Riki LeCotey takes her technical know-how and skills and parlays them into some amazing cosplay outfits that she has been designing for more than a few years now. Recognized as one of the best cosplayers in the US and Canada today, she is always a pleasure to work with. Over the past several years I have had the pleasure of snapping a few pictures of Riki in costume for several sites that I have covered events for and she has always been a sweetheart about it – and patient since everyone knows I am not the most skilled photographer out there. And she never fails to greet me and her many other fans with a warm smile and gesture every time she is recognized.
Richard: Can you please give our readers a quick description of who you are?
Riki: Yikes! That’s always a tough one. (smiles) Well my name is Riki, but I go by Riddle (or Riddles Messy Wardrobe) online. Cosplay is my hobby and I’ve been doing it for over 10 years. When I started I would have never believed that because of cosplay I would get to travel, have some of the cool opportunities I’ve had or even be on a reality show. When I think about it I’m a little awestruck about the whole thing and very thankful.
When I’m not cosplaying I love to cook – and eat! I also rescue baby squirrels and rehabilitate them till they are old enough to be released back into the wild. I also love to play video games and hang out with friends.
I guess I’ve been a geek all my life, but of course I never knew it as that title till I was quite a bit older, I remember playing videogames with my parents, every Christmas asking for a new video games, I would draw Link and Spawn in my notebooks in school, I read fantasy novels, played D&D and started my own anime club in high school. I hear stories from my peers about how exiled they felt growing up doing the same things, and I’m very fortunate that I never felt that way or perhaps I was just oblivious to the comments. So I’ve never known a time where I felt ashamed of my hobbies, even cosplay.
What series or properties do you draw your inspiration from when designing your cosplay outfits?
There are a number of factors that go into me picking an outfit, from the design of the outfit to figuring out is it a character that I even like.
There are series, like Legend of Zelda, that I love, but have yet to find a character I think I could do. I want to select a costume I feel that I can put my own spin on it and will also fit my body type. When I’m actually working on the costume, I draw a lot of inspiration from fashion and historical outfits; the great thing about cosplay is you can draw inspiration from anywhere to add your own flavor to it.
On average, how much time does it take you to complete your outfits?
It really varies from costume to costume, finding just the right accessory or fabric can sometimes set you back. Usually my stuff can take anywhere from a month to 5 months or more! I work on it when I have time, or feel the urge. That’s the great thing about it being my hobby, the only deadline I have are the ones I set on myself. So if I am struggling with a project I’ll put it to the side and work on something else till I figure out a solution.
Since I first started noticing you and your cosplay outfits around the internet and at conventions over the years, you have certainly expanded upon the notions of what a cosplayer could be. You have even parlayed your experience into one of the most humanitarian efforts I have seen by way of ‘Cosplay for a Cause.’ How does it feel knowing you were able to help so many people using your experience as a cosplayer?
It felt great, I definitely was jumping into unknown waters with this project and didn’t quite understand the logistics I was undertaking and the short amount of time I was trying to produce something. I was selling them at every con I was going to that year, and I was told at one point I woke up in the middle of the night during DragonCon, basically repeating the ‘sales pitch’ in my sleep: ‘Cosplay for a cause calendar, 100% of the proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross, features cosplayers from all over the world.’ It was really all I was thinking about!
When you first announced Cosplay for a Cause, you received immediate attention from various media and social outlets. How important was it for you to let people know this was as much an item of your cosplay work as it was to help the victims of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami?
It wasn’t that important that this be a representation of my cosplay work or any one else’s, the most important thing to me was to create a great calendar that people would want to buy, not only because their favorite cosplayer was in it, but because it was a well done product. I was worried how it would be received, that it would be viewed as a vanity project, rather than a fund raising effort, but the support from the community was overwhelming.
Starting CFAC was a struggle; while I had done a personal calendar in 2007 and learned a ton from that, but this was a whole different animal – especially at the beginning. I was met with naysayers, questioning why I was helping the Japanese Red Cross and not ChildFund (or insert pretty much anything else there).
