Shes got the look
At its highest levels, cosplaying isnt just a hobby--its an art form. Getting every last detail of a characters costume right takes hard work and dedication, especially when youre constructing everything yourself. But the complexities of cosplaying dont stop Crystal Graziano, an ardent gaming fan and cosplayer extraordinaire. She expresses her love for video game, anime, and comic book characters by assuming the form of her favorites, through the use of wigs, contacts, and some truly stellar costumes. We guarantee that shell turn you into a diehard fan of Raiden (of Metal Gear Solid fame/infamy).
To find out what kind of work goes into pulling off such stunning looks, we asked Crystal about her passion for all things cosplay. Read on to find out how she ended up spray-painting bras, studying concept art, and meeting Hideo Kojima himself.
GamesRadar: Why did you start cosplaying? What was your first costume?
Crystal Graziano: I'd gone to San Diego Comic Con for a few years and was first exposed to cosplay there. At first I thought all the cosplayers were crazy, but then I saw some from series that I liked and started liking it. I eventually got brave enough to don a really bad closet cosplay of Aeris from FF7, and I had a blast! My costume was terrible, but I made a lot of friends through it!
Pictured above: Felicia from Darkstalkers.
GR: What does cosplaying mean to you?
CG: Cosplaying for me is a way to first and foremost connect with other fans and contribute something to your fandom. It's also a great creative outlet and a way to show what you've made.
Pictured above: Selvaria Bles from Valkyria Chronicles.
GR: How much of a time-investment is this? What do you like to do outside of cosplaying?
CG: It really depends. Some costumes I made in a couple of days, others are months of work. I spend a lot of time on it. Outside of cosplay, I'm usually either glued to my PS3, watching anime, reading comics, or playing with my dog!
Pictured above: EVA from Metal Gear Solid 3.
GR: What's the strangest thing (material, prop, etc) you've used to complete a costume?
CG: Well, back when I first started cosplaying, I made a Sephiroth costume for my then-boyfriend to wear. The whole thing was atrocious, but I think the shoulder pauldrons took the cake. I made them by spray painting bra cups silver. Never again.
Pictured above: Laughing Beauty from Metal Gear Solid 4.
GR: How much do you worry, if at all, about getting the look exactly right, down to the last detail?
CG: Accuracy is very important to me. I actually go a little too crazy with it sometimes, like with my Metal Gear Ac!d 2 Venus costume. You never see the back of her outfit in game because of her hair, but there's a single concept artwork of the back with all kinds of crazy straps. It took a while, but I actually bothered to do all of the back detailing out of leather.
Pictured above: Venus from Metal Gear Ac!d 2.
GR: Whats your favorite video game?
CG: Final Fantasy VII still holds that title, but I'm also a big fan of Metal Gear and Mass Effect.
Pictured above: Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII.
GR: How you do choose which characters to cosplay?
CG: I only cosplay as characters from series that I enjoy, first of all. I'll then make a decision based on which characters are my favorites, which ones have a design I like, and which ones I think I physically look similar to.
Pictured above: Cammy from Super Street Fighter II.
GR: Whats your favorite costume among the ones youve worn and/or made?
CG: Sweet Raiden is my favorite. The costume was really simple, but I had a great time cosplaying with my friends in a Sweet Snake group [cosplay based on chibi Figumate Sweet Metal Gear Solid toys). And Hideo Kojima flew me to Japan for Tokyo Game Show, which blew me away.
Pictured above: Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 4.
GR: What tips do you have for entry-level cosplayers?
CG: Don't be afraid to try new things, like sewing or armor-making. Your first attempt may not be great, but craftsmanship comes over time, and the only way you get good is through experience!
Pictured above: Ivy from Soulcalibur V.
GR: What's the ultimate cosplay costume youve always wanted to make?
CG: Infested Kerrigan from Starcraft! It would be a huge investment of time and money, but it's something I've always wanted to do.
Pictured above: Cammy from Capcoms 1942: Joint Strike art.
GR: What's your favorite color?
CG: HOT PINK!
Pictured above: Poison from Final Fight / Street Fighter X Tekken.
GR: Thanks for your time! Anything else youd like to add?
Getting into character
To see more of Crystals work, you can check out her website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and Deviantart page, all of which are chock full of pictures of her amazing cosplay. Weve gone ahead and included more of our favorite shots, with characters ranging from video games to comics, anime, and everything in between. Crystal clearly knows her stuff; check out these awesome costumes, then leave her a comment commending her commitment to cosplaying greatness!