This week's cosplayer hails from the Great White North, more specifically from the province of Quebec. A glamour model in addition to cosplayer, Marie-Claude Bourbonnais has considerable...assets...at her disposal. For instance, the giant anime spider she made for Anime Expo 2016.
theScore esports caught up with Bourbonnais to talk about how her very first cosplay went viral, the struggle with gaining acceptance from the cosplay community after glamour modelling and why double-sided tape is a girl's best friend.
How did you get involved with cosplay? How many years have you been cosplaying?
I discovered cosplay in 2009. I was first brought to the public eye as a glamour model in 2008, but I actually studied in fashion design. One day, I asked a photographer friend if he would be interested in shooting something else than lingerie and bikini as usual and he said yes. Since I had all these sewing skills already, I made the costume of Frost from Mortal Kombat. I’ve always been a Mortal Kombat fan. When the photographer released the Frost pics on his portfolio in February 2009, the pics were insanely popular, more popular than any other pics this photographer had ever taken before and none of us knew why. Searching on the Internet, I discovered that dressing up as a character was called cosplay. We had never heard of this before — cosplay wasn’t really well known in the province of Quebec at that time. I thought to myself: I’m a seamstress and I have the figure of a character from a Japanese anime or an American comic book. I should give cosplay a try! I attended my first convention in 2010 and that is how it all started.
Do you model outside of cosplaying?
Yes. Glamour modelling, which is completely separate from the costuming and the cosplay thing, is still an important part of my company. However, over the past years, I have started focusing more on the costume making thing, posting a lot of work in progress pics of my costumes and cosplay projects online. I have started undertaking bigger costuming/building projects, like the 10-foot tall fiberglass robot I built with my friend for Ninja Division for Gen Con 2015 and the fiberglass Rachnera cosplay I made for Anime Expo in 2016. I want to make a name for myself as a costume and prop maker because I know that glamour modelling won’t last forever.
You made a gigantic spider for Anime Expo 2016. Can you tell us about the building process?
There’s a lot to be said about that project! It was Rachnera Arachnera from the manga Monster Musume. A giant fiberglass spider with a metallic structure in the four bigger legs and an integrated fiberglass seat in which I would sit to become that spider lady. I actually wrote a making of blog about this project and I recommend to anybody who isn’t a professional and who’s interested in learning about fiberglass to check it out. I do my best to explain all the steps with my limited English vocabulary, so it’s not complicated to understand because I only use simple words! And I explain everything from the styrene sculpting to the last painting step. It took two months to build Rachnera, I couldn’t explain it quickly here! The blog has six parts, I hope you’ll enjoy your reading! The most amazing thing is that Okayado, the Japanese artist who created the manga, was a guest at Anime Expo and he came in front of my fiberglass Rachnera to take a picture with me. That was the unexpected and most memorable part of my trip to LA!
What do you think of the Cosplay is not Consent movement?
People have always been very respectful with me at conventions. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older than a majority of younger, teenager cosplayers, I don’t know if I’m considered differently… I have no idea. But I’m very sad to hear that some people have to deal with inappropriate comments or actions during conventions. If I understand correctly, the ‘cosplay is not consent’ movement is related in a way to the right of wearing something sexy without giving the permission to other people to say or do anything inappropriate about the sexiness of the costume. However, I think that the real debate is elsewhere. What is sexy for someone may be totally uninteresting for someone else. You’d be surprised to know what is considered like being sexy for some people and you may think it’s totally not sexy for you. I think it’s a question of common sense.
There’s a limit to how naked/half naked you can be in a convention. It’s called decency. When I walk around in a convention wearing a very revealing costume, I’m totally aware, as an adult woman who has done nudes, of the image I’m projecting and I’m ready to live with the consequences of my choices, may they be appropriate or inappropriate comments. As for inappropriate actions, which are of course unacceptable, this is also a questions of common sense, decency and living together or ‘savoir-vivre’ as we say in French. Why would you jump on someone you don’t know? What allows you to touch the body of another person who didn’t asked for it? That doesn’t make sense. Let’s all learn to live respectfully together, the people who wear the costumes and the people who are watching the costumes. Live together with respect. In my mind, it should be as simple as that. In the end, I don’t know if the ‘cosplay is not consent’ movement is helping to make conventions ‘safer’ or maybe should we say ‘more respectful.’ I can only hope it has a positive effect on everybody.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the industry of cosplay?
Since I was first known by the public as a glamour model, when I started attending conventions, I was expecting people to judge me on how I look. Of course, they judged me and it’s normal. They thought: ‘Here’s an intruder again, a model with blond hair and big boobs who is seeking for attention by wearing sex shop costumes in Comic-Con.’ And people were totally allowed to judge me because there are actually a lot of these girls out there. But my costumes were not sex shop costumes — they were custom made, unique costumes, so people thought: ‘Oh, that girl has a talented team making the costumes for her.’ So that was my challenge — getting recognized as a costumer, having the cosplay community acknowledging the fact that I was a seamstress and that I was making all my costumes by myself. Today, I’m very grateful to be accepted by the cosplay community despite my unusual big breasts implants and despite what I have done as a glamour model. I can only thank the people from respecting me and it makes me very happy to be recognized through the cosplay community as a costumer.
You were on 'Heroes of the North.' How was that experience and how did you come to be part of it?
Heroes of the North is a live action web series about Canadian superheroes that was produced and Montreal. The producer was a huge fan of American comics and he had been dreaming of creating his own universe about Canadian superheroes. He was looking for people who were not necessarily professional actors, but who looked like superheroes. The main character, The Canadian, was an actual bodybuilder. He was perfect for the role! The producer heard of me and he contacted me. I first refused his offer because I’m not an actress, I had never done anything like that before and I didn’t want people to laugh at me! lol But the producer had a good feeling, he insisted and I thought that if I was to give acting a try, it would be better to do it for a project related with superheroes. At least it would be related to my world. So I finally accepted. I was well directed and even though I only had a small role in Heroes of the North - Season 1, I was later hired to make leather costumes for the actors and I intensively promoted the series in many Comic Cons. It was overall a very positive experience, a long lasting collaboration that allowed both the producer and I to get great recognition in the Comic Con industry.
What is the best and what is the worst advice someone has given you regarding cosplay?
I was introduced to the world of conventions thanks to my friend Riki, the cosplayer Riddle, with whom I attended my very first convention, Dragon*Con, in 2010. She gave me a lot of very good advice for the newbie I was! I had never seen a convention before! It was all so new to me and I owe her a lot for that. I never got bad advice, though. I would probably not have followed bad advice anyway. I always listen to [the] advice [of others], but in the end, I do what I want.
What's your most embarrassing experience while performing cosplay? Have you ever had a cosplay malfunction?
Some of my more revealing costumes can be a little more tricky. Let say that when it comes to show cleavage, double sided tape is my best friend!
If you want to see more of Bourbonnais' cosplay, check out these links:
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Photos courtesy of Marie-Claude Bourbonnais.