Hero Behind the Mask: Mary Jo Chrabasz

This week’s interview is a little different.   Recently I interviewed Costumers With a Cause and tried featuring a few of their members in that interview.  This is how I met Mary Jo.  I loved her answers so much I wanted to feature her separately and share with you guys!  I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did!  –Mala

 photo mary jo check her FB_zpsvvt4ncc6.jpgName: ​Mary Jo Chrabasz

Location(s): ​Norridge, IL (northwest side of Chicago)​

What made you want to join Costumers With A Cause?
​I started doing charity work with my Ghostbusters team when I joined back in April 2011, and quickly discovered how special that side of costuming could be. Then I started noticing lots of my friends mentioning Costumers With A Cause and decided to get involved, because I wanted to be involved in more charity work through costuming. Walking around a convention and getting recognized is fun, but watching kids enjoy seeing their superheroes come to life is so much better! ​

What have you done for charities (types of events)?
So far one of my favorite CWC events that I’ve participated in was my hometown American Cancer Society Relay For Life ​of Norridge/Harwood Heights. For 2014, we were given a superhero theme for the event (which was blamed on my team, Team GEEK, because we had brought a few cosplayers in to previous events). We invited Costumers With A Cause and they helped make it one of the best Relay events we’ve had yet! The impromptu line up of everyone along the track for the Luminaria ceremony, one of the most somber parts of the event, actually had me in tears because I was so moved.

Another wonderful rewarding event was the Autism baseball event in Humboldt Park. It was a relaxing morning, cheering on the kids as they got to play baseball without worrying about rules or teams. Seeing them enjoying themselves and just being kids was terrific. I am looking forward to the next event!

Other events I’ve helped with include the Kids With Capes event, and the Toys For Tots event. Both were really enjoyable and lots of fun. I’m looking forward to participating in both of those events again, as well as some other upcoming events, especially our “A Night At The Museum” for St. Jude’s.

What is the most amazing thing Costumers With A Cause has accomplished so far?
​I would say simply making magic happen for kids. At Kids With Capes, there was one stop where kids got to use foam noodles to beat up villains – including Ronin from Guardians of the Galaxy and Magneto from X-Men​. They didn’t see Terry and John, they saw Ronin and Magneto and it made things fun for them. While adults love our events too, it’s creating the magic for the kids that makes it so worthwhile and special.
 photo Flash Olaf and Marceline at Relay photo by Mary Jo Chrabasz_zpspywgl9x6.jpg
Where do you see Costumers With A Cause going in the future?
​I hope to see the group helping more and more causes and charities. We have a pretty decent slate of events for 2015, and I hope we can keep making that magic happen for lots of events! ​

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay  group or getting into CAUSEplay?
​Don’t forget to have fun! “Play” is part of “cosplay” and if it’s not fun for the cosplayers it’s not going to be fun for kids. Get creative, think outside the box for ways to raise money. My Relay team is always trying to think of new ways to raise money, and often we turn to cosplayers for help with that. It’s one thing to have a raffle, it’s even more interesting when it’s “The Raffle At The End Of The Universe”​ and is full of geeky items (like a full size hand-knit Doctor Who scarf).

Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay: ​Sometimes it can be exhausting to spend all day in costume, especially if the costume is uncomfortable or extra warm, but the end result can be so worth it. My fellow CWC members really inspire me and make me want to work harder, to make better costumes, to come up with new ideas to raise funds for charity, and to make it out to more charity events. We have a wonderful group, and we’ve done some really amazing things, and I wouldn’t trade working with these people for all the tea in China! ​

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
​Seeing the reactions, from kids and adults, to our costumes. Making the magic happen is such a special adrenalin rush, and usually the day after an event is when I tend to start working hard on the next costume. ​

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
​My first events with Costumers With A Cause were Relay and the Autism baseball events (both the same weekend). The first time I raised money for charity in costume would probably be Wizard World 2011, shortly after joining my Ghostbusters team, when we raised several hundred dollars for the American Cancer Society at our booth. ​ photo Batman and Superman playing baseball photo by Mary Jo Chrabasz_zps5sq95hpt.jpg

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying? Why that character?
​My Ghostbuster uniform is my tried-and-true, easy to wear costume. It’s one of my most comfortable costumes and I’ve worn it year round – and that’s including the pack. I’ve done so many Ghostbusters events that I’m used to wearing the pack for hours at a time. But I’ve been trying to put together some more costumes, particularly ones that kids will recognize. Sadly, not as many kids recognize the Ghostbusters nowadays. ​

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment: ​Watching my fellow cosplayers walking the track for the Superhero lap at Relay this year, with several survivors happily joining them. My best friend (and team Captain)’s father was one of those survivors, happily being escorted around the track by several superheroes including Lady Deadpool and Black Widow.  photo 22_zps5w4dciyz.jpg

