Talking with Madison O’Shea is like falling down an Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole, full of heightened colours, strange new words, and giddying tales of make-believe.
Maddie is a Cosplay enthusiast, or, as is known among her community, a Cosplayer (to be clear, we are not talking about pushing pieces of cos lettuce around a plate).
“Cosplay is the words ‘Costume’ and ‘Play,’ combined,” says Maddie, avidly leaning forward, her passion for the topic lighting her features. “It’s a performance art that is about dressing in costume, using your creativity, and having fun.”
Maddie explains that, like herself, most Cosplayers are hobbyists, “though a small number become professional,” being sponsored to attend events, launch products or through building social media channels.
Coined in the 1980s in Japan, ‘Cosplay’ initially grew from fans dressing as their favourite character at science-fiction, and later, pop-culture conventions. Evolving into a global phenomenon, Cosplayers have since formed a subculture of competitions and events, connected by a vibrant network of online platforms, forums, and influencers.
Maddie uses a plethora of creative skills to hone her Cosplay craft, including “foam-work, sewing, costume-making, and make-up and wig styling.” She embraces the pop-culture surrounding Cosplay, citing inspiration from, “role-playing all-things-nerdy, including gaming, anime, manga, action-films, comics and cartoons.”
Maddie is not alone in her hobby, with up to, “3,000 participants at the recent Magneticon Convention in Townsville.” Internationally, major city conventions boast up to ‘140,000 attendees’ at a single event, injecting enormous amounts of money into the economy, pushing Cosplay into the realm of big business.
Maddie herself has curated over 15 costumes, using a combination of thermoplastics, foams, felts and wigs to create her characters, with her favourites including ‘Raven,’ ‘Kanna,’ and ‘Witch Mercy.’ Often, Cosplayers adopt their character’s effects, “you take on different mannerisms in different costumes. As Kanna, I feel cute, fun and comfortable. In a black leotard and cape, I have bountiful confidence.”
Maddie displayed a video of her dressed as a character I was surprised to recognise. With one of my nieces being a keen impersonator of ‘Ladybug,’ I quickly identified the blood red unitard and scattering of black spots. The costume was exquisite, with an uncanny likeness to its namesake, but it was Maddie’s costumed persona I was taken with; she exuded sassiness, cheekiness, and exuberance.
“That’s the essence of Cosplay. Sure, it’s about escapism, and the friendships made, but it’s also about boosting your confidence and just having fun. There’s no rules or age limit; I’ve seen younger and older Cosplayers alike. Cosplay is for everyone. No matter your age, height, weight or body image.”
“That, and interacting with children. Along with birthday parties and character appearances, my friend and I have a children’s hospital ward visit planned. When kids recognise your character, their faces light up; it’s the most heart-warming feeling.”
While Maddie has her eye focused on a ‘big build’ for next year, she offers simple advice for budding Cosplayers.
“To become a Cosplayer, wear a costume, whether you’ve ordered it, or built it yourself, join an online network, and attend an event. We advocate positivity and are inclusive of anyone who wants to give Cosplay a go. The Magneticon team makes you feel like you’re a part of a big family, which is what Cosplay is essentially all about.”
Supanova & Oz ComicCon
Australian Cosplay Events Calendar