At its heart, Geek Bomb is fundamentally about celebrating, inspiring, and getting to know women in geek. Founded by our Boss Bomb Maude Garrett and featuring a Bomb Squad filled with diverse, talented, and totally badass ladies, Geek Bomb has a mindset much like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Females are strong as hell. And it’s about time we start celebrating that again. So, we’ve decided to relaunch Women in Geek, our interview series that spotlights, shows off, and talks about the wonderful ladies who are leading the geek entertainment field.
Joining us this week is Catamancy Cosplay! A Southern California-based graphic designer and layout editor by day, Cat unleashes her cosplay creativity at night. Though she describes her aesthetic as either “a broody anime boy or a princess, with no in between,” Cat has proven her versatility and expertise in the years since she started cosplaying seriously. We had the chance to have a chat with Cat (hey, that rhymes!) about how she entered the world of nerd, who her biggest inspirations are, and what advice she’d give to other women in the industry.
Geek Bomb: First off, when did you realize that you were, in essence, a geek? What geeky things are you up to now?
Cat: Not to be cheesy, but I think it was something I was born into. It was what I grew up with; my dad is a huge Trekker and I saw Star Wars early, and my mom is Japanese and introduced me to shoujo manga sometime in elementary school. I hid my GameBoy in my backpack, I doodled fanart in my notebooks, and watched Zoids and Pokemon on VHS over and over and over again. It was normal to me, and eventually I started finding people who liked the same things, and my “geekiness” just grew from there.
My day job isn’t geeky, so my outlet is my cosplay and D&D. Right now, I’m up to my ears in costumes: I’ve got two badass warrior ladies, a pixie, and more anime/game boys in the works, and I’m sure my mish-mosh list will just keep growing. And D&D has not only been a great break from working on costumes, but [also is] a fun way to spend time actively creating something with my friends and also inspire other work. I end up doing a lot of concept art for it (or laying out my own spell cards and character sheets because the graphic designer in me isn’t satisfied with the layouts), and that inspires me to get back to work on drawing out and making costumes. The two are a cycle, and it’s fantastic.
GB: Let’s get our foot in the door by asking how you got your foot in the door. What’s your industry origin story – how did you get started? What advice can you give to those looking to break into your industry?
C: I put on my first cosplay in junior high: Mew Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew. It was made by a friend of my grandmother, I didn’t have a wig [and] didn’t have the shoes or the gloves, and had no previous con experience. I went to Anime Expo and was hooked, but didn’t go again until late high school, where the same woman made my Edward Elric coat and my dad helped me make an automail arm. I decided I hated wigs.
After that, I fell out of it, and made my return to cons in 2014, where I busted out Thranduil’s silver coat myself and took it to Wondercon, where everyone thought I was Daenerys. But it was fine, because a woman that had worked on The Hobbit stopped me to praise the construction and encourage me to keep going (to which I tried to keep a straight face and be “professional,” but since I had no actual experience and made that coat and crown with sheer determination and a lot of screaming, ended up crying anyway). Since then, I haven’t stopped cosplaying.
My advice to people looking to get in to cosplay: just do it! In my opinion, the biggest hurdle is self doubt and “buts”: “but I can’t make that,” “but I don’t look like this character,” “but I’ll never be as good as so-and-so.” I know it’s hard to push past these thoughts — I still have trouble sometimes — but once you do, I guarantee you will be happy you did.
Always remember that everyone starts somewhere!
Can’t sew, but still want to cosplay? Buying a costume is completely acceptable! I know there [are] people that say you have to make everything yourself, but that just isn’t true. I make everything myself now, but I didn’t start out doing that! Buying a costume can be a good way to get a feel for the community and see if you like cosplaying at cons and events. Decide later you still aren’t sure about making things, but you really want to be a character that you can’t find a costume for? Commission someone! The artists in the community will be receiving your support, you’ll be having fun in the costume of your dreams, everyone wins.
If you want to make things and have no experience, dive in anyway! My biggest piece of advice for you is to never be afraid to ask questions. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me at cons and say they wanted to message me but were afraid because they didn’t want to bother me. I LOVE helping others, and in my experience, have found that the vast majority of cosplayers feel the same way! I love sharing information, and I have learned so much from asking other cosplayers about their methods or how they figured out how to get some impossible piece to work and manage to stick it to their body. Remember that we are all nerds, there’s already common ground. And if you’re ready to jump in right now, invest in a good pair of scissors. Your hands will thank you.
GB: What is the most difficult obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in your industry or maybe even still overcoming?
C: I’m going to be really honest here: the community itself. Like any other community, it has lots of fantastic, like-minded people who love to spread positivity and share in each other’s excitement, but it also has pockets of negativity. But don’t worry, potential cosplayers, the positive crowd is by far the majority! It’s true that mean comments stick more than the genuinely nice ones — and let’s be real, people that are determined to hate, will hate no matter what and will make sure you hear them. But the rewards have convinced me to remain in the community.
Sure, every once in a while I feel like I need a break, but going to an event as Princess Anna or Rey and seeing children absolutely light up and believe I’m the character is just too amazing to give up. This extends to older fans, too. I have never had so many people ask for hugs as I have as Inuyasha; people will come up with huge smiles and tell me about how they used to stay up late to watch it when they were a kid. We get to have a bonding moment, then I’ll struggle to have a conversation with my fangs in, and we all get a laugh. Experiencing the reactions of other fans is incredibly motivating, and it keeps me in a creative space and coming back con after con. Ignore the haters. The little family of other excited fans you enter into when you cosplay is worth it.
GB: Picture yourself at ten years old. What advice would you give her? What would she love to know about present-day you? Anything by which she’d be surprised?
C: Don’t internalize the things mean children say about you (or adults in your future), and don’t settle for “friends” that don’t like you for you. Unfortunately, there will always be mean-spirited people in the world, and the only thing you can do is keep going despite them. Someday it will be worth it, and you will find genuinely good people that share in what you love.
Ten-year-old me would be thrilled that she actually gets to later become the characters she watched and read and that people — even total strangers — would share in her excitement. She would also probably be slightly embarrassed that 25-year-old Cat cosplays Inuyasha. Probably.
GB: Who are your female role models and/or inspirations?
C: Absolutely my mother. She works so hard and has made so much possible for me, and for that I am forever grateful. She’s definitely the reason I can look at something and go, “I have no idea how I’m going to do that, but I can figure it out.” I feel like my resolve came from her: When I set my mind to something, I will see it through to the end. I won’t abandon a project because of an obstacle, I just need to find a way around it.
There are a lot of women that inspire me, so I’ll narrow it down to cosplayers. Yaya Han and Kamui Cosplay are two that inspire me to up my game; their work is so clean and well built, and on top of that, they’ve helped others in the community with their tutorials and positivity. Another is Hustle and Bustle Cosplay. Aubrey is one of my dearest friends, but I say this without bias: She is without a doubt one of the kindest, most positive people I have met in this community. She’s also one of the most clever. What she can do with random bits and pieces and fabric that most people look over is so cool, and her fit is always incredible!
GB: Who are some of your favourite fictional female characters of all time?
C: How can you make me pick? I’ve always loved Princess Leia, Belle, and Sophie Hatter, and now there’s Rey and Aloy. All of them are intelligent and resourceful, and they veer away from what has traditionally been expected of female characters. They are all reminders that you can be intelligent, strong, assertive, (all words typically used to describe male heroes), and have traditionally “feminine” qualities all at once; being a woman doesn’t mean you have to fit into a mold.
GB: How would you like to see this industry grow for not only women, but within the entertainment space?
C: First, I just want to say that I am THRILLED at how much the community has grown since I went to my first con. It’s so inspiring to see so many people come together over a shared love of things that used to be looked down on. And I think it’s grown positively in entertainment and media; we used to be seen as a creepy community on crime procedural shows or features of weird life shows, and now we have things like Cosplay Melee that showcase the skill and passion that we put into our work. I hope we can continue in this direction.
I do think though that there’s something we can work on as women: stop policing how other women choose to cosplay. This is of course, a personal opinion based on my own observations, but I’ve seen a lot of criticism come from women in cosplay towards each other about the characters they choose. If someone wants to wear Harley’s Suicide Squad outfit, or burlesque Poison Ivy, or something with a bra top, or six kinds of shape wear, that’s their choice. As a whole, I think we all need to be more supportive of each other and stop pushing the idea that there’s a “right” way to cosplay. Plenty of cosplayers will tell you that the moment they put these costumes on, they feel more confident and powerful, and I feel like that’s one of the most important parts of this community. Let’s keep supporting each other and lifting each other up!
GB: Where can people discover more about you? Socials/website/podcast or channel links.
C: You can catch me online and follow my progress at @catamancycosplay on IG and tumblr, Catamancy Cosplay on FB, and @catamancy on Twitter (when I remember I have that). If you have questions, feel free to contact me at one of those places (though IG is fastest)! Hope to see you at a con!
Thanks again to the lovely Catamancy Cosplay for joining us to celebrate the magic of women in the nerd world!