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
​Probably helping kids throw frisbees through hula hoops mounted on sticks, at Kids With Capes. It was silly, but lots of fun! Even if I did stink at it myself. :)​

Who inspires you?
​My fellow cosplayers! ​

Tell us something random about yourself: ​Long before cosplay was a word anyone used, I was a cosplayer. Somewhere, I have props I made as a little kid – I made Dr. Venkman’s “sniffer” from Ghostbusters (from the scene where he checks out Dana’s apartment), as well as my own Tobin’s Spirit Guide. I also made a set of Dr.​ McCoy’s medical tools out of empty paint jars and 35mm film canisters. Costuming is in my blood!
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Star Wars or Star Trek: ​Star Trek! Though I do love Star Wars as well. ​

Marvel or DC: ​Marvel girl 1000%!​

Favorite Comic Series: ​Gambit’s solo series from the late 1990s.​

Favorite Comic Character: ​Tie between Gambit and Nightcrawler, both of the X-Men.​

Favorite Book: ​A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle​

Favorite Video Game: ​Kirby’s Epic Yarn for Nintendo Wii​

Favorite Convention: ​Chicago TARDIS​

Affiliations (clubs or groups): ​I’m a member of Ghostbusters: Chicago Division, We Are Cosplay, and Costumers With A Cause. ​

Facebook: facebook.com/knitchick1979

Website: http://knitchick.info

Twitter: @KnitChick1979
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Hero Behind the Mask: Keyaroscuro

This week I wanted to introduce to another lovely lady I had the pleasure of doing a CAUSEplay panel with at Geek Girl Con 2014.  The talented Keyaroscuro!  Not only does she make phenomenal costumes but she takes amazing pictures too.  I had the pleasure of having her shot my Batgirl and I love all the pictures that came from this shot!  Keyaroscuro is one of the kindest people you will ever meet.  I hope you enjoy getting to know her in this weeks interview.  –Mala

 photo Mulan_zpsxidihxn2.jpgName: Keyaroscuro

Location: Ogden, UT

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
I saw these really cool-looking guys in armor at Anime Banzai 2010, a convention where I used to regularly participate as an Artist Alley merchant every year. Back then, I had more social anxiety than I do now, and it wasn’t until the evening of the second to last day when they had their helmets off and were talking about their plan for the next day. They were very kind when I interrupted them for a picture.
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After posting on Facebook, one of the armored cosplayers friended me, and over the next few months, I eventually learned that he was a member of the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Clubs. His Facebook posts were filled with photos of him and other costumes Star Wars characters volunteering at various charity events. Dressing up to do charity was something I’d never considered, and I loved it and wanted to be a part of it. However, it wasn’t until several years later, when a former coworker said he was trying to make his own set of Mandalorian Merc armor that I took it as a challenge to complete a set of armor in a month before the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con. And the rest is history.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
One reason — the people. I love the cosplayers I work with; it takes a certain type of person to participate fully in this hobby, and the common traits they have are the type that make them amazing friends and adopted family. Then there are the people we serve. I have loved service and charity all my life, and there is no greater feeling than bringing joy to someone’s day.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
My very first event was really participating during Salt Lake Comic Con with the Mandalorian Merc’s bounting hunting fundraiser. Outside of that, my actual first event was as a handler with the Mandalorian Mercs. A member of the community interested in joining our costume club, who is now an official member part of the local chapter, invited our local Krayt Clan chapter to a fundraising fair for families with children in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). My armor wasn’t approved yet, as I’d had to fix and add some pieces to resubmit to the costume club’s application team again for approval. Mainly, I acted as photographer and repaired any loose pieces on armor when they came undone while the Mandalorians walked around to get pictures with attendees and invite passing drivers to stop.

The fair had this children’s train that rode around the entire strip mall parking lot that was hosting the fair, and we fit all the attending Mandalorians in their armor onto the train for a ride with permission from the train runners. We got a lot of great pictures from that, and I got to get to know some of the members, encouraging me to finish the repairs on my armor and become official.

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and why?
I don’t have many, but my Mandalorian Merc armor is definitely my favorite. For one, I get to cover my face with a helmet, so I don’t have to worry too much about makeup or how my hair looks until after I take my helmet off. I’m also very proud of my armor, and I’m even more proud of being visually associated with the other Mandalorian Mercs. It’s difficult to feel social anxiety when you’re wearing a really cool set of armor and are surrounded by a bunch of equally cool armored people.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment: Ah, that’s another tough question. I think my most memorable was FantasyCon 2014’s Charity Night. The convention runners decided to open the convention for a few hours the night before opening day and invite Make-A-Wish Utah to invite local families with children with life-threatening conditions that often make it so they can’t enjoy conventions due to the crowds. I’d had a horrible day that day and a near emotional breakdown about an hour or two before while dealing with a completely unrelated issue. I remember going to the convention hall after I wrapped up my other drama and joining the rest of the Krayt Clan, and all my cosplayer friends helped me feel so much better while I got ready.

