DFTG Cosplay Feature – Interview with Ezmeralda Von Katz
We recently had the opportunity and privilege to speak with Amanda Fehlner for our Cosplay Feature. An Omaha native and extremely creative costume designer for a local community theater, she is an award-winning cosplayer for several conventions under the pseudonym, “Ezmeralda Von Katz.” She agreed to take some time out of her hectic schedule for this interview with Freelance writer Victoria M. where they enjoyed a nice brunch at a local coffee shop.
- VM What do you do in real life?
- .A I make costumes! I work as the Associate Costume Designer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. So, I do, I make, alter, or design costumes everyday. Which is helpful for cosplaying because I am literally working on something that helps my skills grow every single day.
- VM Where do you normally perform?
- .A I try to do most of the local conventions, because they are easiest for me to get to. And I try to extend to at least some in Kansas City and some in Des Moines. I’ve definitely been able to travel all the way to Atlanta for DragonCon and Chicago occasionally. This year I went to Philadelphia, but that was mostly for personal reasons. For the most part, I try to keep it in the general Midwest area.
- VM So, do these conventions pay you?
- .A Some do, some don’t. It really just depends on the Con. I’m kind of in that middle ground. Some I go to for my own enjoyment and some I go to as a guest.
- VM How long have you been more of a professional cosplayer?
- .A Honestly probably in the last 2 to 3 years.
- VM What got you into cosplay – professional or otherwise – in the first place?
- .A I’ve always loved costumes in general. Halloween was and still is my favorite holiday. As a child and youngster, my Halloween costumes got more and more elaborate throughout my Halloween career; to the point where I was doing what I do now. Although, at the time it was VHS, so I’d have to pause, and like, “No, Mom! There’s a detail here that we have to put on the costume.” I’m sure I drove her crazy sometimes. I kind of transitioned from just Halloween costumes to doing theater. So, in high school, I started doing a lot more theater stuff, and then I ended up going to college for costumes and costume design. That’s kind of where I realized that cosplay was an actual thing, it wasn’t just me dressing up like characters that I liked, that other people liked to do that too!
- VM Where do you get the ideas for some of the cosplays you do?
- .A Well, I have a pretty good list in my head at all times. You know, “well, I’d like to do THAT at some point.” A lot of them are characters that I like a lot for one reason or another. Recently, I’ve also delved into doing gender-bent versions of things because there are plenty of male characters that I’m like, “I like this character a lot, and I’ve decided I’m doing a female version.” Even though there’s a female Loki in comic book land, [my Loki cosplay is] very much based off the movie costumes that he wears. Then I have a female Kylo Ren, which I call “Kylo Fem,” for fun, you know. It’s either a character I really like, or some of them are rehashings of what I did when I was younger. The “Batman Returns” Catwoman, I did when I was in third grade for Halloween, so now I have a better version of that. I do have Winifred from “Hocus Pocus,” I did that when I was in sixth grade, and now I have a revamp of that.So, it’s kind of a combination of stuff, but sometimes it’s, “This looks like a really good challenge.” And I like to challenge myself.
- VM Have you done any video game characters?
- .A [My characters] are mostly movies or TV, and some comics.
- VM Are there any characters that you would do?
- .A Yes, there are a couple! Carmilla from “Vampire Hunter D.” That one is crazy, although, interestingly, with this particular anime, it’s set however many years in the future, but they also take a lot of influence from the past for clothing. So, it’s almost this weird futuristic version of an Elizabethan gown, which I’ve done before. The headdress is pretty crazy too.I actually have a World of Warcraft character that I’m planning in the works at some point in the future. As far as some type of gaming goes. I’ve thrown around the idea of doing some other gaming thing. It just depends on the order I do it. I really have this ongoing list and of course I’ll keep adding to it. After Carmilla, I want to delve into something that has a little more armor involved. I’ve done some armor, and I’m confident that I can do it, it’s I just haven’t yet. I like to develop what I can do and then do as much as possible. I’ve been doing more wig work or strange hairpiece sorts of things lately because I realized that I didn’t have a ton of knowledge in that area.
- VM What is your favorite cosplay you have done?
