I entered my Seraphine cosplay into the Cosplay Contest at Nishi Fest in Arlington this past Saturday!
This was both my first in-person con and contest since 2019, so I was very nervous. I had spent three and a half months making Seraphine from scratch from November 2020 – March 2021 with two goals in mind: I wanted to be able to dance in it and I wanted to compete in it. I had entered her into the Ultimate Online Cosplay Championship that was held online in May this year, but was unable to win anything because of how fierce the competition was. (That online contest was my first international one, so it’s understandable that I couldn’t stack up against the entire globe!) Nishi Fest was my first chance at competing with Seraphine locally, a competition pool much more accessible than an international contest.
After registering beforehand online in the Journeyman division and receiving confirmation, I went to the con with Kaseydidwhat, who was also competing. We both checked in at the cosplay contest desk and then had a few hours to kill before pre-judging was at 4pm.
In that time, I wandered the con donning loafers and a more casual Seraphine wig, knowing that my heels and ponytail wig would be agony if I attempted to wear it for the whole day. I managed to see and hang out with all the friends I knew were attending as well as some I didn’t know were coming! Then, one hour before pre-judging, I swapped to my heels and ponytail.
There were only 8 total entries for the contest. According to Indra, the con staff member managing all of the contestants throughout the contest, 9 entries had dropped out. So it was a very tiny competition! I was the first of the eight to go into pre-judging.
The judges panel consisted of Yaya Han, Reagan Kathryn, and Frostbite Cosplay, all extremely talented cosplayers that I either followed or knew of online. They were all very sweet and positive during the judging process, letting me give my 5-minute elevator pitch uninterrupted. I had rehearsed this speech all week leading up to Saturday, in the car, while walking Yoshi, showering: if I had a free second, I was rehearsing. The judges would offer an “oh!” or other exclamation a few times during my spiel, and then asked a few short questions afterwards, as they got closer to my cosplay to inspect it. I remember Reagan asking me if I used Heat N’ Bond to finish the skirt edges (I did) and Yaya Han asking if I had rehearsed my speech, to which I replied “Yes. Constantly.”
Once they were satisfied, I was ushered out of the room. Indra took my picture and said I was free to do whatever as long as I came back to the green room at 6pm to get ready for the contest itself. I opted to wait in the green room while both Kasey and Mikomikocosplay finished up their pre-judging. Kasey competed in her Sailor Jupiter cosplay while Miko competed in his Kris cosplay along with partner ConwellCosplay accompanying as model for the Ralsei cosplay Miko had also made. Once everyone finished their pre-judging, we went outside to check out the food trucks and grab some drinks.
Walk-on & Interview
The stage portion of the contest included a walk-on portion as well as being interviewed briefly by the host Stella Chu. We had been prepped beforehand in the green room knowing how we’d be expected to approach the stage (coming in from the center, do a few poses, then exit stage the same way we came in). What we didn’t know until we were standing backstage was that Stella was going to ask us a few questions about our cosplay after we did our little fashion walk. When I heard that bit of news, I couldn’t stop myself from crouching down in nervous agony. “I didn’t know we’d have to talk!” I used up all my talking during pre-judging. The only solace was that the talking wasn’t taken into account towards our scores, so if I bumbled around on stage, it wouldn’t hurt me point-wise (only emotionally).
The stage was large and lit. Like literally lit. The entire thing is a “gamer’s RGB dream” as I paraphrase from Kasey’s description of it. The stage itself was by far the tallest one I had ever been on, its height tall enough that when we tried to get someone’s phone from the audience afterwards, it would’ve been dangerous to attempt to scale the sides.
Like pre-judging, I went on stage first. (I learned this was because we were arranged alphabetically. Damn my “A” name!) I went out, hit my poses that I’d stolen from the K/DA “More” dance choreography, and then spoke briefly to Stella. She showered me in compliments and asked me to tell her more about my cosplay, so I told her that I was obsessed with the K/DA music videos and that I just “wanted to be really cute.” She followed it up by asking what my favorite part was and honest-to-god, I was at a loss. My dress maybe? But then I answered my shoes because I really do love how shiny and pretty they are. I said they “make me feel fancy” and attempted to show them off. I found out afterwards when watching video Krispycosplays took that the camera operator had zoomed in on them a bit during this portion! She then asked what part was the hardest part and I knew the answer to that question instantly: The ponytail wig. That wig took two attempts, multiple dye jobs, and so much work. Stella complimented my matching mask that I had made the day before, like a typical cosplayer doing it last minute. Stella now satisfied with the interview, I was ushered off stage to watch the rest of the contest backstage.
As promised, here is my vlog of Nishi Fest, which includes my walk on portion (jump to 4:19)!
There was a monitor back there showing the feed, but there was no audio. So the only audio I could hear was the very echoed sounds coming from the outward-facing speakers. That is to say: it was practically impossible to hear.
And the winner is…
After watching everyone else’s walk-ons and interviews, it was time for the awards. I was so nervous for this part because, as I just said, the audio was very hard to catch. I was so worried that we wouldn’t be able to hear the winners’ names and miss it.
First was Judge’s Award. I think initially the con had planned to give each judge their own award to give out, but because there were so few entries, they picked one as a panel to go to one entry. The Judge’s Award went to Vanimiaou’s Nezuko and Zenitsu! Van made both her Nezuko cosplay and the Zenitsu cosplay!
Then, Best Novice. Kasey’s Sailor Jupiter won them Best Novice! Their sewing work on the seifuku was impeccable and so clean, so it’s no wonder it won them this award! And with that award, Kasey was now officially bumped up a division from Novice to Journeyman!
Next was Best Journeyman. I’m happy to say that my Seraphine cosplay won Best Journeyman! I heard my name called (and immediately second guessed it as I am won’t to do) and ran up the stairs back onto the stage. I was handed a plaque, envelope with a promo code for a $100 Arda Wigs gift card, and a medal! There would also be a cash prize and Joann’s gift card sent by mail later after the con.
Last division award was Best Masters. This award went to 1weekrush’s Rising of the Shield Hero cosplay, an extremely impressive armor build with a shield that not only lit up but had water actually running through it to create some really cool liquid effects.
Finally, Best in Show. The coveted Best in Show went to no other than Miko! Of course! The level of detail and the fact that he made two full cosplays meant of course he won! All the sewing and foam work is just so clean, anything less than Best in Show would’ve been insulting.
Welcome to the Thunderdome
That header is courtesy of Miko who yelled this at me after my win because I am now officially a Master-level cosplayer for competitions! Which is intimidating to say the least but something I’ve been wanting to achieve ever since I started competing. It happened much sooner than I expected it to. It also means I have to really step up my game for my next cosplay for it to be worthy of the Master division.
Seraphine is now retired from competition (but not from cons!) and joins Grimm Reaper and Kali in my little cosplay hall of fame. I have an idea for my next competition build, but I know it’s going to take me a very long time to make. So who knows when I’ll be able to compete again. For now, I’ve dropped out of the Angelic Convention Online masquerade as well as the Anime Frontier Masquerade since I had registered with Seraphine. (Entering a cosplay that has already won a major award is considered sandbagging and unsportsmanlike in cosplay competitions.) That means I’ll get to enjoy the next few cosplay contests as an audience member! I can’t wait to cheer on my friends while slowly working on my next competition build.