Then we all lined up in two lines to form an aisle next to the main door where they were going to let in all the families. There are maybe a hundred of us all in costumes ranging from Star Wars to Disney princesses to superheroes to elves. And the volunteers opened the door at the start time, and all these families came in. Each family had at least one child with a wheelchair or a walker or a feeding tube and oxygen masks. And they fall filed down this aisle the cosplayers formed towards the main stage, stopping occasionally to get pictures with us. The kids were so excited when they saw a character they recognized, and although some of the parents seemed hesitant, maybe just tired, they also seemed happy and excited for their kids.

I just remember looking at these cool kids and a couple of the mercs next to me (me included) saying that they were glad they had their helmets on to hide how much it affected them emotionally. That was a really great event and one of the reasons FantasyCon is my favorite convention.

What is your favorite cause to support?
The Krayt Clan has worked a lot with Make-A-Wish Utah, and they’ve always been so great. I love what they do. Also, one of my favorite annual events is a Toys for Tots drive held at Hastur Games that involves as many local cospalyers and cosplay clubs as we can get, and it gets bigger and more fun every year!

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I think the silliest thing I’ve seen wasn’t one I actually participated in, just took pictures of. It was my very first event and the only one I attended (not including Salt Lake Comic Con 2013) right before becoming an OM. There was this tiny train for children and a bunch of Mandalorian Mercs. You may be able to guess what happened in an effort to have fun with the kids and attract attention and attendance for the event, which I believe was for families with babies in newborn intensive care units.

On a side note, was also near Halloween and in the parking lot of a Halloween costume store, so after the event, we went into the store and all the mercs posed in silly costume pieces like feathered boas while I took pictures. It was quite cute.

Who inspires you?
Local cosplay inspiration Neff has served as an inspiration for me and many others in my local cosplay community. I literally would not be doing this if it weren’t for him, and I would not have stuck with it this long if not for his genuine kindness and caring personality.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: I’ve had social anxiety my entire life. It’s been very difficult to put myself out there at event after event and be a people person to strangers. However, I kept pushing my comfort zone a little bit each time, and now I’m usually very comfortable at events. So my advice is that if you have any insecurities that might make it so you feel you can’t participate even though you really want to, work on them a little bit at a time. Surround yourself with positive, strong people, and their strength will eventually rub off on you, and you can pay it forward in your own little way.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
I’m taking a break for 18 months to be a nurse specialist for my church in Uruguay Montevideo starting the beginning of May. I’ll be back at CAUSEplaying again in November 2016!

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
I like cosplayer, because costumer makes me think more of theater costumes, which is actually one of my unfinished degrees.

What was your first costume/cosplay?
I actually went as Bellatrix Lestrange first; if I remember correctly, it was back before she had a character design in the Harry Potter movies.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I’m usually a technical writer.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I’ve been asked this question before in a job interview back when I first started university, and my answer is the same now as it was then — a photographer for National Geographic.

Tell us something random about yourself: I cry a lot during many movies. Like the last Harry Potter movie.

Star Wars or Star Trek: I love Star Trek. I really do. Leonard Nimoy is one of my favorite actors alongside George Takei, and the whole franchise holds a very special place in my heart. But…I honestly get more emotional and more excited over Star Wars. So I’ll have to stay Star Wars it is!

Marvel or DC: I think both studios have their strengths and weaknesses. I do have to admit, though, that I enjoyed the Justice League and animated movies long before the MCU came to be, and next to X-Men, those superhero TV shows are my first superhero memory. However, the X-Men were the ones I got the geekiest over. So this is tough, but perhaps I’m going with Marvel for the moment.

Favorite Comic Series: The Sandman

Favorite Comic Character: Delirium from The Sandman

Least favorite comic character and why: I honestly can’t think of one off the top of my head.

Favorite Book: My favorite book changes fairly often, but currently, it’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Favorite Video Game: Portal 2

Favorite Convention: FantasyCon

Affiliations (clubs or groups): Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Keyaroscuro

Instagram: https://instagram.com/keyaroscuro/

Heroes Behind the Masks: Cosplay Heroes QLD

I absolute love the philosophy and attitude under lying this week’s interview! From everyone can cosplay/CAUSEplay to helping others and bringing smiles to others to inspiring people to be heroes themselves! That is one reason that got me into CAUSEplay, was the thought of inspiring others to reach out to their communities. It makes me happy to know there are others on the opposite side of the world with the same thought process! And they are for sure a busy group putting smiles on kids faces! I hope you enjoy this weeks feature of Heroes Behind the Masks! – Mala

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Group Name: Cosplay Heroes QLD

Location(s): Queensland, Australia

Mission Statement: **Not yet applicable** But if I was to make one on the spot.

We strive to help others, bringing smiles and assist where it is needed. To live up to the definition of being a hero in our community. Providing inspiration to all so “Anyone can be a hero”

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When was the group started? And by who?
The group started around June 2014, It was originally started by 4 Cosplayers.

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create Cosplay Heroes QLD in general? If you are a member of the Cosplay Heroes QLD what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
There are other groups present at the time already. But not enough groups and or members, resulting in a lot of events or special visits being turned down. This was not acceptable for me/us, so we decided to start our own and grow our members large enough to cover all regions possible.
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Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good? And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status?
We are not ‘registered’ as a non-for profit. We are based on those guidelines and are recognized as non for profit due to the nature we are all volunteers and no payment is received. We would class ourselves as a Costuming organization with intent of non for profit charity work. As long as we have a NFP declaration, it is recognized as such. The declaration is what it says: Declares the groups interests on the work that is performed.

At this point we are not considering on registering the group in regards to tax deductible donations. As any monies raised goes directly to the charities deposit accounts.

How can someone join Cosplay Heroes QLD?
We will scout potential members or they can contact us via email or fb post. Though each member is subjected to a short interview, usually three questions. These questions are generally about: Teamwork, acceptance(of others/no discrimination) and passion to help others.
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Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
We are under a year old, so we are operating solely on Facebook. Though a website is under construction.

What type of costumes do you accept? Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it? What do you look for in a costume?
Costume approvals – as we do not discriminate on ones costumes or skills, we will accept any one or thing. There is a time and place for all costumes. Child friendly costumes and easily distinguishable characters are very helpful. But each Charity event has different needs, so it is foolish to only accept certain costumes. We want to satisfy all requests we get to the best of our abilities and resources.

Do you accept crossplay costumes? Gender bent costumes? Customized characers?
Genderbent and crossplay of course are accepted. We live in a diverse community and we encourage everyone not to be afraid to express themselves (Of course at discretion of event host). We will not hold any of our members back from “doing good” just because it is not of the right gender. Anyone can Causeplay.

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Yes there are members who are armour builders, sculptors, artists, seamstresses and of course there is a much wider community outside of the group to assist.
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How many people are currently in your group?
54 members

Leadership structure:
Vice President
Board members(X4)
Public Relations officer
Librarian(Custodian or Administrator)
Event Organizer

How is the leadership determined?
Elected yearly and based upon experience and knowledge. When elections come up, members are welcomed to nominate themselves and explain to the group why they are best suited for the position and a ballot is then held.
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What have you done for charities (types of events)?
This is a hard one for me to answer as I am not in attendance at all events. But to summarize we don’t do as much charity fund raising as other groups. We try to focus on children, we have visited many ill children. These children may have Cancer/s, disabilities, rare health conditions and life threatening or terminal ill children.

This is an emotional thing for some of us to speak about, but we leave knowing we have made a difference in a childs life, their families and their wider community.

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We do quite a lot of requests, to host our own event would be time consuming, not ours but of the public. There has been times we get a request at “the last minute” so we try to make ourselves available at all times. We have not turned down an event to date.
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How did you build you “clientele”?
Usually it has been word of mouth from our last client(Child visit) and our members reguarly keep an eye out in the community to find potential clients or events that could benefit from our presence.

Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
1-Capes 4 kids Australia. Website: http://www.capes4kidsaustralia.com.au Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capes4kidsaustralia

2- Childrens Hospitals in Queensland

What is the most amazing thing Cosplay Heroes QLD has accomplished so far?
Spreading smiles and joy. Creating a team(members) that work together to make a childs day special. Everything we have done has made a huge impact in the community. But the most surprising thing about our team members, is the passion and commitment they show. For example we could be given under 36 hours notice for a visit for a sick child or an event. I guarantee you I could confirm attendees within 12 hours.
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Where do you see Cosplay Heroes QLD going in the future?
Expansion of members and a wider area of coverage in the state. With the budget cuts from the government in regards to health and charities, we will be required for a long time to come.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?

Have fun! Choose wisely your members, pick those who have passion for costuming and helping others. A slogan I use/created: If I have strength, why can’t I too be strong for others.

Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay:
Every member should be proud of what we have become and grown into. Started with 4 members and now it has increased to 54 in under a year. It is surprising how many people want to help, costuming is another outlet for them to help the community and have fun doing so.
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What future events do you have? Please note that many of the events listed below have passed but I wanted to share with you the amazing things this group does!!!  Also, some of the pictures in this interview are from some of the listed events.
The 20th Birthday of the Birth Centre 2nd May https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfTheBirthCentreQld
EB Games Star light foundation week April 27th – 3rd May
Abigails Birthday(Cancer survivor and past client) note: we always follow up on clients after visits, its our way of showing we care( we are not just a one gig wonder)
Capes4Kidsaustralia 1st year Birthday
Sensory Movie Day 4th Anniversary
And that is just the next few months, more requests are expected 🙂

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cosplay.heroes.qld

Email: Cosplay.Heroes.qld@gmail.com
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Mystique (90s X-men Cartoon)

Mystique (90s X-men Cartoon)

Growing up I looked forward to the next installment of X-men on Saturday mornings.  Later that day some of the neighborhood kids and I would gather and pretend we were the amazing mutants we saw on the television.  Though I never pretended to be Mystique as a child, since I always saw myself as the good guy, she has always been one of my favorite villains!  And I will always be biased toward this variant of Mystique.  I can’t say what it is that has caught my eye but nothing can replace it.

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Photo by Edward Eliason

Why did I choose this as one of my first cosplays?  At the time I was pleased at how efficient I was at painting my face!  And pleased that I had managed to paint most of my upper body by myself!  Trust me, this is a feat!  Going off the high of my custom twi’lek from Star Wars I decided I was okay with having to paint my face each time I went to charity event with HEROIC.  Too be honest, it got old faster than I thought it would and went on a costume making binge so I had other options not involving painting my face.

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Photo by Edward Eliason

This is the first costume I made the pattern for.  I couldn’t find any patterns that worked for this design and all the ones I tried to modify did not work either.  I was not happy until I finally caved in making a pattern myself. This was a lot harder than I thought it wold be, but this skill does get easier over time.  And as an FYI, always keep your patterns!  I wish I still had this one.  Luckily it has been a very durable costume so I have not had to remake it.

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Rogue by Anna Belle. Photo by Edward Eliason.

Body paint: And because I get asked this a lot. I used Ben Nye air brush paint for this costume (all photos use the Ben Nye). However, I no longer use this brand because it kept destroying my airbrush guns no matter how much  I was in cleaning them.  Other people really love this brand but I DO NOT!!

I use a body suit for several reasons:
Reason#1.  This can be a huge time saver.  If you have this much skin to paint get someone, or several people, to help you.  Since I wore this costume multiple times a month it was very important to me to sleep and eat before a charity event or con.
Reason#2.  White fabric and any colored body paint do not get along.  For just the neck area alone I had to wash this costume with each wear.  In fact, I stopped painting my neck for charity events because the paint rubbed off rather quickly.
Reason#3.  Kids want to touch things they do not understand.  Which means “blue” skin.  The fact that I had a body suit on usually comforted confused kids when they touched my arm and realized it was fabric.  It also guaranteed that I would be bluer longer since there wasn’t anything to rub off of my skin.
Reason#3.  I wear an insulin pump to manage by diabetes.  Wearing the body suit helped protect the site the insulin is delivered into my body.

If you are entering in a costume contest I do recommend painting ever inch of skill that will be seen.  And also paint allowing for costume movement and settling.  This should earn major points with the judges and get you more credit than using a body suit.

Here are pictures of my costume at CAUSEplay events.

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Toy drive 2013. Me and members of Heroic (2013) with Dan Farr of Salt Lake Comic Con. This is my it is cold outside variant that I wear thermals under my bodysuit and on the outside. The white layer of pants is also a set thermals. When CAUSEplaying during the fall and winter it is important to keep warm!

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Toy Drive 2013 with Utah’s Merc with a Mouth and DC Doll.

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Toy drive 2013 with Shayna

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Winter Paloza 2013 with Utah’s Merc with a Mouth

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Me and a bunch of X-Men fans in a Volunteer Ad for Salt Lake Comic Cons Fan Xperience 2014

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And my all time favorite photo of Mystique!!!!

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If you have any questions about this costume please e-mail them to AdventuresWithMala@gmail.com.

Check out my other cosplays and costumes on my resume by clicking here. If you have already checked out my resume you may notice no new listings for 2017. This is because I have been joyfully creating art for my new business! Check it out on my Facebook, Intsagram, Redbubble, and StorEnvy sites!

Custom Evil Sorceress Barbarian

This is the only picture I have of this costume! I still have the costume but haven’t worn it in 2.5 years. It is crazy how we hold on to things. And how much costumes cost to make. This in not my most expensive costume but is up there on the price. Mainly because of the leather bra piece and I have only worn it once!

Design: Originally the top was going to be made of Worbla/Wonderflex but then I found a great deal on the leather top at a con and decided to use that.  It saved me a ton of time by buying it!  And there is nothing wrong with buying a costume or pieces of one depending on your situation! If anyone tells you otherwise ignore them.  As a graduate student saving time was important at the time.  I won’t deny I spent more time on costumes than I should have with the amount of homework I had during this time in my life!

The original design was influenced by Xena: Warrior Princess. A teenage icon and inspiration to me.

