“I’m happy that I can have this creative freedom,” says Nookills when asked about cosplaying characters that would be considered ‘outside the box’. “I think it’s important that people know there’s no rules.”
Having studied Performance and Visual Arts, Nookills moved to cosplay as well as modelling for Lush Wigs. Proclaiming to be “an avid-dresser-upper”, she said, “I was venturing into cosplay without realising.” When attending MCM London Comic Con in May 2015, she cosplayed as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, even though the film was still months away from being released. “I had made many costumes before this,” said Nookills, “but I would class Rey as my first official cosplay.”
She has since gained a following cosplaying characters such as DC’s Poison Ivy, Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, and a stewardess and Leeloo from The Fifth Element. She has also adopted different takes on characters, cosplaying a Sith Princess Leia and Jessica Skellington.
Our interview was conducted on the Saturday of MCM London Comic Con, with Nookills cosplaying as Sailor Saturn from Sailor Moon. Over the MCM London weekend, she also cosplayed Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion and took part in photoshoots with the photographer Papercube. Having previously shot Nookills cosplaying as Rei last year, Papercube said of that photo, “It’s been Nookills favourite photo I took of her and I wanted to see if we could redo it as a challenge. I think we can say we succeeded.”
Gracious and cheerful, Nookills was also concise with her answers, as we talked about latex costumes, ‘out of the box’ cosplays, moody faces and Victoria’s Secret.
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Who are you cosplaying at MCM London this weekend?
So today I am Sailor Saturn, from Sailor Moon. Tomorrow I am Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
I understand you had multiple cosplays planned.
I did. As a creator, I expand, expand, expand. I do too much then rein it back in. I like to have the flexibility and option of multiple things. So if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world, because I have something else.
How did the name Nookills come about?
Originally it was a combination of things. It was my gaming name. My name is Natalie and my friend used to call me ‘nooks’. But I was terrible at gaming and got ‘no kills’. So I just combined them both and came up with this little thing that no one else seemed to have. I think it had a ring to it.
You’re a very creative person. I’ve noticed that it extends to performance artist, dancer and model. But what was it that drew you to cosplay?
I’ve always been an avid dresser-upper. Halloween is more than just a basic mummy or witch costume. I always go a bit extravagant with it and reference my favourite films and games. As a performer, it’s just something I naturally came into. I was always aware of it but didn’t actually practice it till long after. So I finished university, got bored of the art scene and used it as a form of escapism from it.
You said that after leaving university, the only thing you really felt passionate about was cosplay, prop making, make-up art and linked nerdy creations.
I was trying to question why I was doing it and the importance of it as an artist, not just as a cosplayer. I think being a performance artist in the art world, it has a particular scene. It was too stressful, the scene wasn’t for me, it wasn’t my cup of tea. But cosplay was the place I ventured into.
You now make your own latex costumes as well as latex commissions. I understand that one of the reasons for this was that you found latex costumes expensive, so you wanted to make your own?
That was definitely the first thing that set it off. I looked at it, and was like, “I think I can make that.” I wanted to have a go.
I imagine there was a specific costume in mind when you say that.
It was a Sailor Moon character, in general. I hadn’t picked a scout yet. I was just looking at the construction of it. I have dabbled in making costumes and upcycling clothes. I just looked at it and thought structurally I could do it. I was quite excited about using a fabric which is slightly unconventional and different to use. It’s a much different practice to your standard sewing. So it’s partially that and the money. Then I thought, “This is actually quite an interesting adventure to go on.” I ended up really loving it. It’s more about the practice than the money now.
When you saw the costume, well, how expensive are we talking here?
So, for example, if I was to buy this [Sailor Saturn cosplay], you’re looking at a few hundred pounds. Cosplay costumes are expensive. There’s a lot of factors that come into it. There’s a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of material and time. I think expensive is probably the wrong word. I mean, you are paying for a lot of things, and it’s money well spent, because you’re also paying for the skill.
You’ve said “money well spent”. You feel like, “this is worth it.”
Exactly, it’s worth it. If I’m doing it I spend what I need to on materials. I’m not paying for my time because obviously I’m doing it, and I don’t mind investing that time and hard work into it.
So the Sailor Saturn cosplay you’re wearing today, assuming you’ve budgeted, how much did it come up to?
It roughly came up to… let’s have a think. The main bit itself, it cost me about £55.
So if you put all the accessories together?
Everything, it’s going to maybe mount up to £150 – £170.
And if you wanted to buy it online, it’s going to be…
A few hundred, yeah (laughs).
You’ve said that you “feel so comfortable and confident in latex.”
Some people might disagree with you on the comfortable part.
Yes, I agree (laughs).
But what is it about wearing latex that makes you feel this way?
It’s not so much about the physical comfort; it’s being comfortable in your mind. It’s having this empowering feeling, and I think when you can have that little bit of empowerment, instantly you feel comfortable in who you are. You feel confident, you’ve got something to stand for.
Do you feel like, “This is my battle uniform, I can do anything in this”?
Yeah, I can do anything when I’m wearing it, which is nice.
Does it have to be a specific latex cosplay?
I pick characters that are going to make me feel like that, characters that have a strong aesthetic, or a strong persona.
With latex often being fetishised, becoming a fetish fashion, have you had to deal with any unwanted comments, inappropriate touching or harassment when cosplaying in latex at conventions?
