Cosplayer Loren Scipioni is at the forefront of Marvel cosplay. Most noted for cosplaying Black Widow and Ms. Marvel, Loren has been featured on notable sites such as Marvel.com, Cosplay Wikia, Romics, and more. Hailing from Rome, Scipioni now lives in New York and plans to attend NYCC 2014.
Tara M. Clapper: Did you start cosplaying here in the US or in Italy?
Loren Scipioni: I actually started out in Italy, a little over two years ago – which I know isn’t much, but I feel like I’ve condensed into these two years all that I haven’t done in the past. I moved to New York about a year ago now, so I’m still relatively new to the U.S. cosplay scene and I’m really excited to explore it a little more at this year NYCC.
TMC: How is cosplay different in Italy and the United States? Is it as popular in Italy as it is in the US?
LS:It isn’t that different, really. The one thing that I can think of on top of my head is that people have been doing it longer here, meanwhile in Italy it’s still a relatively new thing, which is just now really starting to become a trend. Actually, I’ve seen the difference myself during these two years and it’s incredible – when I first started out “officially” in 2012, comic conventions were still obscure to most, whereas now in Rome (which is where I’m from) a lot more people know about it, even people who are not comic fans at all.
They just come to the convention to hang out and have fun and take pictures with people dressed up as their favorite characters. I think the main reason why it took so long for my country to finally become acquainted with pop culture is that we never valued it as much as people in the United States do. But now things are slowly changing and I’m really glad that they are, because I think that we have a great potential, which shows every year at the WCS (World Cosplay Summit), where Italy usually achieves incredibly good trophies.
TMC: How and why did you start cosplaying?
LS: It started off “officially” with a hair cut and dye. I was bored, I’d just finished high school and I got that haircut and dyed my hair red and some of my friends started teasing me that I looked like the Black Widow off The Avengers movie. So, it really started off as a challenge, because… you have to know that I have this horrible, horrible competitive streak that whenever is teased, it makes me do weird things.
I am also a professional actress and when my friends started teasing me I took it personally, as a challenge, and… well, thus my transformation began. I heard that there were actual meetups of people in costume (that wasn’t Halloween), I researched a bit and so I attended my first convention, where I cosplayed as the Black Widow. I had ordered the costume off the Internet and I was so proud of it – I had spent actual money on it, but I didn’t really care because I was already striving for perfection.
That day, I discovered a whole new world and I made so many new friends it seemed impossible to me that I had never done that before. I asked myself “Where the hell have I been all this time” – I immediately felt home, among my peers, people who shared my passion for pop culture and geeky stuff in general. After that day I decided that I wanted to be “part the scene” and it became my official hobby.
TMC: Who are your favorite characters to cosplay and why?
LS: It might sound redundant, but I am emotionally attached to the Black Widow. I had seen all the movies and stuff before I decided to cosplay her, but before the actual thing I decided to research her even deeper and I went to the comics and started reading them all – almost like the process that an actor does before playing the part.
I did the same, and that’s because of my acting training. I fell in love with her, I felt her, she became part of me. You always have that one fictional character that you love the most and she is IT for me. It’s not just cosplaying with her anymore, it’s embodying her essence. That sounds freaky, I know, but I can assure you, I’m totally sane.
I also love Ms Marvel. She’s my other favorite character. Not as much as the Black Widow, but I feel pretty strongly about her as well.
TMC: Who will you cosplay as during NYCC?
LS: I ain’t changing that much. I will be debuting the newest version of the Black Widow, from the Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie; I’ll be Ms Marvel again – as last year – and then my brand new creation (a semi-original design with a twist), another Marvel character, Hela.
TMC: Tell us about your costumes – do you make them or commission them?
LS: I used to make them myself. With the exception of my first Black Widow, which I bought. But yeah, I used to make them myself, and I was actually pretty proud of them, because I’d never sewed before and I had no idea how to do it, but I was on a tight budget and I was forced to start making them myself, if I wanted them. Now that I work and study full time, I barely have the time anymore. I try as much as I can, but most of the work I commission to others to do for me. I wish I could go back and make them myself, though – it made me feel great.
TMC: If you had unlimited time and budget, who would you cosplay and why?
LS:Oh God, that’s literally my wildest dream! I think I would start off with the complete wardrobe of Padme Amidala from Star Wars. I love it to death and I do have one costume already, which I made last year. After that, I’d probably go with some serious Game Of Thrones stuff – Cersei mostly, whom I LOVE to death – and some other period/fantasy movie replicas, which, after Marvel characters, are my favorite.
TMC: Have you faced any challenges or harassment as a woman who cosplays? If so, how do you deal with it?
Unfortunately I have, yes, and I feel very strongly about it. Not in Italy as much as here in the United States – maybe because I’ve always been among friends back there, while here I’m mostly by myself at conventions, but during last year NYCC I was groped among the crowd. No one to be seen, it was too crowded, I couldn’t tell who it was. Could’ve been anybody.
Also, I’m pretty sure that someone took pictures of parts of me that I wouldn’t want to promote, but again, as you’re stading in front of hordes of photographers, with camera flashes blinding your eyes, it’s really hard to keep track of what is going on. You notice that there’s something wrong with someone, you sense it, but you don’t say anything… maybe because you’re even scared to do so. I know I was.
And it’s not right and it’s not fair that women who are attending conventions by themselves have to be afraid. Thank God, people and organizations are starting to take the matter of sexual harassment at conventions more and more seriously and new regulations and more security are constantly being introduced, but still it is a big problem and it deeply disgusts and saddens me.
TMC: What advice do you have for new cosplayers?
LS: First and foremost, don’t be afraid. I know that there are so many people out there who love to cosplay, but are afraid to do so because they think that they aren’t pretty of fit enough to show off. It’s wrong. If you cosplay, you wanna do it for fun. It’s not a runway, it’s not America’s Next Top Model, it’s a way to mingle with friends, to have fun, to make dreams come true and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Be brave, be creative, show the world what you’re able to do, tell us about your passions and be bold enough to wear that costume with pride. They are your favorite characters, they are your idols and your inspiration. There will always be stupid people ready to knock you down and make you feel small… just don’t listen to any of what they have to say – chin up, shoulders back and smile!
Tara is a lifelong geek and the founder and publisher of The Geek Initiative. Her interests were forged in an early appreciation for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Jurassic Park," and many historical fiction and fantasy novels. Tara is a game designer, LARPer, and frequent convention attendee. The author of over 1,000 individual blogs, her content has been featured on HelloGiggles, nordiclarp.org, LARPing.org, and The Billfold. She holds a B.A. in English from McDaniel College and has attended many events as press (including New York Comic Con). Tara has a professional background in marketing and publishing. She lives in the Philadelphia area. A Marvel fan, her favorite superhero is undoubtedly Thor. View her portfolio at: tmc.pressfolios.com.