Hasslein Blog: Getting Into Character, Part Four: Valerie Perez

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Hasslein Blog

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Getting Into Character, Part Four: Valerie Perez

by Rich Handley

Earlier this year, while preparing an article for Bleeding Cool Magazine issue #6, I spoke with eight cosplayers who shared their insights into why they enjoy dressing up, how they craft their creations, the mainstreaming of comic books, and the sexism and negativity that some women face regarding their participation in a once male-dominated hobby. That issue recently hit stands, containing truncated versions of the interviews I conducted with each costumer, in a roundtable format. Now that the article is in print, I thought I'd highlight each cosplayer by presenting his or her unedited answers on this blog. You can read the other interviews here


Cosplayer: Valerie Perez


RICH HANDLEY: How long have you been cosplaying, and what first drew you to the hobby?

VALERIE PEREZ: I began cosplaying about seven years ago. There were Lara Croft lookalike contests on the Web, asking fans to submit photos for prizes. I had long admired her character and loved playing in Photoshop, so it seemed like the perfect fun project for me.

In her satin tights, fighting for our rights and the old Red, White and Blue,
Valerie Perez is truly a wonder to behold. 
Photo courtesy 
Brent @BattyBlogger 


HANDLEY: Do you create your own costumes or purchase them—and if you create them, what goes into making a typical getup?

PEREZ: My costumes started with items I purchased and then modified however I could with glue and paint. And if that wasn't enough, in the photos I touched up my costumes on the computer. In this Lara Croft montage for instance, I drew on the sunglass and I was originally holding a comb, not a gun. To make the cat suit, I wore all black and Photoshopped on a zipper. It wasn't long before I got off my butt from in front of the computer to make my own templates and find the raw materials to work with, either myself or to take to a seamstress, leatherworker, blacksmith, etc.

Typically, when you're creating a getup it's a re-creation, but sometimes it will be an original design that fits into and follows a particular genre. It's a lot of measuring, making mockups, finding proper proportions, deciding what details to include, hunting for supplies, doing tests and TONS of research—that's my favorite part.

Valerie, as Lara Croft, prepares to raid some tombs.
Photo courtesy
Granted Wish Studios  

HANDLEY: Why does cosplaying appeal to you? What characters do you most enjoy portraying, and why?

PEREZ: I've always enjoyed dressing up, but my main passion is storytelling, and a character portrait is a big part of that. When cosplaying, I celebrate a mythos that inspires me, and I promote favorite characters I want to see more of. When I started going to San Diego Comic-Con, I was appalled by the lack of Wonder Women. So the next year I attended as Wonder Woman and the photos of my cosplay appeared in news articles around the world.

Then I started to get a lot of requests, and began appearing as Zatanna and Scarlet Witch, too. Now, six years later, I happily see a lot more Amazons and magic women everywhere! I most enjoy portraying Wonder Woman. I love when kids run up to hug me; it's a reminder of when I first started to idolize her—nothing beats that!


All the world is waiting for her, and the power she possesses.Photo courtesy
Kevin Green  

HANDLEY: In years past, those who attended conventions in costume represented a smaller percentage of total attendees. These days, that percentage seems to have grown exponentially. Why do you think cosplaying has become so prevalent, and how has the media played a role in this growth?

PEREZ: There are many reasons to cosplay, and media coverage helps feed the majority of them. The more the media shows the enjoyment of something, be it roleplaying or the artistry of costumery and makeup, the more would-be cosplayers could be inspired. Those seeking attention may get some, but the belief that you will obtain any real fame or money is not true. Few make a living as costume/prop makers for cosplay, or get part-time model work. But the greatest draw for most is finding a community of like-mined people to share and collaborate with. And with so many more artists selling cosplay creations online, it's never been easier to attend conventions in costume.


Valerie strikes a magical pose as Zatanna Zatara...
Photo courtesy T
heRealmCast.com  

HANDLEY: In 2012, the Internet was abuzz regarding the negativity being aimed at so-called "fake geek girls" by some male fans, and even some male comic book creators themselves. Have you encountered this bias—and if so, can you share an example or two, describing how you reacted to such negativity? In your opinion, why do female cosplayers have such a harder time than men in earning respect for what they do? And what can be done to improve the situation so that female fans are treated fairly?

...sees red as the Scarlet Witch...
Photo courtesy
Scott McKeeve  

PEREZ: Since I was a teenager, I've been going into comic book shops, air shows, etc., and there were always guys turning to me to say, "What are you doing here?" I had no realization that what I am is a geek, while those around me expected that I couldn't (or shouldn't) be a geek.

I simply ignored the comments and weird looks, being accustomed to being the odd duck in the room, growing up a tomboy and being a "two-eyed freak" (I was the only one not wearing glasses in my classes at school). People are still surprised at my interests, but the remarks implying I was abnormal and not belonging have stopped. There has not been anyone that's openly attacked my geek cred personally, and I hope there never will be, for their sake.

The first step to improve any situation is awareness. Seeing more women working in the comic book industry is certainly also a help. Females, in general, have a harder time earning respect, no matter what they do. At least in cosplay, the ladies are the most popular! I can't think of any male costumers in higher, or even as high, regard than the top females.

...and, as a Mirror Universe Enterprise officer, makes cosplay cool in any reality.
Photo courtesy Geri Kramer Photography  

HANDLEY: Finally, how large a role do think cosplaying has played in the widespread acceptance of the comic book genre, encouraging many more fans to openly embrace their comic geekdom? And why is cosplaying ultimately a good thing for the comic book industry, as well as for Hollywood?

PEREZ: Maybe in years past, guys thought it would be harder to find a girlfriend if openly comic book fans, but nowadays, seeing all the cosplay ladies around, they might realize there are plenty of women who are also into comic books. Maybe female cosplayers have become pinup girls in an unintentional propaganda campaign to openly embrace their comic geekdom.

Another happy accident I've seen is cosplayers, inspired by comics books, have inspired their favorite artists in return, and seeing fan interpretations affect their work. Fueling an active fan base and encouraging the creators at work, I'd say, are big financial and morale boosts for the comic book industry. Loyal costuming fandoms also help attract attention to beloved but lesser known titles for Hollywood to dip into, and propel the next wave of professional make-believe.

For many individuals, it's really helped open the door wider to following wherever your inspiration lies. I originally wanted to be a doctor, to make people happier by making them healthier. But now, I think the healthiest, easiest way for folks to find their happiness is to simply follow their passions. One thing cosplay has certainly done for me is to get me out of my head and out of my shell, leading to all sorts of benefits. To quote costumer BelleChere, "Let's just have fun and see where it takes us." Amen!

Valerie Perez... living long and prospering.
Photo courtesy La Guerre Éternelle Photography


Stay tuned, as additional installments of the "Getting Into Character" series will be posted this and next week. As each new interview is uploaded, you'll find it listed here, along with the other articles in this series.

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1 Comments:

At October 10, 2013 at 3:54 PM , Blogger James Mourgos said...

Good interview. I've met Valerie at various shows; she really gets into character. I do enjoy shooting cosplayers and she's my favorite by far. Started at San Diego in 2007 and see her all the time! Interviewer was great with insightful questions. Good work.

 

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