Heroes Behind the Mask: We Are Cosplay

I love the pictures in this weeks interview! So much fun must have been had at this party! One thing I love about this blog is all the fun pictures I get to see while looking for groups and people to feature! Not to mention the ones that are submitted to me.   This groups is so fun they also have a members appreciation night.  Personally, I love this idea!  Having been part of a busy group sometimes it is just fun to have a fun night with your CAUSEplay family!   Drum roll please for We Are Cosplay! –Mala

 photo Over 13 hours For The Kids - photo by Ron Ladao_zpsdvkybzke.jpg

Over 13 hours For The Kids – photo by Ron Ladao

Group Name: We Are Cosplay

Mission Statement:We Are Cosplay is about the culture of costuming and appreciation for the characters and craft used to bring them to life. A collective of artists collaborating toward one goal- to produce creative media via costuming, cosplaying, video production, live appearances, and more. We Are cosplay is where creative pop-culturists come to live, grow, and teach.

Location(s): Based in Chicago, our events primarily radiate out to the surrounding suburbs. That doesn’t mean we don’t have members in other states or countries for that matter. Community means more than location. Connectivity to other creatives means opportunity, not just to learn and grow, but to travel and make personal connections. This also means that events the We Are Cosplay brand is engaged with, are not limited to the Midwest. If an opportunity presents itself, it is up for consideration.

When was the group started? And by who (do not have to answer this last part if you do not want to)?
Angelique Rickhoff (Social Media Director), Nyq Bonaventura (Media Director), and I (Creative Director) collaborated previously in another related group. After leaving that group to pursue our own projects, many of the creatives we had encountered and befriended during our stay kept inquiring when we would be launching a new group. I guess they liked what we were doing previously.

We Are Cosplay launched in January 2014.

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create We Are Cosplay CAUSEplay in general? If you are a member of the We Are Cosplay what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
The catalyst for We Are Cosplay of course has to be those friends/members who encouraged it… almost to the point of pestering, if we’re honest. But we wanted to build on the model we had set previously. We’re not ones to rest on laurels.

Simply put, the inspiration for any of it is that creative spark, the “Muse”. The three of us come from artistic backgrounds- music, graphic arts, film, you name it. So it was a skin we were used to wearing. Being involved artistically in so many mediums for so long, it only creates the urge to grow and connect with other artists.

 photo Real Heroes Dancing for Real Heroes - photo by Ron Ladao_zps8adv8ltw.jpg

Real Heroes Dancing for Real Heroes – photo by Ron Ladao

Of course there are individual reasons why each of us specifically took on the challenge of building a “pop-culture collective” if you will, but that’s what We Are Cosplay is to us ultimately. Today’s vision of an artist colony.

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’re considering legal nonprofit status, as it does open up some other opportunities. But there hasn’t really been any event opportunities we’ve had to pass on because of it. It’s about the enrichment of community and support or existing charitable events, more than taking in funds directly. So we’re stilling weighing the reasons against the process.

How can someone join We Are Cosplay?
Pretty simple. Request membership via the the Facebook Group. Once we receive the request, prospective members will receive a facebook message asking for a short introduction. We do this for a couple of reasons- 1. dodging SPAM, and 2. we’re looking for creative thinkers and doers. We want We Are Cosplay to serve as a hub where artists of all types in the pop-culture sphere can share their projects and experience with peers. It’s not a place for bystanders to just view costumes. Google’s got that covered, or other cosplay groups and personal pages. We want to play down “Ego”. It’s not about becoming “known”. It’s about cultivating a creative community.

We make sure to visit every potential members Facebook page to gauge as best we can, along with the our correspondence, people who are interested in being part of a true community.

Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
We do not currently offer localized “chapters”, as we like to think of We Are Cosplay in the scope of a community and culture. We do maintain multiple social portals online via the Facebook Group (our member space), the Facebook Community Page, Google+, the official website, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram. Great options to start making connections, regardless of where you live!

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?
It’s not so much about costume, or type, or experience level. We embrace the vast scope of pop-culture creatives. Sure it’s called “We Are Cosplay” but the culture of cosplay is bigger than just the costumes. It’s photographers, artists, prop makers, set builders, writers, etc. Each concentration symbiotic, sustaining the culture. Bottom line- if you’re a creative pop-culturist, here’s a community for you to thrive.

Do you accept crossplay costumes? Gender bent costumes? Customized characters?
The creative muse comes in many forms. Why shouldn’t the work?

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
It’s a “maker” community. Your resources/guides are interactive! Just reach out to your peers. Instructional media is great, but there are plenty avenues to pursue them. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t had conversations about offering our own brand of instructional web-series, but we also like the genuine interaction. Creativity is organic. You can’t get that with an instructable. It’s missing that energy… that human component that can feed your excitement for a project, or share your frustration with one.

How many people are currently in your group?
Numbers aren’t something we necessarily like to be concerned with, but Facebook shows us at 550+ members. Active engagement can vary… we’ve supported events with our core admin team and one cosplayer, up to 80+ marching in the Downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Leadership structure:
We Are Cosplay is guided by three Directors, Angelique Rickhoff – Social Media Director, Nyq Bonaventura – Media Director, and Myself (Paul Heid) as Creative Director. We meet monthly to discuss opportunities and projects, and are responsible for maintaining the image and building relationships with other groups and organizations, as well as moderate the member space.

