In cultivating my online presence as Alice, one question that I had to sit down and ask myself was, “who do I want to be?”
I had to answer that question before I could post a single image on Instagram or write even one post on Facebook. After all, I didn’t want to come across as directionless – or worse, inauthentic.
When I really thought about it, I wanted to communicate Alice as I understood her: as kind, and helpful, and more than a little bit sassy. And, more than anything else, as approachable. Because in my mind, Alice is a perfect foil for Edward: she makes being a vampire feel fun and accessible – a preferred choice – in contrast with Edward’s brooding desire for Bella to remain human.
And about cosplay. Specifically: how do I do what you do? How do I join the Olympic Coven?
Casting for the Olympic Coven is a lengthy and involved process. We get inquiries from two kinds of people: well-meaning interest from Twilight fans who admire what we do and want to be part of something, and callous interest from other cosplayers who want to replace current, active members of the coven because they think they could do a better job (and believe me, I speak from experience on that one).
What people don’t realize is that we mostly cast based on personal connections and recommendations from existing members. We’ve only opened up a public casting call once in our seven years as a group – for Esme and Carlisle – and even then we ended up casting Tori and Cay, who were personally connected to our Jasper at the time.
I love the real life friendship I have with my Jasper – it makes working with him feel really natural!
Why? Because we spend a lot of time together in Forks and operate on long timelines with little sleep. We share beds, washrooms, makeup, and clothes for almost a week. Additionally, we need to feel comfortable enough with each other to act like family members, husbands, wives – even enemies. That makes trust and chemistry the largest operating factors in running the Olympic Coven, and knowing that our members can vouch for each other has become the most important thing to us. We’re intimately aware that it only takes one person to negatively impact or even destroy a group dynamic.
So why am I saying all this? It’s simple: because not everyone can join a popular cosplay group. Logistically (and realistically), it’s just not possible. But everyone can cosplay, and there’s nothing stopping anyone from bringing that passion to life either online, at local conventions, or at Forever Twilight in Forks.
Alice’s Tips for Beginners’ Twilight Cosplay
Choose a character you care about and can relate to. Physical similarities should be secondary. I get a ton of people asking me who I think they look like or whom I think they should be. My question in response is always, “who do you like?” We need to get out of this mindset that the only people who have any business cosplaying are the ones who already resemble a character. Cosplay is an exercise in creativity and imagination, which allows literally anyone to put their own spin and interpretation on a character.
After all, isn’t that what Catherine Hardwicke did when she cast the actors we now think of as being synonymous with Twilight characters? She took Stephenie Meyer’s words and re-interpreted them to suit her own vision of what the franchise should look and sound and feel like. Thus, Alice wasn’t a 4’10, free-spirited pixie anymore: she was 5’5, more carefully coiffed and elegant, because that’s what made Ashley Greene feel pretty. Bottom line? You do you. Every single fictional character is open to interpretation. If someone tells you that you “don’t look like” Alice, or Bella, or Rosalie, you should pity their lack of imagination.
Before we had a strong visual reference for Alice, I had to decide for myself what she might look like in real life.
Go back to basics. Once you’ve selected a character, read the books again. Or, if you’ve never read them and the movies are your sole point of reference, read them for the first time. Read The Illustrated Twilight Guide. Read the Twilight graphic novels. Basically: understand your source material. Get a feel for your character, how they speak, and how they’re described. Understanding these things is the most important thing you can do, because it provides the backbone of each character. Then, go back and re-watch all five films. Note the differences in your character from book to screen. This is important, because next, you need to…
Find your balance. Two versions exist of your character: the one in the book and the one on screen. Many people who say I don’t look like Alice have never read the books and don’t know how Alice is described as looking or acting. For example, a lot of Alice’s sharp, sometimes biting wit was lost from page to screen. That meant that, in creating my version of her character, I had to find a balance between what the movie fans expect to see and what the book fans expect to feel when they meet Alice. As a result, I took steps to blend Alice’s screen accurate wardrobe and sweet movie mannerisms with the spunk, sassiness and joie de vivre that’s present in the books. This is the approach I’d recommend for every Twilight cosplayer.
Alice is sassier and more mischievous than she’s given credit for in the movies!
Define your purpose. What’s your goal? Do you simply want to add to an existing cosplay portfolio with a one-time Twilight cosplay? Enter the costume contest at Forever Twilight in Forks? Form your own cosplay group? Defining your purpose will help you decide your level of investment and how much time, money and energy you’ll be putting into your cosplay.
Blaze your own trail. Okay, so you’ve reached out to the Olympic Coven and we don’t have any open roles but you still want to be a professional Twilight cosplayer. Don’t let us stop you: create your own group! This is why defining your purpose in point four was so important. If you want to create your own cosplay group, you’ll be spending a lot more time and money putting together wigs and costumes than you would by entering a one-off cosplay contest, so you need to decide how feasible this really is for you. And keep in mind that if you want to form a professional group, you’ll need to allocate time and resources for promotion, social media, fundraising, costume curation, event negotiation and more. It’s hard work, and you have to really want it!
This photo didn’t happen overnight – we’ve spent the last seven years re-tooling and improving the Olympic Coven.
Lastly, re-evaluate what success looks like to you. At the end of the day, you don’t need to be part of a large Twilight cosplay group like the Olympic Coven to be successful. First of all, no one is getting famous through appearances at Forever Twilight in Forks, so put that thought out of your mind. Nor do you need 10,000 friends on Facebook, or thousands of YouTube subscribers, or hundreds of “likes” on every Instagram photo to have made an impact on someone’s life.
Online visibility can help you achieve certain goals, yes, but remember that there are thousands of talented cosplayers who are relatively unknown or only recognized within niche circles. You have to be okay with the idea that no one will ever see your cosplay, because that’s how you determine if you’re doing it for you or if you have some larger goal in mind. And it’s okay to have those goals. It’s okay to want to be cosplay famous, or have visibility in Forks, or be seen as the cosplay character actor in a fandom. But if you want it, you’ll have to put in the work required to get there – because it doesn’t just happen overnight.
Okay, so that was a lot. But I hope everyone finds it helpful, because these are lessons it took me years to learn. You don’t need to fit a mold to cosplay. You don’t need to look exactly like an actor or actress to be a “good” cosplayer. And you don’t need to join a group, or bring your cosplay to Forks, to be successful. If you never get to Twilight Mecca, the enjoyment you get from cosplaying your favourite character should be enough.
Just do what makes you happy. Be the version of the character that you wish existed in real life.
That’s enough. It’s always enough.