A dear friend of mine, Andrien Gbinigie has been featured on TDC before, but once he got into his cosplay game and started gaining traction online, it seemed like time for a follow-up. When he was featured on a segment at Comic-Con for The Jim Jeffries Show on comic book fan gatekeeping and inclusion of gender and race, I just knew I had more to talk about…
Okay, so I know we’ve talked to you before about a game franchise you’ve worked on in the past, but let’s introduce you for those new around here and to your name!
I’m Andrien, and I work in the video games industry as a Product Marketing Manager. Which means I get to work on a team that makes lots of cool marketing assets for video games like trailers, screenshots, high resolution images and so on.
What got you involved with cosplay and how did you first dip your toe into it?
I’ve been fortunate to know, and work with a lot of amazing cosplay professionals during my time in video games. I have always been in awe of people who made costumes and had the confidence to wear them and create content around their cosplay. It was mostly as a result of that admiration and respect for those in the community that I decided to get involved in cosplay myself.
There are so many gorgeous cosplayers out there, but who are your favorites that helped give you inspiration?
Shoutout time, yay! Well I have to start with the dynamic duo of Monika Lee and Riki Lecotey. both of whom are wonderful friends, but amazing professionals in the space as well. Getting to watch and learn from them really helped me when I decided to get started in cosplay. I also really look up to folks like Ugo and Rick Boer, amongst many others.
Who would you personally like to see more cosplay of?
There isn’t enough Lobo cosplay out there if you ask me. And Silver Surfer. I think both those characters get overlooked in favor of their (understandably) more popular counterparts.
You’ve already done a convention now in cosplay, what did you think of the inclusivity among other cosplayers? Is it a hard clique to get into?
There has been nothing but love from fellow cosplayers at conventions. As with almost any hobby, sure there can be, and are some cliques, mostly formed by folks who know each other and have been doing this for a while now. That said, every cosplayer I’ve encountered at both ECCC and SDCC has been very friendly and encouraging.
Some vocal minority types take issue with someone cosplaying characters with changes to race and gender. Where do you think, personally, that comes from?
I believe that people form attachments to characters they are fans of, be that in comic books, film and tv or video games. A lot of the time, those attachments can lead to a sense of ownership of said characters. As a result, some people take that to a warped extreme, and feel that someone of a different race or gender cosplaying their favorite character is an attack on the “purity” of that fictional character. Which is incredibly absurd, when you consider that cosplay literally means “costume play”. If we truly believe that cosplay is for everyone, then that should be reflected in support for cosplayers respectfully portraying characters of a different race and/or gender from themselves.
I emphasize respect there, which of course means not indulging in modification of skin color for the sake of a costume (blackface, yellowface, skin lightening are an absolute no go under any circumstances). If you are a cosplayer and want to cosplay as a character of a different race, then just wear the costume and you are good.
There’s as also a problem when cosplayers are sometimes dealing with other convention-goers taking advantage and disrespecting boundaries. What would you tell a person looking to get into cosplay to help them protect themselves?
The golden rule is simple; Cosplay is not Consent. Unless you have explicit permission from someone in costume to touch them, then don’t. Cosplayers, especially at conventions, should be allowed to exist without that fear, regardless of the costume they are wearing. The onus should always be on other convention goers to keep their hands to themselves.
Do you think a lot of creativity and inspiration can be taken from seeing these bolder cosplayers that shift directions of traditional characters?
Definitely. Sure, not every interpretation of a traditional character will be to everyone’s taste. But ultimately it is worth remembering that a bolder interpretation is still a product of the cosplayer, and represents the personal connection they have with that character.
How hard would you say your cosplay is to get into? Do you have easier or more complex cosplay planned in the future?
Cosplay can be as easy or as hard as you want or need it to be, depending on the desired goals and outcome. A lot of people get into cosplay by donning casual costumes using readily available items of clothing to portray their favorite characters. Some cosplayers use printed bodysuits. Some create elaborate armor builds to really showcase their craftsmanship. There are multiple entry points to cosplay, all of which are valid.
What characters would you ideally like to see cosplayed more in the future?
I would love to see more cosplay of Icon (from Milestone Comics). Oh and the world could use more Thundercats costumes. (laughs)
Your Green Lantern and Black Panther cosplay have absolutely caught me by surprise for how they give the look of the quintessential superhero you’ve seen in comics. What is something people wouldn’t know about the difficulty of those get-ups?
Well, there’s a lot of working out that goes into making sure I can fit into the suits (and look the part to a certain degree). As they are custom fitted, I have to maintain body proportions within a certain, narrow range, otherwise the suits simply won’t fit. I also have to take precautions to not overheat in them. The material is breathable, but it is still like wearing a second skin.
What is something you’d tell all future cosplayers to have in their arsenal for their first venture out into a convention.
Andrien: Most probably a glue gun. Which would come in handy in the event of a wardrobe malfunction at a convention. Specifically for male cosplayers, I would say please invest in a Dance belt (look it up, then get a few)
Do you think there’s one thing you wish someone would’ve told you to prepare for when you got into cosplay.
Choosing which characters to be is hard work. Especially if you have a number of costumes and a limited number of days at a convention (usually a weekend) to wear them. Admittedly, that is a nice problem to have, but decisions need to be made nonetheless, haha.
What are your goals for cosplay in the future? Who do you see yourself putting together next?
My next costume will by Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel to older folks). Eventually, I would love to do some video game characters (Bayek from Assassin’s Creed Origins immediately comes to mind)
What is your cosplay convention schedule? Where can more people go to snap a picture with you?
I will be a guest at Renton Comic Con, September 15 and 16th. After which, I will be cosplaying at New York Comic Con in October. I hope to make it to more conventions in cosplay next year, and would absolutely love to take pictures with lovely people!