I’m sure in the short time that I’ve been talking about weddings, everyone around me has realised that ours will be anything short of traditional. We’re having a female best man, a non religious ceremony and I’m keeping my hair bright colours and not covering my tattoos. Amongst many other things, we’re just keen on doing things our own way and having a special day that we can both enjoy. Many of the things that we’ve chosen to do differently are good reason, not simply to be difficult and we refuse to do anything simply because “it’s the done thing”. If there’s not a good reason to do it, then it’s out.
However, the choice I’ll be discussing today is probably the most controversial of all the things I’ve considered thus far: vlogging my wedding morning. Although it’s become totally normal to hire a videographer for the day to capture all the important details you want to remember, and I’m definitely planning to do that, it feels a little impersonal to me. For most of the day, that’s fine as it’s nice to have something to look back at that gives an overall view of your day and all the people involved in it, and all the little details that you took time to choose to make your day special. But one part I’d really like to remember is the time getting ready with my bridesmaids and my mum. So, without giving away my entire point in the intro, let’s get into the reasons I am considering vlogging. I’ll be including links to videos throughout this post which I enjoyed or inspired me, to give you a little insight!
I’ve seen plenty of professional wedding day videos which include this time, and taken great inspiration from them. I love the idea of having a shoot with my bridesmaids in our matching silk dressing gowns, for example. But I feel like there’s so much more behind that I would want to remember that couldn’t be captured by someone else. To me, it feels like the most important part of the day. I imagine it full of anticipation, and the slow process of getting ready with your closest girls, getting excited about how you’ll look when it all comes together, feels like it will be over in a heartbeat. I want to remember the way that I feel in that moment, I want to discuss the excitement we’re all feeling and how that manifests differently for each of us. I want to capture the bad in jokes and the cheesy music choices. I want to have something that will really jog my memory to remember how it felt, rather than just something that shows me how it looked.
Be in the moment
Some people feel that having a camera or taking pictures takes you out of what you’re doing at the time, because instead you’re focusing on the photo. I’d have to disagree, for me personally when I’m vlogging, I’m much more focused on what’s going on around me because I want to share the situation and how I’m feeling. For me, vlogging is a comfort and helps me to centre what I’m feeling. It’s a space for me to articulate about what’s going on around me and that helps me to be more aware of it. Everyone says how quickly your wedding day goes by, and I want to try to absorb as much of it as possible, and for me I feel like vlogging will help with that.
Control the focus
I’m a control freak, I have no problem admitting that and so I find it very appealing that I can choose what the focus of the vlog is. I can change the tone or what I’m filming as I go, and include the things that I want to remember most. For example, I want to include some of the chats with my bridesmaids and their reactions to their bridesmaids gifts. I want to have a bit of a sing song and a boogie with them all & my mum. I want to have a clear clip of my dad seeing me for the first time. These are all things I can choose to include
Ownership of the footage
Although it is admittedly wonderful to have a finished product that has been created by a team of professionals, you always have the disadvantage of not owning the original clips. I love the idea that all the raw footage is mine, so although I can edit it together to have a well polished video that flows smoothly, I will also have all of the little clips to watch whenever I want. It means I can film things that I don’t think will fit well into the final vlog, and I can still keep them for me.
This last one is a bit of a cheat, as there’s been mentions of this already thorough this post, but I just wanted to emphasise it on it’s own. Something that isn’t particularly well known about me is that I have a terrible memory. Even with significant events, I have issues recalling them in any kind of detail, and I start to forget things very quickly. I’ve established before that it’s likely linked to my PTSD and problems with long term memory, but it’s very frustrating when it comes to remembering happy memories. As a result, having things to remind me of my wedding day is a top priority to me, and I can’t beat having a video that is full of my own words. I’ve been doing con & holiday vlogs for a while, and it makes me so happy to be able to go back to those any time I want and re-live how I felt at the time.
If you haven’t considered it before, I hope you’ll think about whether having a video of your time on your wedding morning is worthwhile. You don’t have to be a professional, hell you don’t even have to film it yourself, you could set one of your bridesmaids to be on camera duty. But having that personal touch on clips that you can treasure forever is something precious. By no means am I suggesting vlogging your entire day, although if you want to do that too then go for it! I simply plan to film until I meet my dad, and then I’ll be turning the camera off to enjoy my day, and trusting my videographer to do the rest.
Let me know your thoughts about this in the comments below, I’m really interested to see how many of you would consider doing this too!
This last few weeks have been all about setting resolutions and how you’re doing keeping them. My social media’s and blogs I follow have been full of posts about outlandish new fitness goals, Veganuary & dry January. Whilst all of these are noble resolutions, I felt I’d like to take the start of the year a little easier this time around. Some of you may remember that in 2018 I set myself ten resolutions. Everyone tried to tell me that was crazy and that I was setting myself up for failure, but I insisted they were lose goals and I wasn’t going to put too much pressure on myself to achieve them. I tried to think of them as guidelines. In true PuddyGeeks style, I rebelled against the advice of those around me and tried to achieve them all anyway, and as usual, I crashed and burned. My loved ones have learned that sometime you just have to let me do that.
I’m taking a different approach to resolutions this time. Instead of setting New Year’s Resolutions and setting myself up for the year, I’m going to be setting myself small goals to start with. If I feel I have comfortable and consistently achieved these, I’ll look at where I’m at and set new goals. I’m attempting to not aim for anything too overwhelming, and to break any big targets down into smaller tasks. If I can allow more time to each step of the process and give myself smaller, achievable end results, I’m more likely to follow through and make lasting change. That’s the key here.