Things I learned with this costume:  Never use a real hair brush on a wig!  It will end badly!

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Please ignore the booze in the background. After all, this is Dragon Con 2013!!

Here is the most recent variant of this costume worn at the Washington Ren Faire 2016

Check out my other cosplays and costumes on my resume by clicking here. If you have already checked out my resume you may notice no new listings for 2017. This is because I have been joyfully creating art for my new business! Check it out on my Facebook, Intsagram, Redbubble, and StorEnvy sites!

Heroes Behind the Masks: Cosplay Collective

This weeks feature not only thinks about charity in the community but the costume community as well!  From podcasting to conventions and charity events to inspiring their community they do it all!!  There is so much to say about this weeks feature that I will let them tell it all!!   –Mala

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2014 Toy Drive with The Rouges Gallery

Group Name: Cosplay Collective

Interviewee: Dee Volpe

Location(s): Nashville, TN (Including all of Middle Tennessee and anyone else who wants to be a part of it). We have a presence on Facebook and welcome input from anywhere.

Mission Statement: We connect cosplayers and cosplay groups for support, inspiration, development, and to bring hope, strength, and joy to our communities.

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When was the group started? And by who ?
We began activities at the end of summer 2014. The founders are Dee Volpe (myself) and Nancy Arch. We have had great help and support from Johnny Dellarocca, Leeanna Player, and Tina Veda.

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Nancy as The Riddler

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create Cosplay Collective or CAUSEplay in general? If you are a member of the Cosplay Collective what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
As a cosplayer in the Middle Tennessee area I noticed the diversity and many small groups and individuals, yet no real connection between them all. I wanted to unite them for support, advancement, and community causes. As a whole we can do so much more for ourselves and the community at large.

Brief history/overview: We were lucky enough to be acquainted with someone who asked us to work with IndyPopCon 2014 after developing, setting up, and then running the Cosplay Lounge and at the last minute the Cosplay Contest. We had such an incredible time bringing the cosplayers together and spending time with so many wonderful people we started to see a real reason for bringing them together in an effort to create community for them and bringing our love for cosplay to the general public. We offer to bring our Cospitality Suite to conventions where we can set up a place for cosplayers to relax, socialize and even repair costumes while getting off the con floor to avoid photographers for a time. When we realized that our ideas about our group were much different than our acquaintance we decided to split from them and Form Cosplay Collective. We immediately began events introducing our ideas to the community with a room party at Geek Media Expo and then a Toy Drive and Photo Shoot to collect toys to deliver to The Children’s Hospital at Tri-Star Centennial Hospital and the Monroe Carroll, Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Since then we have visited several Hospitals and Assisted Living Complexes. We are lucky to have contacts where we are able to set up visits at places who have not had this type of events before and we have had great success from them, being asked for return engagements.

We also are a part of a larger group that brings programming to conventions. The Powerhouse Project includes, BDC Entertainment, Unlockable Characters, Comic City Conventions, and Cosplay Collective. As part of this group we provide our Cospitality Suite, run cosplay contests, and produce panels on cosplay. We intend to local charities and hospitals in the cities of the conventions we participate.

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Tina as Tomb Raider

Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good? And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status?
We are beginning the process of getting a 501(c)3 status for our charitable work. We consider ourselves a cosplay community that supports cosplayers while doing good works, if that makes sense. We believe you can’t do the charity work if you don’t support and advance the members that are doing it.

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Visit to Cennennial Childrens Hospital in Dec 2014

How can someone join Cosplay Collective?
Anyone, group or individual, is welcome to join Cosplay Collective. We do most of our contact through Facebook, conventions, and local events. We are an inclusive group and encourage all fandoms to join. No shaming or bulling is allowed in this group. We also encourage as much participation as possible.

Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
Right now we have only this chapter, but hopefully that will change after we get our status. At this time our web address, cosplaycollective.org, directs everyone to our Facebook page.

What type of costumes do you accept? Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it? What do you look for in a costume?
As a general rule, all cosplayers are welcome. It is not all about the superheroes. We want to not only do the charity work, but we also want to be supportive of the cosplay community and include everyone who cosplays and even those thinking of doing so. We are planning to have “maker meet-ups”, photo shoots, and events for cosplayers outside of cons. So, everyone is welcome. We also have a “no shaming” rule, as I said, everyone is welcome.

Charity events are a bit different, as we want the best representation of the characters, recognizable and well made. We don’t seem to have a problem with finding this. Everyone who volunteered so far has had great costumes. I believe there is a general understanding that we need good costumes for any visits we make. Some members have reached out to get help to make their costumes better just so they can participate in this side of the group.

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
We do and are gathering more information everyday of local artists that are willing to help others create. We try to connect with those who use our services at the Cospitality Suite we provide for cons. Those who create are welcome to let us know they are willing to help others. We are also happy to support cosplay businesses in this fashion.

How many people are currently in your group?
Our Facebook page currently has almost 450 members. There is smaller amounts that participate, but most all of us have day jobs and can’t make all the events.

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The founders Dee and Nancy

Leadership structure: Right now, the leadership structure involves all those mentioned earlier. As we set up our Non-profit that may change as we want others who participate to be more involved in the planning of events.

How is the leadership determined?
That will be determined as we get further into the process of getting our Non-Profit status.

What have you done for charities (types of events)?
We are a very young group, but we have been fortunate to have created several events.

We began with a Christmas Cosplay Photo Shoot and Toy Drive. We invited cosplay photographers and cosplayers to come for a meet and greet. We also invited the public to bring a new toy and they could get their pictures with the cosplayers. It was quite successful and we collected many toys to be delivered to children in the hospital at Christmas.

The toys were delivered to two hospitals by some of our cosplayers. Getting to meet and show support for some little ones who had to be away from home at such a special holiday.

We have been very humbled by being invited to a local hospital that has never had cosplayers make appearances. We visited the adults on the Oncology and the Pallative Care floors and, to me, this was amazing. We collected items that would be useful for them while they were hospitalized and delivered them during our visit. Families and staff were so grateful and we put smiles on faces that needed something to smile about. This is what I do this for. We have been asked to make regular visits from now on.

Events at some senior living facilities have been a joy to do also. After our first one we have been asked back and others have reached out to us to make appearances at additional places.

We are part of a live podcast called Comixstravaganza Live that can be found at graphicpolicy.com on Wednesdays at 7pm CST. We have had several local cosplayers on the show discussing why they cosplay, giving tips about costuming and more. We hope to expand on that in the future.

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Nashvilles Dark Knight at 2014 Toy Drive

There is also our Cospitality Suite that we provide to cons where we have a location at the con where cosplayers can get away from the crowds and regenerate and/or repair if needed. We provide many items that can be used to do this from sewing machines to hot glue guns.

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We create many of our events, but we also make appearances. Our idea is that not only will we do our thing, but if you are a cosplay group and want more participants we are happy to reach out to our group to find some for them also. Any event programmers are welcome to reach out to us for participation.

How did you build you “clientele”?
Mostly by putting ourselves out there and telling people about ourselves. We do this at cons and events. I love to talk about cosplay anywhere and it has surprised me how many people become interested when they hear about and see pictures. We are lucky to have a great network of contacts that have asked for our participation or have referred others to us.

Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
The Children’s Hospital at Centennial Hospital and Vanderbilt Medical Center has asked for regular visits along with several senior living facilities.

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Batwoman and Superboy

What is the most amazing thing Cosplay Collective has accomplished so far?
Everything we have done has been amazing! Seeing smiles regularly at our visits makes my heart sing! There would be no way to pick just one accomplishment; it is the whole that is amazing!

Where do you see Cosplay Collective going in the future?
We hope to continue locally providing a resource for local charities and event planners. We would like to help other areas of the country to create their own collective, bringing their communities together for great causes.

One thing we hope to do is to be able to make appearances at locations near the conventions we attend. In connection with the Cospitality Suite we provide, we feel that we have the ability to get groups together to make appearances locally during the conventions.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically for Cosplay Collective?
Of course “Cospitality” is something we use a lot.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
Do it! It takes work and perseverance to get it off the ground, but if you put the work into it the rewards are amazing! Find the people that make the decisions and ask. If you ask, usually, they are happy to work with you.

Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay: The first time I put on a costume I paid close attention to the reactions I got! I saw what this can do for people. A smile is the best thing you can give someone because it gives them hope for something better. Why would you not want to do something like that?

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Visit to Vanderbilt 2/2015

What future events do you have?
Right now we will be creating a regular schedule for visits to the local hospitals and we have several senior living places on the schedule.

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

Website: www.cosplaycollective.org (Directs to Facebook at this point)

Twitter: @coscollective

Email: cosplaycollective@outlook.com

Podcast: Comixstravaganza Live @ graphicpolicy.com every Wednesday at 7pm CST

Misconceptions of Steampunk According to Mala

I have admired steampunk since I was in high school, but didn’t really immerse myself in the culture until 2012.  I by no means claim to be an expert on this subject. I only hope to open peoples eyes to the possibilities of the steampunk world.  And hope to inspire people to not limit themselves to only the Victorian Steam Era.

Some of my thoughts on misconceptions of steampunk do not agree with the limited literature or other blogs that I was able to locate while preparing this blog.   I was hoping to give you a ton of information backing these misconceptions.  However, there is not much out there regarding them, so you get pictures instead!  These were submitted from the steampunk communities I participate in.  So make sure to show them all a little love!

Through the past few years of immersing myself in this realm here are misconception I have noticed.  Again, these are my thoughts. Please feel free to agree or disagree as you see fit!

