Today we’d like to introduce you to DesiRee Preston.
DesiRee, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I became a cosplayer. I grew up in two households where creativity and the arts were not only encouraged, but cherished. Halloween was my favorite holiday growing up, and every year I looked forward to putting on my costume and running around the neighborhood as someone else.
As I got older, I put more thought and prep work would into my costume each year. When I was a senior in High School, and much too old to keep trick-or-treating, a close friend needed a ride to a local Anime convention and offered me a badge as compensation. I walk inside and see that just about everyone inside is in costume. So I look around a bit dumbfounded and say wait for a second, wait a second. People can wear costumes to these things?? This is a thing?
And my friend laughed and said, yes, this is a thing people do. So the next year we came back, and I made this terrible costume of Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was handsewn and looked horrible, but I loved it. It was just the greatest thing for me to be attending the convention dressed up as a character I loved and connected with. I think seeing everyone dressed up just having a good time helped me realize it wasn’t just for hired professionals.
Anybody who picked up a costume bought a costume or made a costume could go out and enjoy themselves. It lit a spark in me, I was sold. I said to myself ‘this is what I want to do with my free time. When I attended that first convention, I had virtually no costuming skills to speak of. I didn’t know how to sew, I couldn’t do daily, or special effects makeup and prop making seemed highly complicated. I knew that I was unsatisfied with the quality of store-made Halloween costumes, so I turned to the internet to find a seamstress to commission a professional classic Harley Quinn costume.
After a year or two of saving up to buy costumes and a few bad experiences, I decided to eliminate the middle man and teach myself to sew and build props. I got a sewing machine, took apart an old costume I had purchased, and set to work rebuilding it. I learned from books, YouTube and written tutorials, and my peers. It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of tears, and even a little bit of blood. It still is, to this day.
I spent a lot of time before “going pro” going to as many local conventions that I could afford to, and saving up to travel to out of state conventions. It was important to me to be able to experience all that the cosplay world had to offer, and connect with different parts of the cosplay community across the country. These were my people, and I had much to discuss with them ranging from the varied techniques of sewing to the little story and character details of favored fandoms.
Today, I am fully self-employed and split my time between traveling to conventions as both an attendee and as a guest, sewing costumes for other budding cosplayers, and building my own brand to stand out among the crowd.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh absolutely not, haha. I would say that there have been two major hurdles to deal with along the way. The first of which is the financial strain and burden. Cosplay can be a pricey hobby to get into and maintain, and if you’re looking to do it professionally, it can be downright expensive.
You have to factor in the cost of creating a costume, tools to build your props, the cost to attend a convention for a full weekend, the cost of photographers or your own photography equipment, everyday business supplies, marketing costs… the list is endless. The majority of cosplayers who are getting paid “to cosplay” also have at least one other job.
My own personal struggle with supporting my cosplay financially is still ongoing, but not as rough as it used to be. I was the bright-eyed 20-something who moved from Small Town, Texas to Southern California with dreams of making it big and very little real-world experience outside of my own bubble. I quit my part-time job with no plan in place other than “make costumes.”
That was a tough lesson to learn. I struggled to make ends meet, and couldn’t afford to make new costumes or new content. I knuckled down and found a job, but soon found myself included in a round of layoffs. Truthfully I only barely kept my head above water through those dark times thanks to my partner, who has supported me every day.
Now, I support myself through Patreon and Etsy, and while it isn’t exactly steady pay, it helps to pay the bills. The second struggle has been with mental health. Working from home provides a lot of alone time to get stuck in your head and repeat negative self-talk on a loop. I’ve been through my cycles of manic phases and depressions.
When I’m manic, I make far too many plans and try to tackle huge, complicated builds. When I’m low, I hyper-focus on how impossible those plans seem, and the fact that I didn’t complete the extensive full body armor in a week clearly means I’m worthless.
Cosplay also provides this lovely FOMO and imposter syndrome that pair together in an unholy union to tell you that you aren’t good enough, and won’t ever get to where your peers are or appear to be.
I’ve managed by limiting my social media, practicing practical self-care, reminding myself of the things I have accomplished, and talking with someone I trust about the way I am feeling on any given day.
Enasni Vee – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m a cosplayer. On the front end, that means I dress up in costume and act like the character I’m dressed up as. On the back end, I’m a seamstress, a prop maker, a makeup artist, a social media manager, an event organizer, and a model. I dabble in taking and editing my own photos and record and edit my own videos.
I specialize in Harley Quinn, as funny as that sounds. I first started cosplaying Harley Quinn back in 2007, and have over 25 different Harley costumes with more currently in the works. I practice speaking like Arleen Sorkin (the original voice actress and inspiration) and have a different posture and stride when I’m cosplaying her.
I’ve spent a lot of my life collecting Harley memorabilia and generally being a Harley mega-fan. Most of my commissions through Etsy are Harley related costume pieces or full classic Harley costumes. Around two years ago, I started selling hand made domino masks for other Harley cosplayers, and those have consistently been the most popular item I sell. Most people who know of me know me as Harley Quinn.
I’m not sure whether or not I should be worried about that fact. I take deep pride in the knowledge that my work as a seamstress is highly praised by my customers. It’s a wild feeling knowing that there are people across the world wearing my work with pride. I’m proud to be known for my attention to detail and dedication to the characters and source material when I cosplay.
I think what sets me apart from others is my dedication to the character I want to portray. I do tons of in-depth research and character studies before stepping into the skin of a new character, as acting the part has always been an important part of the way I cosplay. I try to put my all into my photoshoots and show my love of the craft and the character through the sets, poses, and facial expressions.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment as a cosplayer has to be being hired on as Mad Moxxi for 2K Games and Gearbox software at San Diego Comic-Con and PAX West. For Comic-Con, I welcomed attendees into the laser tag battle area and awarded prizes, which is essentially Moxxi’s role in the first game’s DLC.
At PAX West, I was invited to perform on stage with the company! Those were incredible experiences. Truly incredible. I’ve been a Gearbox fangirl for many years, and getting the official approval from the company was huge to me.
Being on stage performing a goofy skit with voice actors and developers from Gearbox in front of two thousand people are going to be hard to top. But I’m sure I can do it.
- Supervillain masks are two for $20 and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Jester villainess costumes run around $500 and include everything from the cowl down to the hard soled shoes. I also sell the individual costume pieces
- Website: Patreon.com/EnasniVee
- Email: EnasniVee@Gmail.com
- Instagram: Instagram.com/EnasniVee
- Facebook: facebook.com/EnasniVee/
- Twitter: twitter.com/Enasni
- Other: deviantart.com/enasni-v
James Rulison, Oscar Ponce, Mike Rollerson