Fortunately not. I am quite safeguarded and have a sensibility about who I work with. But of course, this doesn’t mean that I am not susceptible to these experiences. I do receive the odd comment and message on social media that I find inappropriate, but fortunately, I haven’t experienced anything at conventions.
In the past you have said, “I’m terrible at smiling in photos, moody faces are the way.”
Yes, I have said that (laughs).
Would this go some way to explaining part of your decision process when it comes to the characters you cosplay? Some of them are not really known for smiling.
Subconsciously, yes. They tend to be characters I relate to more. But if they happen to be someone who is slightly more moody, I just find it easier to be that character and pose. I think it’s more about posing as that character. I’m really self-conscious about smiling in photos. Generally I’m quite accepting and confident with myself to an extent. I think it’s because I’ve grown up a bit now, and it comes with age I believe. But that is one thing that I’d say is my insecurity with cosplay.
In the past, you’ve spoken about being very self-conscious, even when it comes to which angle you’re photographed at.
From what I came across on social media, it feels like you’ve broken out of that. You’ve also said, “Cosplaying (as well as getting older) has really given me a new sense of self acceptance and confidence.” For you, has cosplaying replaced being self-conscious with self-confidence?
Yes. One hundred percent. I wouldn’t even question that. It’s because you’re putting yourself out there, you’re putting yourself on a pedestal, which I think is quite a scary thing. A lot of people in the cosplay world tend to be a little bit self-conscious. There’s a lot of anxiety around there, there’s a lot of very insecure, introverted people, which I can be. But age and cosplay just allows me to throw myself out there.
When you’re practicing, even just in a physical aspect, in a photoshoot, you’re learning to pose different ways and look different ways. You start to see more of you and accept yourself in different ways, and you learn to love yourself a little more.
Some of the characters you cosplay aren’t exactly canon, such as Dark Side Leia and Jessica Skellington. What draws you to cosplaying alternate variations of these characters that would be considered ‘outside the box’?
I think it stems from my ‘outside of cosplay’ creativity. I’ve always been a multi-disciplinary artist. I venture into everything. That then comes down into little detailed things as well. So I get inspired by artist illustrations. I like to play on things, make things unique and have my creative spin on them. I know that is something that can be looked upon in the cosplay world, because some people like things to be accurate, in-character, exact.
So long as you’re having fun with what you’re doing, that’s the main thing.
That’s it, yeah.
Are there anymore ‘outside the box’ cosplay ideas you have in the works that you would like to reveal?
Not to an extreme extent, but I do plan on doing classic 1970s Wonder Woman, a particular episode where she’s on a skateboard, with the helmet. And I can skateboard (laughs). But I will definitely be doing more ‘out of the box’ cosplays in the future. I just don’t know which ones yet.
You have talked about planning a Victoria’s Secret DC Girls group for MCM London in May 2018, inspired by Guillermo Meraz’s Victoria’s Secret illustrations.
Are you still looking for more people to join this group?
Yes, we are. So basically, my lovely friend, Jessie Noochies Cosplay, it was her idea. We wanted something that was going to be a great group, about empowerment, having fun, where we can just interact and share this experience about body confidence. Obviously that is a thing that is often discussed within cosplay. We just thought it would be a really positive thing to do and we all love these illustrations. They are very… they’re very fashiony, but have that costume element as well.
People may question the whole Victoria’s Secret underwear thing. We’re not coming in our underwear, that’s not what we are doing (laughs). It’s cosplay and inspired by. Obviously all of the Victoria’s Secret stuff, it’s very girly, it’s fun it’s flirtatious, they have wings and capes. It’s about that aesthetic, but with the link to DC. That is our basis. So we have our characters; there are loads of DC girls, and DC males… that’s fine too. So we’re open for more people to join us and just enjoy this positive experience.
I noticed that the artist Meraz also noticed this.
He did. That was down to my Instagram post actually. He spotted what we were doing and seemed very interested. He wants to see the pictures afterwards, which is lovely.
So if people are interested in joining this group?
Contact me on Instagram. That’s my most used social platform. At the moment we do plan on having one person for one character. It depends on the people who want to join us. But there is a world of characters. We’re not short of characters.
What is the most enjoyable part of cosplaying for you?
Ooh… the performance side. I class when I’m doing photoshoots as performance.
I was just thinking, “She hasn’t taken part in a cosplay masquerade, has she?”
No, I haven’t. So if I’m in a photoshoot, I’m not just posing, I want to try and embody the character. I want it to come across that there’s an emotion behind it. Because I’ve performed in the past, I’ve grown up dancing, performing, it’s naturally something that I will do. I’m not just going to stand there like a mannequin.
Because you enjoy the performance side, have you considered taking part in a cosplay masquerade?
I have. The reason I haven’t is because, as we’ve talked about, [I do] ‘outside the box’ cosplays. Generally masquerades are tailored to having the exact detail in the costumes, and there are often reference pictures and they do look at that. So maybe one day when I do make one that is more costume accurate, it would be something that I think about doing. But because I don’t have any experience in it, it’s a bit of an alien world to me. But I’ve not ruled it out. It may happen.
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Thank you to Papercube for arrangement and photos. You can check out his work on his Facebook page.
Interview by Shalimar Sahota.