Innovative cosplay is about more than fine craftsmanship – it’s about doing something that really hasn’t been done before. That’s why I was suddenly interested in interviewing the woman dressed as ‘Tusky,’ a World of Warcraft Tuskarr. I first found out about Aerlyn on Facebook and enjoyed viewing her progress photos. Here is my interview with this talented and creative cosplayer:
Tara M. Clapper: How and when did you start cosplaying?
Aerlyn: I started cosplaying in 2010. I had been a pretty big gamer for years (hardcore raiding in World of Warcraft) and was offered tickets to Blizzcon by a family member. This was my first convention ever and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that I wanted to make something to wear to celebrate how excited I was to be going. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked ever since.
TMC: Tell me about Tusky – why did you decide to cosplay this particular character?
A: I have a soft spot for characters that don’t really get a lot of attention. Plus, Tuskarrs are just really cool. The pinnacle of my gaming life was really during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion of WoW – had a great group of friends online, a great raid group – I really wanted to find something that reminded me of all the fun I had. Tuskarrs were on the top of my list after the months I spent doing daily quests for their epic fishing pole. I did some research and quickly realized that Tuskarrs had never really be done. With that Tusky, my cutesy name for him, was born.
TMC: What are the reactions you get when people realize you’re a woman under the Tusky costume?
A: My first interaction with people when dressed as Tusky usually starts with a fair amount of squealing. It then follows one of a number of paths: a) surprised look and a comment about how cool it is that I’m a woman in there, b) deadpan look and a quick retreat after a photo, or c) no reaction at all. Sometimes I get the impression they think I’m a prepubescent boy. I really have a ball seeing people’s reactions, though. It’s nice throwing people for a loop sometimes especially when they least expect it! Even after 14 hours dressed as Tusky, exhausted and bruised, I was still grinning inside the suit.
TMC: Have you encountered any sexism as a cosplayer? Do people ever tell you that you should stick to more typically portrayed female cosplays?
A: Thankfully, I haven’t really had to deal with any sexism. I mean, it’s pretty difficult to encounter anything at all when dressed as a gigantic walrus. My entire interaction with the gaming and cosplay community has been pretty darn great.
TMC: Do you get different treatment when you’re dressed in a tight fitting/revealing costume than you do when you’re portraying a character who is more covered?
A: To be quite honest, I get approached a lot more when I’m dressed in more modest costumes. And the conversations I have while dressed in them are a lot more interesting. It becomes more about your craftsmanship and character than physicality and sensuality of how you look.
TMC: What is one of your favorite cosplay experiences?
A: Hands down, my favorite cosplay experience was last year at Blizzcon 2013. I got to stand in front of Glenn Rane, the person who developed the entire Tuskarr race for World of Warcraft, while dressed as Tusky during the costume contest. Seeing his eyes light up, put a hand over a gigantic grin, and him lean back in his chair was one of the coolest things ever. I got to meet him again the next day in a signing booth, and to shake his hand and have him remember me was a truly amazing experience.
TMC: How do you decide which characters to cosplay?
A: It really depends on the event. For my Blizzcon costumes, I really rely on my past experiences with the Blizzard universe – which quest lines or expansions I really enjoyed, how fun or challenging it would be to make, if it has been done before. For comic conventions, I tend to stick to strong female characters that really resonate with me. I then sit and stew and draw and stew and stew some more for a week or so to make sure that I really love my potential pick. When you’re going to be spending a year on a costume, this is probably the most important step in the decision process. After working long days at my office job, working on my costumes should feel like fun and not another job that has to be done.
TMC: What is your advice to new cosplayers?
A: Don’t allow your skill level to deter you from trying something new. Google and YouTube are amazing tools. Do some research about techniques that other craftsmen might use. For example, I actually researched how people restore vintage car upholstery in my search for the perfect way to make Tuskarr skin. You might surprise yourself with what you can actually accomplish. And, even if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll have a story to tell your friends later and you will have learned something.
TMC: Who are your favorite cosplayers?
A: My favorite cosplayers are probably Avery Faeth, Vash Fantastic, Zerina Cosplay, and Doom and Gloom Princess Cosplay. These wonderful ladies are bold and brilliant with amazing craftsmanship and range. I really respect them and, if I am even a tenth of their level of awesomeness, I would count myself lucky.
TMC: You recently dressed as Pepper Potts for an in-character murder mystery dinner. What are your tips for cosplaying characters like Pepper who don’t necessarily appear with recognizable gear (as The Avengers do)?
A: It’s all about attitude! What is the essence of that character? How would they react to certain situations? Do some research and have some fun!
TMC: Anything else you’d like to add/include?
A: I always want to tell people that however you want to express their fandom is okay. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or worry that you’re not good enough or feel like you have to do anything that would demean yourself just because you want them to like you. Cosplay is about love – your love of that universe, love of that character, love for craft and art behind what you’re doing. At the end of the day, you do this for yourself and not anyone else.
Also, always doubly secure your loincloth.
All photos are used with the permission of Aerlyn’s Cosplay and Design.