COSPLAYER IN FOCUS: AN INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA PAULDING

Lt. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace from the 2004 version of  Battlestar Galactica.
Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica.

I had the good luck of meeting Jessica Paulding at Dragon*Con 2012 and I have been following her as an up and coming future star of the cosplay landscape in the United States of America. She has gained notoriety recently thanks to her cosplay representations of two of our most beloved ladies of sci-fi. I’m talking of Lt. (later Captain) Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (from the 2004 version of the Battlestar Galactica TV series) and of Lieutenant Natasha “Tasha” Yar (from the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Lieutenant Natasha "Tasha" Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Lieutenant Natasha “Tasha” Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When Jessica cosplays Lt. Thrace she does it with a very personalized technique that gives life equally to the toughness and steely determination of the warrior as well to kind angelical side a messenger from beyond. And when it is Tasha’s turn Miss Paulding delivers a performance where she dominates every single nuance of Lt. Yar regaling us with a staggering representation of a character that is considered by many to be the precursor of a whole new generation of strong women characters on TV.

Jessica Paulding is wonderful cosplayer, full of promise that will give us a lot to talk about for years to come. I invite you to enjoy AN INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA PAULDING.

1. When did you discover the hobby called cosplay?

I believe around the time I was first getting into Fullmetal Alchemist in 2004. I found out fandom was a thing and the more I consumed FMA on the Internet, the more pictures of cosplayers I found. I eventually made my own Edward Elric costume in 2007 for Halloween. I didn’t start attending conventions until ’08.

2. What motivates you to practice this hobby? In other words, why do you do it?

Mostly I cosplay because it is a great conversation starter and I like creating things. It’s been a long while since I made a costume though because I haven’t found other short-haired women I want to cosplay (and I don’t do wigs.) It’s also fun to feel like the character for a weekend. Cosplaying Starbuck really helped me break out of my shell because of the confidence I exuded when I acted like the character.

3. Are you a fan of any particular entertainment area (comics, anime, video games)?

It used to be anime. I’m mostly into science fiction these days. I avoid video games because I get very, very addicted. (In 16 days with a full time job and a boyfriend I clocked over 100 hours of playtime on Skyrim.)

4. Do you remember which character that inspired you to make your first cosplay?

Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist. I was a big Ed fangirl back when he was older than I was.

Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist
Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist

5. Do you make your own costumes? If so do you make them alone or with help?

I have made or assembled all of my cosplays by myself except my Tasha Yar costume (which came from Star Trek: The Experience) and that one time my friend let me borrow his Stargate SG-1 costume so I could cosplay Sam Carter for a few hours.

Sam Carter from Stargate Atlantis.
Sam Carter from Stargate Atlantis.

6. Which do you consider that has been your most challenging cosplay to make?

Probably my Martel costume (my second costume ever) because I made the knife, pants, and shoulder holster from scratch. The only parts of that costume I didn’t make from scratch were the belt and the actual boots. Lots of work went into the shoulder holster and pants. The knife too I suppose. And the boot covers/spats were a bitch… Ok I think the only easy part of that costume was making the tank top.

Martel from Fullmetal Alchemist.
Martel from Fullmetal Alchemist.
Martel from Fullmetal Alchemist.
Martel from Fullmetal Alchemist.

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7. How did you feel the first time that you put on your first cosplay?

Very excited, I assume. It’s been too long, I can only remember one scene when I wore my Edward Elric costume to school and I pretended to “angrily” perform alchemy when a classmate called me short.

8. Do you feel that you express a part of your personality on your cosplays?

Most of my costumes I act like myself. Perhaps with a hint of my character. The only noticeable difference is in my Starbuck costume I gain a lot more of a swagger, an over-confident persona. It’s fun and pretty clear to others I’m not actually so full of myself. I think.

9. When and where was your first public appearance in cosplay?

Aside from at school, Otakon 2008 I cosplayed Martel from Fullmetal Alchemist.

10. Which ones have been the events where you have done cosplay so far?

Otakon, Anime Boston, Another Anime Convention, Connecticon, Portcon, Dragon*Con, Anime World Chicago, Nauticon, Arisia and probably a couple others I’m forgetting.

11. Do you use the services of professional photographers?

I have a few friends who are professional photographers and they’ve taken somewhat informal photoshoots of me. I’ve never seeked out a photographer though.

12. Do you have experience participating in photo-shoots either individual or group?

Yes, both. Group ones can either be fun or feel fairly robotic. It gets better when you have creative people coming up with cool and funny shots and scenes, or when people get into shenanigans with other characters of the series.

13. What has been the public’s response to your cosplays?

Public as in actual public, while I’m sure plenty have ridiculed me once out of earshot, I’ve gotten plenty of stares, some comments, plenty of questions and sometimes even an acknowledgement of my character. My Tasha Yar costume has gotten me many “Live Long and Prosper” hand signals from the public. Public as in convention public has always been positive if it wasn’t neutral. I’m still amazed at how easy it is to make friends when you have a good cosplay. (Even an average cosplay works too.)

Domo.
Domo.
Domo.
Domo.

14. Have you been subjected to negative criticism, bullying or discrimination for being a cosplayer?

Probably behind my back. The only one to ever tease me about it to my face is my mom. She thinks it’s silly but she loves that I’m a nerd, even if she teases me about it now and then.

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15. Do you feel that your life has changed, that you’ve changed since you started doing cosplay?

Cosplay has helped me so much. It’s the absolute easiest way to make friends. The moment someone approaches you to take a picture of your costume, you already have something to talk about that you are both passionate about. I’ve made more friends than I can keep track of after 24 conventions. (No really, I have a hard time remembering people’s names or if I have them friended on Facebook.) I think I would only have a few friends if not for conventions. I’m not sure how many more friends I have than if I never cosplayed at conventions but I’m sure it would be a lot less.

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