Whilst it’s nice to star the year eating well, exercising and focusing on your career, in my mind it’s all pointless if I’m back to the same old me by March. I’d like to frequently review and keep myself in check to the person I want to be, and the life I want to live. It will be still be hard work, and it’s important to remember that the journey will not be a straight line, there will be times it’s easy. There will also be times when I review and realise I’ve wondered completely off the beaten path, and will need to set some small goals to lead myself back to the target.
I’d like to use my blog and other social medias to track my progress with this. I feel that sharing my journey, how I am doing it and ups & downs may help others who feel overwhelmed by the New Years hype. If I can show that gradual, lasting change is also an option, maybe I’ll find some others to share the journey with. So, in order to do this, let’s share what my start of the year goals are, so that you can hold me accountable too!
Keep up with my YouTube, Blog & Instagram Schedule
If you’re relatively new here, you might not know that I’m not the most consistent person! Although I’ve been doing much better the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been struggling to keep to a consistent posting schedule for years on various blogs. Whilst I don’t expect myself to be perfect, especially as something I do around a full time job, I do now have a plan for how often I’d like to post, which days I will post etc. I have been making good use of Planoly recently (pictured above) to keep on track with my Instagram. I am currently using the free version, as although it is a very useful tool I feel it is a little expensive for what it does. However it is a great help in keeping track of a schedule, especially as you add blocks to remind you what you’ll be posting if you haven’t taken the photo yet, and to help you visualise your grid if you’re into having a certain theme or aesthetic for your page.
In 2018, I decided to lose some weight for my trip to Florida and I changed my eating habits. As someone who eats copious amounts of junk food, this was a difficult process for me and I had a real problem with yo-yo dieting for a while. Eventually though, I found I got into the habit and found eating well became normal. Then I went to Florida and ate like a complete pig for two weeks. Since I’ve been home, I haven’t gained too much of my weight back, but I’ve definitely fallen back into some bad habits and I’m not eating consistent meals as I should. For anyone following me on Pinterest (which if you’re not, you should be!) you’ll see that I’ve created a board to track some of my inspirations and ideas I’d like to try. Otherwise, you’ll see the best and worst experiences at the least on my Instagram stories.
Get back to exercise
During my weight loss journey for Florida, I managed to lose 10lbs with the help of both healthy eating and exercise. Unfortunately, earlier in the year I had to quit my figure skating classes and regular practice, as it was causing too much fibromyalgia pain. This was my main source of exercise, so it was a struggle for a little while to find something else suitable. I decided to take up walking, as it was free and not too difficult on my joints. I’ve always found walking or jogging difficult to keep up as I get bored easily, but this time I found an app called ZombiesRun (pictured above). This is a game that’s basically similar to listening to a podcast. You can either listen to Radio Abel whilst you run, which is an ingame radio station, or set it play your own music randomly, or a specific workout playlist on your phone. It’s even compatible with some music apps. It will then play clips from a mission between the songs. This will be in the form of Sam, the communications person at your base, talking you through your mission and what is happening around you. It has sound effects to fully immerse you, and you collect items as you run/walk which can then be used on the mobile game later, although you don’t have to play the actual game to enjoy the story whilst running. It’s got tons of great features, so definitely worth taking a look at what you can do with it. The best part is it’s free on the app store! Even if you’re really into it and you want a membership and all the features, it’s still only £3.49 a month which is doable.
Practice self care
I haven’t been the best at allowing time for myself for probably the last 5 years. I opened up about this a little in my posts about making changes to how I cosplay, but I tend to get hyper focused on a task, and then totally forget that I am a human who needs certain things to function. I’ve been watching a lot of Brogan Tate recently and have taken inspiration from her. I’m allowing myself time to have evenings where I will do puzzles, listen to music, do a face mask and generally allow myself to chill. I’ve also tried to introduce skincare into daily routine, as it’s really only useful when it is consistent.
Start wedding saving & planning
I’ll be honest, this is a scary one. I feel a little overwhelmed when I look at all the work that goes into wedding planning, and so thus far I’ve been kind of avoiding looking too hard. I feel even more overwhelmed when I consider how much money we’ll need in order to have a wedding! We do have a more pressing situation to save for in the first instance (which you’ll see at the bottom of this post) but once that is done we will be throwing our attention to saving as much as we possibly can for a wedding. I haven’t even purchased any bridal magazines yet, because they’re just a little too scary for me! I have been making use of Pinterest though and all the useful information you can find on there. I’ve found Pinterest to be particularly helpful in looking for ways to save money and DIY on things I wouldn’t have thought I could.
Be more organised
I’m the kind of person who likes lists, mainly because my memory is incredibly poor and I can never trust myself to remember anything. Whenever I travel anywhere that I would have to pack, I always have a packing list, and I work to it both to pack for the trip and for the return from the trip. I have a whiteboard above my desk that is usually filled with a to-do list for my current cosplay project and I write a shopping list every week. Yet considering all of that, I’m generally a very disorganised person. I’m almost always late, I lose things all the time and I often miss appointments because I just forgot about them. This is something I definitely want to change this year, as it causes a ridiculous amount of stress in my day to day. I’ve got a diary in my bag, I set reminders and I leave early to get places. Now I just need to work on making these things habit.
Move into our own place
This has been on the agenda for a few years now, but this year we’re setting it as our first goal. We spent some time last year focusing on saving for a mortgage. It was stressful and challenging, and we struggled to find a government scheme or budget that would work for us. In the end, we decided that a mortgage wasn’t the right option for us at the moment. From the end of January, we’ll be focusing our finances on saving a deposit for a rental place. This will mean a lot of change day to day and some strict budgeting, but we’re both looking forward to having a space of our own to share.
And that’s it! For now those are the goals I’ll be working towards, and I won’t move on to the next set until I feel confident that I these goals set in stone as habits that I can maintain.
I thought I’d do something fun here this week and post my monthly favourites! I don’t know if I’ll be doing this every month, but this month in particular I had a fair few things to talk about so let’s get into it!
Mac Pro Longwear – Paint Pot – Soft Ochre
I believe this would count as an eyeshadow on the Mac website, but I was originally sold it in store as an eye primer and I’ve always used it as one. Now, it hasn’t made it onto my favourites just for being a good eye primer, but actually for being a little known beauty hack that I’ve used as part of my daily makeup routine for quite some time. Because I bought this in the shade Soft Ochre, it’s both matte and light skin tone, so I can use it on my nose! This is a god send if like me you tend to get a dry cracked nose or your makeup sticks to it and doesn’t sit properly. Simple exfoliate first (a few times a week not every day), moisturise, then use a thin layer of this before your makeup and voila! It will sit smoothly and stay on far better.
Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation
Admittedly I only have this silly little sample bottle for this photo as I haven’t been able to afford to go back and buy myself a bottle with Christmas around the corner! But I have been using this foundation for about a month now and I’m completely obsessed. For anyone who follows me on Instagram you’ll have seen it on my story the first day I had it applied at the Estee Lauder counter. I’ve been so impressed with the matte finish and beautiful coverage it gives, and it lasts all day even on my oily skin. I will definitely be purchasing this as a little Christmas gift to myself once payday rolls around!
Kiko Ultimate Pen – Long Wear Eyeliner
This was a little cheeky to include, because technically my favourite is the Kiko eyeliner pen I had prior to this, which was the Summer 2.0 limited edition. I tried to make this last as long as possible in the hope that the product might return another summer, but after two years of waiting, I had to accept it was gone. Having said that, this pen is a great substitute. For a budget friendly product, it lasts very well and is easy to apply. Enough said really.
These are mostly on here for aesthetic reasons if I’m being honest! They’re still pretty good masks, comfortable and extremely moisturising. They have different products on them for each character, ie I believe Belle’s is rose water. Mostly though they’re just a bit of fun, as the mask actually has the characters face printed on it and is entirely terrifying. Great way to spook your entire house if you are so inclined!
Child’s Farm – Baby Moisturiser
This is going to sound like an odd choice, but just bear with me. Anyone struggling with eczema has probably seen this articles floating around social media for a while about a miracle product. I stumbled across this probably almost a year ago now, and for the measly price of £4 for a rather large bottle, I thought I’d give it a go. And I’ll be damned, it works. It’s been better than any steroid cream I’ve been given by my GP, or any other eczema specific cream. I apply it morning and night, and I’ve never seen my hands so clear. I don’t know if it will work for everyone, but if you are struggling with painful eczema that makes your skin crack, you really need to give this cream a try.
Ted Baker Spray
You’re probably going to ask me to be more specific and I wish I could, but it literally just says Ted Baker on it. I got it alongside a few other Ted products in a birthday hamper, it wasn’t part of a set so I don’t have any packaging to tell me anything. I’ve seen it in Boots though! Alongside a lip balm and a hand cream as standalone products, it’s that one. Sorry! It smells lovely. I know, this was totally rubbish to include but I’m enjoying it so, there you go.
Movies and TV
I started watching this last year when the original series came out. I stumbled across it whilst looking for something Karl and I could watch together, and the description totally caught me. I wasn’t sure it would be Karl’s kind of thing, so we agreed to give it a go and if it didn’t interest him we’d change to something else. What actually happened was that we binged the entire thing in one day! So as you can imagine when season 2 released of this we were hype. We managed to spread this over a couple of weekends this time. I would say season 2 was not quite as intense as the original, but still very enjoyable and we were absolutely glued to the screen, so definitely worth a watch. Be warned if you choose to watch either season of The Sinner, it is a crime drama, it has some very adult themes and is intense to watch.
To say I have been enjoying this would be an understatement. I’ve had this show on my Netflix list for probably the last two years. I had a couple days sick from work a few months ago where I couldn’t even get out of bed, and I decided I wanted to make a dent in my watch list. So I looked for someone that had a bingeable length so I could get my numbers down. I watched an entire 2 seasons of Tokyo Ghoul in 2 days! I was so obsessed with it. It’s intense, gory and definitely not for the faint hearted. Having said that, it’s incredibly bingeable, the characters are interesting, the storyline is fascinating and completely unique from anything else I’ve watched. I have currently stopped at the end of Season 2 (by Netflix seasons anyway) as I tried to watch the newly released stuff and was very confused, so I’m waiting for Karl to catch up so he can help explain to me what on Earth in going on! If you’re an anime fan and you like watching darker animes, I would definitely recommend it.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This is another show that Karl and I have started together and completely binged our way through. I must admit that I was reluctant to try this, as I was a huge fan of the originals and wasn’t sure if that would ruin it for me. Rest assured, it will not. This show is completely separate from the one of our childhoods. Although it has a few very tasteful nods to the classic, which are enjoyable to spot, it’s much darker than anything we’ve seen from Sabrina before. It presents a completely new scenario to Sabrina’s life, and far more adult themes than before. The show focuses on a much darker version of witchcraft and features decisions we never would have seen Sabrina make before. I could not say enough about how much I’ve enjoyed the show, just get on Netflix and get started!
This months favourite music was The Greatest Showman Reimagined! This entire album was amazing and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve listened to it already! My favourite tracks of the month are:
A Million Dreams – P!nk
The Greatest Show – Panic! At The Disco
Rewrite The Stars – James Arthur & Anne-Marie
Thursday – Jess Glynne
Perfect To Me – Anne-Marie
Take Me Out – Emma Blackery (found from Brogan Tate’s favourites)
A Million Dreams (Reprise) – Willow Sage Heart – mainly because it makes me cry every time I listen to it!
Finally I have a few tasty things to recommend! I generally don’t tend to drink alcohol nowadays, it disagrees with my stomach and I’m getting to the point where I can’t be bothered to be honest! It makes me fall asleep after a single glass and I get a terrible hangover. At Christmas, this can be more difficult to maintain, particularly as I love a glass of mulled wine. If you’re looking for an alternative to this, I would recommend Ribena Winter Spice, although be aware it is limited edition so I’m not sure how much longer it will be around! Two minutes in the microwave and you have a steaming hot mug of what tastes like mulled wine, without the hangover or heart burn!
Also I’ve been obsessed for a couple of months now with Yorkshire Tea’s biscuit brew! It’s the weirdest thing, and it definitely takes a bit of getting used to, but it honestly tastes like drinking a cup of tea that’s had biscuits dunked in it! Especially helpful for getting your biscuit fix during the January diet. Again, this is another thing I picked up from Brogan Tate’s favourites, and now there’s always a box in my cupboard. Also the Bedtime Brew and Breakfast Brew are great if you fancy trying out a few more bits.
And that’s a wrap!
Those are all my favourite things for December. I hope I’ve been able to give you a few new things to try, and a little fun to beat back those January blues!
Okay, let’s have a chat. I know that recently I’ve been providing more informative or structured posts, and I’m quite proud of that, but now I’m here for a good old rant. I’ve been noticing for many years now, a steady increase in the attitude that you shouldn’t like things that aren’t “cool”. I first noticed it in secondary school, when let’s be clear that everything about me was definitely not cool. By the time I got to college, I’d already become accustomed to hiding the parts of me that didn’t fit into the aesthetic I wanted to be. An alternative girl definitely couldn’t be a fan of McFly, full stop. In tender teenage years, it’s normal to care more about fitting in that being yourself, but then I grew up. I stopped caring whether something was cool, I allowed myself to be into it anyway and if anyone tried to make comments about what I liked, I simply glared intensely at them until they went away.
But I quickly began to notice that not caring was unusual. I’d often meet people who had similar interests and be surprised to realise it, as they looked totally “normal”. I say this lightly, as obviously you can look any way you want and be into anything, but you still come to expect certain stereotypes. I observed many people blending in to their enviroments, the office or their friendship groups, and keeping their interests quiet and private. Although I fully understand that not everyone is extroverted enough to want to share their interests, and that’s absolutely fine.
There is only one thing I will not accept, and that is being judged for what I’m into. I haven’t allowed others opinions on my interests to effect me for years, but I see it happening to people around me almost every day and it’s deeply saddening to me. I would love to see a shift in society, where individuality wasn’t shunned and people had the confidence to be their own person. I often receive comments from people at work or friends of family who say they wish they could dress like me, or had the confidence to try cosplay, or that they were as confident in their likes as I am. It’s always surreal for me to hear such comments, especially as the child who was always considered the weirdo.
The truth is that I’m not confident at all, I’m a very insecure person and I hate to think I’m being judged. I sometimes do get self conscious and decide to not be as forthcoming with my personality around new people. The only way I can describe how I am is comfortable. I have worked hard to become comfortable with the person I am and what I’m into, and that has allowed me to not care whether something is cool or not.
I have plenty of experiences of people telling me that the anime I watch is trash, so much so that I now call myself weeb trash. The label doesn’t hurt me because I own it, I like trashy anime and that’s fine. I don’t need it to be cool to like it! I like Otome games, I’m highly aware that 90% of the world would find that completely embarrassing, and I can see that they’re sometimes cringey and many of them are total rubbish, but I still love them. I will still buy myself merch to do with the things I love, and cosplay from it, and write terrible fan fiction about it, and connect with other fans. Because at the end of the day, I don’t need to be cool.
I guess the whole point of this rant is to remind everyone reading this that it’s perfectly fine to be you. Enjoy what you’re into and not only will you be happy, but that enjoyment will be infectious to people around you. The most interesting people to be around are those who are their own person, not who they think others want to be around. Be yourself, and others will follow! Get to know yourself, and instead of striving for confidence, try to allow yourself to be comfortable.
I figured it was about time I came back to the topic that I originally started this blog to write about: cosplay! I’m certainly finding it difficult to find topics to discuss in the cosplay category during what it usually off season for me. Until at least January, I will not be working on anything cosplay related, and it can be challenging to write about something that you’re not actively involved in. Instead of focusing on new creations, tutorials (which would mean making something) or more makeup videos, I’ve decided to share some of my experiences with you.
Two years ago, I took my first step onto the stage at Reading Comic Con 2016. It was a rather last minute decision, after speaking to my friend Matt (Mathies Cosplay) during the week running up to con about throwing together a Dragon Age cosplay group for the Sunday. At the time, my Merrill costume was in the loft in a bag and I hadn’t even looked at it for quite some time. Matt suggested his usual talent of whipping up a cosplay in a week, he wanted to be Hawke. As a massive fan of the game, it’s rather easy to tempt me into any kind of Dragon Age related activity. And so commenced a frantic week of trying to repair and upgrade a battered costume around a full time job. I repaired the body suit and staff, added stripes to the tunic and added pouches, potions and a few other objects to the belt. We attended the convention on Saturday for the first time, and spent a lovely day chilling with our friends, enjoying being at a smaller event. Early in the day, Matt mentioned that he was entering the competition and I wished him luck, and was very glad it was him going on stage, not me.
I attended in my drag inspired Cruella Deville cosplay and had a great time with the reactions I received. I said hello to Mairon (Loki of London) & Tobi (Hawksome), as I had recently become friends with them on Facebook due to a project we were invited to, and they were wonderfully complimentary about my costume. This was a confidence boost as I was, and still am, a huge fan of their work. Mairon suggested that I enter the competition as Cruella, which I found hilarious, and I politely said I couldn’t do it. I asked if they were entering as Lestat & Louis as I was so blown away by the costumes, and only then did I realise they were judging it!!!! We made sure to catch the competition to get an idea of how large the audience was and how a cosplay competition worked, as we’d never managed to make time for one previously. Fortunately as Reading was still a rather small convention the first year, the competition room could only hold a limited crowd and the stage consisted of a few temporary raised panels. It was this that gave me a false sense of security that if I were ever to give this competition stuff a try, now was the time. Matt mentioned his friend Ariel (Little Viviel) would also be attending as Cole, and again tried to bait us with the idea of a Dragon Age group entry. By this point, Karl was getting quite hyped for the idea, and I had a chance to see the competition and build some false confidence. Matt & Karl both reminded me that judges had told me to enter so I should see it as a good sign.I reluctantly agreed.
I went home that night and frantically worked on my costume, now even more determined to have it to the highest standard I could by morning. It was a long night. The next morning getting into my makeup and cosplay was a shaky nervous one. I arrived at the convention, and we went straight to the cosplay zone to add our names to Matt’s registration. (Side note: this is the day I met Ariel and we became cosplay shipping buddies forever!) We then went back out to the hall, camped out a space in the corner of the hall and attempted to throw together some kind of performance. We decided to stick with simply posing to music, as I am not one for acting and we wanted to keep it simple the first time. We practised as best we could, between numerous interruptions for photos and chats with other fans, and tried to keep focused. Mairon and Tobi came to say hello and we chatted to them about the competition and how it works. At this point I was informed that I would need to attend pre-judging and this was enough to push me over the edge of nerves. I spent the rest of the day shaking and uncomfortable.
We attended pre-judging with Mairon, Tobi and Kenny as the judges. I was extremely nervous presenting my costume in front of such talented cosplayers and allowed my group to go first. This gave me time to hear what they were saying and how they explained, and to try to remember how I’d made the costume, as other than upgrades it had been two years since I made the cosplay. I blabbered nervously on about the process and was so glad to have the judges that we did, as they were so kind and patient. Kenny started checking my seams and I thought I was going to die on the spot, but as he seemed happy with them it wasn’t too bad. I came out of pre-judging a shaky, nauseous mess and immediately began to regret my decision.
From this point until it was time to go on stage is a terrified blur, but I remember as it got closer I became gradually more unhinged. I haven’t mentioned until this point that I actually suffer with severe stage fright, and have been known to vomit when forced to get in front of an audience. I also shake so violently that I look like I’m having a fit, it’s not a great experience! By the time our names were called, I was totally out of control and had to drag myself onto the stage with a look most likely of total horror. We planned 4 poses, and due to the temporary staging, there were 4 seperate sections, which allowed us to mark our places. We had theme music from the game in the background, but it was quiet on the speakers, and planned for Matt to bang his staff on the stage when it was time to change pose to keep us all in sync. I shook so badly, I almost dropped my staff, and struggled to hold up props in poses, but I managed it. I also nearly fell off the stage when leaving as my legs were shaking, but fortunately Karl was ready to catch me just in case.
We spent a very nervous and anticipatory hour or so awaiting results. When it came to announcing best group, they said they chose based on “a combination of great craftmanship, really looking like the characters, looking good together and having good stage presence with posing” and when they announced our names, I was both excited and horrified as I knew I had to take the stage again to accept! This first win was incredibly special for me, as a personal victory that I had even managed to get on stage, but also to help me realise that there was a way of showing my cosplay in detail and having the work that went into it appreciated. I truly enjoy cosplaying and wearing my costumes to conventions, however I have often felt that the months of work and all the details are lost this way. It was a wonderful experience to talk to someone about the process behind the costume and to have them take into account all the small details.
