Cosplayer Of The Month July 2016

 Jessica Crouse
1. What is your name and do you have an Alias?
My name is Jessica Crouse. I act, model, and cosplay all under my real name. Although, some of my friends do call me XenaJess just because there are soooo many Jessica’s in our friend circle that it’s easier to call me that to be more clear who they are talking to/about. The Xena part comes from Xena being my most popular cosplay.
2. How long have you been cosplaying?
I have been cosplaying for 4 years. I started off just dressing up for fun with whatever I could throw together from my closet, but from there it’s morphed into costumes that are as accurate as I can possibly get them.
3. What was is or who inspired you to start?
Strange story. I love the show Xena. I’ve been a fan of the show since it first aired back in 1995. But had never been to a convention. Finally in 2012 I heard that that was going to be the last ever Xena convention. I knew I had to go. I saved up all my money and even sold my car to be able to go. I went by myself, which was nerve wracking because I had never traveled by myself before anywhere, let alone to the other side of the country where I wouldn’t know anyone. But I gathered up all my courage and I went. I had pretty much no money and had arranged to stay with 3 strangers at the convention hotel. I had found them on a xena message board and asked if I could stay in their room. They didn’t know me and I certainly didn’t know them other than exchanging emails back and forth trying to get to know each other before we had to live together for the weekend. I showed up at the Xena convention and everyone was very nice. I instantly found people that I liked and we became fast friends. I was having a blast. Xenites are very fun people. Luckily for me, since it was supposed to be the last ever Xena convention, there were many people there just like me. People who loved the show, but had never been to a convention before. So there were a lot of people that were just as lost and nervous as I was. One of the nights there was a costume competition. I had thrown together something from my closet that sorta kinda looked maybe something like something Xena had worn in one episode…kinda…if you turned your head to the side, squinted, and then asked me what I was supposed to be. Also Lucy Lawless, the woman that played Xena, was supposed to be arriving at some point, but we didn’t know when. People, especially the new people, weren’t entirely sure what Lucy was going to look like. All they knew to expect was a tall brunette. So when I walked, embarrassed, into the convention hall in my little costume, I was nervous and uneasy because people kept pointing and staring at me. At first I thought they must be making fun of me or my costume or both. But then one girl walked timidly up to me and asked me very quietly if I was Lucy. Now she said it quietly and I had no idea she meant Lucy Lawless. So I figured she meant some random person named Lucy. I told her that my name wasn’t Lucy. She continued to eye me and look at me like I was lying. She got even closer to me and asked again if I was Lucy. I was really confused and overwhelmed. So I told her that I was Jessica and that I really didn’t know what she was talking about. Then she looked embarrassed and ran away from me. I felt bad that she was embarrassed, but I still had no clue what was going on. By the time the 3rd random person ran up to me and quietly asked me if I was Lucy, I figured out they meant Lucy Lawless. Now the idea that anyone would confuse me for Lucy was completely absurd to me. But it kept happening all weekend. Now once Lucy ACTUALLY showed up, then no one thought I was her. But it planted a little seed in my brain. I thought if people could confuse me for her in just plain clothes, what would they do if I got a wig and the Xena costume. That is what first inspired me to start cosplaying. I wanted to convincingly dress as Xena because she is such an amazing character and I love her character and the show.
That is an amazing story I absolutely love it!
4. Tell us about your first Cosplay experience?
My first cosplay experience was after the convention I described above. I went out and got a black wig, because at the time my hair was my natural hair color a light/medium brown, and I made my costume. I chose another costume that Xena had worn in just one episode, because I knew I didn’t have the skill to make Xena’s leather battledress and armor that Xena wore in pretty much every episode. So I selected pretty much a decorated bikini outfit and made that. I think I did a pretty good job. This time people knew exactly who I was supposed to be and from what episode without having to ask me. It was a pretty cool and surreal experience at the same time. I took a lot of pictures with people. People just kept coming up to me and asking for photos. I was not at all used to that, but I quickly got used to it. So I think that’s how I’d describe my first cosplay experience – surreal, exciting, and happy.
5. What is a challenge you find with Cosplay?
Making the darn costumes!!! Haha! I am not a seamstress, by aaaaaaany stretch of the imagination. My Xena costume was custom made for me by Todd’s Costumes www.toddscostumes.com. But all of my other costumes I either made myself or bought all the individual pieces and altered/assembled them myself. Making the costumes is definitely the worst part for me. Yes, it’s cool to be able to say “Look at this. I made this.”, but making your own costumes is expensive, time consuming, and frustrating. If I had the money, I’d probably just pay Todd to make all of my costumes, but I just don’t have the money to commission my costumes. So I get an idea for a cosplay, buy all the stuff, mess up a bunch of times, buy more supplies, mess up a bunch more times, cry, want to give up, make myself stick with it even though I want to just set it on fire and be done with it, and then finally I have a finished product that I am proud of. It cost way more in supplies than I thought it would and it took all of my free time for weeks, but I did it. So yes, making costumes is the hardest part for me.
6. What is the most enjoyable part of Cosplay for you?
Meeting all of the people! I love meeting and hanging out with other cosplayers. I have a group of cosplaying friends and we usually travel to conventions together. I also enjoy meeting the people that aren’t cosplaying at conventions. I’ve had quite a few memorable interactions with people at conventions. Some great…..some not so great, but funny now. Definitely my favorite part of cosplaying is interacting with all of the people. One of the things that I love about cosplaying Xena is the passion people have for her. When I first started cosplaying Xena I did it because I love Xena and I thought it would be cool to dress like her, but my first time at a huge convention dressed from head to toe like Xena in the leather battle dress, armor, weapons, everything – something very unexpected happened. Now I know a lot of people, when they are going through hard times in their life, sometimes turn to shows or books for comfort or as an escape. For me, growing up, Xena was a comforting escape. I didn’t have the nicest childhood/teenage years, so I would lose myself in the show and wish I could be like Xena. Since cosplaying Xena I have learned that many many others found comfort and strength from the show as well. I’ll never forget the first time that I heard a gasp and then I heard someone say “Xena”. She walked over to me and without any warning threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. Then she started to shake and cry. I hugged her back and just stood there holding her until she got herself together. She pulled back, but was still holding onto my hands. She told me that Xena was her childhood hero and that it was that show that kept her from killing herself. I hugged her again. Then she thanked me and walked away. Then it happened again, and again, and again with different people. Men and women of all different ages. Each one looked at me in disbelief and then hugged me, not all of them cried, and then told me their story. A few of them even said “I’ve always wanted to tell Xena this.” or “I’ve always wanted to tell Lucy this.” and then they tell me. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on. These people, most of them anyway, knew darn well I was not Xena or Lucy. They knew I was just a cosplayer. BUT seeing me in that costume, looking enough like her to make them do a double take, made them remember the show and remember how important it was to them. Most of them had never met and probably will never meet Lucy. So for them, I was as close as they were ever going to get to being able to tell their hero something that they had always wanted to tell her. So each time that happens, no matter what else is going on around us, I stop and I listen to them. I hold them if they want to be held and I wipe away their tears. I know how a lot of these people feel and I am so honored that I get to be there for them and help them have this cathartic experience.
7. Have you met any lasting friends because of Cosplay? Describe one.
Oh yes! Just one?!? Now how can I pick just one? I have friends all over the world now thanks to cosplay. Last year I went to England for 2 weeks to stay with my girlfriend that I had met through cosplay. I have a lot of local cosplay friends, some all the way across the world, and pretty much everywhere in-between.
8. Is Cosplay now a life time hobby for you?  Or say maybe Addiction?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. I absolutely love it now. But it does take up A LOT of my time and energy. So I will keep doing it for as long as I love it, however long that may be.
9. What is one or two characters that you want to do in the future?
Dottie Hinson from A League Of Their Own, The Evil Queen Regina from Once Upon A Time, and Xena’s samuri outfit to name a few.
10.  If you had to choose only one costume to wear for the rest of your life what would it be?
That’s a tough one. I absolutely love Xena, but I wouldn’t want to wear it everyday. But if you are just talking about photo shoots and conventions, then yes I would hands down pick Xena. Someone once told me that she is my spirit cosplay. I’d have to agree.
11. What makes your decision on who you decide to Cosplay? EG:(Difficultly body match or do we look a like?)
Pretty much I just cosplay characters that I really like or that I think are fun. I usually try to go for characters that I think I look like, or that I think I can somewhat easily make myself look like. I really like making people do double takes, so I always try to get as close to the original character as I can.
12. Some People Don’t Understand why you do it. How do you answer them?
Haha! A lot of people don’t, especially my family. I just tell them that I love it. I tell them I love dressing in the costumes and meeting all the people. That’s usually enough explanation for most people. But some people are truly perplexed as to why I find sweating in a hot costume in a crowded convention hall, hungry and with sore feet fun.
