Monday, September 28, 2009


Cross playing as one of the most infamous - and inept - villains in the history of Japanese anime, the writer tells all on a trip from Philadelphia to The Big Apple wearing a semi-micro miniskirt, thigh-high boots that were too narrow at the toes and surprising the character’s original voice actress with what for her would become a jaw-dropping entrance.

Prior to the advent of the fandom of Japanese culture, the internet and celebrations of animation from the Far East known as amine, there were times when males dressed as females (and vice versa) only in certain situations. Plays by William Shakespeare, Jamie Farr as Corporal Klinger on M*A*S*H, Halloween, I could go on, but let us stop there.

I myself have done the dressing as a girl part as a gag once or twice before I discovered the fun of costume playing, or “cosplay” for short, and it
s cousin, cross playing, where as one member of a sex dresses as a member of the opposite sex. For one group its for shock value, for another its for “shiggles” as Bob Saget would tell you on 1 vs. 100 when he hosted, and for the few like the infamous “Man-Faye” or “Sailor Bubba” it just happens to be there. And for some of the many of what is known as the American Okatu, cross playing as the opposite sex can be fun, and even fantastic. Most every female-to-male cross players do it for the fact that it is because of their characters youthful male looks, commonly known in Japan as bishounen. A handful of men who are more effeminate could get away with dressing in a role meant for women, though. Cosplay, though, is not a not a new thing, or for that matter, Japanese based.

That noted pillar of knowledge known as Wikipedia states that “Western cosplay
s origins are based primarily on science fiction and historical fantasy as opposed to animation.” Those on us upon this side of the Pacific Rim tend to recreate characters from live-action series from such movie, television and other media franchises as Star Trek, Star Wars, that British phenomenon known as Doctor Who and the Harry Potter books and movies. On the other hand, Wikipedia says that cosplay as an amine or manga (Japanese graphic novel comic book) character didnt take foot until 1978, and has become a business of its own. And with anime cons every week somewhere in the world, there are cosplayers everywhere dressing up.<

Not So Humble Beginnings

Growing up and living with your mother for 48 years as I have, she would say “No” to any hare-brained ideas on costuming even at an older age. However, in August 2005, she suffered a severe stroke and because she had to have more constant care and to relieve whatever stress that would come in that time, she reluctantly agreed to allow me to do Jessie almost five years after I began cosplaying her equally inept partner in crime, James from the bumbling, comedic relief known as Team Rocket of the Japanese-coming-to-America anime series Pokémon, based on the űber popular Nintendo video game franchise and trading card game. In 2000, as I was getting into the TCG (which was run by Wizards of the Coast at that point in time), my eight-year-old nephew, John Craven Jr., dared me to dress up as a member of Team Rocket. So with little money and some scraps, I threw together a turtleneck shirt bought at a Salvation Army thrift store, some white pants, a black undershirt and gloves along with homemade boot tops and a blue wig, sewed a big red “R” on my chest and dressed up as James for the weekend event. Thankfully, Halloween was later that week, so it served as a two-for-one costume. In that costume's lifetime, I went through three shirts, three pairs of pants, three wigs and two pairs of gloves. So for Jessie, the question was “Ineptitude, is thy name frailty?”

The skirt was a scooter skirt I bought before asking permission the year before from Lane Bryant, the first wig was a short red bob from a local costume store, where I also bought a pair of long black gloves, buying flesh colored tights from Baum’s Dance wear, a flesh colored top that was given to me from a friend of a Mummers string band, modified another white turtleneck with that gigantic scarlet “R” on the front and I found a pair of bright green earrings on eBay. And then there were the boots. Long, black thigh-high boots like those Jessie wears. Searching all over for a bargain or two, I went back to eBay and bought one pair of ladies’ size 11 boots for sixty bucks. They turned out to be too narrow in the toes, but like the painful trooper that I am, I lived through it. This costume made its’ debut in July at a Pokémon Journey Across America Tenth Anniversary tour event, also in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The short red wig was later replaced by a more natural dark purple wig with silver streaks. And then came the fateful day in April of 2007 in New York City at 10 Rockefeller Center, where NBC’s
Today Show and MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann broadcast from, the latter after they fumigate Kathie Lee Gifford and Hota Kotb’s stench from the upstairs part of the studio.

