Today’s Cosplay Spotlight features Valerie Meachum. She is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to entertainment; on top of the cosplay she also acts, sings and writes.
She most recently had a reoccurring role as Donna on The Deadersons, a classic black and white, feel-good, family sitcom with a twist. The Deadersons are a family of zombies just trying to live life in the infected town of Bloody Hills.
Val is a cosplayer who fully embraces her characters, even picking up the accents that pertain to her characters. She may have been born in Detroit, but when she become Rey or Merida you would swear she was born and raised over seas.
We asked Val to randomly choose questions for her interview and these were the results;
PopCultHQ – Who are you biggest influences?
Valerie – All the Master costumers I met in the masquerade green room in my teens and 20s, most of whose names I can’t recall even though I know they were “big names” in costuming circles – not only for the quality of their work, but for their willingness to share their knowledge.
These days, I love that the “budget cosplay” idea is gaining momentum, with high-profile people like Philip Odango (Canvas Cosplay) as well as brilliant local cosplayers like Ken Seli and Lisa Hale (Haelstorm Designs) sharing the process of humble materials becoming the most amazing costumes. I come from a low-budget theatre background anyway, so seeing the same “do more with less” principles fueled by that kind of boundless creativity is incredibly inspiring. “I spent two months’ wages on the perfect screen-accurate doohickey” has its place, but it doesn’t have to be everything, and honestly it’s not the most impressive to me.
PopCultHQ – Do you do your own makeup?
Valerie – Yes, though that’s not really saying much, since it’s rarely very complicated. The only FX makeup I’ve ever done on myself was applying a premade Bajoran nose piece. I did make my little brother up as the Phantom once, using the process pictures of Michael Crawford as a guide, and made the latex appliances from scratch. And occasionally simple body paint, like for Gaila (Uhura’s Orion roommate in the 2009 Star Trek movie). I’m working on Hera from Star Wars Rebels now, so I’ll be going green again soon, and figuring out the whole lekku thing. A whole new challenge!
PopCultHQ – What is your most memorable cosplay moment?
Valerie – There are so, so many with the kids, and I feel a little guilty not picking one of those! But it has to be meeting Amanda Tapping at Gatecon in my “Emancipation” Samantha Carter costume. She called me up at her Q&A so she could see it up close and when I was explaining that I know Sam hated it, but it was so amazing I knew I had to make it, she burst out “You MADE it??” When an actor looks at your costume from two feet away and assumes it’s the one they wore, you know you got it right! Even when the episode was relatively new and SG-1 was still a hot fandom, people rarely recognized the costume, and when I got it back out for Wizard World this year in honor of the show’s 20th anniversary, I got a lot of compliments but I don’t think anybody recognized it. But explaining it over and over again is so, so worth it for that moment back in 2001!
PopCultHQ – What is your dream cosplay?
Valerie – Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth! I’ll have to either learn to crochet or commission someone – people don’t realize the whole gown was crochet over a fabric lining! The original costume from 1889 was restored a couple years ago, and I was fascinated following the progress in articles online. There is a source for the beetle wings on Etsy, and they’re suprisingly not as expensive as I figured they would be, so maybe it’ll happen someday!
PopCultHQ – Who do you aspire to be?
Valerie – Someone’s inspiration. (Ideally I’d like to know about it!)
PopCultHQ – What is your favorite vehicle in either real life or fiction?
Valerie – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
PopCultHQ – What projects, if any, are you currently working on that you can share with us?
Valerie – I mentioned Hera, though really I’ve just started gathering materials and references for her.
I just finished what I call the “dove dress,” one of the costumes for Unvarnished, the one-woman show I wrote about Pre-Raphaelite model/artist/poet Elizabeth Siddal, based on multiple studies of her by her eventual husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
I haven’t actually started on it yet, but I really want to do Amilyn Holdo, Laura Dern’s character in The Last Jedi (my life is so much about Star Wars these days!). It’s just so graceful, and I love the echoes of Leia’s senatorial dress with the high neck and the hood, and it just makes me so happy that they designed this amazing look for a woman over 40.
Oh, and building a new Eighth Doctor coat for my husband. The one I made him for our wedding an attempt at it, but these days we say it was “inspired by.” References and fabric were a lot harder to come by in 1999, and I only had so much time! I finally found the right velvet last year – I had a chance to examine and even touch the screen-worn costume at Chicago TARDIS a few years back – and I’ve been a little terrified to touch it! I have the mockup cut out, and need to just bite the bullet and start sewing. I think I could make three or four ballgowns in the time it takes to get one man’s frock coat right.
PopCultHQ – What’s the best part of cosplay for you?
Valerie – Getting to be characters nobody would consider me for in my actor life. Especially for excited kids – the littlest ones in whose eyes I’m really Rey or Merida or Supergirl, and the bigger ones who get to see that they don’t have to stop playing make-believe. In their eyes I’m more heroic and more beautiful and more everything, and they believe they can be too.
PopCultHQ – Do you prefer mainstream or more obscure characters for cosplay
Valerie – I love both for different reasons! Recently I’ve done more mainstream as my focus has been more on charity events with Costumers With A Cause or the Rebel Legion, where it’s about characters kids want to see. And sometimes you’re just not in the mood to explain who you are 75 times! But there’s also nothing like someone coming up to you at a con and saying “OMG, so-and-so is my favorite, I never thought I’d see anyone cosplay them!” Plus there are usually fewer references or resources available for them, so there’s an extra layer of challenge for getting it right.
PopCultHQ – Do you have a preferred site or store you use when shopping for cosplay?
Valerie – Depends on what I’m looking for. I rarely buy the main part of any costume ready-made, but I did recently order a TV-series-style Supergirl from HerosTime (after admitting that my to-do list is just too long to get around to making it before my classic suit falls apart completely!), and I’m really impressed with it.
For wigs, I prefer daily-wear fashion wigs over ones made specifically for cosplay. It may be just because I got in the habit of using them before there was such a thing as “cosplay wigs,” first at the neighborhood wig shop and later online at sites like Vogue Wigs, Wilshire Wigs, or The Head Shop, but I feel like they look more convincing. Lately I’ve really liked a brand called Shake’n’Go, which has really nice lace-fronts at very competitive prices.
For specialty props and accessories, if I’m not making them myself, the first stop is always Etsy.
And of course thrift stores are my second home! I always use thrifted bed sheets for draping and mockups, and so often you can find the perfect fabric in the sheets, curtains, blankets, etc. All kinds of clothes can be modified or taken apart and reworked entirely. Most of my cosplay shoes and boots (not to mention my everyday wardrobe) are thrifted. And don’t forget they have LOTS more than clothes and shoes! Sporting goods, toys, housewares – your perfect prop might be waiting right there!
PopCultHQ – Is there anything else you would like to say or highlight?
Valerie – I love meeting beginners, especially kids. (Kids with limited resources come up with the most incredible solutions!) Most cosplayers I know feel the same way. Whether you’ve put something together with spit and baling wire, or you’re still afraid to do more than think about it, if you see me at a con, please come say hi!
Want to see more of Valerie Meachum,then check out these links: