Ashley Conyers is a cosplayer who has undertaken the seemingly daunting task of transforming herself into rock star and fashion icon Mana for Seattle's anime convention Sakura-Con. Not only has she tackled the artist who popularized gothic Lolita, but she chose one of Mana's more elaborate costumes-- the breathtaking white and electric blue ensemble worn in Malice Mizer's promotional video for "Le Ciel."
Conyers may only dress as Mana for a day, but it took much longer to become the famed visual kei guitarist. She has documented the process on YouTube through a series of clips that address everything from gown design to accessories to make-up. It's fascinating to watch.
Below, Conyers answers some questions about cosplay.
When did you begin cosplaying in general? About how many cosplays have you done?
I was actually cosplaying before I knew what "cosplay" was by definition. I was in middle school and was very much into the Vampire Princess Miyu series and wanted to dress as Miyu for my school's "Spirit Week." I then found out about anime conventions and found the website cosplay.com and signed up and my love for cosplaying grew from there.
I have completed five cosplays. Miyu (Vampire Princess Miyu, OAV version), Miyu (Vampire Princess Miyu, TV version), Larva (Vampire Princess Miyu, TV Version), Le Ciel Mana (Merveilles Tour, Live Version), Le Ciel Mana (PV Version).
When did you begin to cosplay Mana? Is there a particular period of his
style that you prefer?
I started cosplaying Mana in 2005. I worked on my "Le Ciel" Live costume for a year (On and off while I worked full-time and went to school full-time). I not only created his outfit, but his wings and guitar as well.
I prefer Mana's outfits from the "Gackt" era of Malice Mizer, but also love his outfits from his new project Moi Dix Mois.
What makes a person or character cosplay worthy for you?
Sometimes I just like being the character for the day. I enjoy getting to feel very confident and beautiful as Mana. I also like doing cosplays that are challenging. For instance, when I chose to make a prop version of Mana's guitar, I wanted to do it because of the challenge of engineering how to do it. I chose to use fiberglass. It was a great experience.
In the future I want to cosplay Reith from Magna Carta. Her outfit will be very challenging, but I can't wait to tackle it.
Why document your "Le Ciel" Mana cosplay on video?
Because it is fun and my family and friends enjoy it. I also do not have a very good memory, so this is a sure-fire way that I can remember what I've done. I have always been a techno-geek so it is very easy for me to do.
From watching your videos, it seems that putting together a cosplay is an ongoing process. How long, total, have you spent working on your "Le Ciel" outfit? What was the most challenging portion of the costume for you?
I spent about 3 months working on "Le Ciel" Mana. It was quite challenging because all I did was go to work, come home to work on Mana, sleep some, and then it started all over again. I wrote this blog entry when I was starting my journey to creating "Le Ciel" PV Mana
The most challenging part of the costume for me was deciding on which makeup to use.
On your blog, you mentioned having multiple cosplays for Sakura-Con. What prompts your decision for certain cosplays on certain days?
My decisions for cosplays on certain day are dependent upon whether or not I am cosplaying with a group, if I am going to compete in the cosplay contest, and what kind of things I want to do that day.
For instance, I knew that I would not be able to look around in the dealer room very easily the day that I wore my "Le Ciel" PV Mana costume. I was also concerned about being knocked over from wearing such high heel shoes and also hindering other con attendees because of my large costume. So I did all my shopping on Friday and wore Mana on Saturday.
What's the most important thing to remember when cosplaying at a convention?
Wear something that you know you will love wearing and is appropriate for the convention rules.
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Make sure it is something you will have fun in because it is something you are investing time and money into.
Realize that huge shoes can make for hurting feet (which is why I brought a pair of flats I could change into and also a stool to sit on).