Beginning a career in cosplay?

cosplay girl with sword against red container

How far would you go to play a game of “dress-up”?

While going through the old photo albums, reminiscing the childhood school plays or fancy dress competitions, where pinning a red cloth to the back or wearing an underwear atop the pants was the ultimate idea of embodying your favorite superhero. But this is not child’s play anymore.

What is Cosplay?

Cosplay is a sophisticated art form which delves into the extremes of creativity and the extent to which one would go to personify the fictional characters they venerate. If only the superpowers came along as well! Cosplay has burgeoned into a full-fledged industry, one that is not just limited to the annual school plays or Halloween parties. With events such as Comic Cons, Geek conventions, Anime expos etcetera gaining tremendous popularity and conventions happening all year round, there are a plethora of opportunities for people to showcase their love for the unreal and willingness to enliven the fantasies they seek.

Ideally this is something more prominently seen in the Japanese culture if we look at it a few years back. People generally misinterpret cosplay as region or country specific, but saying that it “only” belongs to one nation would not suffice the widespread phenomenon that it truly is. A subculture of geekdom that is transforming into a culture of its own with more and more people participating and supporting the art. Call it a play of words or rather an act of portraying but you get to become someone you venerate. Transforming something unreal into something tangible. Making the virtual world a new reality. The process is even more exciting than it sounds.

Finding the one that fits!

The interesting fact here is that it’s not just about the looks, it’s an intensive hobby that pays. With the ever increasing number of gigs happening the entire year and all around the world it is quite a decent source of income given you’d consider doing it as a hobby or just out of sheer love for the child in you. Professional cosplayers charge quite handsome fees for their art. There are myriad ways through which a cosplayer’s influx of cash takes place. Models or cosplayers don’t just dress up and attend exciting events, a serious amount of work goes into creating the costumes. An elaborate costume can take  up-to 2-3 months if the cosplayers are making their own costumes and props with an investment ranging from $100- $700. They in-turn sell these costumes to some of the crazy fans out there or to another potential model. There is no limit to how detailed you want your costume to be, after all that is your USP. Some of these enthusiasts are willing to spend $2500- $4000 dollars happily on the more realistic animated props, but there are fair chances of them making more than double of that per event. Being a game enthusiast helps, as you know the character. It is important to do the preliminary research so that you feel comfortable personifying the character in real life. How perfectly you can fit into the shoes of the character that is the main motive. Although this is a serious industry, unless you are enjoying what you do, there isn’t really much you would be bringing to the table. You need to do justice to your persona and for that a thorough research is necessary. The makeup is a crucial part of cosplay, the more realistic you want your character to look like the more work needs to be put in. Cosplay models spend hours and hours to get the right makeup and sure as hell spend a lot of bucks on the makeup as well. Getting professional makeup artists to do your makeup for a gig might cost as much as $500 and that is just the starting range. A lot of models prefer to do their own makeup and props but you can only do as far.


Hire a Photographer

You don’t want the months of preparation and efforts to go in vain, you not only need to get photographs just for remembrance but also for the future career. Just like any other type of modeling, cosplay has quickly made a place as one of the genres of modeling and hence you might want to add a display of all your characters that you have played and the numerous gaming brands that you have previously worked with. It is imperative to get professional photographers to get the pictures done and not just any of your friends because if you want to pursue cosplay modeling as a career, you cannot leave any room for errors. The professional photographers know their job, you can go for collaborations as in the beginning paying the fees of a photo-shoot might be a bit costly. With the costs of making the costume and the props, the makeup and the photo-shoot, it all adds up to a considerable amount.


Where to Promote

Professional cosplayers act as an imperative marketing tool. It’s an amalgamation of modelling and costuming, an innovative confluence to bring out something exclusive. Dressing up as a character of a video game and promoting the booth at the comic cons, boosting the sales of merchandise or getting pictures with hysterical fans  who’d go to any lengths just to get clicked, for each of these activities they get a hefty amount. The more sales they help turning in, the higher is their profit margin. International cosplay models making anywhere from $50,000 – $100,000 is quite plausible apart from the all expenses paid (travelling, accommodations and food!) trips to the myriad events around the globe. That being said mostly applies to the top cosplayers of the world who hold a celebrity status and the responsibilities alike. Annie Lynn, Anemia, Jessica Nigri, Lyz Brickely to name a few big shots in the industry. Some have been in the career for over a decade. Their success largely depends on their heavy social media presence. They need to be highly proactive in uploading unique content regularly. With a legion of fans, followers and admirers wanting new stuff everyday can be overwhelming but it is all worth the effort. Social media is a massive tool when it comes to promotions, these professional cosplayers have millions of followers all across their social media. Where they do brand endorsements or put up pictures of their characters. It is a haven to see what all has been done and what more can be done.


Create a Cosplay Portfolio.

Building a career in cosplay modeling, the key points to be noted are, to know your character very well. You have to wear the costumes like a second skin and gain that level of comfort and confidence. Further know your audience, the people or the brands that you are targeting. The gigs you want to feature at. With the plethora of gaming conventions and anime expos going on around the world, there are limitless opportunities. And to be able to work with brands, what you will most certainly need is a portfolio. It is not very different from a conventional modeling portfolio, the only difference being here you need to display your versatility and the wide range of characters that you can portray. Get a professional photographer to get your body and head shots. The main focus would be the entire costume and how good you pull it off. Schedule photo-shoots which can be both paid and unpaid, it depends on the company you are working with. Make sure to get the most out of every shoot. Get in touch with the photographer, explain your ideas and what you expect out of the shoot. Work in unison to get the best images. Create a unique and enticing portfolio which is going to be your tool for your future career.


Audience and Scope for growth

Cosplay has an ever growing audience. The industry is flourishing and is as huge as the gaming industry itself. With the advent of social media the tremendous popularity that this has gained in the past decade is unimaginable. Getting paid for dressing up in fancy costumes would have been a ludicrous idea a decade ago, but today it is a new career field. And that too one where you are getting paid to do what you love. The cosplayers travel the world attending conventions and conferences with an all-expenses paid. In fact Cosplay competitions are organized at a huge level where cosplayers from all over the world come up to compete and prove who the best is. The jury includes models who are pros at the work and have been doing it for decades. The audience is not just limited to the gaming fanatics or just kids. These conventions witness people from all ages. And it is not just the game characters, you can play your favorite superhero or movie characters. Comics come alive and take you to a whole different surreal world where everything is possible.

From masquerade balls, to costuming to cosplay, transcending to a whole new and competitive level, this industry is only progressing. It won’t be right to call it an industry as that would take away the essence and innocence of why people do it, it’s a means by which people escape the mundane real world and live in their own enchanting creations. An impeccable costume, becoming the character you impersonate and a social media stronghold, is all you need to not only delve into the magical world of cosplay but also to make a career out of it. Travelling the world, attending gigs and getting paid for it, that is a pretty sweet deal.

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