The website was on location for the event, and proceeded to ask if they could take a picture of my dressed as I was. Little did I know what I was going to get into the next day, which by modern references, would make Little Big Horn be a Mad Hatters Tea Party by comparison of the internet standards. I was given so much heavy criticism of the outfit by the World Wide Web community that it like a napalm pig roast in Vietnam circa 1966, and the photo would spread to other boards and sites worldwide mocking on how not to crossplay as it were. For what it is worth at that time, the slings and arrows of internet mockery made me stronger, and even make fun of myself in the process, yet I felt it was time to do what had to be done. Get better at what youre doing, and get yourself an Extreme Makeover: Cosplay/Crossplay Edition plan.

Internet Research, Searches and Purchasing

As Larry the Cable Guy, Dan Whitneys Nebraska redneck alter ego would say, it was time to “Git R Done.” The first thing that I did was search every internet search engine known and not known to the world for research and help, with the first thing being to find a good costume supplier who can provide you with a quality product at a reasonable price. One site had the costumes for $250 each. I decided to get both Jessie and James at a lower price than that, over half of just one costume at a place called in China. James will premiere some other time.

I happen to be exactly five feet nine and a half inches tall and weigh 270 pounds...and that is usually on a good day. I have the physique of an offensive lineman on a football team with what some call a Dunlap body shape - my belly “dun lap” over my stomach - thus looking nothing like a self-made diva, save for the blue eyes that I have. So not looking like a lady, getting a new custom made costume had decided to get into some research how to look like a lady while still being a man. Since I started doing cosplay and crossplay, I have found resources by searching for secrets to the topic of cross dressing, cross playing and makeup for males who want to look like ladies without becoming a drag scary thing you do not want to become, mind you that there’s not anything wrong with that.

So to cover some affects in body shape, at first I wanted to get a corset but that turned out to be a matter of cost (over $300) and comfort. Then, I heard about an infomercial, the bastardized version of a half-hour program and a commercial to sell you products that sometimes does not work, but makes money until some Federal watchdog blows the whistle. In this case, the whistle will not be tooted at Kymaro’s New Body Shaper, which does make the body better looking and removes the front bulge redistributing the weight evenly and correcting posture. They came with a pair of matching shorts as well, and used them both to my advantage. Also bought on the wonders of the interwebs was a long burgundy wig which looks purple when the light shines off it, to reflect the current hair color via computerized colorization, a nude colored leotard along with two pairs of beige colored women’s tights, plus a padded panty to compensate for the lack of booty I have. When my costume arrived from China in two weeks time, the gloves and boot tops were as ill fitting as you could get, so I decided to break out the old, poorly fitted boots and well fitted gloves that I used with the old costume. And a mere week before the event, I had to raise the hemline on the skirt to one matching Jessie’s own somewhat micro mini skirt.

In the old costume, I was, well, pretty good. I knew after fittings that I would be better looking, even with quick fixes like the needed stuff like a sewing kit, safety pins and other 9-1-1 style help. As a matter of fact, I actually looked like the Fat Jessie in the Pokėmon Diamond and Pearl Battle Dimension episode “A Lean, Mean Team Rocket Machine” after eating lots of food after they have been starving for the longest time. So if my costume was a forbearing sign or a spoiler alert, I like to think of that was fair warning from the photograph that something like that was coming, so I like to thank the ShoGoPro folks for inspiring them to make her a bit, well, bigger in that role, and serve as the inspiration for them even if they ever read the internets. 

Waking Up to Make Up, and How to Get to NYAF By Drinking Soda
Fair skinned, burgundy/purple hair, blue eyes, green earrings. A makeup artist’s nightmare for someone in reality, but this is Japanese animation, where hair color is left to the imagination of the artists. Ah, thanks to the internet, and message boards at sites devoted to the cosplaying genre like or, advice comes in bunches on everything from how you should properly style that wig to the right boot size. So thanks to Firedoglake, a member of the aforementioned community, she gave me the following advice:

True red for lipstick looks a little too bright. Maybe go for brick red or scarlet blue red, which looks more subdued? Unless you do want something that screams 'I am', and I guess that's true red. You said that you're fair, so use pink or coral blush. Since you have blue eyes, use brown or peach to make them stand out.”

I wanted to go further, knowing I had to shave the face regularly and often, so again it was time to search and research and re-research the web. There, I learned that a screaming orange lipstick prevents five oclock shadow among cross dressers and drag queens. So I went out and bought a 99¢ bright orange lipstick, Gillette's Fusion power razor with five blades and some other stuff like Max Factor Pan-Stick make up. I would not officially place my face in jeopardy even after learning other tricks like taping your face upward to tighten the skin and look more ladylike.

Going beyond, and knowing Halloween was going to be the debut of my new costume, I won a contest from the Coca-Cola people for some cash monies (in reality, an online credit card) because of my soda drinking. A code was embedded in every cap, and the code is used to earn points in a loyalty program, and one brand – Sprite – also sponsored a back-to-school contest where you could win up to $100 in online funds. Well, that August afternoon was my lucky day and I won a $50 gift card, and after getting the information, spent $40 on a ticket for the September 26
th program day. I now knew that would be the day that the new, lean, mean Jessie costume would premiere. Transportation was taken care of shorty thereafter, with purchases of train tickets from SEPTA and New Jersey Transit, the cheaper (and sometimes longer) way to go if you don't travel on Amtrak.

The Big Day
September 26 came early with a 3:30 am wake up call for me. After getting up, a shower and shave, it was time to get down to business as it were, and on this day, business was good. Beforehand, I made up some business cards with my address and e-mail, a bit of a tradition among some cosplayers who want to swap e-mail messages with one another, borrowed from Japan. The makeup was on, the costume was getting ready to be worn, and it was time to become the character. 

Stuffed bra...check. Tights...check. Body shape, leotard, tights, padded panty...check. Skirt, undershirt, top...check. Earrings, wig, gloves...triple check. I wore sneakers and socks en route to and from the event on the train and put my boots in my backpack along with my other essentials, including wallet with ID, cell phone and $30 in cash. That would become $50 thanks to my finding a $20 bill en route to the train station, where a 6:10 am arrival to Trenton was due. When I got to Trenton, and was waiting for the 6:59 am to New York City, the conductor noticed me and recognized my costume and could not get the finger on who I was. She had thought that the “R” stood for Rutgers University, the only state run university without the name of said state in it, and as the old joke goes “And for good reason: why bother to tell your friends you went to college in New Jersey?”

I was quick to correct her and tell her that is was “Rocket to-Dan”, the Japanese name for Team Rocket, and she was shocked to see a guy dressed up as a female. She even recognized the character because her children watches the anime. I traveled with another cosplayer on the train heading out of Trenton and learned my first lesson: a very short skirt is somewhat discomforting, especially on a guy, especially whilst hiding the twins so to speak. For me, tucking or a gaffe (dance belt) would be impossible, so I use two girdles or a girdle and a jockstrap. The trip was fun, and some people asked where I was going dressed like that, I said “The New York Anime Festival,” and simply stated what I was doing dressed as a woman.

We finally got to Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden, the self-proclaimed “Worlds Most Famous Arena”, and went into Duane Read, a local drugstore chain that has been around for half a century, but now fights against the mega chains like CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aids of the USA, and they're holding up. I bought one more thing to make my face more effeminate: a pair of eyelashes. At Rite-Aid, they were $2.99; Duane Read sold them for $1.99. And people thought New York was twice as expensive. Off to the Davits Center I went, walking along the way. I met a group dressed as characters from Narrator, of as cosplayers dub them “Custards” as they were on their way to pick up something. Many of the Okatu are cheesed off about Narrator, with an annoying catch phrase (“BELIEVE IT!”), something that would have bothered them a decade ago with Pokėmon (remember “Gotta Catch Em All”?) but the the acceptance of the series and video game, even with the change in voice casting when The Pokémon Company International (then called Pokémon USA) replaced 4K!DS Entertainment when the latter allowed to let their license to lapse and allow TPCi to take over which divided the anime community.

Being there, among the largest attended NYAF event ever, I had the chance to be photographed with fellow cosplayers, including Pok
émon cosplayers, including a female-to-male cross playing James who was with another Jessie and a Meowth, and for the first time in the history of the New York Anime Festival, there was a cross playing Team Rocket performing the fabled “Prepare for trouble” motto. Every time I saw one of the good guys (Ash, Brock, Misty, May or Dawn), I went into instinct and call them “twerp”, and I was “arrested” by an Officer Jenny who was with a Nurse Joy who were cousins. Unlike what would happen with the anime, this Officer Jenny was nice enough to let me free after being arrested. There were tug-of-wars with gijinka and kigurumi costumed Pikachus or Flareons, just having fun with them was part of the day.

The big moment for me was at the voice acting workshop panel. First, I met Veronica Taylor, who was the original voice of Ash in the Pokémon anime, and said “Hello, Sheep”, her character on the PBS Kids computer animated series Word World. Later, I returned to the panel after a few people left, and who should be sitting there but Rachael Lillis, Jessies original voice actress, and I waved, then upon looking at my costume, her jaw dropped. A floor-hitting, you-gotta-be-kidding-me Wile E. Coyote getting zipped past by the Road Runner Chuck Jones once did in “Zoom and Bored” way back in the late 1950s. She admired it so much, I got a personalized autograph from her.

Evening came, and it was time to say good night sweet prince and princess to NYAF, as parting is such sweet sorrow, so my return trip home was fun. A couple people got my photo, and when we returned to Trenton, a couple lasses from Washington who were in Trenton on a stopover for a trip saw me and saw the “R” and said to a security guard in between Eagles and Giants territories “Weve got a Redskins fan!” Finally coming home, I was exhausted from all of this, and got out of my costume ready to get it cleaned, and took a shower, so the next time Jessie appears will be Halloween at the annual Newtown (Bucks County, Pennsylvania) Halloween Parade and then at my house that night handing out treats to the children around the corner from some crazy (in a good way) people scaring everyone else.


  1. You are 48 years old and had to ask your mother permission to make a costume?........And instead of giving your mother potential stress why didn't you just do what you wanted to do and not tell her?

  2. Christina, you are such a hypocrite. My mom controlled the purse strings at that time, and if you read along, she had a stroke in August 2005. She gave control of the finances to me and my brother jointly afterwards, and because of the stress I would suffer while working, she gave the approval to let me do what I had to do. You are a sick, sorry person to even suggest that. If you were in the same situation, would your mom let you dress up?

  3. You seriously have to get your priorities straight.

    Your mom has suffered a serious health issue and has given you financial control. You do not spend her finances on a trivial hobby. You spend her finances on her well-being, healthcare and living security.

    I'm sorry, but if my parents had serious health problems and I had to choose to spend money on making outfits, or their healthcare, I would choose their healthcare because I love them that much. Their well-being is much more important than a nerdy hobby.

    Don't you think you're adding more stress by taking money that can be used for her medicine, office visits, procedures, etc and using it to go to cons and trying to be a fru-fru girl? I'm pretty sure she's upset that in this economy, you are spending what little she has not giving her the proper care.

    I want you to think this through: Do you want to spend your mom's money on being a girl and going to expensive cons, or do you want to spend your mom's money by having her well cared for by her son, whom she loves?

  4. Lindsey, I guess you just don't get it.

    My mother is on Medicare as of 2006, and yes, her bills and her medicine are paid through both the Federal government and insurance people. Yes, I have been given financial control (with my brother) to do as we see fit (pay rent, bills, etc.) I get $700/month from both SSI and Social Security plus my mom gets another $800/month, and I also get an annual rebate on my rent where I live from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which is how I paid for the costumes.

    You are right. Cosplay is a hobby, something people do to relieve stress from school, work, whatever. There are other "trivial" as you put it hobbies like fishing, hunting, stamp or card collecting, and so on.

    Let me give you a situation to ponder: What would happen if your parents had a heart attack or a stroke? What if they didn't have insurance? Would you give up a hobby that seems trivial to you to take care of them? Think about that next time you want to throw stones at a glass house.

  5. Even though I personally would never cosplay (nothing personal against you or those who do it; it's just not me), sometimes trivial hobbies like that can be the best stress releivers and in the long run, really help you.