Interview with Celes Maxwell

It’s time for another interview, this time with Celes Maxwell! She’s a talented costumer, who’s excited to celebrate her 11th anniversary of cosplay this summer!

Celes Maxwell as a Rockford Peach from A League of Their Own

What’s your cosplay alias and why did you choose it?
It’s Celes Maxwell. I use it as “celesmaxwell” for just about every online log-in I have.  I deliberately forged this name around 1999 or 2000 when I knew I needed an internet alias that wasn’t already in use everywhere! The first name is borrowed from Celes Chere, my favorite character from Final Fantasy 6, and the last name is from Duo Maxwell, of Gundam Wing. Both represent favorites that played major roles in shaping me as a fan.

How many years have you been cosplaying and what got you started?
My first convention was Otakon 2000, so my first cosplay experience was then. Eleven years, this summer! I previously had no knowledge of conventions, didn’t know they exist. I happened to find cosplay photos, which lead me to, which lead me to look into local anime conventions. I prepared for a few months for Otakon, and it was literally the most amazing experience one could hope for with their first convention.

Celes Maxwell as Rumi from Perfect Blue, photo by TheWendyBird

What has been some of your favorite things to work with when constructing costumes and why?
I’ve always liked to employ use of theatrical makeup. I think there was a time when cosplayers didn’t worry as much about fancy makeup; that’s all changed now, of course, but from my first year or two I would use stage makeup to complete a costume. I bought my first serger about five years ago – that was a huge step, and so wonderful because it simplifies a lot of construction work. I also like working with small technical things… making parts, pieces, jewelry, masks, etc. I tend to put a lot of time into things like that.

What are you excited to be working with in the future and why?
I am incorporating animal skulls into a costume for San Diego Comic Con. Bird skulls, to be precise. And black liquid latex.

What are some of the traits you like to see in other costumes and who do you think does well in them?
I always like to see people utilizing their bodies as part of a costume. I’m a size 18, so I make my choices carefully, because the first material we have to work with for any costume is the body. Seeing a very large guy cosplay E. Honda from Street Fighter, for example. I like to see people work their costumes, their fabrics, their tailoring, their makeup, their body-shaping undergarments to truly transform themselves.

What is your view of the “cosplay scene”?
This is something that I tend to discuss frequently with fellow cosplayers. The “scene” has shifted dramatically in the last few years. When I started out, there was much less pressure to reach perfection. Convention attendees would be excited to see others cosplaying their favorite characters. It was simpler, entirely for fun. People seem to take the hobby much more seriously now than years ago. The level of craftsmanship and quality of costumes have absolutely gone up, but I think that some of the carefree fun has drained away. I started out with a simple hand-me-down sewing machine. I only had fabric for the project I was working on at that moment. Now, I have an entire room dedicated to cosplay: machines, tools, tables, tubs, supplies. I don’t want to know how much money I’ve spent. As much as things have changed, though, I love it for the core group of friends I’ve made because of it.

What are some of the things you want to see change in the scene?
Without a doubt, I’d like to see people relax a little and enjoy themselves more.

Celes Maxwell as Baiken from Guilty Gear, photo by Jessie Pridemore

What is some advice you could give people starting to get into cosplay?
First: have fun. When it stops being fun, it may be time to step away from the hobby. And do what makes you happy – and what you’re comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to go to legitimate cosplay communities to ask for advice or construction feedback. Browse convention galleries, watch masquerade videos. And never, ever let yourself be beaten down by the negativity of others. There is a toxic undercurrent of negativity in the cosplay community, and ANY cosplayer, new or old, would be happier if they avoided the cycle of trashing other cosplayers.

What are some of your favorite conventions you’ve attended and why?
Oh, my. I’ve been to so many! One of my most favorite and memorable experiences would be Otakon 2002. My friends and I did our first-ever masquerade skit… the audience cheered, the veteran cosplayers backstage applauded us, and we won a judge’s award. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited at a convention as I was after finishing that skit. Several weeks ago at Katsucon 2011, I had an experience that nearly equaled that feeling. I wanted to highlight some old anime that I just don’t see in the limelight any more. I had our skit start as a dramatic Axis Powers Hetalia skit… and then we cut our music to “The Safety Dance” and featured characters from old shows like Lupin III, Ranma 1/2, and Cowboy Bebop. Letting go of being serious is what let that be such a fun experience.

Give a random fact about one of your costumes that you’re proud of!
I made a Rydia (Final Fantasy 4) costume for Katsucon 2001. Not many people recognized it, but those who did were completely delighted. I heard a lot of, “You’re the first Rydia cosplayer I’ve ever seen!” …Boy, have times changed!

Celes Maxwell as Ultros from Final Fantasy VI

Thanks for the interview, Celes Maxwell! You can see more of her work on her American Cosplay Paradise!

About Yunie

I am a cosplayer, a nerd, a geek. I am whatever you call me. However, I have a brain and tend to use it.
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