I was so fortunate those who wanted to be part of it, from the cosplayers, comic artists, graphic designers and lawyers donating their time, and trusting I would take their skills and create a product they would be proud to be a part of. There were zero egos, and everyone did what they could to help out. So for that reason it was so incredibly important to me, that this project succeed, Not only did I not want to let the Japanese Red Cross down, I didn’t want to let anyone who was part of this project down. I’m proud that we sold out and raised just over $30,000 for the Japanese Red Cross.
I’m currently doing another project a little bit on a smaller scale, but it will still be up to the same high standards, it’s not going to involve cosplay as much as just cosplayers. This time the money will be going to the Red Cross. I’ll be announcing it shortly when we launch our new website.
Speaking of your cosplay, there is an extreme level of detail to each of your cosplay outfits that you design. How do you manage to get so much detail into each of your costumes?
I would love to get more detail, but there does reach a certain point where you do need to have the ability to self edit yourself. Honestly I think the detail just comes from thinking about all aspects of the costume, something is there for a reason, I never just put an arbitrary button or pocket just ‘cause it looks cool.
I am almost afraid to ask this, and please don’t feel obliged to answer this question if you do not want to, but how much money does your average cosplay outfit take from you to complete?
Generally my costumes can range from $250 – $1000, something like Silk Spectre is a lot cheaper than either of my wasp costumes, the moment I have sculpted pieces in a costume the cost can really start to add up. I do my best to budget myself but when you’re nose deep in a project and you’ve already invested time and money; you’ll buy what you need to get it the way you want it.
When explaining costs to people you have to point out that when cosplaying it’s really a lot of R&D, you are potentially doing something no one has done, so there is a chance you’re going to make mistakes and mistakes cost money.
That’s not to say you can’t make great costumes that are inexpensive, but I always go back to; Good, fast and inexpensive… you only get two.
When I first learned that you would be on the cast for Heroes of Cosplay I was pretty excited and ecstatic that someone I knew would be on the show. That being said, how did you react to the news that you had been selected?
It’s been a long process for me, about two and a half years now.
For Yaya Han, it’s been 3 years. She was approached to have a show about herself and her experiences, I had a scene where they had me talking to her about the CFAC Calendar, the execs said they wanted more cast members and I guess liked the cut of my jib and I was invited to join as part of the original cast.
There was an honest mix of excitement but also skepticism. I’ve watched enough reality shows to not be naïve, but here I was going to be on the first cosplay TV show and get a chance to showcase the way I approached costuming.
There are so many different aspects of cosplaying; there isn’t enough time to focus on all of them. Everyone cosplays for different reasons, some do it to hang out with friends, some do it to have photos taken, and some do it to compete. This show is just one slice of a much larger pie.
What do you expect to gain from your time on Heroes of Cosplay?
Now that’s its over I’m back to creating costumes at my own pace and getting more sleep. I enjoyed being part of Heroes of Cosplay because it caused me to approach an aspect of cosplaying I normally don’t, I did get to meet some fantastic people and have such an interesting life experience, and that I’ll never forget. I don’t expect to be any kind of superstar or endorse hair care products; I’m still just doing what I was doing before the show started, making cosplay, cooking, spending time with my friends and rehabilitating baby squirrels.
If you had any advice for anyone wanting to start cosplaying or trying to better themselves at the craft, what would it be?
Cosplay the way you want to cosplay, but for me specifically:
* Take your time, don’t rush things.
* Do your research
* Pick characters that fit your body type.
* Create something you’re proud to wear.
As I have said before, I am a huge fan and admirer of Riki LeCotey and I look forward to seeing her work on Heroes of Cosplay when it debuts on SyFy on August 13. She is a good person to talk with and definitely as professional and courteous as they come when it comes to a celebrity on the cosplay circuit. If you would like to learn more about Riki, please visit the following links: