Cosplay Spotlight: Interview with Constantine in Tokyo

Constantine in Tokyo Emma Frost photo by Gustavo Ramirez

We had the chance to chat with the beautiful and lovely Constantine in Tokyo. She’s a cosplayer who dresses up as characters such as Emma Frost, Psylocke and Miss Marvel. Check out the interview below as we discuss her love for Japanese culture, the divide between men and women in Japan, favorite video games, having “man hands”, and cosplaying.

John: Okay. Let’s start with a brief summary of Constantine in Tokyo.

Constantine in Tokyo: Well, I went to school in Boston and there I studied history and international relations on East Asian studies. I learned Japanese when I was in college. So after I graduated from college I moved to Japan and kind of lived there for just under two years teaching English on a small volcano island off the cost of Tokyo.

John: Wow.

Constantine: And that’s actually where the “in Tokyo” part of Constantine in Tokyo came from. After moving back from Japan I was in Colorado for a little while and I actually just moved to LA last July. I have been in LA ever since, making costumes and doing cosplay.

Constantine in Tokyo - Psylocke - Photo by Jonathon D Courtot

John: Nice and brief [laughs]. So I have to ask, what got you into the Japanese culture?

Constantine: Ah, well I have always been really interested in history, and I guess when I was twelve in all honesty I started watching Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network. So that sort of was the first that got me interested in Japan. I was like, “You know, I kind of want to know a little bit more about the country,” so I started getting really into Japanese history. When I was in high school I was really into samurais and certain periods of Japanese history. In college I was really, really into World War II; early things from 1860 to 1950 in Japanese history was what I was super interested in.

So probably just my interest in Japanese history is what kind of motivated me to learn the language and develop an interest in the culture.

John: What made you decide to go back to the States?

Constantine: As much as I really admire the culture and studying it, living in a country can sometimes be a lot different than just having an interest in it. It was a really great experience, but there were a lot of things about my personality that I felt ultimately didn’t really mesh very well with actually living in Japan. I’m very sarcastic and not particularly girly. I wasn’t interested in a lot of things that Japanese women tend to be interested in like getting married, having children, and just doing a lot of girly things in general. I kind of felt like a misfit because in Japan there are still kind of a big gender divide.

So outside of professional events and college friends, you don’t see a lot of crossover between men and woman hanging out just as friends without a certain reason. If you’re hanging out with a guy in Japan, they assume that you’re dating him. I lived on a very small island, so I sort of felt like I was a little bit out of place. I didn’t get along very well with the Japanese girls and the Japanese guys didn’t really want to hang out with me [laughs].

John: Oh no [laughs].

Constantine: No, I know. That’s just a very small part of it, but the most part of my time in Japan was really great, but I didn’t want to live there for ten years. I didn’t want to live there for the rest of my life. I am very American in a lot of ways; I’m very independent, I like doing creative things and so there were certain things in the Japanese culture that I found kind of stifling after being there for a couple of years.

So I decided to move back to America and I sort of landed in Colorado where my family was. I was there for about a year, and during that year all of my family moved away to other places. So after that year I was like, “I don’t really want to be in Colorado anymore,” and I moved to LA. A lot of my family is out here on my mom’s side and I spent every summer growing up in LA. I really love Los Angeles in terms of the fact that there are so many creative people here just fulfilling the things that they’re really passionate about. A lot of my interests are in film, pop culture, comics and cartoons, so LA, obviously, has helped me on a lot of levels.

Constantine in Tokyo Ms Marvel Photo by Jonathon D Courtot

John: LA is definitely a place that will mesh well with your personality, especially the arts.

Constantine: Exactly and LA is just a phenomenal place. Since I’ve been here I have met so many creative people, and for the first time in my life I actually feel like I am living somewhere where there a lot of people around me who are interested in the same things as me; that wasn’t something I really experienced a lot in Colorado, Boston or in Japan, believe it or not. So in LA it’s like there are just so many people who have similar things that you’re interested in and there are a lot of people who are so excited and willing to collaborate with you on things. It’s just really great. Being here and being around so many awesome people really inspired me to continue questioning myself with the things that I create or the things that I am involved in.