The following year, we decided to compete again in Reading Comic Con both days. Even with a year to review, I still felt unable to step onto a larger stage, and so we decided to compete both days at Reading to build my experience. Ariel and I had spent a solid three months earlier in the year working on Noctis and Luna, and although we had planned to enter them into the competition at LSCC, I became very ill during the weekend, and by the Sunday that we wore the costumes I was a mess. Although we had a wonderful day in them, we also felt that we didn’t get to do everything we wanted. Ariel wore Luna to a few other events during the Summer, and so when Reading began to approach, we discussed bringing Nocits and Ignis to the stage. Ariel worked tirelessly on Ignis for MCM October, and so we were ready for our stage reveal.
With the experience of our first competition behind us, we forward planned slightly more this time, but honestly not much! I edited together a music track based on a rough performance idea we had, half Stand By Me by Florence and the Machine & half battle music from Final Fantasy 15 to flow seamlessly with our performance. When we attended the cosplay zone to apply, it transpired that they couldn’t use the track as they were using a phone to play the music, and so our USB stick wasn’t going to do the job, it had to be on YouTube. This threw us slightly, and we spent the afternoon practising the idea we’d had, a little unsure whether it would work on just Stand By Me. We decided to put more emphasis on the emotional side of the pair and idea, and to work our battle half around the relationship between them, showing Noctis shielding Ignis.
We nervously attended pre-judging, again with Mairon (Loki of London), and this time with DustyMagpie Cosplay & Cosplays of a Whovian Chaser. This experience was different to the first time, I felt like I had a better idea of what to say and what the questions would be, and it helped that the costume was newly made so the process was fresh in my mind. We came away from pre-judging feeling very confident, as the judges were impressed when we told them that every part was made by us, including all the many pockets, lapels, buttons, zips, studs on the outfits, and the gloves, wig styling, makeup & props. We were even told that one of judges had seen us beforehand and thought they were bought costumes! Fortunately we were able to give plenty of description and photos of the process so were able to prove we had indeed made them.
The performance went very well, we’d practised it to death all afternoon. Unfortunately music was very quiet which left a slightly awkward atmosphere. We played on the emotion of the game and felt like this was very well received. Karl sat in the audience and said he heard many people saying “aww”, or “omg the feels!”. Karl had a fun little interaction with an audience member, as Karl said oh the feels! (he hadn’t seen the performance beforehand) and someone behind replied “I know man! It’s so true to game!” And finally a friend of us later said “I loved it’s your performance, it was so good, so many feels, it was so…so gay!” which was exactly the vibe we were going for so mission success!
In judging, we didn’t get to hear many of the reasons, so this may be a bit mixed. Some are from memory (which a year later is slightly blurry), some from what friends have told us and some from messages sent at the time. If any of this is wrong, or if anyone has a video of results, we would be so pleased to see it! We really didn’t expect to win anything, there was a high standard of cosplay this year and an even higher performance standard, so we weren’t paying a huge amount of attention, instead whispering our guesses of who had won what. When it came to announcements for Best Craftmanship, we were definitely not listening. For myself personally, I started cosplay with friends making my costumes for me and didn’t even know how to sew a hem, so I never expected be able to win that category. Also, we had seen an Iron Man cosplay in the competition that looked insane, so we were 100% sure that was the winner of that category. We therefore didn’t even listen to the intro (naughty I know, we were discussing how amazing the Iron Man was!) until Mairon said “they have an insane amount of pockets” and Ariel and I looked at each other like “NO WAY“. When they announced us, we didn’t even move for a moment, just stared at each other open mouthed. Karl nudged us and loudly said “it’s you!” and we had to awkwardly shuffle our way out of the middle of the row we’d placed ourselves in, so convinced we wouldn’t have to get out.
By the time we reached the judges, I was already crying and Ariel had teared up. We spent the rest of the announcements stood beside each other tearily saying we couldn’t believe it. This win has definitely had the biggest effect on us, leaving us very emotional that evening. As I previously said, cosplay has been a slow and difficult learning process for me, and for a long time I felt that I had stagnated. This day definitely inspired me to think about what else I could do. Afterwards, a friend told us that when announcing the winner, Mairon had said it was “the best craftsmanship I’ve ever seen at a con outside of MCM” and that “we were fantastic and that the quality of our craftsmanship and the detail work was amazing and that our wigs were amazing too” which made us cry again. We spoke to Mairon at the end of the day to thank them for their kind comments, and they told us that we were at a standard to win much larger competitions. I’m still finding that hard to believe, but nonetheless it’s lovely to hear from someone that I look up to so much.
The next day, we decided to do a Dragon Age group again. I wore my Inquisitor which had been my big build for October, and was joined by Ariel as femme Anders, Matt as Fenris, Aimee (GhostlyScarCosplay) & Tammy as Hawke (PurpleCreator Cosplay). This was our largest competition group yet and none of us had any idea what we wanted to do on stage. I voted for the usual pose to music, but most of the group felt as we had done this already several times, we needed to up our game. This ended with a speaking performance, which left myself and a few others very nervous. We practised as many times as we could on the run up to pre-judging, but I was still left more nervous than I had been the first time we went on stage. I wasn’t sure if my voice would even work.
The pre-judging was more intense for me personally than before, due to the choice of judges. The judges for Sunday were Mojo Jones, Miss Pika Cosplay, Ms Luna Cosplay and Ardent Cosplay. For myself, wearing a Dragon Age cosplay for this panel was terror inducing. Ardent Cosplay is basically my cosplay goals when it comes to Dragon Age. His Cullen is screen accurate, detailed and absolutely insane. Among a few other Dragon Age cosplayers, they’re my cosplay idols and the benchmark of what aspire to be able to create one day. So standing front of him explaining how I made my cosplay while he asks me questions was quite a challenge! Fortunately, he is an absolutely lovely person, so that most definitely helped. The judges seemed overall impressed with our work and our explanations, with Ardent even allowing me a little extra time to explain my prop because I had forgotten to mention it in my nerves.
The performance itself is a bit of blur for me. I was in such a level of anxiety that I have no memory of being up there, or how it went. I also stepped off stage and immediately fell into Karl and burst into tears, so it was certainly a difficult experience for me. I’m told I managed to say my lines and that it was well received, so I’m happy with that. I also don’t remember the reasons for the Best Group, and I’ve not been able to find any videos of the announcement. All I know is that we were incredibly fortunate to win Best Group for the second year running, and that I cried again.
I realise that this is starting to get very long so I’ll try to speed it up. My final experience was at MCM May 2018. Thanks to the success of Reading 2017 weekend in general, I decided to try the biggest competition I could get myself into, and to do it alone. There were many reasons for this, Ariel and I had spent the early year discussing what competitions we could try next, and many of Ariel’s suggestions were BIG. She was ready to throw herself in at the deep end and I was not at all sure if I could do it. My biggest concern was letting her down, if we put it in all the work, got back stage and then I refused to go on. So I decided to do a solo entry, so that if I couldn’t manage to get myself on stage, I was letting no one down but myself. I worked tediously on my Mad Hatter cosplay, and the closer the deadline got, the more I began to lose my mind.
Prejudging was absolutely horrible, I quickly realised how absolutely out of my depth I was. This is a good time to note, if you are going to apply for the biggest competition that you can, you need to ensure that the cosplay you enter is at least as good as your best win, if not better. My Mad Hatter was aesthetically pleasing, it was a unique design and it was easy to perform in as you can do almost anything with the character. However, when I got to prejudging I realised it was an absolutely terrible choice. The coat was handmade, but the patches on top were hot glued on, as I wanted that effect. In doing this, I had essentially covered the only significant piece of sewing. The hat was made from cardboard and had fabric hot glued on. The skirt was unfinished and was held together by pins. It was overall not a great experience, but I’m glad I did it. I wanted to gain experience in pre-judging and explaining myself, and this experience definitely opened my eyes to the standard of costume needed for this level of competition.
Most importantly, I got what I needed out of this competition: a chance to test myself. Whilst waiting backstage for my time, I thought I was going to vomit. I shook so hard I could barely walk and my knees felt like they may collapse under me. I continuously had to remind myself what I was going to do when I got out there, because I couldn’t remember, I couldn’t focus on anything other than how many people were out there. I wisely didn’t look at the stage beforehand. I had no idea there was an enormous screen above the stage, and was calming myself by saying that no one would be able to see me from the back anyway. I also had no idea how many people there were, but Karl estimated around 5000. When they announced my name, I cried out loud, and thought I would collapse. But I took a deep breath, and started to walk almost on autopilot. When I first reached the stage, the lights didn’t immediately come up, so for the first ten seconds I couldn’t see.
By the time the lights came up, I was already well onto the stage and I nearly died. I tried to focus on the front row of the audience and not to look any further. I tried to go over what I was supposed to do in my head over and over so that I didn’t get lost. I still forgot to do my little turn before walking off, but to be honest I was simply happy I didn’t cry or scream or throw up. I walked off the stage to the poor young sound guy who had been trying to calm me before hand, who said something along the lines of “you did it!” and nearly immediately threw up. I ran back down the ramp with a hand over my mouth. I spent about 5 mins standing back stage shaking uncontrollably and trying to get my breath. When I found Hollie & Karl in the audience, they took me outside to get some fresh air and we laughed about how crazy it was that I’d just done that. I didn’t place, but honestly I completely didn’t expect to. I was simply incredibly proud that I’d managed to step out onto such a huge stage and not completely lose my mind.
All of this brings us up to now, where I am looking to the future. I want to focus more on competitive cosplay, improving my craftmanship and gaining experience. I’ve started to enioy the challenge, and the chance to overcome my fear, and I especially enjoy the opportunity to speak about how I made my costume. The judging gives me more motivation to work hard on the costume and to nail the details, instead of cutting corners, because I know they’ll be closely looked at. At least for the time being, I feel the competitions give me the pressure I need to my best work. Hopefully I’ll have far more competition experiences to write about by this time next year, and I’ll have been fortunate enough to continue working with such amazing people!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and that it’s helped you to get a better idea of how it feels to be involved in a competition if you’ve never done one. I hope I’ve managed to inspire some of you to give it a go! If you’ve competed before, leave me a comment about your experience!
Recently, I’ve written about Christmas and joked about my lack of excitement for it. I’ve grown used to being called The Grinch, and generally being the Ebeneezer of my office. I’ve struggled to put into words over recent years why my feelings towards the season have changed, or rather what the problem is. I’ve spent a lot of time this year reflecting on it and trying to plan activities to try to get more into the spirit of things, but I’ve found that acting the part and forcing the season upon myself somehow isn’t making me appreciate it any more.