Misconception 1. Must be clothing and items from the Victorian England era. 
I feel that this is the biggest misconception out there.  You don’t have to wear a bustle or top hate to be steampunk.
Yes, this is the base of most steampunk but there are other influences into the subculture!  Below are examples of steampunk infused by time periods and cultures of the world other than Victorian England!

1930’s inspired Bonnie and Clyde by  Goombah Squad Cosplay & Props.

A geisha used in Salt City Steamfest 2014 Multi-Cultiral Steampunk Fashion Show!  I wish I had more pictures of all the amazing outfits used in this show!

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Photo by Nina Taggart

Persian inspired outfit created by Carol’s Custom Costumes.

 Bollywood inspired outfit by Makeup Siren.  Facebook. Deviant Art.

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Then you have these Post Apocalyptic outfits by Steampunk Pyramid Head and Lumi.
If you are not sure what Post Apocalyptic steampunk is heres a great explanation of this subgenre.  Please note, this website has no affiliation with this blog.

And you cannot forget my favorite, Dieselpunk!
This is the 1920s-1950s had there been different technology. It is often a militant style.  If you want more information about dieselpunk Click Here.  Please note this website has no affiliation with this blog.

Here is my first dieselpunk outfit.  With me is Anna Belle as an English explorer.

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Misconception 2. Steampunk is limited to browns and black.
Some once told me they don’t like steampunk because it is the goth kids who changed their black for brown.
Guess what, you don’t have to use brown or black if you don’t want to!

Check out the example below.
I think the heavy use of leather in steampunk may have contributed to this fallacy, but that is my opinion and I have no evidence to support it.
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Misconception 3. Steampunk requires a corset
Guess what, not true!   Shyna created this perfect outfit without a corset!
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Misconception 4.  You must have goggles.
Though goggles are staple of steampunk accessories, they are NOT required! Here is a beautiful example that an outfit can me amazing without them! Created by Shyna and Carol’s Custom Costumes.
Another thought about goggles is that your goggles can be any color you want!  Change out the lens to add a pop of color.  My dream steampunk closet has all sorts of colored goggles to go with my colored wigs!

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Photo by: Vladimir Chopine Photography

We also have  this strapping gentleman! Michael Mannon portrayal of Sgt Major Angus “Red Jack” MacMasters, Chief Engineer aboard the A.S.S. Titilus, copyright by Steam-Funk Studios.

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Photo by Brenda Howell, Dream Out Loud Photography

Misconception 5. Steampunk involves traditional hair.
As mentioned above I like to wear colored wigs with my steampunk. Why?  I love the colors it adds!  Check out the photo below! Sadly this is the only decent picture I have of one of my wigs.  The others are all blurry.  Color adds so much to steampunk.  As you can tell I even like to add funk colors of lipstick!  Why?  Cause steampunk can be what ever you want it to be!
 photo 10351084_697307537045256_7539401224770666080_n_zpsvcls88yg.jpgGuess what? I am not the only one who feels this way. Check out Nivi Da Nivi’s awesome outfit!  She uses colored wigs regularly with her steampunk outfits.  Make sure to check out her Facebook page so you can see all the colors she uses in her steampunk outfits.  You should also check out I am RIP‘s amazing leather work!  That is the gentlemen in this great photo with Nivi Da Nivi

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Photo by David Ngo

Misconception 6. There are limits to Steampunk

As you might guess from above I disagree with this thought!  I think that there are no limits to steampunk!
I think you are only limited to your imagination. That the world of fantasy and sci-fi can mix with steampunk technology and culture to create amazing characters and outfits!

Check out this list of creative steampunk inspired outfits!

Leprechaun!!!  This lovely lass even clogged in this outfit!! Corset and hat and all!!!!!

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Here is a Dia de los Muertos inspired steampunk.

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How about a steampunk fairy.   This is the one I made in 2014.

And this other fairy I met at Steamposium 2014. photo photo 1_zpskzkljhws.jpg

How about this steampunk mermaid on land by Criminal Mischief photo 10479497_324680487735263_6975585399428025290_n_zpslw6prh36.jpg

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Back view of steampunk mermaid by Criminal Mischief. Look at all the details and thought that went into this! You should check out the work in progress pictures on her Facebook page.

Or this  steampunk mermaid by Angry Mushroom Pixi Design?

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As with many things in life, the more you learn about steampunk the less you really know. I hope this blog will inspire you to experiment with steampunk and open your imagination. After all, my favorite thing about steampunk is that the character you design is only limited by your imagination!  I hope you are inspired by these designs for you next steampunk adventure!

I am also working on different cross over features. If you have a crossover steampunk outfit you want to see featured please email me at AdventureWithMala@gmail.com. Please include the photo, your Facebook or website, and photographer credits.