“There have been characters where I’ve liked the design,” explains Danielle Rianna Carter on the characters she decides to cosplay. “I’ve gone to research them and realised once I knew them, I didn’t really want to do it as much as I thought. Having that kind of connection with them… that for me is what makes me want to cosplay someone.”
Danielle’s interest in anime began from a young age when watching Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. Upon seeing that friends overseas with similar interests were going to conventions, she searched online for UK conventions, which led Danielle to find out about MCM. She then decided to cosplay when attending her first MCM convention back in October 2009.
Being fans of Sailor Moon, we initially talked a bit about Naoko Takeuchi’s magical girl series (“You have to love Sailor Moon,” said Danielle. “She’s just classic”). We discussed making her first cosplay, reactions from people at conventions and cake. Being an illustrator and animator too, we also touched on the possibility of being at the Comic Village at MCM in the future.
How did your interest in cosplay start?
When I was about 14 or so, I first got into online communities and I had a lot of friends overseas who were going to cons. I didn’t realise that cons were a thing in the UK. I kinda Googled it and came across MCM. I was blown away with the fact that we have them over here and I could go to this event and do this. When I realised I could go to a con and join in with it, I immediately decided that I had to do it.
You felt that had to go to a convention, or you had to cosplay?
Both (laughs)! When I turned up I was just blown away with how big it was. I hadn’t realised that there was this kind of community in the UK. I was just amazed that there were all these people there that had [the same things] in common. It felt a bit like, ‘Okay, this is where our people are. This is where I was supposed to be hanging out.’ I was just really happy, because none of my friends at school were into it. So it was nice to know that there were people there that I could bond with. And it was fun. I went with my parents as well and they loved it, so that was good. I haven’t missed an MCM London since.
What was your first cosplay at the convention?
My first cosplay was absolutely awful. It was Ami Kawashima from Toradora. I found a little group on the MCM forums and they needed someone to be Ami. Not the best cosplay I’ve ever done, but it was so much fun.
With Power Girl, you said that when you saw the costume, you “felt a lot of distaste,” but you then decided to research the design of the costume and upon reading Amanda Conner’s Power Girl Vol 2, you fell in love with the character and wanted to cosplay her. What in particular stood out that made you suddenly change your mind?
The bit that made me change my mind was that I saw a panel from the comic. It was Power Girl using her laser vision to shave her legs, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. It felt very realistic, like, ‘Okay, this character, she’s very real and easy to identify with.’ She makes a lot of jokes, she struggles to get in her costume sometimes, there were all these little details that I hadn’t really come across in comic book characters before. She is funny and just a very inspiring character. If she was a person, then I would be her friend. I would like to be like her.
Tinker Bell was the first costume you made from scratch. You described it as a “dream costume that did happen” and that you wanted to cosplay her the day you started cosplaying. What is it about this cosplay/character that drew you in?
I’ve loved Disney since I was very young, and I love Tinker Bell. I have all this merchandise in my room. She’s very cute, very fun and has a big personality. People have called me Tinker Bell quite a lot; one of my nicknames in my family is Tink. Also because she’s quite short I get a lot of comments along that line as well. I like that she’s completely ridiculous, flies into rages, and tries to kill Wendy.
I wanted to do the costume as well because her costume isn’t particularly complicated, but it has the potential to be quite detailed if that’s what you want to go for. When I was getting into cosplay I thought, ‘Oh it’s a simple dress, I can do a simple dress.’ Even though it took me a long time to get around to doing her, the actual construction of it wasn’t particularly difficult. It took just over a month.
You took part in the Cosplay Masquerade at MCM London in October 2014 with your Tinker Bell costume and also Roxy Richter at MCM Birmingham the following month. Could we see you taking part in masquerades again in the future?
I really enjoyed being in the masquerades, but I don’t think I would do it again alone. I would love to do it in groups because I think it can be really fun; you can do something special with it. On my own I felt it was just a little too nerve-racking. If I were going to be in the masquerade again on my own, it would have to be a costume that can stand up on its own, something a bit more impressive. I’d definitely love to do it again in a group, do more group skits, so that’s something I’m looking forward to one day.
At MCM London Comic Con in May 2015 you cosplayed as Miss Piggy. You had a huge reaction to this cosplay, yet it was a somewhat uncomfortable experience for you. What did you have to endure with this cosplay?
The prosthetic nose, which was made by Steve Bosworth of Hobby F/X was amazing. He was incredible with that and I highly recommend him. The prosthetic was moulded to fit my face exactly; we did a face-to-cast for it, which meant that it blocked my nose, so I really struggled to breathe through my nose all day. I couldn’t really eat or drink anything, because it stopped me breathing. Also, I had heels which were slightly uncomfortable. My false lashes weren’t particularly comfortable either. I had to wear gloves all day [so I couldn’t] use my phone.