13.  Who do you hope to inspire?
My son. I want him to do what he loves and always go for his dreams. I also hope to…maybe not inspire….inspire seems like too important of a word, but I hope to help and encourage LGBTQ youth into living and loving their lives. I am a lesbian and I know what it’s like to grow up in a small homophobic town and to be afraid for your life. I want to send messages of love and that it does get better. I want to send messages of you are not alone and that love is stronger than hate. I want people to know that it’s okay to love who you love and to be who you are.
14.  Do you have plans for your next convention yet?
I believe my next convention is DragonCon and then hopefully New York Comic Con.
15.  What are some insider tips or tricks you would like to share with fellow Cosplayers?
Conventions are more fun if you go with a friend or meet up with other people while you are there. It’s also good to have a friend or friends there because depending on how complicated your costume is you may need help getting it on, off, or making repairs. Drink plenty of water and bring snacks. Bring an emergency repair kit. Conventions are rough on costumes and odds are something will rip, break, smudge, or pop off. But most of all, just have FUN! Some people seem to forget that last, but most important, part.
16.  Can you explain how you feel in your Costume?
Cosplaying is fun. So I always have fun while I am in my costumes. But I also take the characters very seriously. When I am dressed as a character, I try to be in character the whole time I am wearing it. For me it is a part of the experience.
17.  What other fun things are you into?
I’m a fairly athletic person. So I enjoy cycling, swimming, and dancing. I love to go on outdoor adventures. But sometimes it’s nice to stay inside with a Sci-fi movie and game. I love RPG games….yeah no one saw that one coming. Haha!
18.  Have you had any funny or interesting stories from cosplaying?
Many. I think everyone has that friend that things just seem to happen to them. They could go to the super market for milk and come back with some crazy story about what happened and you know it’s all true. I am that friend. Crazy things tend to happen to me all the time, even when I am doing something mundane like running errands. So going to big places with lots of people is just asking for something strange to happen. While cosplaying at a convention I have had a woman hug me, and then proceed to put me in a head lock and refuse to let me go. I had one cosplayer follow me around all weekend throwing things at me and screaming insults at me, and then darting away into the crowd before security could catch her. I’ve had people attempt to steal costume pieces and attempt to completely sabotage my costume. I’ve had celebrities invite me out to lunch and out to bars with them. I accidentally kissed one celebrity on the mouth. We had met a couple of times before and when he went in to hug me, I turned my head to lightly air kiss his cheek, but he chose that exact same moment to turn his head too, probably to say something to me, and our lips met. We just blinked at each other and then we turned and walked in opposite directions. But everyone around was yelling at me “Oh my GOD you KNOW him?!?” To which I replied “No not really”. But since they had just witnessed us kiss, and to them it may have looked on purpose, they didn’t believe me. Oh! And I’m friends with one of the writers and producers who worked on Xena. We became friends after my first Xena convention and we hang out every time I am in LA. I also helped two people get engaged that I didn’t even know. The guy wanted to propose to his girlfriend and his girlfriend loves Xena. So I was contacted and asked if I would dress as Xena and help with the proposal. I didn’t know who the couple was, but I was assured they were very sweet. So I said sure and I did. The proposal was extremely sweet. Now I am very close friends with the couple. Those are just a few of the stories.
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19.  Now that you have experience, what can you say to first timers that are nervous about loosing their Cosplay virginity?
Just have fun. I know that sounds cliché, but that really is the best advice that I can give. I think some people get so serious about it that they forget to have fun. Go with friends and just hang out, or find a meet up and go to that. Whatever it is that you like to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, go do that.
20.  Where can we look to find more of your Cosplaying?
Make sure you check out all of Jessica’s pages to see even more great pictures!
Thank you so much for chatting with me about your love of cosplay! You are truly a passionate and creative person and we will be keeping up with your social media pages to see what you have next!
Come back next month for another awesome Cosplayer and Be sure you check back often to see all the cool geeky nerd stuff we have to offer! Have a great day and Cosplay On!
Krystal Simons
Krystal Clear Photography

Photo Credits

Picture of me and my son: By me
Maleficent green glow: Reid cosplay Photography
Bellatrix Lestrange: s1price Lightworks
Alex Vase: Me
Xena back facing: Sterling Arts & Cosplay
Xena front facing: Sam Apple Cummins Photos
Maleficent red glow: Rudyconrad.com
Poison Ivy over shoulder: Eric Photo Now Photography
Poison Ivy on bed: Me
Double Bellatrix: Me

Jessica Crouse