it. You had the objective when you started with – I wanted to be a gamer, so you got to push that out. You want to do other new things, go ahead.

If people do not accept it, like the things that you actually want to do, then they aren’t really supporters in the first place.

It’s easy for people, especially those outside of the cosplay community, to judge or throw negative remarks to cosplayers. What’s the best way for cosplayers to handle situations like these?

One of the biggest reasons why cosplayers are often outcasted is the cultural difference between the general public and us. Because cosplaying looks so bizarre and often associated with ‘childlike’ elements such as games and shows, it is easier to disregard the cosplay community instead of understanding them. Even my parents are against me cosplaying till this day but I can’t really blame them because they aren’t familiar with the hobby.

I believe the best course of action is to remain patient and educate them about it. Don’t leave anything out, explain the concept of cosplaying, why do you do it, the friends you made and why you love it so much. If that person cannot understand the concept of cosplaying, at least they can understand how happy it makes you. 

I think any cosplayer starting out can recall the first time they walked around in public whilst in cosplay and felt judged. Just remember, they may be looking at you and judging you but they aren’t judging YOU. They only see what you are on the outside but never truly know who you are on the inside. So let them judge all they want.

Do you have any advice for cosplayers out there who might struggle with body image or self-confidence issues?

Start with something you are comfortable with and slowly push yourself further. Try a new wig colour, try to do a character that’s not your style – anything! And always, ALWAYS have a close support system/friends to help you improve your cosplay bit by bit! In the end, cosplaying is about having fun and expressing your love for a specific character. Remember why you started cosplaying in the first place and never forget it! 

With that, we’d like to thank Ellemonade for her time at Cosplay Computer! We wish her all the best in her future endeavours and hope to see her grow more in the coming years.

Want to know more about her? Find her on her social media platforms:

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/Ellemonadetv/

Instagram:   https://www.instagram.com/_adele.lim/?hl=en h

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@ellemonade

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ellemonadeee

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