Dennis A. Amith interviews Lisa Munden aka SIREN (2003) - Page 2

Continued from Page 1

PHOTO: Siren cosplaying as Kamijo of Lariene. Photo by Ally.

DENNIS: What is the most satisfying and most frustrating aspect of being a cosplayer?
SIREN: The most satisfying aspect for me is to feel really happy having created something I can be proud of, and that can make other people react. I think a big joy is when other fans or cosplayers react positively to a costume. I love to hear things like "Oh! I LOVE that character!" I really love that cosplay is a promotion of something you love. A frustrating aspect. Hmm... Sometimes I think things cosplay politics can go too far and really get disrespectful.

DENNIS: For those who are new to cosplaying, they will notice that many cosplayers belong to a group or a circle of cosplayers. Are these groups public, members only or area-based type groups? What advice do you have for a cosplayer who wonders if they should join a group?
SIREN: I can't speak for all groups, but I've noticed that many of them are close groups of friends or people that have come together at conventions. The most long-lived groups are usually those that are in close physical proximity to each other. Groups with members that live far apart tend to have more problems as far as organization and communication.

As far as joining a group, some groups are very public and hold auditions for parts when they need to be filled. Other groups are really close-knit friends that don't usually accept new members. If you want to join a group or start one of your own, looking around on the Internet is a great way to start. So many big groups have websites and message boards where you can talk with group members and be kept up to date on auditions and the groups plans for convention attendance. Otherwise, you can just talk to groups you see at conventions. Say "Hi" and make some new friends and keep in touch. If your interested in joining, ask. It can never hurt to just ask. The worst the group could say is no and if they do, don't take it to heart, often groups have limited spots for members.

DENNIS: For the newbie cosplayer, can you give us your top three advice for them if they want to get involved in cosplaying.
1.) If you don't know how to sew, a basic sewing class can be incredibly handy!

2.) Making friends in the cosplay community and joining some mailing lists online can offer a real support net if you need help with costuming. People will almost always be willing to offer tipsand hints.

3.) Do what you want and have fun! Try not to get too caught up in cosplay. If you're getting too stressed out about a project and it isn't fun anymore, you have to ask yourself if it's really worth it. Don't forget why you started to cosplay in the first place.

DENNIS: Let's talk about your Sailor Galaxia costume. How long did it take you
to make and how much? It looks like a sophisticated costume.
I think it took a couple of months of on and off work to really complete that costume. I had to have a lot of help from my Mom to help me do fittings because the bodice is rather complicated. The pattern is one for a close fitting jacket that I altered a bit. I removed sleeves and added the skirt. A muslin mock-up was made to do a fitting so the flat pattern could be adjusted for the final product. That pattern was sewn up three times. Once in the mock up, once in the gold lame fabric and once in the gold cotton lining. A real challenge on that costume was the skirt. I wanted to have the skirt authentic to the anime and manga by making it out of separate points. Getting the skirt to look right at rest, and not leave large gaps between the points was really tough. Many of the pieces on that costume, like the skirt and sleeves and headdress were worked out dozens of times in paper mock ups. The hairstyle is actually my own hair supplemented with fake Kanekalon hair then spray with some fake gold haircolor to make it all look even. The boots on the costume are covers made from spray painted vinyl and character shoes also sprayed gold. Another challenge of the costume was I had to be able to dance in it. I was wearing the costume as a part of Sailor Jamboree that year and had a dance routine to do involving high kicks and lots of movement. Everything on my costume had to be secure, I couldn't have pieces flying off in the middle of the dance. Also, I had to be able to move my arms and legs. Getting the pointy sleeves to look good as well as allow movement was a tough problem. Looking at it now, I could improve on this costume even
more now since I have more knowledge in craftsmanship. The cost of the costume was around $120. The gold fabric was something I bought months in advance for $30 from a local fabric store that was closing. The shoes were dance shoes which I already owned. The jewels ran me about $40 for all of them, they add up fast! The brooch I wore was made from a gold chocolate wrapper, cardboard and plastic jewels. Gold dance briefs for $15; fake hair for $2 and supplemental fabric, interfacing, gold trim and thread all added up to another $50 or so dollars.

DENNIS:  How did you get the nickname "Siren"?
SIREN: Siren is actually my Internet alias from back when I was 12 years old. I used to go by Aluminum Siren after the villain Sailor Aluminum Siren from Sailor Moon. If been using the names for ages, I used to enter chat rooms, play online games which "Diablo" was my FAVORITE for a long time and write stories under the name "Aluminum Siren". A couple of years ago though, when I started work on a J-rock fan project called "Murasaki", I worked as the artist and dropped the Aluminum. Siren has really stuck to me and I even have real-life friends now that still call me Siren.

DENNIS:  You are well known in the California anime con scene for your work with the J-ROCK panels as a fan of groups that are more "visual kei". How did you get interested in visual kei groups?
SIREN: I got interested in visual kei through anime. Actually, it was "Weiss Kruez" that started it. I became a big fan of the series and the music to go with it. Koyasu Takehito became a favorite of mine, and when I found out his favorite band was a Japanese band called L`Arc~en~Ciel I went right out and bought the newest single they had. After that I fell in love with Japanese rock music and started to buy magazines that featured bands. It was in my first issue of "Band Yarouze" that I saw the band Dir en grey. I started by downloading some of the music online and from there I was hooked. I got into other visual bands through communities online and it's been non-stop ever since.

PHOTO: Siren cosplaying as Sailor Aluminum Siren from "Sailor Moon Super S".

DENNIS: Are you more into the look or the music?
SIREN: I think that visual kei music and image go hand in hand. Concept bands like Lariene and Malice Mizer are really excellent examples of how an image can really enhance the music. I'm a musician and an artist myself so I have a real respect for the talent bands display while they blend visuals with music while trying not to let one overpower the other. I'm a big time fan of visual kei but I'm also a fan of music. So many people mistake visual kei for "J-rock". A band doesn't have to be in drag or fancy costumes to be rock. Visual kei is just a drop in the pond of Japanese music. There is a lot to experience out there!

DENNIS: You are heavily involved with the California convention panels on J-ROCK
but why is it that conventions in the Plain States and mid-west are able to
bring Indie J-Rock bands but California Cons have not yet done that?

SIREN: I don't think I'm at liberty to say more right now but I can tell you that the 2003 convention season will welcome an indies J-rock band or two at a couple of our local Southern California conventions. Watch the summer conventions.

DENNIS: Looking at the photos, I have seen your cosplay change from your costumes with what you have done in your beginning years, as a member of Sailor Jamboree to the present time with darker, cosplay outfits such as your "Wedding Mana" cosplay at Fanime. You sport more black outfits and was wondering if that is because of your creativity as a cosplayer, being different from other cosplayers and having a unique costume at the conventions or is it more of a personal reason?
SIREN: The darker costumes really relate more to my everyday style of dress. I've also been a big fan of Mihara Mitsukaz for a number of years now and she is well known for her gothic style. Also, I have shifted from watching a lot of anime to spending more time reading manga in Japanese. So, I find more of my inspiration in the black and white pages of manga than of colorful anime. I find there is a real challenge too, in trying to recreate an outfit you've only seen in black and white and screen tones. I like the process of figuring out how to re-create a convincing version of a costume with only so many lines and tones to guide me.

DENNIS: You have done a lot of crossplay. What are your feelings of crossplay? Girls crossplaying as guys and guys crossplaying as girls?
SIREN: To be honest...I'm a big fan of cross dressers and drag queens and such. I find the illusion fascinating! There are some serious cross players out there that are really out to fool people and then there are the "less serious" cross players. You know, the guy out there in the sailor fuku with a beard. But hey! Whether your out to convince people or just have a good time supporting your favorite character it's great to see people crossing those barriers. I've noticed that there is a great deal more girls that crossplay as guy characters than the other way around and I wonder if it has to do with the social stigma men face, especially in Western culture about their femininity. Or is it just easier for girls to cosplay male characters or do
guys simply favor male characters over girls? I won't presume to know but I have a few ideas. It's tough to generalize over a population of people anyway.

Photo: Siren in Lolita Fashion. Photo courtesy of

DENNIS: As a cosplayer who has won awards for anime-based costumes, do you feel pressured to continue winning awards and making more difficult costumes for a convention?
I don't really feel a lot of pressure. Personally, I like to have at least one new costume per convention. I really love to sew and the conventions I attend are spaced far enough from each other so that it's not an unrealistic goal. Of course this helps build up my collection of costumes as well. As far as awards go, they aren't really my goal. Don't get me wrong, I'm tickled pink when I win and often times it comes as a complete surprise to me! Some of the awards I've won have been really personal too me, like winning "Queen of Shoes" at Ani-Magic 2002. That was really an honor to be noted for something as specific as that!

DENNIS: Speaking of those awards, do you cosplay for fun, fpr the cosplay recognition or the competition/challenge of creating a great costume?
I cosplay for the fun and challenge of creation. I love to make things and when I see something as a challenge, I try to work it out to the best of my abilities. The process of making a costume is as important to me as wearing it. I am always learning things about construction or materials, or anything!

It's a great learning experience for me and often times I can apply that knowleged to my other artwork and vice versa. Of course, over all, I have to have fun. Once cosplay stops being fun for me then I'll quit. Until then I'm going to push myself further!

DENNIS: Is there anything that you would like to improve on yourself having to do with cosplay?
SIREN: Well I'm always willing to learn more! As far as habits, I am a really bad procrastinator. I have been working on getting costumes finished more in advance when I need them. I'm trying to avoid sewing the day before I leave or even at the con anymore. As far as "skills", I'd like to improve my fitting technique some. And I'd really like to master setting zippers. I can set them well enough now but zippers can be tricky. I think a really neatly set zipper is a sign of great skill. Also I'd like to learn to work with other "trickier" fabrics like vinyl. I've stayed away from vinyl before because of its reputation and the amount of worked needed to sew it properly. I've done some research on sewing with it, using tissue paper and a Teflon presser foot, so I hope to try some out soon.

DENNIS:  When you cosplay as a character, do you try act like the character?
SIREN: I certainly do! I'm an actress as well and have worked in school and community theater. So, I try to give the right demeanor as a character. When I'm dressed as Mana, I try not to talk. When I am Sailor Moon, I'm a genki ditz. Of course, it's all only to a point. I don't want to take my character too far that it becomes inhibiting and annoying to other people.

DENNIS:  If you had all the time and money to make a costume, what would be your dream costume?
SIREN: I've got a few but there is a costume that I have been planning for years now! I've been collecting pictures, researching sewing techniques, collecting patterns and skills. I'd really love to do the manga version of Princess Serenity's dress from "Sailor Moon". I've got some other plans for that as well, but for now they are a secret!

DENNIS: Have you ever worn your costume to an area that freaked people out? How was that experience?
SIREN: I've worn costumes in weird places many times. I've been in malls, bookstores, the beach, birthday parties, the gas station in full Super Sailor Moon fuku which was a great one. Most of the time people just give me funny looks and sometimes they recognize me. It's great when little kids recognized me as Sailor Moon.

DENNIS: Have you experienced any freaky or embarrassing situations from cosplaying? May it be the costume or even experiences from fans?
A guy asked to kiss me once! I was dressed as "Cherry Pie" which was from my J-rock Elegant Gothic Lolita persona and as a part of a contest on stage for the J-rock events at AX 2002, a fellow who came on stage asked for a kiss. That was pretty funny!

I think I was quite shocked at the time. But the best story ever is from a friend of mine who mistook me as a "sexy guy" while I was dressed up as Kyo from Dir en grey. It's best to hear the story from her but basically she saw me dressed as a guy and thought she would get my phone number. She was really shocked when she found out her "sexy guy" was me. The costume was a real challenge because it was and open jacket with a bare chest, but I pulled it off with some duct tape to help me. It fooled a lot of people. It was so fun!

PHOTO: Transylvanian Rose 2 - Photo by unknown.

DENNIS: Every time I see you at a con, you are one of the few cosplayers that is awake early in the morning. Do you ever sleep?
SIREN: Sometimes! I figure at cons I can stay up for three days if I want to and then sleep when I get home. Half the time, I've been up for nights in a row before the con finishing up costumes or packing. Sometimes the middle of the night is the best time to meet people! And more of the cons have more things to do since they run all night, like karaoke, video games, and screening rooms, that would all seem to shut down at 12 or 2 a.m. in years past.

DENNIS: Many people watched you in the Ani-Magic 2002 Ketchup music video. You
seem to be a para para natural. Where did you learn those cool dance moves?

SIREN: I'm not a natural para para dancer at all. Actually, those moves I know are from a
Sailor Jamboree performance that we did at Ani-Magic 2001. I've never actually played the Para Para video game. I'm much to shy to try to play it in front of people at an arcade. I have been dancing after getting some of those Para Para "How-To" dance videos. So maybe I can practice and someday I'll be brave enough to try the game! Anybody want to give me a lesson?

DENNIS: How much longer do you want to cosplay? Or is this something you see yourself doing for a very long time?
SIREN: I want to cosplay until it's not fun anymore. Though I can certainly seeing myself doing it until I'm old. I won't be cosplaying Sailor Moon when I'm 60 but I know there are characters out there for me.

DENNIS:  If you look back at all the cosplay events you have done, the things you have experienced. If there is one cosplay moment you will always remember, what would that moment be?
SIREN: I think performing with Sailor Jamboree at Anime Expo 2000 was a really great moment for me. We had worked so hard and it was my first public performance with an anime cosplay group. It was a real thrill for me.

DENNIS:  Your final words to the people who support your cosplay work.
SIREN: I appreciate anyone who supports me! Comments and encouragement from strangers, other cosplayers, little kids, friends and fans are always wonderful to receive. I really hope that I can support you, like you have supported me!


For more information about Sailor Moon Jamboree, click here.


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Note:  All photos on nt2099 Cosplay Underground has been taken by a staff member of nt2099 media and entertainment or has been supplied to us by the individuals being interviewed.

Dennis A. Amith is an entertainment writer and celebrity interviewer and the Principal of nt2099 Media and Entertainment. Dennis A. Amith has appeared in many publications worldwide for his knowledge of Asian pop culture and for his entertainment articles. He is also known for his conversation-style celebrity interviews and continues to stick with his formula of promoting artists and professionals who are well-known to the up-and-coming, as well as his goal of helping to smash the barriers that exist for Asians in the entertainment industry and to continue in asking questions that will definitely grab your attention.

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