Cosplaying is what brought sisters Kadi and Lexi Redd together.
Well, that, and “Star Wars.”
The Plain City siblings fully admit they weren’t close while growing up, with a four-year age gap ensuring they were never at the same school and separate hobbies that didn’t let them spend a lot of time together.
“I was into sports, she was into writing,” Lexi said.
But the premiere of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in 2016 changed all that. Lexi went with Kadi to the movie, the two casually cosplaying Princess Leia and Darth Vader, respectively, and her interest in “Star Wars” was sparked.
“I had all the questions and she had all the answers. So we just started watching ‘Star Wars’ together and started hanging out more,” Lexi said. “And then we started cosplaying together just because we realized we were both really into it.”
So into it that the Redd sisters now present and compete under the name Rebel Girls Cosplay at fandom conventions across the state. The two will be competing in the Fall 2019 FanX cosplay contest this Saturday, Sept. 7, in Salt Lake City, debuting costumes they’ve spent months perfecting.
And the Redd sisters mean business when it comes to cosplaying. During the Spring 2019 FanX convention, Lexi took home the big prize for “Best in Show” for her 18th century, Rococo-inspired Cinderella costume — complete with glowing glass slipper in her towering Marie Antoinette-esque wig.
The world of cosplay
From Thursday to Saturday this week, the halls of the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City will be filled with cosplayers from every fandom imaginable — “Harry Potter,” Disney, “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” Marvel, etc. Not all of them are there to compete; some just like to dress up with like-minded people, using store-bought costumes from Halloweens past or throwing together a simple costume the night before.
But other cosplayers, like the Rebel Girls, take it to the next level. Think Disney princesses reimagined as Jedi Knights; working Iron Man suits and Transformer outfits; The Avengers costumes with a steampunk bent. Costumes that take a lot of money, time and energy to put together — usually by one person over a period of months. Or even years.
“When you see a costume on stage or in film, there’s a whole team of people that goes into making that look good. With cosplay, there’s just one,” Lexi said. “There’s one person behind the hair, the makeup, the outfit, the props, the styling, the posing… oftentimes, the photography.”
People asking for photos with her while she’s in costume is “such a confidence booster,” Lexi said.
The Redd sisters specialize in different areas when it comes to building their cosplays. Lexi, who has been sewing since she was young, is the seamstress and photographer of the two, while Kadi works with foam, thermoplastics, and practical painting. They often help each other out when it comes to trouble spots with costumes.
“Most cosplayers aren’t a team,” Lexi said. “We’re lucky. It’s nice to have someone to go to.”
“It’s nice to have someone to tell you something looks stupid,” Kadi added jokingly.
For the Fall 2019 FanX competition, the sisters are debuting two new cosplays for the competition. Lexi will be going as Mercy, a character from the video game “Overwatch” as designed by fan artist Hannah Alexander.
“Any character that’s dramatic and wise, that’s me,” Lexi said.
Kadi, meanwhile, is going as Kassandra, a Spartan mercenary from the “Assassin’s Creed” video game series.
“I focus on characters that have attributes that I want in my life,” Kadi said. “A lot of strong women.”
While at first glance Lexi’s costume with its headpiece, wings and staff may look more complex than Kadi’s, Kadi spent 450 hours working on Kassandra’s armor, doing her best to make it both match the character and appear historically accurate.
Some of Kassandra’s in-game costume design wouldn’t work on a real person or were used for different purposes in the past, she said. She also researched how particular garments would be made during the time period to make the piece look more realistic.
“I wanted to be as historically accurate as I could, but I wasn’t going to create a full loom to weave fabric,” Kadi said.
She did, however, grow her own beets for the sole purpose of dyeing her costume’s cloak red.
“It’s a masterpiece. That’s the standard at our house,” Lexi said. “I’m a little more proud of hers than mine.”
Judges take all this work into consideration when the cosplay competition arrives. Contestants send in photos of their work and detailed explanations of the process that went in to making it.
At FanX, cosplayers submit their applications for the cosplay contest weeks in advance. They’re then notified whether they’ve been accepted or not, and which level they’ll compete at. The Redd sisters have yet to compete at the same level in cosplay contests.
The day of the competition at the convention, cosplayers will be judged in-person at the beginning of the day and then participate in a performance later in the evening.
“FanX is very craft heavy. (The judges) will walk around you, looking at months of work in two minutes,” Kadi said.
The anxiety starts to build once the cosplayers are put in line for their performance piece, which can be up to a minute long, Kadi said. Convention workers will check the music for the cosplayer and the pronunciation of their name and the character’s name just before they go on stage.
“When you get up to the stage, you’re a big ball of anxiety,” Kadi said. “Then the music starts and you go. And when you’re off the stage, you’re like, ‘Did I do it? What happened?’”
The performance aspect is often what makes cosplay different than regular costuming.
“For me, the difference between costuming and cosplaying is that when you’re cosplaying, you are doing your best to be the character. Whether that’s like being accurate or just having fun as the character, that’s up to you,” Lexi said.
When it comes down to it, though, cosplaying is all about having fun.
“If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it,” Lexi said. “If you’re starting out, the most important thing to discover is if you like it, because there’s no sense in dropping money and time into something that you’re not actually going to enjoy. Cosplay is a hobby for 99% of people.”
The most surprising part about going to conventions, Lexi said, was the amount of friends she made through cosplay. And that includes her sister, of course.
“Ever since (“Rogue One”), we’ve been, like, best friends, which I never thought was going to happen,” Lexi said. “We had never been friends to that point. And it had been, like, 20-some odd years that we really just hadn’t gotten to know each other … We found common ground in cosplay. I have the most fun when we’re hanging out together.”