Written by Riri (@lillyums)
Kupo kupo! After a long 5 months and 15 some moogles later, I managed to barely finish my Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns Moogle Queen cosplay in time for Sakura Con. I completed this cosplay so that I can try my luck in the cosplay contest again. Long story short, I actually won in my category: Best in Intermediate. Whoo hoo, my first win!!
Many future competitors may be wondering what the cosplay judging process is like. It might differ a little bit year to year due to yearly staff changes. My experience last year was very different from the 1st and 3rd time I competed and that experience has been explained in this article. I want to focus more on my experience in this year's process, how I was evaluated, and re-announce the winners of this year's contest.
The application process is the first part of the whole process and ensuring that you submit all application materials if you want to be entered into the contest or be wait listed (NOT a bad thing either) or otherwise be entirely disqualified (ok, bad thing). The application materials required reference photos for your cosplay, and a minimum of progress photos. They didn't specify a max... so I sent them my entire Google drive folder containing probably at least 50+ progress photos. The audio file is also required to be submitted. Once they received all application materials, the coordinator organized the first 30 applicants into the final list, and then the remaining applicants were wait listed.
The second part of the application process was attending the REQUIRED pre-meeting ON TIME on Friday at 10:00am. I cannot stress how important it is for ALL applicants to show up on time for roll call. We had a few people show up 45 minutes later and they were disqualified. What commonly happens is that there will be people who pull out of the contest, leaving spots for people in the wait list. And similarly, people who were wait listed could also pull out. Once roll call was completed, everyone got to pick their times for pre-judging. The thing about this is that most of us wanted to pick our times because we may have conflicts if they assigned times to us (which was last year's process). So they randomly selected names from the list and asked us which times we wanted. I really wanted to get it out of the way but unfortunately I didn't get to pick until 2:40pm was available, and I was already in the Moogle Queen cosplay when I really wanted to spend more time in my Princess Chibi-Usa cosplay. It happens, and this is something to just be aware of. There isn't really an easy way to assign unless next year's staff decides to organize assignment choices by order of submission.
Finally you need to actually make it to your assigned pre-judging time and show the judges what you got. They evaluate candidates based on craftsmanship, accuracy, and whether you completed at least 70% of your cosplay, and probably a few other things. They took pictures of my cosplay first - front, side, back, and final pose. Then we started talking. They pulled up the reference photos, and compared them and me side by side visually.
We spent a lot of time discussing how I made each prop, each step and how long it all took.
- Did you make the Moogles? Were these your patterns?
- How did you make the clock? IT'S A WORKING CLOCK TOO?!
- How did you make this so smooth?
- WHAT, THE MOOGLES LIGHT UP TOO?
With that, these were my answers summed up: The large moogles each can take about 2.5 hours now. The small ones, 1.5 hours. The Moogle Shield's base was made out of insulation foam, followed by reinforcing it with worbla, prepping with gesso, sand sand sand, and finally paint. I use an airbrush to achieve a gradient in the ears, and airbrushed parts where spray paints didn't have colors that matched what I needed.
The base of the clock - well, uses a real clock! I built around it using EVA foam, followed by worbla to reinforce the shape, then paper clay around it so that I can sand it down more easily (there were a lot of bumps here and there.), and finally prep with gesso, sand sand sand, and paint. I felt like we spent more time discussing the construction of this clock than any other part of the cosplay. Well, besides the moogles!
Additionally, the fabric design was designed by me in photoshop and submitted to FabricOnDemand to print it on Lycra spandex fabric.
Basically, I was able to prove that I made at least 70% of my costume, with the exception of the base of the shoes and the wig. This ended in about 10 minutes and that was it for the day. This whole judging process was much different from last year where they asked zero questions, circled around me, and took notes on whatever it was. I had no idea what was going on. This year was much better and it gave every cosplayer a chance to discuss their hard work.
Now we just had to show up at 11am on Saturday, 1 hour before the show starts. They line us all up so that it aligned with the audio list. This was pretty quick - by 11:15 we were lined up and taken back stage to wait for the Cosplay Contest to start.
The show started ON TIME! (unlike last year) The cosplay contest was hosted by a pretty funny improv group of guys who are known as Zapp's Spaceship of Love.
The walk ons began with the Novice contestants, followed by the Intermediate, and ending with the Masters. Each contestant gets a maximum of a minute and a half on stage, and if you don't do the whole minute and a half, then they just fade out the music when you exit. There were SO many talented cosplayers and cosplay groups!! I was definitely envious of the Master cosplayers - someday I'd like to be as good as them!
Here are a few of those who walked on. I loved the little crocheted Sailor Moon outfit on the baby! <3 The rest of our cosplay contest photos are located on our Facebook page.
At the end of everyone's walk ons, they move straight to announcing the winners. While back stage, one of the technical staff (I think?) called each winner over to the stairs to the stage to stand by for our names to be called. The winners were:
Christina Ngo (Ember-Snow); Fiora from League of Legends
Riri; Moogle Queen from Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns
Dorothy Thicket Cosplay; Leafeon from Pokemon
Crepuscular Cosplay; Jazz & Claves from Eternal Sonata
Tarisse Injerd; Queen Esther Blanchett from Trinity Blood
Each winner called up was also asked by the hosts to provide any last words to the audience. I was caught a little off guard, didn't really expect to say anything, but I just told everyone that anyone can do it, and it's okay to make mistakes - just be patient, and pick up where you left off.
At the end of the contest, winners got to go pick up their prizes. The winners all received this gorgeous glass trophy with their respective award titles imprinted on them. Now... this isn't like the trophies they give 10 year olds at a community center Karate tournament. This one looked like a centerpiece worthy sculpture, meant to be displayed with pride and admired by onlookers.
Overall, I felt like the whole process was much better organized than previous years. Besides having great judges, I actually really liked one small change that they all made this year compared to previous years. In the backstage area, they made a "green room" area so that we could bring all of our personal belongings and place them in this area when we are ready to walk on. Last year, they didn't even have that, and I had to leave my purse in this waiting area where anyone there could have attempted thievery! I'm very paranoid about things like that, and this year they created a safer, closer location for that purpose.
I definitely enjoyed my first win, and it certainly won't stop me from challenging myself more and giving the Master's category a shot some day. But for now, one last message to all cosplayers: It doesn't matter if you win. Cosplay for the love of cosplay, but if you cosplay for the purpose of winning, your dreams will never be fulfilled. Live to do your best, but don't live to be the best.
Meanwhile, the whole cosplay comes together in this amazing image photographed by Elite Cosplay.