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Tasha MacKenzie is a UK-based cosplayer who has made several appearances as Dejah Thoris, most famously on photo covers for issues 3 through 6 of Dynamite Entertainment's Swords of Sorrow comic book series. These retailer incentive covers, featuring Tasha and three of her fellow cosplayers, have taken photo covers for comic books to a whole new level.
Shawn Cavender: Tasha, thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn more about you and your cosplay, particularly as Dejah Thoris! I'd like to begin by asking about your beginnings in the world of cosplay. When did you start cosplaying and what inspired you to try it?
Tasha MacKenzie: So I had always been into gaming, movies and general geekery and always liked going out in fancy dress and being a dancer too I was able to be creative and make my own costumes for that too. In 2012 my friend asked me if I wanted to go to a convention for her birthday weekend and suggested that we do it in costume so that’s when I made my first official cosplay costume – Xena Warrior Princess. I loved it and never looked back since.
SC: What do you enjoy most about cosplay?
TM: There are a few things that I enjoy about cosplay, such as being able to dress as a character you can relate to or grew up loving but the best thing is meeting all the new and lovely people. I have made some really special friends in the cosplay community and also get a lot of support from those who follow my work.
SC: All of the costumes you make look amazing -- do you have formal training in costume design and dressmaking?
TM: Ok so I am totally self-taught, I didn’t even do sewing at school, I really learnt most of my sewing skills when I was a lead dancer making costumes for the group but then since I have been making cosplay costumes it has been trial and error and also taking tips from those who have been doing it longer than me.
SC: You seem to stay very busy with your cosplay, attending many conventions around the UK. How many conventions do you attend each year, and which are your favorites?
TM: I usually attend around 10 conventions a year and it is hard to pick a favorite. Right at this moment I have to say my favorite is Northampton comic con and it is my home town and it was a first last year and could not have gone any better than even some of the big ones.
SC: Do you like to enter costume contests at the events? I know you got first place in one in 2013, as Xena Warrior Princess...
TM: I feel too nervous and am not very competitive so do not really enter competitions (I have only ever entered 2) but since I have had the honor of judging many contents I understand why people do it, how much it means to them and love to do that.
SC: Which characters do you like to cosplay the most? (I hope Dejah Thoris is among them!)
TM: My favorite will always be Xena Warrior Princess as she was my first and I grew up with her but other favorites are Lara Croft, Nidalee and of course Dejah Thoris!
SC: I must say, you look incredible as Dejah Thoris, both because of your own beauty and that of your costume. What made you want to cosplay Dejah at first? Were you inspired by the John Carter film, the comic books, or maybe even the original books by Edgar Rice Burroughs?
TM: I have seen the film and I liked it but actually it was an idea of my friend Tabitha Lyons as we have always cosplayed together and often wore Xena and Red Sonja together. She showed me the new Dynamite comic cover and asked if I would be up for being Dejah Thoris to recreate it with photographer Andrew Dobell of Creative Edge and of course I said ‘hell yea’! Then we got 2 more of our friends to play the other characters and once the shoot happened we were overwhelmed that Gail Simone and Dynamite wanted us to be Cosplay variant covers. It so was amazing to be part of!
SC: You and Tabitha, who appeared as Red Sonja on the Swords of Sorrow covers with you, first met in a very interesting way. Can you tell the story of how you met her on the TV programme 'Take Me Out' and explain what kind of show it is, for those of us who don't live in the UK?
TM: So me and Tabitha Lyons have been best friends way before cosplay since we met on the show ‘Take Me Out’. This is a dating show where 30 girls have a light on and 1 man has to impress them enough to leave it on over 3 rounds, then he can choose from a girl with a light on in the last round (if any are left on). Me and Tabitha were roommates and found out that while we had both been ‘trying to be cool’ we were both actually secret geeks! We never left our lights on or got a date but we got each other, friends for life so that is much better ?
SC: That's such a cool story! Do you and Tabitha like to cosplay together often?
TM: We used to cosplay together all of the time and we love to do it whenever we can but with her being very busy with Artyfakes and us both attend different conventions it is not possible as much anymore, but we still do!
SC: Can you talk about the process of making the Dejah costume: how much time & money was required to make it and which materials you used in its creation?
TM: Ok I know it looks like there wasn’t a lot of the costume to make, it actually took quite a long time, about 2 weeks as I completely hand painted and hand stitched every single bead onto the bra, then I made the headdress from leather and piping and hand painted it all to match. I made the collar, arm and leg pieces from leather and again hand painted all to match. I cut and stitched the purple fabric to some chains and the collar piece and decorated various parts of the costume with gem detailing. The rest of the chain details are bought, belly and neck chains. I did stay in a reasonable budget though by buying locally in discount stores where I could and it came to around £70 excluding the weapon which I only recently made (and will remake as I am not happy with it).
SC: I think all the hard work and time you put into making the costume really shows -- it looks brilliant. Was there a particular artist's version of Dejah that you used as a reference when you made your Dejah costume?
TM: I used the images from the Dynamite Swords of Sorrow comics with artist being Sergio Davila but still added my own touches to it.
SC: Photographer Andrew Dobell did a fantastic job on those Dynamite covers, both photographing you & the other models and adding in the backgrounds. You had to be pleased with how the finished cover photos looked.
TM: I was very pleased with how it all turned out and none of us could have done it without Andrew, his work is amazing.
SC: How many photo shoots did you take part in to create the Swords of Sorrow covers?
TM: We managed to get all the covers done in just 2 photoshoots.
SC: Did you have to make any changes to your Dejah costume for the photo shoots?
TM: I made it very quickly for the first shoot so didn’t have time to make a proper bra so I hate myself on the first 2 covers but for the next shoot I had made my beaded bra and I love the photos on the last 2 covers.
SC: The beaded bra is a beautiful piece of work, for sure. Have you been approached by Dynamite about the possibility of appearing as Dejah on future photo covers for their Dejah Thoris comics? I, for one, would love to see you grace their covers again!
TM: I have not been approached by them but OMG I would love to be so if anyone can give them a push then feel free! ;)
SC: I hope one of the readers can help you with that!
There are many great photos of you in the Dejah costume at conventions -- at how many conventions have you appeared as the character? I see you cosplayed her as recently as this past May...
TM: I have only worn it to 2 conventions due to it being very revealing I need the right weather and for it to be a large convention rather that a small family one for it to be appropriate.
SC: I can understand that completely. I hope that you have more opportunities to portray Dejah Thoris in the future!
Tasha, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview! It's been an honor to get to know one of the loveliest and most enthusiastic Dejah Thoris cosplayers!
TM: Thank you and it was nice to be asked to do it.
.(interview conducted via e-mail in June 2016)
If you'd like to see more about Tasha and her cosplay adventures, check her out on Facebook and Twitter:
If you'd like to see behind the scenes video and photos from the Swords of Sorrow photo shoots,
follow these links to the website Bleeding Cool:
Here's a clip from the episode of 'Take Me Out' which featured Tasha & Tabitha:
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