Cosplayer Jessica Crouse really looks the part in her Xena cosplay. As soon as I spotted her on the floor, I sent one of our photographers after her to get a photo. With a detailed costume and ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ glare, it was evident that this cosplayer truly loved every minute of her impressive Xena portrayal.
After the convention, I followed up with Jessica and had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her cosplay and her comprehensive career, which also includes acting and modeling.
Tara M. Clapper: How did you decide to cosplay Xena and why?
Jessica Crouse: I’ve always loved Xena. In 2012 I went to my first Xena convention. I got confused for Lucy Lawless a couple of times and that inspired me to cosplay Xena. I figured if people confused me for her out of costume, what would they do if I had a kickass Xena costume. Todd of Todd’s costumes made my epic Xena costume. Now every time I attend an event I usually have at least one, usually several, people stop me and ask if I am actually Lucy. It’s fun. But even if no one thought I looked like her, Xena is just an awesome character.
Tara: You mention on your Facebook page that you do not do nudes or topless shoots. Do you think there is a major pressure for actors, models, and cosplayers (particularly women) to consent to these types of photos? Why do you choose not to do them?
Jessica: Oh yes there is huge pressure to do nude and topless shoots/scenes. I have been asked many times to do them, even though it clearly states on my portfolios that I do not do them. I’ve had everything from people casually asking me if I would do a nude/topless shoot, all the way to having a photographer yell in my face because even though I had told him I wouldn’t do a topless shoot, he still expected me to do it and when I refused he yelled in my face for “stifling his creative flow.” I told him if he couldn’t be creative with my clothes on, then he wasn’t very creative.
I have some acting and modeling friends that do nude and topless shoots and that’s fine. It’s their bodies. They get to choose what to do with them. I don’t think any less of them for doing it. It’s all about comfort level and what you are comfortable sharing with the world. For me, my body is a private thing. I will share my voice, my acting, and my characters with the world. But my body is not for public display. It is for me and for whomever I chose to be intimate with.
Tara: You’ve done film, TV, cosplay, and many different types of theater. What’s your favorite and why?
Jessica: They each have their pros and cons. I love film/tv because it reaches a broader audience and if you mess up, oops, you just keep shooting until you get it right. I love theater because it’s live. Your audience is right there. You can feel their energy. It’s such a rush. I love cosplaying because I get to meet a lot of new people. I get to interact with them as my character.
Tara: How did you create or acquire your Xena costume?
Jessica: My Xena costume and weapons were made by the incredibly talented Todd of www.toddscostumes.com.
Tara: Some cosplayers roleplay their characters when they cosplay and others do not. What’s your preference?
Jessica: Yes when I have my costume on I try to be as true to that character as possible. I believe it is part of the experience for both me and those interacting with me. Interacting with someone that looks like a character you love is one thing, but interacting with a character that looks and acts like a character you love takes it to another level.
Tara: Some professionals (acting or otherwise) have advised me to keep my ‘geek stuff’ off of my resume, but I’ve found that it really helps my career. What are your thoughts on this? Do you discuss your cosplay experience when you audition or interview?
Jessica: When you are at an audition people are looking for the qualities in you that stand out. What makes you unique? So when I’m in an audition and I’m asked “Tell us something interesting about yourself,” I tell them that I cosplay Xena Warrior Princess. That usually always sparks interest.
Tara: Tell me about “We Fix It” and why it’s important to address mental and physical disabilities. What was the genesis for this and why was it important to you to express this message?
Jessica: How long do you have? Haha. We could be here all day talking about this. I am a big disability advocate. “We Fix It” is a one act play that I wrote. I’ve worked with and been friends with people who were labelled as “physically and mentally handicapped” since I was a kid. I’ve mainly worked with kids that had physical and mental handicaps, but I’ve worked with some adults too. Plus I’ve been doing it so long that some of the kids I worked with are now adults.
I’ve seen the way some people treat people that they see as less than them. There are cruel jokes and thoughtless words. Some people, while trying to be helpful, end up being condescending and hurtful. I’ve seen this happen countless times. I’ve seen and read a few plays, books, etc. that have handicapped people in them and the focus is on the handicap. We focus too much on the handicap and not the person. So I decided to write a play of my own. I based it on real people that I’ve known. It is the story of four young women who all share an apartment. Three of them are labelled as handicapped, one is not.
It is a comedy. It is not some heavy handed drama about the struggles of having a disability. It is also not a slapstick farce making fun of anyone’s disability. It is simply a glimpse into the everyday lives of these four women. The story may surprise you.
Tara: You’ve been an extra on many films. What’s that experience like? Is it a slower pace compared to theater?
Jessica: Being an extra on a film is like being at a cattle auction. You are penned up and then herded from place to place by barking people in headsets. You are a nameless faceless warm prop. That being said, I do enjoy being an extra. You get to sit around and watch the process of making a major movie or tv show. You also get to talk to a lot of other actors and network. Plus there is the added bonus of being really close to and sometimes getting to talk to the celebrities.
Tara: What is your advice for new cosplayers?
Jessica: Just have fun with it. Some people get caught up in competition or needing to be the best. That’s not what cosplay is about. It’s about having fun. Don’t lose sight of that.
Tara: What is your advice for cosplayers who want to make the jump to professional modeling etc.?
Jessica: First, figure out what you are comfortable doing and then stick to that. There will be many people trying to get you to do things you don’t want to do. Sometimes you will have to make the decision between a paycheck and doing something beyond your comfort level. Second, get yourself out there. Make connections, network. Make online portfolios so people can see your work. If people can’t find you, they can’t hire you.
Tara: Self-esteem and self-image issues affect a lot of geeks, especially ladies. It must take a great deal of confidence to present yourself professionally as an actor, model, and cosplayer. What is your advice to lady geeks who want to level up in confidence?
Jessica: You definitely have to have thick skin. Some people feel the need to be cruel to other people and the internet allows people to anonymously be as cruel as they want without the repercussions of anyone knowing who they are or physically seeing the damage their words have done.
I have had all sorts of criticism, both anonymously and to my face. People have criticized every part of me. For the most part I brush it off. But sometimes someone will say something that strikes a chord with me and it really hurts my feelings. What you have to remind yourself is that haters are going to hate. It’s what they do. You are never going to please everyone. So if you are doing what you love and it makes you happy, then you are doing it right. Focus on yourself and the people that encourage and lift you up. As far as the haters go, I always remind myself what Kat Williams said. Haters are gonna hate. If you’ve got haters, you know you are doing it right. The more haters you have, the better you are doing. If you have 4 haters you need 8. If you have 8 haters you need 16.
The point is we all have things about ourselves that we are not entirely happy with. There will be people that are going to say cruel things that will hurt your feelings. But you have to remember. Life is a journey. We are constantly growing and changing. Keep love and happiness in your heart. Keep the people that lift you up close, and as for the haters, most of which are hating because they are jealous, thank them for letting you know you are doing it right.
You can follow Jessica on her social media sites: