‘Cosplay Melee:’ Review and Interviews – Episode 2

Reading Time: 12 minutes

SyFy’s latest competition reality show, Cosplay Melee, aired episode two last week, and episode three airs tonight!

For more details on the hosts and show format, check out my write-up about the premiere of the series.

Emily, Ruth, Edgar, and Jennifer with their chosen scrolls. Photo by SyFy.

First off, let’s meet the contestants from episode two–Emily of Go Big or Go Home Cosplay, Ruth of Jackie Craft Cosplay, Edgar, and Jennifer, also known as Jinglebooboo. The theme of the episode was “Throne Off,” cosplay inspired by A Game of Thrones. Putting a slight twist on the challenge from the previous episode, each contestant had to chose a scroll upon which was written a type of weapon. Emily got flail, Ruth got shield (which I contend is not actually a weapon although she did a great job of making her shield into one), Edgar got sword, and Jennifer got crossbow. I think crossbow was probably the most difficult of the three because its just a more complex weapon, and, not knowing anything about any of the contestants other than Ruth before the show, I was certain Jennifer was going to be eliminated, not based on skill, but just a lack of time to build something so complicated.

And of course, this isn’t just about making a prop, so each contestant also had to come up with a backstory for their character and tailor the weapon to it. Emily made her character a Stark and the weathered metal and fur, along with giant size of her flail embodied that Stark robustness and strength. Ruth chose the Targaryens, and her dragon head shield was perfect (though I doubt Targaryen ego would allow the use of a shield). Edgar chose Wildlings and went with an alligator theme for his sword. I’ve never seen or read about alligators in Game of Thrones, but if anybody was going to skin one and use it, it would definitely be a Wildling! Edgar also went for a special effect by making the sword have a clamping alligator mouth that closed to make the sword twice as big and worthy of a Wildling. Lastly, Jennifer went with the Children of the Forest and made an “elf”-inspired crossbow with wood and plant details. I was amazed at what a great job she did making a crossbow in the time allotted.

At the judging, Edgar was the one eliminated, mainly because the alligator theme really didn’t fit with the theme. Based on seeing some of Edgar’s other metal work, I think he could have made the cut if he’d focused a little more on the theme and less on the gimmick (although the gimmick was really cool). Emily with her giant flail, was the winner of the challenge.

White Walker Ruth. Photo by SyFy.

In another surprise twist, the three remaining contestants had to spin a wheel of Houses/Factions to be assigned the one for their final complete cosplay! I thought this was a pretty rotten thing to do to them after they had all put so much effort into coming up with their character ideas already. Fortunately, all three of them were able to take their original idea, tweak it slightly, and fit the new House. Emily got Dothraki, and, because she won the challenge had the option to spin again, which she did, and she got Wildlings. She decided to make her character into a long lost Stark cousin living beyond the wall. Ruth got White Walkers and continued her original idea of being a Targaryen… just one that died and came back as a White Walker! Lastly, Jennifer got Baratheon and took the stag sigil to a whole new level with a cool antler headpiece and stag chestplate. While Emily and Ruth did their builds mostly out of EVA foam, Jennifer went the Worbla route (and inspired me to try my hand at Worbla for the first time too!).

Jennifer as Kira. Photo by SyFy.

While I love seeing the “finished” cosplay (obviously with the short amount of time they have, they aren’t actually 100% finished) come out on stage, I still would like to see a little bit more of the process between where the show leaves off in the workroom and the finished look. I get that the transformation jump is done for effect, I just want more! The contestants put so much more work into these with the clothing, make-up, and finishing details that we never really get to see. Ruth’s wall texture “frost” was such a cool idea!

Emily as Goditha the Wildling. Photo by SyFy.

That being said, all three contestants came out and embodied their characters so well. The judges definitely had a hard time deciding who to chose because all of the characters fit so well into the assigned house and were so well constructed. At the end of it all though, Emily’s Wildling won the day.

Keep reading for an interview with all four contestants!

GeekDad:
When did you first get into cosplay?
Ruth Stetson:
My very first convention was one here in my state called, ConCarolinas. I went after hearing George R. R. Martin would be there signing GoT books. I didn’t really know much about the cosplay community until I saw a TV show about it. After attending that con and coming down the elevator with a super cute lady Waldo, I was hooked.
Jennifer Rose:
I first started cosplaying about 9 years ago when I was a tiny 10th grader. I had never sewn or made anything clothing wise, and when I actually made my first cosplay, I was immediately obsessed.
Emily Schmidt:
I first got into cosplay after going to some local conventions with my friends. I saw all of these amazing costumes, and I wanted to make one of my own. The first cosplay I ever made was Zelda from Twilight Princess. I remember gluing everything together because I had no idea what I was doing. It was that year that I met Kamui Cosplay and heard about thermoplastics. I followed her tutorial books and learned how to work with Worbla. I decided to jump right in and build Valkyrie Leona from League of Legends. She has a full head-to-toe armor with a shield and a sword. I thought this would be a great opportunity to really learn how to work with these new materials. Before long I fell in love with the techniques and never looked back!
GeekDad:
Why do you cosplay?
Ruth Stetson:
After that convention I started googling “how to make your own” just about everything. I found some incredible creators like Evil Ted Smith, Punished Props, Kamui Cosplay, and the RPF. I couldn’t believe there were huge active communities of die hard makers that created things that looked like they jumped right off the screen. I had to try my hand at creating something for myself. The idea of bringing to life all the sets of armor or characters I had created in video games I loved just sounded like the BEST way to decorate my house. 🙂
Jennifer Rose:
Oh boy there are SO MANY reasons why I cosplay. The act of creating a costume and putting it on and becoming someone/something you never believed you could be is amazing. I have always loved creating and to combine my love of fandoms with my love of creating made cosplay the ultimate love.
Emily Schmidt:
I cosplay because it is a great way to express my creativity. I love learning new techniques and helping others learn about cosplay. I have met so many amazing friends in the community. Everyone is so positive and supportive. I think that cosplay allows me to push myself to be a better crafter and person. Cosplay has changed my life. I had no idea that working with construction paper and markers as a kid would bring me to this place in my life. I hope that through my experience on Cosplay Melee I can encourage others to follow their dreams and make costumes that they never dreamed possible!
GeekDad:
When did you find out you were going to be a contestant and what went through your mind when you found out?
Ruth Stetson:
I found out last summer… I think? It feels like a century ago. The first thing that went through my mind actually was what had I gotten myself into. I immediately was worried that I couldn’t actually make something in the time allotted, and I hadn’t really banked on making it this far to have to create something.
Jennifer Rose:
I found out I was going to be a contestant when I was at dinner, and I seriously almost cried I was so happy. I always doubt myself and thought I had bombed my auditions, and I was so excited to be able to be a part of the show.
Edgar Mayoral:
I was so busy with work at the moment that I had no time to get excited. I only had a couple of hours to come up with an original design and enough patterns for a whole suit of armor before the show.
Emily Schmidt:
The casting process for Cosplay Melee was stretched out over multiple months. A friend of mine recommended me to try out for the show. I figured, “Why not? What is the worst that could happen?” Before I knew it I was going out for final interviews in LA. The whole process was exciting. With each and every phone call or email my heart skipped a beat. I finally made it to the top 24, and I was completely beside myself. I felt so humbled and privileged to be among some of the best cosplayers and propmakers in the nation. It was a completely unreal experience.
GeekDad:
What did you learn about yourself and about your own process from being on the show?
Ruth Stetson:
I learned that I am not nearly as competitive as I thought I was. I actually really enjoy the feeling of being part of a team… that we were in trenches together and trying to help each other despite being competitors. It made me really want to be a part of a team of makers.
Jennifer Rose:
I learned so much about myself on the show. For one thing I realized working under a time constraint wasn’t really much different than con crunch. Of course it was hard, but the stress felt very familiar. I also was amazed and so happy everyone I competed with was so friendly and talented, and I look up to them so much. BFF for life.
Emily Schmidt:
I learned that it really pays off to be organized. I went into the show with a strong game plan. I told myself, “Do what you know.” For the competition I practiced speed building at home during con crunch for Dragon Con. I knew that I needed to understand what techniques I should focus on during filming. It would not be realistic for me to try to experiment and do something new in this type of competition. I decided to stick to my strengths. For me, it was all about using my patterns and focusing on my overall concept design. Having this mentality really helped me in the long run. I was able to work efficiently under the crazy time constraints on Cosplay Melee.
GeekDad:
Has the show inspired you to try a new technique or build something you hadn’t previously considered?
Ruth Stetson:
Since the show I have definitely been more inspired to try my hands at new materials and techniques. I don’t want to be a one trick pony, so to speak. It’s important to me to evolve as an artist and to always push myself to be as efficient as possible.
Jennifer Rose:
I had actually never created an original design before the show. I had mostly made designs identically mimicking characters I love, but post show I have been diving into a lot of original designs. I also hadn’t used an airbrush for cosplay purposes, and now I am addicted.
Edgar Mayoral:
My builds take months to be completed. Now I have the idea of making small projects just to have a constant flow of cosplay related items coming out.
Emily Schmidt:
Absolutely. Since the show, I have built my first full EVA armor build. After meeting so many amazingly talented cosplayers, I decided to take their advice and learn how to Foamsmith. It is really different than working with thermoplastics. I think that this has allowed me to really understand various types of techniques on making armor costumes. I am also learning how to 3D print. These techniques have really elevated the Sisters of Battle armor that I am making from Warhammer 40k.
GeekDad:
Is there anything you really wanted people to know or see that didn’t make it into the final cut?
Ruth Stetson:
We all prepped to some degree for what we were going to make, and I lost most of the patterns I had made for my original design. This happens and was no fault of anyone but myself. I should have set them in a safer place during clean up. I mean I made a pretty big mess; it’s not surprising they were thrown away. I also really had a crazy time making that one little metal sigil from Edgar’s leftovers. It was my pour one out for the homies moment to pay homage to his moment on the show. I used a freaking anvil. Like never in my life did I think I would do that.
Jennifer Rose:
I actually haven’t seen the final cut yet so I am not sure. But I can definitely answer this question after the episode airs.
Edgar Mayoral:
It was a shame that I was let go on the first segment because I came to the show to show the public and cosplayers my techniques and a new way to make costumes. I just wanted to show the techniques used in armor for cosplay and make them as real as they will ever be.
Emily Schmidt:
My favorite part of cosplay is making patterns. I enjoy drawing on a 3 dimensional form. It’s the first step on planning out your build and allows you to bring your character to life. I draft my builds by using masking tape, kitchen wrap, and Sharpies. It’s so inexpensive, and if you mess up it is easy to fix. I really wish I was able to show this process on the show.
GeekDad:
Do you have any plans to make a final version of the character you created on the show?
Ruth Stetson:
I definitely want to recreate my character. I have the original sketch I based the patterns off of still, and I already made myself a big ol’ dragon head to go on a shield for my wall.
Jennifer Rose:
I have always wanted to create a Game of Thrones cosplay and to be picked for this episode was so cool! I don’t think I will create my character a second time, but I definitely intend to make another GoT design in the future.
Edgar Mayoral:
I am the type of person that prefers to create new things instead of investing my time in old things. Also, the show owns the image of my prop so I’d need to ask permission beforehand.
Emily Schmidt:
I currently do not have any plans on making another version of the character that I made on the show. I love everything about that costume, and it taught me a lot about adding rich textiles to costumes. Being on the show allowed me to tap into a whole different level of creativity. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I don’t think I would be able to replicate. I do however intend on using the knowledge that I learned on the show in my future builds.
GeekDad:
Ruth, do you think you would have had a better shot if you’d done more “normal” pauldrons and made a hand held weapon instead? (Also, using the spray texture for snow was truly inspired!)
Ruth Stetson:
I was happy to get the shield because I had a super clear idea of what I wanted to create. I don’t think I’d change that part despite losing the challenge. My pauldrons were the bane of my existence! haha. I hope they never see the light of day. I think I spiraled into a crafting oblivion, and Marvin the Martian was sent to rescue me, and I stole a couple of his helmets for shoulder armor. Thanks for the spray texture love! It smells horrible but man it makes for a cool frost effect.
GeekDad:
Jennifer, your weapon, the crossbow, seemed the most complicated and difficult to make. Did you feel a lot of pressure when you opened your scroll? And how did it feel making it to round two with your first ever crossbow build?
Jennifer Rose:
Oh man, I tried to keep it cool, but when I picked crossbow I was so terrified. I don’t even know how one works or what shapes they need. I seriously thought I would blow it, and even though I was a bit disappointed in my creation, I was so proud I made anything at all. When they called my name I almost didn’t believe it, but it did give me a little boost of confidence because I doubted my crossbow so much and helped me continue on and be confident.
GeekDad:
Edgar, working with metal can often be a lot more time consuming than thermosplastics or foam. Do you think being a metal worker put you at a disadvantage in a speed competition like this?
Edgar Mayoral:
Yes, is time consuming but if it were easy it would not be impressive. My original plan was to create a laminated armor and create a lot of small pieces instead of a single big one that is less time consuming with the benefit of extra mobility, and if the clock was against me I could use the same patterns I had ready for metal for foam instead.
GeekDad:
Emily, your Wildling was great! You said you often do big, bold, bad ass characters and weapons to counter balance your small stature and this was no different. Do you think winning Cosplay Melee has convinced you to try something less bold next time? Or are you going to go even bigger and badder?
Emily Schmidt:
This makes me chuckle. I think that I will always Go Big or Go Home. I might have a problem making big weapons, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It’s kind of my signature. I think that being on Cosplay Melee has pushed me to want to try more sewing projects. It is something completely outside of my comfort zone, but would really elevate my cosplays. There are so many talented seamstresses. I would love to be able to learn more about it so my talents are more versatile.

Episode 3 airs tonight on SyFy (you can also get episodes on Amazon if you don’t have cable).

Get the Official GeekDad Books!