Before she got her cosplay on at AVCon 2013, renowned cosplayer and real life Juliet Starling, Jessica Nigri had a chat with me about her rise to fame, the infamous costumes she's made since that Pikachu outfit and what hanging out with Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead was like.
Thank you so much for some of your time today!
Obviously, there are so many Australians here who love you, how are you enjoying being here?
Australians are so nice and so funny! You guys have the best sense of humour, you guys are super funny! Everyone is just so nice and it’s really cool.
That’s awesome to hear you’re enjoying yourself. I mean, these expos are huge and I know the culture for them in the US is even bigger – how are you handling all the attention? Are you still being blown away by just how many people know who you are?
Well, when you said ‘Australia loves you’, I was like, ‘I don’t know…?’! I’m really nervous to meet everyone, like, what if I do my panel and there are only four people in there? I’m going to be like, ‘Alright everyone, let’s come in together and sit in a little pow wow!’.
I had a quick look online last night at your Facebook page and the amount of people who have connected over your cosplays, sending you designs etc…that must be quite the sensation to know you’re connecting people in this way, or at least having a part in that.
Yeah, absolutely, a lot of the time, they’ll suggest stuff and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I’ll think about it’ and then a little while later, I’ll do it and I’ll message that person. I’ll be like, ‘I did it for you’!
Totally! Just touching briefly on the whole Juliet Starling competition you were involved in; how hectic was that to just be approaching a competition like that and ultimately taking the role on?
I mean, it was really nerve-wracking, because I remember talking to the Warner Brothers guy who put it all together, and he was like, ‘We’re interviewing these girls and we tried to figure out if we wanted someone who looks like Juliet Starling, or someone who is Juliet Starling’. He said that they went with the latter, because I’m crazy and bubbly and he said they wanted someone to be genuinely nice and happy and fun and nerdy, and just really enjoy their time with the competition.
For sure and I suppose the internet, while a scary, scary place…it’s just funny to watch and acknowledge that you’ve got a girl who just rocked up to a convention in a Pikachu cosplay that all of a sudden went viral and here we are, a career is built off that.
How overwhelming has that been for you, trying to a) top that and b) keep coming up with new and awesome ideas?
Yeah! Literally, I’ve always thought of it as a fluke. How it all happened, I was at the right place at the right time; it was just the combination of everything that happened was just the right thing. As long as I hold on to that, that it could have been anyone and it could be anyone still, I stay grounded. I stay level. I don’t ever want to be that person who’s like, ‘Oh this happened to me because…’, because it’s not. I am, by no means, an accurate representation of the cosplay community; what I ultimately want to be is like, the gateway, so people find me, but then they find all the other cosplayers, like Yaya Han or Mangafreak. All those girls are phenomenal cosplayers, and the reason why the internet is scary, is because they created…the internet created me, you know? I was born of the internet and so it is scary and it still very challenging still, to go to a convention and be like, ‘Why are you at my panel? Why do I have a panel? I’m just like you – you should be up here!’ you know?!
I have to ask you about the San Diego Comic-Con, because I know you’ve done that one a few times; the massive nature of it all…in terms of being a cosplayer, do you find you’ve found any hints of inspiration from these massive conventions?
I was actually just talking to my friend about this…I’m not actually going to San Diego this year, because after coming back from Australia this year, I would have been going to the Caribbean for a video games expo. San Diego is a crazy circus; it is just a whirlwind of pop culture and popular things and celebrities come and it is impossible to navigate. It’s an absolutely an experience you want to experience, but I mean, the conventions I really and truly adore are the small anime conventions where you actually have time to talk to someone. I can be like, ‘Hey, what’s your name? What are you watching right now?’ – There’s a convention in Canada called Anime Revolution, and I think there’s only 15,000 people there, but that was awesome. San Diego Comic-Con? There is 175,000 people and whenever I do signings…it’s literally just signing. I can’t even look up and say ‘hi’ or talk to anybody.
Do it as an attendee, don’t cosplay, because you will not be able to move! If you want to cosplay there, from a marketing standpoint, go cosplay because you’ll get photos taken and it’ll spread like wild fire. If you want to just actually enjoy your convention, then don’t cosplay! Sweet Jesus, no! [Laughs]
Now, in your downtime, because I know your schedule is probably quite hectic, what do you enjoy doing?
Playing League of Legends…I play a lot of games with my little brother, he’s really cool. My friends and I will watch anime or I’ll sew and craft and watch anime.
Do you get much time off?
This summer has been really crazy, so I haven’t been able to see anything; I’ve only been able to keep up with Attack On Titan, the new anime that’s come out. That and I’ve been able to play a bit of League… I finished up Assassin’s Creed III a while ago. This summer, it’s been kind of cool, because this San Diego Comic-Con weekend, I’m just going to veg out and play all the games that I missed out on.
Awesome. Now finally, just as a bit of a selfish question…I did see on your Facebook that you had an awesome photo with Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead.
He’s such a babe.
[Whispers] I have his phone number.
Seriously? That’s amazing.
I text him and he texts me back. Sometimes he forgets who I am, so I have to send him a photo and be like, ‘It’s me!’ and he’ll be like, ‘Oh hey, what’s up?’.
That’s an amazing story to be telling! I imagine that along with him, you’d get to meet some pretty cool people.
It’s insane! More on the Norman Reedus…the reason why I have his phone number is, when I was doing Lollipop Chainsaw, we had several events that we went to; we went to this FrightMare thing in Texas and we actually got beers together! We were hanging out and he made out with one of the PR ladies from Warner Brothers because she’s a cute little Asian girl and he’s like, ‘I love Asians’ and I was standing there being like, ‘I’m living through you right now!’. He’s super nice though and the next day, he came over and gave us a kiss on the cheek and was like, ‘I’ll see you guys later’…
That’s amazing. Well on that note, I think we’re being told to wrap it up, but thank you so much again!
Oh cool! That was fun, thank you!