As a Tolkien nerd with a penchant for cosplay, not many people are as dedicated and impressively skilled as K, a SoCal cosplayer who also goes by The Collectress, or Collectress Cosplay on Instagram. She’s done everything from Daenerys Targaryen to Lorraine Broughton, and she does it with style. Whether she’s sassing Kylo Ren as Leia Organa or kicking Thanos’ butt as Natasha Romanoff, K’s dedication to her craft is truly admirable, and she’s absolutely a cosplayer to look out for.
Not many people think of cosplay as a family event either, but K proves that wrong, cosplaying as a team with her cousin, Nina, The Collected Mutineer. They can often be spotted together as Black Widow and Lady Loki at conventions up and down the California coast.
Read on to hear more about who K is and what makes her brand of cosplay so unique.
Temple of Geek: First off, can you tell our TOG readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a SoCal native with a travelling soul and a love of literature and nerd culture. I’m also owner, administrator, writer, and Tolkien expert of The Collective Blog. It’s a little project that I started in 2013 to promote all the fandoms I love. When I’m not blogging, you can find me working on my original fiction projects, building cosplays, or visiting Disneyland.
TOG: What drew you to start cosplaying?
I think that my cosplay origin story probably starts with the first days of The Collective, which was started as a method to get passes to SDCC (it worked). Our first real convention that we covered was WonderCon in 2014, and I had watched Kit Quinn’s video on putting together a simple Black Widow cosplay. I told myself that I could do that, so I did it. We went to WonderCon in our first–very rudimentary–Avengers cosplays, and even though we were total noobs, people were so excited to see us! And then I fell down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
TOG: How long have you been cosplaying?
I’ve been cosplaying since 2014, but I think that I started taking it seriously in late 2016 when I got an Instagram account just for cosplay. Now that I’m more active in the community via Instagram, I’ve totally fallen in love with it. I’ve made so many friends who are just incredible artists and people and now I cannot imagine my life without it.
TOG: Do you have a particular favorite cosplay that you’ve done? Why is it your favorite?
You know, I asked Yaya Han that very question once when I met her at a convention, and she told me that her cosplays were like her children and she could never choose between them. I understand that feeling, now. I am very indecisive. So I think my favorite would vary depending on my mood. When I’m feeling whimsical, it’s probably Ariel. But when I’m feeling empowered, it’s Leia. When I feel like kicking ass, it’s Black Widow. Those are my top three, I think. Or at least they’re the ones that I cosplay the most.
TOG: What’s the most difficult or challenging cosplay you’ve done? Why?
The most challenging and difficult build was the Huttslayer. I had never planned on that version of Leia, but after Carrie passed, I rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy, and I really wanted to capture Leia’s fierceness in the moment she strangles the giant slug. It was difficult emotionally because I wanted to cry every time I looked at reference pictures of Carrie, it was also challenging because I’d never worked with worbla before, never made a bikini before, and never really shown that much skin before.
Eventually, I made adjustments to the costume because of how much Carrie hated it. But even with my modifications, the first time I wore it, it took a pep talk to get me out the door! I have really high standards for my Leia cosplays because I love Carrie so much, so I’m still not totally happy with it. Inevitably, I think I will remake it this summer.
TOG: What’s your process for choosing what characters to cosplay? Is it just characters that you love, or do factors like the complexity of a costume or being comfortable in said costume come into play?
Is manic impulsiveness considered a process? There’s rarely a film or tv show that I watch without telling/texting my cousin or best friend and saying, “I’m gonna cosplay that.”. When it comes to finalizing, I try to plan it out by convention. My cousin and I have a google spreadsheet of all the cons we’re planning to attend during the year, and we work out which cosplays we wear or build months in advance. We also try to plan around the type of convention; for SDCC, comfort supersedes just about everything, but at smaller conventions. I am more willing to wear outfits with restrictions (such as heels or a corset).
That said, sometimes I come across a new character and it supersedes everything else on the list. Like Ruby Roundhouse from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I walked out of the cinema the day it opened and the next day I’d put together a basic build from stuff I’d found at a thrift store.
TOG: What’s your cosplay “build” process like? I know it can be a pain working on cosplays around work or school, so how long does it usually take for you to complete a look?
My builds are a mish-mash of buying, modifying, and sewing/crafting. I do usually try to make at least part of my looks. But I also like to support artists who create beautiful items for cosplayers.
My favorite thing to do is to go to thrift stores and hunt for pieces or items that I can incorporate into a project. One of my Atomic Blonde looks was put together almost entirely from stuff that I found at Savers, and I found a gold curtain there a few months ago that became the base of a costume for a short film that I worked on…and I only spent $5. I’ve learned over the past few years that you can modify inexpensive thrift-store pieces into just about anything. In fact, I threw together a Luke Skywalker costume to go see Solo: A Star Wars Story and it was almost entirely from the thrift store, just altered.
The time frame can vary depending on the complexity of the costume; I put senatorial Leia together in one weekend, but the Huttslayer took several months to complete. I currently work two jobs, so there’s not much building going on right now since I’ve got limited free time…I’ve been working on Infinity War Black Widow since Christmas!
TOG: What’s your favorite thing about cosplaying?
I love when I’m walking through a convention and I see a small child get so excited over a cosplayer, whether it’s me or someone else. My favorite moments are always when children come up, with wide-eyes, and ask me if I’m really a princess or Black Widow or Leia. Maybe I’m just a big softie, but I love being able to make children smile. My favorite, absolute favorite, cosplay moment was the first time I wore Iron Man 2 Black Widow to LA Comic Con. A little girl–who was also dressed as Black Widow–looked at me as if I was really Scarlett Johansson. She and I “fought” Lady Loki, and this child’s happiness and excitement were practically palpable. It’s really hard to beat moments like that, and it’s why I keep cosplaying.
TOG: Would you rather do a casual cosplay or have to scramble to finish a detailed one?
Being a perfectionist is a good and a bad thing when it comes to cosplay, but it means that there are times when I’ll completely scrap my plan to wear an outfit because it’s not up to my standard yet. So, I have an arsenal of casual cosplays to pull out at a moment’s notice in case my cosplay plans have to change. Also, casual is more comfortable.
TOG: Do you have a “cosplay bucket list” of characters you’d like to do someday? If so, what are some of the things on it?
My list is long. Too long, probably. But some of the highlights are Supergirl, Luthien Tinuviel, Rose Tyler, Rinoa Heartilly, and a few Hamilton-inspired mashups.
TOG: You write for The Collective, an all-things-nerdy blog, and you also cosplay with your cousin as The Collected Cosplayers. How do both of those things factor into your cosplaying life?
We started attending conventions in order to provide coverage for The Collective, so cosplaying is just another part of our convention experience. I don’t really remember what it’s like to attend a convention and not be in cosplay. We carry around two sets of business cards at every convention–one for the blog and one for cosplay–so it can be a little hectic balancing both, but I think it makes us uniquely suited to engage in these juggernaut social settings for fan culture. It also makes us memorable in the press room! (Nina’s Wonder Woman definitely stood out to the cast of Wynonna Earp).
TOG: What are your interests outside of cosplaying? Are there any other nerdy things we should know about you?
I fell down the fandom rabbit hole when I started The Collective, so I’m often engaging in some aspect of fan culture–fanfiction, Tumblr, fan theories…it’s all part of the daily for me. Outside of fandom, I enjoy writing my own works of original fiction. I also really enjoy baking; if I have the time to whip up brownies or red velvet from scratch, I do it. My family really enjoys that particularly hobby
Also: Mario Kart. I love it, and I’m extremely competitive when I have the opportunity to play.
TOG: What are some of the best things you’ve learned about yourself since you started cosplaying?
I’ve learned that I’m incredibly capable. I know that sounds simple, but I think a lot of cosplayers start out afraid of not ‘getting it right’ or not being good enough to make things themselves. When you realize that gun holster for Black Widow isn’t as complex as you first thought, you find a way to make it yourself, and it feels good. So yeah, I realized that I am more resourceful than I had realized.
I also learned that I am a badass. I may not actually be an Avenger or rebel princess or a dragon queen, but I am more confident in overcoming challenges now than I was when I began my cosplay journey. Cosplay can build your confidence if you let it, and sometimes that badassery carries through to other aspects of your life. I’m more willing to speak up in a work meeting or be assertive with my peers, and I think it comes from the confidence I’ve gained since I started cosplaying.
TOG: Do you have anything in the works that we should look out for?
Yes, I do! I’m working on perfecting Infinity War Black Widow. That build is way more complex than I had envisioned when I started on it months ago! I will have her done by mid-June to take to ACE Comic Con in Seattle. I’m also planning another new cosplay. It’s a secret for now but I will say that it is a character from Thor: Ragnarok. I’ve also got some new things coming for San Diego Comic Con this year, including an epic Gotham City Sirens group and, of course, a new casual cosplay. So…yes! Lots to look out for in the next few months. We’re also redoing some favorites for SDCC like the Handmaids and The Princess Bride.
I am also working on a few not-strictly cosplay things. I filmed a short film a few months back that will be premiering in a few weeks. I’m not an actress but this was a fun project! Also in the works is a series of vintage outfits inspired by a Hollywood icon…but that’s also a secret for now.
TOG: Not a cosplay related question, but I know you’ve cosplayed characters from The Princess Bride recently, so as a massive fan of that movie, I have to ask: Wesley or Inigo?
Wesley is my one true love, although I do think it would be fun to go to a pub with Inigo and throw back a few beers.
TOG: And finally, here can we find you online to follow your further cosplay adventures?
Be sure to follow K for more cosplay adventures, and let us know what you think of Cosplay Friday in the comments below!