Eve as Wonder Woman. Photo by What a Big Camera
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Beyoncé has her BeyHive and Lady Gaga has her Monsters. For professional cosplayer Eve Beauregard, her "band of merry folk" is known as the Beaureguardians. She might not be a multimillion-dollar pop sensation, but with hundreds of thousands of fans across the world, Eve admits that the attention she receives can be overwhelming. But nonetheless, it's attention that's come her way from making a living doing the thing she loves the most.
Few people in the cosplay scene can consider it their profession—attending shows and conventions dressed as characters from their favorite video games (and beyond), posing for photographs with enthusiastic crowds. However, a great many supporters of costume play, coming from all walks of life, embrace it purely for fun, and it's become an integral part of encouraging and increasing diversity and inclusivity in video games. It invites male and female fans of all ages to express an interest and love for games, comics, movies, TV shows, and more, without question or exception.
For Eve, it's been an eight-year road from being an impressionable young fan to international success.
"It all started when my brothers took me to a convention," she tells me. "I wasn't super nerdy, at all, but I was into Batman and stuff. I saw these people in costume and thought it was the coolest thing, so I spent the entire next year thinking about it. I made my first costume and I was super proud of it, and it's been a downward spiral from there."
Sydney-based Eve's self-confessed decline into living and breathing everything cosplay, and being so dedicated to her craft, is directly responsible for her skyward trajectory of success. Nowadays she's one of her home country's most successful cosplay artists, and can regularly be found touring Europe, the US, and Mexico. Five or so years ago, this would never have happened—cosplay as a job just wasn't in the cards. But the attitudes of game developers and publishers have changed, for the better, with many picking up on its importance in recent years, the results of which tend to stare you right in the face at any significant expo anywhere in the world.
Eve as Spider-Gwen. Photo by JJ Maher
"I think that the international community is leveling up and really learning how to communicate with businesses, and businesses are learning how to communicate with cosplayers," Eve says. "They're seeing the value and the worth in cosplayers. Cosplay images are some of the most viral images on the internet. An excellent cosplay photograph can go viral in, like, an hour. That's millions and millions of people seeing content from your game, and seeing that someone was passionate enough to hand-make that costume, and go out and do an epic photo shoot. It's the same when you see excellent flash art from League of Legends. It's like: 'I wanna play that game, that looks awesome!' Cosplay can do that so easily."
Eve is incredibly passionate about the industry she's so firmly embedded within. With so much responsibility and a packed schedule—this interview was originally planned for 2014, but pushed back six months due to her back-to-back touring—I'm curious to know what it's like sharing so much with so many people. Recently, sections of the cosplay community, and gaming in general, have received criticism for their depictions of women. The misguided movement known as Gamergate and all the column inches its worst machinations have manufactured has made things no easier for women like Eve—so how does someone in her position cultivate a following that they feel comfortable with?
Eve as Harley Quinn. Photo by What a Big Camera
"In the beginning it was definitely very difficult," she says. "I had a huge influx of followers very, very quickly, and a lot of them were not looking at me as a person but as an object, or just a pretty face and a body in a costume. They behaved in such a manner. I received lots of overly sexualized comments, emails, and messages that were pornographic or just, like, massively inappropriate. People were sending me naked photos of themselves, all that kind of stuff. Even just today I had to deal with someone on Instagram who thinks that it would be really excellent and great and smart to—I don't know if I should tell you this—to have an entire account dedicated to filming himself ejaculating on pictures of famous internet personalities, uploading those videos, and tagging the personalities in them. That's the kind of stuff that I was dealing with."
This example is, of course, an infrequent extreme. Eve recognizes that and has taken a careful, delicate approach to how she interacts with her audience, as well as how she responds to people being inappropriate and disrespectful on a less-shocking scale.
"When I think that it could genuinely be a misunderstanding, or that they've just never been spoken to about this stuff before, then I try to talk to them about it," Eve explains. "Nine out of ten times they're actually really responsive to being spoken to like a person, rather than just being insulted.
"I think, particularly online, if someone says something out of line it's really popular and seen as fun to shut them down, and have all your friends tell you how great you are for doing so," she says. "As satisfying as that might be in the moment, and as justified as that might be in some cases, I just don't think that's the right course of action. Two wrongs don't make a right. It's cheesy, but just don't be a dick. It's still another person on the other side. If you get that chance, to talk to someone who might never have been spoken to politely or respectfully about how you should talk to women, that can impact their whole life."
It's a balanced, reserved approach, and I want to know whether Eve thinks that her mature handling of audience interaction should be reflected across all notable personalities in the online space.
Eve as Tinkerbell. Photo by JJ Maher.
"I think that there are so many different types of cosplayers," she says, sensitive with her choice of words. "You can't possibly expect every single cosplayer that has a following to take on a responsibility as a community leader, because that's not what everyone wants. And that's fine. Within the cosplay community it becomes very apparent who the leaders are, and who's doing good things for the community—who's contributing positively—and for me that's all that matters. I want to be a positive part of the community. For other people, it's just not a priority for them; they don't really care, and that's fine. It doesn't really affect me and I don't like to blame other people for the stuff I have to deal with."
I voice my surprise that she holds no expectation for other community leaders to take responsibility for the kind of attitudes they encourage, and those they stamp out. Of course, the blame lies wholly with those who think it's acceptable to be disrespectful to people, but many will agree that with cultural influence comes a necessity to set examples, whether that be pop stars, Hollywood A-listers, or cosplayers.
"I know that there will be scumbags on the internet no matter what, and I'm always going to have to deal with people like that," she says. "I'm not comfortable placing the blame on other cosplayers, because I don't think that everyone should have to be held responsible. If you wanna be a sexy cosplayer and not care how people comment on it or perceive it, then more power to you, you go and do that. But I just won't tolerate people being overly inappropriate, disrespectful, or explicit within my space. But I don't blame other people."
Eve as Yennefer of Vengerberg in promotional material for 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.' Photo by What a Big Camera
Developers also have a lot of responsibility when it comes to how they choose to depict people, particularly women, in their games. After consistent criticism from audiences, the press, and more, titles are slowly but surely maturing in how they decide to handle this kind of content. Eve recently partnered with CD Projekt RED, the makers of The Witcher series, to help promote their upcoming epic, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The Polish studio is renowned for dealing with very mature subjects within their games, from racism to sexism, doing so with a welcome steadiness unseen in a lot of other mainstream titles.
"I would love to see more video game characters that I relate to—whether it's with the personalities or their physique, their appearance, or the way they dress," Eve explains when I ask her what her experience working with CD Projekt RED has taught her about games. "I would like more game developers to pay more attention to reality, to real people, and to diversity. With The Witcher, you know, I think (main player character) Geralt is the most sexualized character in the game! As much as characters in The Witcher can be very sexualized, they can also be very empowered. I don't think being sexy or having sex means you're weak or powerless. In Wild Hunt there are three incredible female characters that are complex and interesting. They're women that I would look up to—and I love that about them."
Eve as Elizabeth from 'BioShock Infinite.' Photo by What a Big Camera.
Now that Eve's time working alongside CD Projekt RED is over, with Wild Hunt just one month away from being released, she finishes by explaining what's next for her, what's next for cosplay, and how she believes the industry is continuing to improve, no matter the negative press.
"I never want to stop cosplaying, but I'm not sure if I can keep up at this pace. This part of the hobby is always something I want to hold onto in various degrees of commitment. But for me, my end goal, not just in cosplay but in the whole geeky career thing, is that I want to find a way to contribute something positive and meaningful and lasting to make positive change. I think that in the geek community as a whole, we're going through growing pains. As long as people keep pushing for positive change and for more diversity and inclusivity then it's going to go in a good direction.
"The best thing," she concludes, "is that a lot of people are."
Check out Eve Beauregard on Facebook.
Follow Sam on Twitter.