Hero Behind the Mask: Erika Earl

I am please to share with you the first of the Heroes Behind the Mask series for 2016! Since I am also writing for Cosplayer Among Us Magazine this will only be a monthly release.

I am very excited to introduce you to Erika! She teamed up with the amazing and kind hearted owner of the Penalty Box in Salt Lake City to raise money for a cause near and dear to her own heart! They were very successful! Keep reading to find out just how successful her event was! Not only has she found time to raise money for a great cause but this cosplayer also works with Salt Lake Comic Con in additional to her other life obligations! She was kind enough to talk about all these busy things in her life!-Mala

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Name: Erika Earl

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
The people that I get to Causeplay with

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
The events get better each time and it’s fun to see the progress.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
It was a Make A Wish Dreamnight at the Hogle Zoo

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? It depends, if it’s for children definitely my fairy.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment(s) : All of the Causeplayers on the Carousel at the zoo together.

What is your favorite cause to support and what have you done for them? I personally fund raise for the National MS Society because I have MS and it is a cause that means a lot to me.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I can’t really think of anything I consider silly. Everything is fun if you look at it the right way.

Who inspires you in life or cosplay?
All of the cosplayers I know inspire me in cosplay. In life I’m inspired by anyone who has the courage to be their true self.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Don’t be afraid to beg.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Nothing until next year that I know of but you never know what will happen.

You recently had a CAUSEplay event what is your event called? We change the name every year but it relates to MS and Cosplay

Why did you choose MS for this event?
I was diagnosed with MS over 12 years but because I don’t look sick it’s really hard to spread awareness. All of the money raised went to the national MS society 

Why did you choose to host this at the Penalty Box and how do you think this choice influenced your events success?
Bill Rowe is a good friend and Neff Michael’s fund raising enthusiasm is inspirational. There are no two people I would rather work with more for this event. (Note from Mala, Neff was previously interviewed for his own CAUSEPlay efforts so please check out that interview as well!)

 photo Capture_zpsx4wtqg60.jpg Please tell us the process to making this event happen.
This year was a little easier because it wasn’t the first time around. After getting in touch with Bill and Neff and getting the okay to have the event at the penalty box I rounded up raffle donations, I had help from friends and Geek Hangout Utah on that. Salt Lake Comic Con created the flyer that I both posted and passed out and from there it was pretty easy.

What would you say was unique about your event ?
We try to incorporate as much orange for MS as possible. This year we had orange mardi gras beads and orange glow sticks. Most of the pictures had some form of orange.

How much did you raise for MS in total?
We raised $1701.00 in two nights.

Do you see yourself doing something like this again?
I do, next year we will be back.

If someone is interested in creating an event like yours what advice do you have?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to get told no and keep going.

You mentioned that you also volunteer for Salt Lake Comic Con, tell us what you do for them? What is it like?
I am the Director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con, It is the most amazing job I have ever had. I thrive on chaos and love the event so much.

How important are volunteers for conventions from your perspective? The volunteers are incredibly important for the event. With such a large group of volunteers you would probably be surprised at haw hard each one of them works.

Salt Lake Comic Con seems to have a heavy focus on cosplay, how do you think that has shaped the Utah cosplay community?
It has made everyone feel welcome and as if they have a place in the event.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? Cosplayer

What was your first costume/cosplay? A Zombie

What is your dream cosplay?
There are a lot of them but a Mandalorian is pretty high on the list

How do you feel you have influenced the cosplay community?
I hope I’ve convinced new people to join the community.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I’m an executive secretary at a cancer hospital and I am the director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I like the jobs I have [Symbol]

Tell us something random about yourself: I have more pets than any one person should probably have and I love them all.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars

Marvel or DC: DC

Favorite Comic Series: Batman

Favorite Comic Character: The Joker

Least favorite comic character and why? Superman, he just annoys me

Favorite Book: Coraline or the Graveyard Book

Favorite Video Game: Plants versus Zombies (any of them)

Favorite Convention: Salt Lake Comic Con

Facebook: Erika’s adventures in Cosplay

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/

Hero Behind the Mask: Anna Belle

Not going to lie! This weeks feature is one of my most favorite people ever! Not only was she the maid of honor at my wedding but she is my best friend and costume wife (its like a derby wife, if you are familiar with that term).  We even bought rings! Talk about commitment!  I will never forget the first time I meet her in as Poison Ivy.  We are forever the Blue Girl and the Green Girl.  **Whispers** I was Mystique that day, she was Poison Ivy, and no one knew who we were. **Ends whispering**.  I will never forget the conventions, the commercial shots, winning Halloween costume contests together, photo shots, and the everything in between we have done together. It has been a pleasure to begin my CAUSEplay career with her and I look forward to following her in all her costume endeavors.  Be it CAUSEplay, mystery theater, plays, musicals, or make-up!    –Mala

 photo 10376267_334723343402346_5166054532058404357_n_zpsz01wnmzw.jpgName:  Anna Belle