John: That’s cool. I guess you’ve been into cosplay for many years. When did you find out you really wanted to get into it?

Constantine: Well, that’s interesting because when people ask me how long I have been involved with cosplay I don’t really know what to say 100%, because obviously in high school I was really into anime and I went to anime conventions a lot. So that was obviously the first time I saw cosplay and I was really, really into it. When I was in high school I made costumes for myself, but it was just on a very small level and basically only wore them to conventions. I never photographed them and I didn’t really have much of an interest in sharing my pictures online.

Nowadays every cosplayer has a website, Facebook or Twitter. They have something out there to promote their cosplay, but back when I was like 13 or 14, there weren’t too many cosplayers who were doing that. I really remember when I was that age looking at really big cosplayers who are still active today, like Yaya Han and being really inspired by what she was doing.

When I got to college I sort of had this mentality like, “Oh, I’m in college now, I need to grow up and be an adult,” so I sort of dropped cosplay for that whole period of time. I did a little bit for fun for like toning but I really was like, “Okay, I’m going to need to put this behind me.” But out there coming back from Japan I started writing for a website, JapanCinema.net, and one of the features that they had on the website was cosplay interview. Because of my previous interest in cosplay, I sort of ended up taking over that section of the website and started doing interviews with cosplayers. And after doing interviews with them for a couple of months and looking at all of the costumes again and just sort of seeing all of these wonderful things that people are creating within their community, I was like, “You know what, I can’t just NOT do it anymore.” So basically like the summer of 2012, I started making my own costumes again, pulling costumes out of storage and actually started dropping them and sharing them with other people and integrating myself into the community.

John: I guess the whole interviewing cosplayer has kind of really helped push that forward.

Constantine: Absolutely. There are so many great cosplayers out there now. I mean, every day you see new cosplayers that are just amazing and incredible; these people spend hours making absolutely perfect recreations of costumes. And you know it’s a big difference from when I was younger. It was a very small part of convention culture; cosplay wasn’t super big. At anime conventions there would be a couple of people in costume, and now you go to an anime convention and everyone is in some sort of costume. It is really interesting how it has exploded in popularity.

John: I’m going to take a guess and say that you like cosplaying as Marvel characters a lot.

Constantine: Yeah, it seems right now like I have an extreme obsession with Marvel. I’m pretty obsessed with Marvel characters [laughs].

John: Who’s your favorite character?

Constantine: Honestly I like a lot of characters. The easiest thing for me to do is sort of look back when I was younger as a reference point. I really liked Rogue a lot when I was younger. I really related to her a lot just because I thought she had a very tough exterior but internally there was a lot of hurt in her past. She’s a very complicated character.

Recently I have started to actually like Emma Frost a lot more. I think she is becoming more interesting.

John: One of your favorite games is Mortal Kombat. Have you ever thought of doing Mortal Combat characters?

Constantine: Ah, yes actually. I am making a Mortal Kombat costume right now actually [laughs]. I have loved Mortal Kombat ever since Mortal Kombat Trilogy came out for the N64. I played a lot with my younger brother. We would play it during summer vacation and we got so mad at each other that we would get into our own real life fist fights over whether or not we were playing fair. So ever since then I have really loved Mortal Kombat and I really love the new Mortal Kombat for the Xbox 360. The graphics are great, and who doesn’t love fatalities?

John: Can you tell us the character you are working on?

Constantine: Ah yeah actually. I have seen a lot of really cool Sonya Blade, Kitana, Mileena and Jade costumes out there, but I haven’t really ever seen Skarlet done that much, so I am actually working on her.

John: Ah, Skarlet, the blood thirsty ninja.

Constantine: Yes. I love ninjas and I really love characters who are a little bit insane.

John: She’s pretty crazy.

Constantine: Yeah she’s pretty crazy. I love her and Mileena the most.

John: Mileena is also definitely crazy.

Constantine: Oh, she is just totally batshit insane, but I love that about her and I love her in the new Mortal Kombat. Her moves; it’s just like what is going on, what is she doing, oh my God [laughs].

John: You have obsessed over Duke Nukem and GoldenEye.

Constantine: Yes, I love GoldenEye. Oh you did your research. In my opinion, the multiplayer is fun where you can play with your friends and kill each other. I think it is one of the best games ever…like in the entire world.

John: I would have to agree.

Constantine: Yeah, it’s just, I mean, even the new stuff that comes out, the new first person shooter and everything I still don’t think a lot of them compare to how much fun it is to play GoldenEye. Their designs for the levels…it’s just so much fun because all the different settings you can put on in multiplayer like the Golden Gun [laughs]—Golden Gun is always a fun thing to play.

Constantine in Tokyo Dr Doom

John: Have you been challenging yourself with new materials for cosplay?

Constantine: Yeah, I mean, right now it seems like all I do is make spandex costumes. My mom actually went to college for fashion design, so when I was growing up she taught me how to sew. So I have this pretty decent knowledge in sewing and I am sort of expanding that.

I am working on several different armor costumes right now. Some video games and one from classic American cartoons. I will have at least two armor cosplays soon. Every costume you do you learn something new, and I am really looking forward to starting to work with different materials and really get into props and armor making. That’s one thing that I don’t have a lot of experience with and it’s something that I really want to start pushing my abilities on with. I want to start making armor and I want to start making giant swords and stuff.

John: Any tips on dealing with the online cosplaying community?

Constantine: I mean online you hear a lot of talk about how negative the cosplay community can be or how competitive it can be possibly. I haven’t really experienced it that much. No one has ever really come up to me and ever said anything to me.

Online I think the internet tends to bring out a lot of negativity in people. Your image will get reposted in forums and stuff, so it is easy find comments about what your costume looks like or what you look like in your costume. My Lady Data costume just got posted on io9.com…

Constantine in Tokyo - Data Star Trek

John: I’ve read the comments.

Constantine: There are a lot comments on there where it is like, “Oh, she looks like a man,” and it’s like, “Really? I look like a man?” So I’ll be reading that comment and then half the time I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s kind of funny.” I find that funny but that’s just because I’m not super sensitive. I never really felt like I fit in really enough so you sort of develop a really tough exterior against a lot of the things that people say, and there was a comment about how it looked like I had man hands, which I also thought was funny because I am very seriously into rock climbing [laughs]. That’s something my father used to say to me, “You know, with all this rock climbing you’re going to get calluses on your hands.” Because I rock climb, I can’t have manicures or whatever, so when I read that comment I’m like, “Yes, I have man hands.” It’s good because I am super strong and it’s fun.

I think probably one of the biggest things that you are going to want to try and do in addition to the obvious parts of making good costumes is be prolific. A lot of the really top cosplayers you see are very prolific; they are always making new costumes, always updating their social media pages, and they are always making themselves available to their fans. The internet has a very short memory span; you do one really good costume and a week later everyone is going to forget about it. So trying to make as many costumes as possible and make a good costume, and then on top of that, if you’re a super hot girl, all of that is going to sort of help you in terms of trying to be a prolific cosplayer.

Now, for me personally, I don’t really know. Do I make a living cosplaying? Not really. Most of my costumes are spandex and I know the construction that goes into them that is not super hard; some are harder than others, but I’m not making the most epic costumes out there. Am I a super hot girl? I don’t really know. Apparently I am a super hot transgender Data [laughs].

I would say that one thing cosplayers might want to think about if they are trying to increase their popularity online is to just be prolific and make a lot of costumes and just internally focus on trying to do the best you can within your skill set and constantly push what you are doing so that each costume you make is bigger and better.

John: Thanks a lot for doing the interview with us

Constantine: Oh yeah, it’s awesome, I really love it.

End of interview

You can check Constantine in Tokyo out on her Facebook, Twitter, or website.

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Photos by Gustavo Ramirez and Jonathon D. Courtot

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John 'Spartan' Nguyen
John 'Spartan' Nguyen 9051 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, editor-in-chief.