An Exclusive Look at the Salt Lake Comic Con Cosplay Contest

By Rae Gun Ramblings

There’s so much to see and do at Salt Lake Comic Con: the panels, the awesome vendors, the celebrity guests, the people watching. But one of the biggest events of the entire convention is the Cosplay Contest! I had a chance to do an interview with Jen McGrew, who organized and oversaw the Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 Cosplay Contest, before the convention in September. While this fall’s event has already passed, Jen’s tips are very insightful and helpful for cosplayers who may be interested in participating in the next event.

Q. Can you give a basic rundown on how the costume contest works?
Jen: Contestants pre-register online, then on adjudication day they get to meet our five technical judges in person to describe how they made their costume, discuss their construction techniques and materials. The judges give contestants personal feedback and scores are tallied. In the evening, the second portion of the adjudication process includes the stage presentation, during which each contestant walks, poses or performs to his/her own music again in front of our judges, plus more than 3,500 audience members in the main ballroom! The scores are tallied again and winners are announced at the end of our three-hour program.

Q. What’s your biggest tip when it comes to entering a cosplay contest?
Enter at a level you think describes your skill-set (beginning, intermediate or masters), but be aware that the judges can decide to bump you up a category, at their discretion. In many cosplay competitions, there are more contestants who self-declare and compete in the “intermediate” group than in the beginners or masters group, so you might be competing against fewer contestants if you’re in one of those other categories. Also, don’t forget to breathe and don’t forget to keep things in perspective. Your adrenaline will most likely be pumping, and some contestants can get emotionally overwhelmed. But remember that this is a big stage show with many bodies (not just yours) with a part to play, plus there are songs and entertainment and logistical factors that have to be managed, so your best strategy is to stay chill, stay flexible, keep a great attitude and have a great time.

Q. What are some of your all-time favorite costumes that you’ve ever seen?
At the convention last September, a woman in the vendor hall wore a costume that must have been built on a Segue or some other motorized device. It was marvelous. Such amazing engineering. She was a reptile-y woman with a big, scaled, articulated dragon tail, about ten feet long. She ‘glided’ everywhere she went and the crowds had to part for her. Another personal favorite was a guy who strolled by our exhibit last September. He wore a terry bathrobe, messy hair, slippers and had a towel slung over his shoulder. At the moment, I sort of scratched my head, but then in the middle of the night I woke up, sat straight up in bed and realized he’d been cosplaying Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So fun. I’m also a huge fan of Gabriella Pescucci’s costumes in films including The Brothers Grimm and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Amazing storytelling through costuming.

Q. Are there any No-Nos that you want to make sure contestants are aware of?
The official cosplay competition rules fall within and under the convention’s general cosplay rules, and these are all online so everyone can read these policies about allowed types of weapons and body parts that require coverage. Anyone entering the cosplay competition should read the rules carefully before uploading their application materials. [They should also] understand that this is a day requiring everyone’s commitment and patience on Saturday, September 6. We have space in our program for 50 total entrants and the judges have to meet with every single contender individually during that day, plus see each one in the stage performance portion of the contest. As a contestant, you must participate in both portions of the judging, or you forfeit. Patience and noise-tolerance are virtues on days like these. It’s busy and hectic when you’re rushing to get there, boring when you’re waiting for your turn and emotionally charged for so many people.

Q. What is your history with cosplay?
I didn’t realize it as an eight-year-old, but my first cosplay was Disney’s Robin Hood. It was 1973 and my dad bought me an archery kit, and I ran around in this costume I’d made based on my love of that animated feature, identifying soooo strongly with his character and threatening to shoot the neighborhood bullies. Life led to an MA in Performance Studies and an MFA in costume design, plus teaching education, writing, design and performing arts as a college professor. I’m definitely fascinated and passionate about all manner of human presentations and events. Now as an adult, a producer and costume designer, I usually get to engineer costumes and facilitate events for other people and dress them up. That’s way better than putting myself on display.

Q. Do you have any tips for putting your best foot forward for the cosplay
Stay positive. Stay cheerful. It’s your best asset. Whatever your costume is or how well you or anyone else thinks you’ve built it, be kind to yourself and others. Being polite to your fellow contestants, the production staff, volunteers and judges is a great social lubricant and it will make you popular and well-liked. Keep your spirits up, always, and see your glass as half-full. You’ll set the mood on a personal level that will spread to those around you.

Thanks so much to Jen for taking time to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the Cosplay Contest!


Rae Gun Ramblings is an Official Salt Lake Comic Con Blogger.

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