How is the leadership determined?
From the three of us, we all have our specific areas of expertise- Angelique ran Social Media for a major Chicago museum for many years and enjoys creating costumes; Nyq is a video editor by profession and performer; I’m good at the PR side of things and enjoy cosplaying. But we all still interweave our talent, deferring and working collaboratively to get the job done. The We Are Cosplay framework mirrors how we work creatively with each other.

The Directorship gives us equal input, and is structured for tie-breaks, should they occur. That doesn’t mean we’re not always watchful and open to those wanting to take on a more administrative role. We’re just conscious of the amount of sacrifice involved when it comes to personal time. It’s a labor of love after all.

 photo Friends will always help against stage fright - photo by Ron Ladao_zpscgq21qzn.jpg

Friends will always help against stage fright – photo by Ron Ladao

What have you done for charities (types of events)?
We’ve been fortunate enough to have opportunities to develop a relationship with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. For the past few years, we’ve supported their annual fundraising event- the Chicago Dance Marathon where we suited up and spent the 13+ hour event dancing and entertaining the children, their families and Lurie staff. We’ve also partnered up with Chicago’s Dark Tower Comics & Collectibles recently to bring Free Comic Book Day to the Family Life Center at Lurie Children’s.

Make-A-Wish Illinois has also come to us recently through our ties with ReedPOP. We teamed up recently to deliver a wish and are collaborating on a big event planned for later this year. We’re very excited about it.
video link:

These are just a few examples of the organizations we’ve been honored to support. Charities are fantastic to work with, as much as they are plentiful. Unfortunately we can’t do it all. But we try. We hope to associate with some local animal charities next!

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
To be honest, we don’t have much time outside of the requests that come to us. But we’ve had a few social gatherings. Most importantly for us was last year’s First Annual Member Appreciation Night- We called it “The Cospys” for short. It was a gala evening where our members had the opportunity to celebrate each other, much like the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards. It was great to see everyone get in the spirit and dress for the occasion.

How did you build your “clientele”?
We like to think of the venues and organizations we work with as, “partners”. At first we were fortunate to come into our launch with an already established relationship with ReedPOP, the awesome folks responsible for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo – C2E2; New York Comic Con; Star Wars Celebration; etc. As well as being connected with Solstice Mobile, which lead us to our involvement with the Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. From there it’s really been a lot of “word of mouth” on the heels of successful events, or leads from members.

Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
Some of the ones we’ve already mentioned like Lurie Children’s, ReedPOP, include us on such fantastic events and are such joys to associate with that we find ourselves compelled to work with them again and again. We’ve also repeated events with the Schaumburg Boomers Baseball Organization, and Hollywood Palms. These are great because participating members get a chance after the appearances to be out of costume and enjoy each others company at the ballpark, or seeing a movie. But we really do try to bring variety to our event engagements. It helps keep our media content fresh, as well appeal to different members.

What is the most amazing thing We Are Cosplay has accomplished so far?
There are so many in our eyes… it’s probably a safer question to put to our members. But overall it’s probably just being what we are- a place where you can find creative camaraderie. A place where the creative spirit is so big, that there’s no room for ego. And that we really do feel like a community, not within ourselves, but with other Midwest groups and together, across the scope of the culture.

Where do you see We Are Cosplay going in the future?
Wherever the muse takes us.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically for We Are Cosplay?
Do you mean with regard to “code names”, or “nicknames”? Some people acronym We Are Cosplay for convenience. We don’t on any official level as branding is important to us. Other than that, not really- except for “Cospys” – our Member Achievement Award. We’ll go on record for credit of that one- specifically Angelique.

We do rely heavily on terminology. Or maybe it’s just me. In an age where a lot of your social interaction happens electronically, it’s important to convey what you REALLY mean. So we have to be as clear and concise as we can. Especially when corresponding with partners outside of the culture.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
Know why you’re starting your group. It’s becoming a very saturated culture, and that means a lot of opinion. Understand your mission, and don’t be afraid to stand by it. If someone doesn’t like the way you’re running your brand, that’s okay. There’s a better fit for them somewhere. And everyone’s happy.

Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay:
Paul Heid (Creative Director): A “community” in the truest sense of the word… that is, the sense of common ground; de-emphasizing “ego”, is what sustains a healthy culture. Competition can make things uncomfortable, but not if you stay true to inspiration of it all. Creativity isn’t reserved for anyone. It’s to be celebrated by everyone. Regardless of how it takes form.
Angelique Rickhoff (Social Media Director): The most powerful part of our community is the life-long friendships that are made in-between conventions and the great opportunities we have to wear and share our art.
Nyq Bonaventura (Media Director): Individuals coming together to celebrate shared passions and creativity is a powerful thing; be who you want to be and remember you are not alone!

What future events do you have?
Superhero Night at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium – July 10
Comic Book Mania – July 18

Orland Park Library Comic Con – August 08
Count-i-Con – August 29

Make-A-Wish: Chapter 2

Second Annual Member Appreciation Night

Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/whoiscosplay/
Page – https://www.facebook.com/WeAreCosplay

Website: http://wearecosplay.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wearecosplay

Email: info@wearecosplay.com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/+WeAreCosplay/posts

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/119974953@N04/

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCLt3_4TXr7meiOxIL5-mAw

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