Chaka, also known as Princess Mentality Cosplay, has quite the cosplay portfolio. She’s dressed as Red Sonja, Captain America, Storm, Akasha (from Queen of the Damned), and many other characters. She’s made costumes using Worbla, fabric, and scalemail and always does an impressive job. I talked with her about how she chooses who to cosplay, making her amazing Akasha costume, and more.
Photo by Cobaxin Photography
Adafruit: How long have you been cosplaying and what inspired you to start?
Chaka: I’ve been cosplaying since 2008! It feels weird to say that, because even though that was a good while ago, it still feels like yesterday that I pieced my first few costumes together with a mix of thrift store and eBay finds. I always tell people it was like I was destined to make my way into this hobby eventually. I was a theater kid in high school and was always a fan of anime, manga, cartoons and comics. Halloween was my favorite holiday because I always loved the idea of dressing up, but growing up in a conservative Christian household meant that I wasn’t allowed to celebrate it. So really, it was only a matter of time before I started cosplaying!
Adafruit: You have a variety of costumes in your portfolio – how do you decide which characters to cosplay?
Chaka: Honestly? I kind of let my heart pick. I’ve had people approach me about making a costume to help them fill out a group or whatever, but if I didn’t truly love the character, I would have a hard time making myself want to work on the costume or buy the supplies. I guess I just have to really be into the character to want to invest so much money and energy into bringing the design to life. I’ll never forget the way I felt after I finished my Princess Tiana costume. Here was a character I’d followed obsessively since the first sketches came out, went to the movie on opening night – and I was standing in front of her ballgown. It was such an incredible feeling!
Adafruit: Of all your costumes, Akasha looks like it was the most complicated. Is that correct? Tell me a little about the build process for this outfit.
Chaka: Akasha was a three month long build, filled with lots of blood, sweat and beer, haha! It was my second time using Worbla, which I’d used a few months prior for another costume. I spent a long time looking up other Akasha costumes and just studying their construction – how did they mold the crown? How did they form the bra cups? How did they do the belt and the skirt? It was a lot of trial and error – the crown especially went through like three different iterations before finally coming to life in the form it is now. The jewels running down the front of the skirt are actually rectangles of craft foam that my fiance and I painstakingly painted with different varieties of nail polish to get the multi-dimensional shimmer look I was going for. It was so much work, but I loved it!
Adafruit: What material(s) are your favorites to work with?
Chaka: I actually really like Worbla! It’s impossible to mess it up! I save every single scrap, and am constantly frankenstein-ing pieces together to sculpt new things. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive!
Adafruit: What new skills have you acquired because of cosplay?
Chaka: When I started this hobby, I had no clue what a heat gun was. I couldn’t sew a straight line, had never painted anything but my nails, and definitely didn’t have the patience to prime, sand, paint and repeat all afternoon long. Cosplay has really made me so crafty and resourceful – now, I look at the world from the ground up. When faced with a new project, I think critically about how to break it into manageable chunks and can solve it piece by piece. I think that’s one of the most valuable things you stand to gain from this hobby – advanced problem solving skills!
Adafruit: What advice would you offer to someone who wants to try cosplaying for the first time?
Chaka: Be patient! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your cosplay. Even in this day and age where there are multiple wig shops to choose from, YouTube tutorials galore, and all sorts of new materials to work with, everyone starts somewhere. Don’t feel like every costume has to be some insane showstopper – it’s okay to just do something a little more simple and casual for your own sanity every once and awhile. And I’m still working on this one myself, but never feel like you have to bring a brand new costume to every single con! I’ve seen friends work their fingers to the bone on new costumes just to wear it for one afternoon and never touch it again because “people have already seen it.” Don’t be afraid to rewear things! You worked so hard on it, you might as well get some mileage out of it!
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