The prosthetic nose was the main issue. I had to eat in small bites. I had to tear bits off a sandwich and eat them quickly so I wouldn’t have to stop breathing. I went through as much of the day as I could without having anything to eat. My friends were like, ‘No, you have to eat something now.’ I had to drink through a straw; that was the only way I could drink anything without choking, spluttering and dying on the con floor (laughs). I owe my life to two gentlemen outside Subway who helped me get a straw, because I couldn’t get through the crowds to get one. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
It was a bit hot, a bit uncomfortable, I had to touch my make-up a lot, but it was definitely worth it. The reactions to it were just amazing. Even though it was difficult, it was just so much fun. I don’t regret doing it. I was having so much fun focusing on what I was doing in the day that I wasn’t really noticing the fact that I couldn’t breathe! When I’ve been Tinker Bell and Princess Aurora, I’ve had really lovely reactions from small children, which is a different level of… niceness. But it wasn’t quite as big as Miss Piggy.
Given what you went through, would you cosplay Miss Piggy again?
I would like to… but for me, I cosplayed her because I was staying at a hotel, so at any point, if I needed to leave and get it off, I could go back to the hotel and sort myself out. For a lot of cons, because I’m just outside of London, I commute in. I couldn’t wear her on a train. I couldn’t really put the prosthetic nose on or take it off in a bathroom. So, I would love to wear her again, but it would have to be organised well in advance.
As well as having people ask for pictures, you’ve mentioned that one of your highlights at MCM was when you were cosplayng Princess Aurora and you made one young girl’s day. What happened?
I was at the front of Excel, the glass entrance and I was sitting with my brother, having a drink, having a rest. I was about to go and get changed actually. My brother tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at a little girl and her mum, they were staring at me through the window. I’m not sure if they were actually at the convention or just walking by. I asked my brother, ‘Should I go over? Should I not? I don’t know what to do!’ He urged me to. So I went over and the girl became very shy, she was hiding behind her mum. I talked to her for a bit, asked her how her day was going, what she was doing. Her mum asked me for a picture. The little girl was just so happy and couldn’t really believe what was happening. To get that kind of reaction, to know that that’s a memory for her that she’s going to really love, it’s just absolutely amazing. That kind of feeling is part of the reason why I cosplay. I love it! When you can go home and think, ‘I made someone else happy,’ that’s fantastic!
Does that feeling spur you on when it comes to future cosplays and conventions?
Sometimes it does. Most of the reasons why I choose a cosplay is because I think I can do that character justice. Some characters like Tinker Bell and Miss Piggy, I think I can do them well enough that it’s going to make people happy, it’s going to be something good in their day. That does make me more motivated; it’s part of the motivation.
I recall a list of cosplay groups you would love to do. If you had unlimited funds who would be at the top of your list to cosplay?
Oh… (pauses for thought). I’ve always wanted to do a Magic Knight Rayearth cosplay group and I would love to do one with full sets of armour, or really lavish CLAMP costumes. It’s a series I’ve loved for such a long time, the characters mean quite a lot to me. There are various different versions of Disney princesses I’d love to do as well. But I think Magic Knight Rayearth would be top of the list. The costumes are just gorgeously designed. They have so much detail and so many different designs to choose from. It’s one of those things where it would involve a lot of time, organisation and money to do. If I didn’t do it to my highest standard then I wouldn’t be happy with it.
Is it true that at one event you were giving out cakes to anyone that took photos of you in cosplay?
Yes, that was when I did Alice in Wonderland. I made little fairy cakes. They had ‘Eat Me’ on them and little cards. That was for a convention in July, the heat was outrageous and some of them melted. I love to do that kind of thing. I wish I could do that more often, but it does involve planning and it kind of has to fit with the character. Like with Tinker Bell, I would love to give out little bags of fairy dust. I wanted to do it with Alice because if I came across any children it would give them something extra; I wanted to make them feel like they had really met the character. I would love to do it again.
I see that you’re also an illustrator. Do you see yourself with a table at the Comic Village at an MCM event in the future?
I would love to do that. I’ve talked about it with a friend from university who frequently has a table at MCM. It just hasn’t happened yet because I normally focus on cosplay. I would like to get started at maybe a smaller convention, like MCM Birmingham, so I can give it a test and see how well it works before launching myself into the busyness that is MCM London. It seems like a lot of fun.
What are your future cosplay plans?
One of them is Super Sonico, which is something casual and fun to do. I’m hoping to be in a Love Live! group with some of my friends, but that’s currently in the works. And I’m planning on doing Sakura from Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE at some point as well.
Thank you to Danielle for taking the time out for the interview. You can follow her on her Facebook page (Danielle Rianna Cosplay).