- .A I’m very partial to Catwoman in general, I kind of AM Catwoman. (laughs) One of my favorite moments in making that one was I was working fairly late at night, maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. I was getting the corset part done. I got it finished, and I was feeling really good, and then I looked around. And all of my cats were just curled up around my chair, sleeping. It was like that moment when you realize you might actually be the character you’re cosplaying.I’ve always been partial to Catwoman, but I also like my Demona, the “Gargoyle” one. I pretty much wanted to make that costume ever since the show came out when I was younger. I just loved the show, I loved the character, and I knew I didn’t have the expertise to do it yet. I would have a sketch (I’m sure I have it somewhere, probably) of me at the time trying to figure out how to do it. Well, I finally got that one done and that’s one of my favorites.
- VM What is your least favorite cosplay you have done and why?
- .A That’s hard, too! It might be – I have a Harley Quinn, and it’s the classic Harley. I’m really not Harley Quinn, I’m Catwoman, or maybe even a little Poison Ivy, but [Harley’s] just not my character. I did it because I was asked to do it for [a] shoot, and also a different photo shoot. I’ve literally only worn it for photo shoots, I don’t go to conventions in it.It’s hard saying it’s my least favorite, because I always feel like I put an equal amount of effort into all my cosplays. And I did, even though I’m like, “Well, this isn’t my character, but I’m gonna do it well.” I feel like I put a good amount of work into it and detail, and I paid attention to all the little things. So, as far as the actual realization of the cosplay, I feel proud of it. It’s a good cosplay, but the character itself, it’s not me.
- VM You’ve been to a lot of conventions around the midwest and etc, and lots of folks come in and cosplay. What is your favorite cosplay that somebody else has done?
- .A Good question! I’m pretty impressed with some of the really large, more robotic sort of builds. By robotic, I mean like “Transformers” or, you know, just those really big things. I haven’t done that caliber of build – essentially, it’s kind of armor. It still has to go on a person, but doing the stilts and doing the really really large mechanical things, I haven’t ventured that far into things like that, so I like that.
- VM How about your least favorite?
- .A I completely believe in people wearing whatever they want to, and being able to wear what they want to without getting a bunch of backlash about it. But, to some degree, the cosplays that are a pretty much bra and a miniskirt or whatever in the right color with a hat or something and you’re being the ‘sexy’ version of something. It’s just when sexualizing something gets a ton of attention, and then maybe there’s a cosplayer over here that put a lot of time and effort into something and a lot of work and they aren’t getting a lot of attention. It’s difficult to see that happening on the floor.
- VM When you cosplay, you are performing. You are that character. You ARE Catwoman, you ARE Harley. What’s your favorite thing about performing and cosplaying?
- .A I also act when I have time to. I do that at Renaissance Faires too. Acting in general, it’s being able to step out of yourself into a character that you may not get to be all the time. A lot of my characters are a little darker, a little more evil. I’d like to think I don’t run around in real life being all evil, but it’s fun, occasionally, to be able to have a moment to do that, to act that part for a little bit.A lot of characters, dark or not, it’s really neat to see children’s reactions. Because to them, they are suddenly MEETING their favorite character, or their least favorite character. It’s making an impression on them. It’s a pretty big deal, it’s very exciting for them. No matter how much I have fun with it, it’s really exciting for kids sometimes to get to meet their hero – or their anti-hero.
- VM What cosplay got the most kid reaction for you?
- .A It kind of depends. Ursula actually gets a lot of reaction, and it’s not necessarily all negative even though she is a villain. Kids seem pretty excited just in general to see the whole costume. And, of course, with that one, there are a lot of little girls who do Ariel, so they want a picture, they want to interact with Ursula, and it’s pretty cool. Catwoman usually gets some pretty good kid responses, and then, I do a Lady Loki.
- VM What happened with Lady Loki?
- .A I have more than one version of Lady Loki now. I have one where she is wearing pants – it would be more like, I guess, the “battle version.” And then there’s one with a pretty long-trained skirt, so it’s a little more formal, like Princess Loki. And then I even have my Slave Leia/Loki mashup, which is pretty entertaining. That’s the first mashup that I’ve done.
- VM Didn’t you meet Tom Hiddleston in that one?
- .A Yes! It was fun. That one was at Philadelphia. That’s WHY I went to Philadelphia. Schedule-wise, he doesn’t get to go to many conventions. As soon as I learned that he was going to be there, my sister’s also a huge Tom Hiddleston fan, so the two of us conspired, and we made a road trip. It was pretty entertaining.
- VM Do some of your cosplays need a handler?
- .A Oh definitely! There are some costumes that I wouldn’t be able to get around without a handler. Not all of them. With Ursula, if I need to get in a car to get from a hotel to a venue, it requires a station wagon or something with a hatchback with the seats down. I would just crawl somehow into the back there, We make sure the driver’s going really slow and I make it. Otherwise, I would not be able to get into a car. But then, it’s really nice having some costumes that I can just handle myself and I don’t need to deal with that all the time.Ursula is one [that needs a handler] and Demona definitely is another. That one has stilts, and a tail, and wings. For the things that could require a handler, those are the three main things. Those are fairly low stilts, so I don’t have trouble walking around with them, but the tail definitely could become a problem walking around a Con, and the wingspan is pretty large. At least one handler is good to make sure I am not accidentally hurting people or can get through a doorway. (When the wings are all the way out, some doorways aren’t going to work very well.)
- VM You have a lot of photographers that work with you. Do you have anybody you prefer?
- .A Really all of the photographers that I’ve done shoots with I’ve enjoyed working with. Some of my shoots I do with my sister, who’s actually going to college right now. She and I work really well together – because we’re sisters. I can say, “Okay, this is a vision I have for this shot,” and she just knows what I’m talking about and she can get the shot. She does a really good job with that, and with those photos I do the photoshop or editing work myself.
- VM You were involved also in a student film as the “Dazzler”?
- .A That wasn’t even a student film project, that was a group, “RetroHawk Productions.” They wanted to do this shoot, and I kind of got involved with it. Actually, I just did another shoot with them a couple weeks ago, they’re doing a zombie short film. The lead in it seriously looks like Hugh Jackman. I was like, “Please tell me that you cosplay Wolverine, because you should.” They’re hoping to get that one released sometime around Halloween, so it’s a really fast turnaround time. In fact, I even got a request, “We need an extra line from you, so if you know anyone who does sound stuff…” It will be fun to see that one.
- VM What is your least favorite thing about cosplaying?
- .A Some of my cosplays, because of their complexity or materials, may not be the most comfortable things to wear. There have been moments when I know I can only be at a Con from ‘x’ time to ‘x’ time because I can only be in a latex suit for a certain amount of time, for instance. Some of the ones with stilts, I’m like, “Okay, I need to leave, I just need to take this off.” Not necessarily the most comfortable thing ever, but obviously, if I didn’t enjoy some facet of that I wouldn’t be doing it.
- VM Have you heard of, “Cosplay is Not Consent?” And have you experienced situations like this?
- .A Yes, I have, but the most I’ve experienced in that sort of vein is occasional comments. Most of the time, it’s usually someone who thinks they’re being funny and doing a joke that may not be the most appropriate thing to say. I have heard stories from good friends of mine where it goes beyond just words and people think that they can just touch people without permission inappropriately. I’m just lucky, I guess, that I haven’t had to deal with the physical aspect of that.
- VM What advice do you have for a beginner who is interested in cosplaying?
- .A For a beginner: Do what you want to do. Don’t worry about what other people say. Some people have some pretty strict ideas about what cosplay should or shouldn’t be. That is their own opinion, don’t get too hung up on that. Some people think that you should only do cosplay 100% accurate – exactly what it is in your source material. So, they say, “If you’re not the right body type for that, then don’t do it.” “If you’re a female, you shouldn’t be doing a male character.” They don’t really like those deviations, but if that’s what you want to do, go for it! Don’t get discouraged about cosplaying – it takes a lot of practice to be able to do really elaborate and awesome things, so just keep working at it and don’t let what people say discourage you.
- VM What is your current video game obsession?
- .A I have a real soft spot for older game systems because that’s what I grew up with. I am about to play “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” again. I haven’t in a while and I like that one, it’s fun. I’ve been playing “Castlevania” on Super Nintendo, it’s a very entertaining game for me. I do have other sorts of games I will play, but I have the soft spot for the old ones.
- VM Well, thank you for squeezing us into your busy schedule.
- .A Thanks, it was fun!
The conversation then teetered off into more of a personal nature but it was a blast getting to know her! We here at DFTG love showcasing cosplay talent, yet another way fans show how amazing these stories are and how they have affected our lives. If you want to follow more of ‘Ezmeralda’, you can find her on her Facebook page and her Twitter!
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