A few nights ago, I realised that Christmas has started to become a negative time of year for me. Alongside my previous points about the financial stress of Christmas and the compromise battle of trying to keep everyone happy that you can never win, this time of year has just started to suck for me. The cold effects my joint pain, and as part of my fibromyalgia I’m just generally not very good at maintaining my body temperature so I’m always cold. I also find that the reduced daylight heavily effects my exhaustion levels and I find myself needing to sleep all the time. Mainly though I’ve just been unlucky. This week, I had an episode with a migraine and suffered a seizure, which was traumatic for me and my parents who were there at the time. I’m awaiting an appointment with neurology to hopefully get some answers, but currently I’m in a constant state of fear that it could happen again as I have no idea what caused it. Needless to say, it’s left us all a little on edge and my loved ones are very much wrapping me in cotton wool. Last year, a week before Christmas, I was involved in my first car accident and my car was seized by the police. I was pretty shaken up by the accident, and incurred a lot of fees to get my car returned to me with no explanation as to why my brakes failed. The year before that, I had a cancer scare and had to go for a painful biopsy on an emergency appointment a week before Christmas. I spent the holidays nervously awaiting results which thankfully returned clear. I’ve gotten into the habit of dreading this time of year, and the stress and bad luck that seems to come with it. But I still don’t consider myself particularly unfortunate, with a roof over my head, food & drink a plenty, a family and fiancé who love me and all the help I could need, many others don’t have that.
The point of this is not to moan about poor old me, not even slightly. My point is to remind everyone that this time of year can be difficult for people, for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps they lost a loved one at Christmas, or any time really but Christmas makes them feel their absence more profoundly. Perhaps they don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with, and there’s nothing particularly festive about sitting alone in a quiet house knowing the rest of the world is celebrating with their loved ones. Perhaps they grew up in an abusive home where Christmas was never something that was celebrated, but something that was endured. Maybe they’re even still there. Perhaps they don’t have anywhere to go to celebrate, or to stay at all. They’re homeless and hungry, and neither of those feel like something to celebrate.
Christmas is a time of joy and light for most, but for some it is a time of forced smiles and endured niceties. It’s a period where everyone forces their festivities on you, and treats you like a strange outsider if you don’t share in their enthusiasm. For those with mental health issues, those who do not delight in the constant overload of company, those who are not brimming with smiles and excitement, those who couldn’t think of anything worse than a room full of food and the expectation to eat in front of an audience, those who are not sure if they see a future, it is an overwhelming time. I have struggled with the expectations of Christmas for many years now, I’ve endured the chiding over my lack of festive spirit, the “bah humbug” at my lack of decoration, the disappointment at my non attendance to the office party, the disapproval that I chose not to partake in Secret Santa again this year. I can’t give my true reasons, no one wants to hear that I find Secret Santa anxiety provoking because I can’t control it and I hate opening gifts in front of people when anonymity so increases the risk that they were chosen specifically for embarrassment or malice. Or that I don’t go to the office party because the idea of seeing my colleagues outside of the work setting and work prompts for conversation fills me with terror. I’m convinced none of them like me, they’ll argue over who has to sit next to the anxious blabber mouth, or that I’ll have nothing to say and will be stuck in an awkward silence. So instead I make the same excuses, I can’t afford to go to the party, I don’t have any decorations of my own for upstairs, I don’t do Christmas cards as I think they’re wasteful and prefer a charitable donation.
So why am I telling you my deepest darkest Christmas secrets? In the hope that maybe I can help relieve the tension. It’s a difficult time of year for some of us, and we don’t want to put a downer on your festivities, we’d just like to abstain in peace. We’re already feeling guilty for it, we wish we could feel the same as you, please don’t give us any more guilt.
Instead, if you notice someone not able to enjoy the season, don’t chastise them for it, and don’t try to force your ways on them. If they seem anxious, give them some space, show them it’s okay for them to join you, but don’t pressure them. If you notice someone is lonely this Christmas, open your home to them, give them somewhere to feel thankful for. If you don’t have people to celebrate with, or have some time to spare, volunteer at a soup kitchen or a care facility, and give back to others. If you can spare the money, give to a local food bank or give presets for children at a hospice, or even give a Christmas hamper to a family you know are struggling, anonymously if you wish. Instead of attacking someone who is behaving like a Grinch, try to understand they likely have a reason for that behaviour, and either do something nice or leave them to it.
Christmas is supposedly the season of good will and generosity. I won’t go into a lecture about the commercialism of the season, because it’s really not my style, but I will try to remind you of that core part of the day. It’s hard not to get swept up in all the irrelevant stuff, who has the nicest dress for the party, who bought a cheap gift or didn’t buy one back at all, stressing over finding the money to buy for everyone you feel you have to or attending events that you don’t want to because you feel you can’t get out of it. Instead, this Christmas, let us try to remember to be considerate of each other, to support each other and to love each other. If there is a part of the holiday someone can’t afford or doesn’t feel comfortable with, that’s okay. If you love them and want them to be part of your festivities, adapt and include them. After all, it’s just one day, and wouldn’t it be best spent with the people you love happy together?
This year, I’m aiming for a Christmas where my loved ones are happy, and where I’ve given back what I can to those less fortunate than I. This year, I’ll appreciate what I have, and not get caught up in the misery of what I can’t face. I encourage you all to see if you can apply the same to your celebrations, and see what you can improve this year.