Cosplaying has grown massively in popularity over the past decade, and has quickly become an instrumental part of the pop culture convention experience. In our new Cosplay Focus series, That Hashtag Show is proud to highlight some especially gifted and dedicated cosplayers.
In the first of our series, I got to sit down with UsualRangers5, a group of self-professed 90’s kids from Savannah, Georgia who have coordinated amazing group ensembles such as the original Power Rangers squad and characters from Black Panther. The group came together when they realized that each of them were huge Power Rangers fans as kids (they can even quote every line from 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie!).
What inspired you to cosplay?
The idea of literally cosplaying as a group was more of an afterthought. Our first cosplay was the Ninjetti Power Rangers from the 1995 movie and what sparked it was a mutual excitement in everyone to simply be the Power Rangers. Since all of us got to be the Rangers that we pretended to be as kids, it didn’t feel like cosplay, but a suit that we were supposed to be wearing all along. Once we started wearing the costumes to conventions, it became more of a cosplay and we decided to start pushing the envelope to see what else we could do.
Which costumes are you most proud of creating?
That would have to be the armored versions of the Power Rangers suits, also from the 1995 movie. We made all six suits in two months before Dragon Con, where we debuted them in the Parade. The helmets, made by our White Ranger, Jerry Pringle II, are made from EVA foam, hardened with liquid plastic, spray painted and hand painted for the details. The suits, made by our Yellow Ranger, Cree Michelle Rogers, are also crafted from foam, but rather than painted, they are wrapped in 4-way stretch vinyl fabric.
How long does it usually take you to create a costume?
We genuinely don’t mean to do this, but for some reason we always start a costume two months before it’s time to debut them! Even with our Black Panther costumes, we started those in December, two months before the February premiere. We like to think of it as strategic procrastination!
What accolades have you received over the years?
We were invited to be on the cover of The Washington Post Magazine’s February issue, as well as featured on the social media pages of Winston C. Duke and Lupita Nyang’o! Not to mention, we were invited to meet Ruth Carter and the rest of her amazing design team this past San Diego Comic Con.
What’s your impression of the cosplay community?
The cosplay community is a mixed bag. You have your wonderful supporters, die hard nerds, and just like with any community, the toxic negatives that live to breed drama. We love going to conventions and swapping tips and tricks with other cosplayers, hearing their cosplay horror stories, and giving encouragement to those just starting. We try to spread positivity to those in and out of cosplay and let them know that we aren’t any different than they are. At the end of the day, we are all nerds and should be able to respectively enjoy our fandoms!
Has being involved in cosplay opened up any new doors for you?
Cosplay has taken us to places that we didn’t think possible through regular means! Our most recent trip to San Diego California was our first time on the west coast and gave us the chance to meet actual industry professionals. The different techniques we’ve learned not only help us in crafting costumes for conventions, but in the several smaller productions we put together as actors.
Is there anything interesting or unexpected you’ve learned along the way?
The one thing that never ceases to amaze us is the craftiness of cosplayers! We work by a motto of make what you can and buy what you can’t, which seems to be the consensus of most cosplayers out there. But every once in a while, you meet a cosplayer that will take a common object and turn it on its ear for cosplay. For example, a teenage girl at San Diego Comic con made her jewelry using fish tank hose! It was brilliant! And we made sure to spread the word.
Is there anyone in your life who just doesn’t understand it?
Our Yellow Ranger and Red Ranger have similar stories of their family and friends not fully understanding why cosplay was such an important part of their lives. It wasn’t until the team started being featured on magazines or meeting celebrities that the naysayers started to understand that cosplay could be more than an expensive hobby. In their opinion, the idea of dressing up outside of Halloween was weird. But through our hard work and attention to detail, we’ve made sure to show how great cosplay is and how far it can take you.
Do you have an example of your art having a positive impact on another person?
While in San Diego, we were messaged by a mother whose son loved the Black Panther. She saw our costumes and wanted us to make a video wishing him a happy birthday. We did it and honestly, we thought we could have done better. There was a lot of noise in the background and we could have been more energetic. We didn’t find out until later that night that our video made this little boy’s day! She sent us a video of his response and he was dancing, simply excited that the Black Panther knew his name.
If you could give a new cosplayer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Youtube and google are your best friends. Research can save you a lot of time in the creation process because it can show you ways that the designer broke down the costume or ways to break the costume down to be easily made. We are still looking at the Dora Milaje suits and dissecting the Power Ranger helmets because new things are always being released. Also, don’t be hesitant to look up how to make specific pieces. Chances are, it’s either been done, or something close to it has been done.
For example, we are making the standard issue Dora Milaje suits for some girls who will be joining us in recreating the royal guard for the Dragon Con parade. The backs of their harnesses are very similar to Captain America’s shoulder harness. In looking at tutorials for that, we’ve managed to find an easier way to make the Dora’s harness!
Cosplay has really grown in popularity over the years. Where do you see it going in the future?
We see it being a viable profession, or at least an avenue to making costumes professionally. And that’s not all. The popularity gained from cosplaying can build bridges for your other hobbies, and can make those in a position of power or influence notice you and put you in the right circles. It could actually be a more personal form of social media! A lot of creativity, craftiness and skill goes into cosplaying that still goes unnoticed. With it gaining popularity, the amount of work cosplayers do will start to be rewarded and nerds will be respected more!
After all, we cosplay because we loved these characters as children. There is no reason why that love should fade with age!