Australian cosplayer and model Ashayla Webster enjoys cosplaying a variety of characters, from Black Canary to Sailor Venus. Blending enthusiasm for fitness and fandom, Ashayla discusses harassment, ‘fake geek girl’ accusations, her own cosplay heroes, and the secrets of her success in the hobby.
Tara M. Clapper: How did you get interested in cosplay and what was your very first cosplay?
Ashayla Webster: I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and would jump at any chance to do so. I don’t actually remember the first costume I ever made, but the first costume I ever made with the intent of cosplaying officially was Sailor Venus. Once I learned that cosplaying was an actual thing, once cons starting coming to my city, it really just fueled the fire.
TMC: You cosplay and model – do you find that cosplay helps you get exposure as a model, or do some clients/agencies find it unprofessional?
AW: I believe cosplay helps in my exposure as a model. It proves my dedication and versatility. My cosplay photos also reach a wider audience then my modeling images do. I’m not sure if agencies would find this unprofessional and I am freelance, but it has not caused any issues so far.
TMC: You’re a pro with some serious geek cred. Despite that, do you encounter the ‘fake geek girl’ accusations often?
AW: Unfortunately I do. There was a period of time when this happened on a daily basis as a particular image of mine went a little viral. I do have a favourite insult which really just sums up the gatekeepers for me. One man decided it was his given right to tell me that I was too pretty to be a real geek, but that my breasts were too small to be a fake geek. There are a lot of keyboard warriors out there, but face to face interaction is less of an issue. In fact, when in cosplay, it’s those that aren’t geeks that are often the worst to deal with. Other geeks see me in a Black Canary costume, for example, and want to take a photo and talk about the character, the general public sees this and I am propositioned, catcalled and asked if I’m going to take my clothes off.
TMC: I noticed some workout photos on your Facebook page – what are your tips for people who want to get in shape for cosplay and general fitness? How should they start?
AW: Firstly, do it for yourself. Fitness should be a lifestyle choice and it should be your drive for a healthier life that fuels it. Doing it simply as a fashion choice will not benefit your mindset. I’d also suggest weights. Lifting weights burns fat, tones and builds muscle, improves posture and helps to prevent all kinds of future bodily ailments. I find working out with someone else to be more beneficial as they motivate me, so find a fitness buddy and hit the gym.
TMC: Here on the East Coast of the US, it’s never tough to find a convention or cosplay event to attend. Australia’s huge though – and a lot of it’s rural. What area of the country do you live in? Are conventions massively popular there, or do you connect with other cosplayers through other means?
AW: Australia is pretty big and quite expensive to travel around. I’m on the west coast, pretty much the furthest place from everywhere else. Conventions are very popular in Australia, but we don’t have many. Comic Con has only come to my state twice now. Cosplayers in Australia are pretty active on Facebook forums.
TMC: How can aspiring models use their cosplay to further their career?
AW: I suppose if they use the popularity of cosplay to their advantage, it could certainly help further their careers. I’m pretty bad with the networking, but I know a few cosplayers that have used their skills well to further their careers in other areas.
TMC: Don’t laugh (okay, maybe laugh), but the impression many of us in the US have is that Australia just kind of creates / exports extremely attractive people to the world in general and Hollywood in particular. As a major Chris Hemsworth fan, I have to ask – what are your thoughts on this?
AW: Haha. A lot of my followers are Americans and they often tell me how sexy the Australian accent is, let alone how beautiful the women are. There are some truly stunning people in Australia, as there is anywhere else. I suppose our beach loving culture does lead to a lot of toned, tanned and blonde beauties, but I think it’s the Aussie spirit that makes them more attractive. The majority of Australians are really laid back, friendly, smiley and always willing to lend a hand. The Aussie expat celebrities further this image of Australians. I don’t mind so much.
TMC: Who do you admire in cosplay, fashion, or modeling?
AW: I don’t have any particular idols, but I love following pages that are quirky and friendly. Michael Hamm, Melanie
Doust, Leah Rose, they’re all wonderful pages and people. I’m a big fan of vintage fashion, slogan t-shirts and, admittedly, I have a bit of a swimsuit and lingerie addiction. I’ve recently fallen in love with Lali and Layla swimwear.
TMC: What’s your dream cosplay?
AW: It’s about a ten page word document filled with different cosplays and variations.
TMC: Anything else you’d like to add?
AW: Be excellent to each other.