Location:  Salt Lake City, UT

What got you into CAUSEplaying? 
A happy accident.  I joined up with a friend who wanted Disney characters at a local charity fundraiser.  I went as Mary Poppins.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying? 
The incredible high of being able to help people and make children smile.  Nothing makes me feel better than making a difference in a kid’s life.

What was your first CAUSEplay event? 
Angel’s Hands Foundation.  I dressed as Mary Poppins.

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? 
Belle.  Everyone knows who she is, the kids LOVE her, and to be honest, what girl doesn’t love dressing up in a beautiful gown?

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment :  There are so many.  There are many children who touch your heart with their kindness and positive attitudes so it’s hard to pick a most memorable moment.  I’d have to say one is when a sick little girl asked me to sing “A Spoonful of Sugar” with her while I was dressed as Mary Poppins or the child at a shop-with-a-cop day told me she had spent her Christmas spending money on church shoes, warm boots, and a gift for her brother.  So selfless.

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What is your favorite cause to support?
My favorite events are hospital visits.  Those kids are so happy to see their heroes!  Also, the shop-with-a-cop events around Christmas.

Who inspires you?
Honestly, the kids.  I am so floored by the love and generosity and the positive attitudes of the children I get to help support.  No matter what they are going through, physically or emotionally or both, they light up and are always so happy when they get to see their heroes.  I love that feeling and it makes me want to be a better person.  More patient, loving, kind.  More like them.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: 
Put your heart and soul into it completely opening yourself up to the experience.  If you do that, you will be vulnerable and sensitive and that can be scary, but it’s so worth it when you have your heart touched by the sweet little people you are there to help.  When you see the complete gratitude and adoration and happiness you’ve given them, it will change your life.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up? 
With the charity group I’m a part of, HEROIC, we have several events with local libraries, as well as with MDA fundraising for their kid’s summer camp!

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? 
Costumer by far.  My degree is in costume and makeup design and I feel like it’s viewed as a more professional title.

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What was your first costume/cosplay? 
When I was 4 months old, my mom dressed me as a baby witch for Halloween.  In all honesty, I feel like I’ve been doing it my whole life because of my involvement in the theatre, but my first costume for a charity purpose was Mary Poppins.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)? 
I’m an Executive Assistant for my family’s chiropractic practice.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I truly love what I do, but if I had a different job, I’d choose to be a designer full time.  I love the creative process and the sense of accomplishment when I finish a project.  I just wish I had more time to do it.

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Tell us something random about yourself:  I am the child whisperer.  They just seem to love and gravitate toward me!  I love children, so it works out well for me though.  It also helps in raising my army of glitter minions as I work to take over the world.  Mwahahaha!!!

Star Wars or Star Trek:  Star Trek.  I have loved it for years.  I’ve never even seen the Star Wars movies (except for the first of the newer ones)

Marvel or DC:  Either!  I have costumes from both universes.  I feel like they both have great qualities and fantastic characters!

Favorite Comic Series:  X-Men for sure!  I also really like Batman: The Animated Series (I know, it’s a cartoon not a comic, but still!)

Favorite Comic Character:  Rogue.  She has a lot of emotional depth and sometimes it is difficult to get her to open up to people.  I feel like I can relate to her on that level.

Favorite Book: I feel like that’s asking a parent to pick a favorite child.  I will say that the Complete Works of William Shakespeare is one of my most prized possessions.  I have a copy given to me by my parents in High School, and I have my grandmother’s old copy.  They mean a lot to me sentimentally.

Favorite Video Game:  Well, as a kid I really liked Crash Bandicoot and Mario Brothers.  I also liked Duck Hunt and the Aladdin game for Sega.  As an adult, I haven’t ever really been into video games though.

Favorite Convention:  Steamfest.  I have had more fun running around with my friends and I love the history of the time period surrounding the steampunk culture.  History was my back up major in college, so I’m sort of a nerd for that.

Affiliations (clubs or groups):  HEROIC 

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