At Gen Con I had the pleasure of meeting Anja Keister and her fellow burlesque performers from the D20 Burlesque troop she founded in New York City a few years back. They agreed to let me bring some of the fun I had chatting with them to you my dear readers and viewers via video and written interviews.
John Collins (JC): It was a pleasure to meet you at Gen Con, Anja and even more so to for your willingness to chat with me. You are a cosplayer and performer at some major events, what characters do you cosplay?
Anja Keister (AK): I am fairly new to cosplay, and most of my costuming time is spent on burlesque costuming, but luckily I have been able to adapt many of those into cosplay looks. I currently have my Fallout Raider, Chell, Dr. Horrible, Stephanie (from Lazy Town), Lady Cthulhu and Apple Jack.
(JC): How did you get into cosplaying?
(AK): I grew up in a family where I was very active as a kid and got really into the arts. I spent a lot of time in my childhood making costumes, creating plays, and drawing comic books. When I got into junior high and high school, I got into more into theater and art and ended up going to college for fine art where I studied performance art. The whole time I was a big gaming nerd, but never had a chance to go to any conventions and actually see cosplay. I kind of knew it was there since I started anime clubs both in high school and college, but only started trying to cosplay in the last year or so, now that I have the chance to go to more cons and show it off.
(JC): Do you make your own costumes and if so, what portions?
(AK): I would say I use a lot of bases and build from there. For example, I used a pair of thrift store pants and ripped them up, distressed them and painted them with fake blood for my Fallout Raider. I also make a lot of original pieces and am learning more about my sewing machine so I can move away from having to rely on store bought stuff.
(JC): What was the most difficult cosplay you have made? Your Favorite?
(AK): I have had a lot of issues with my Chell. I made it by modifying a prison jumpsuit and had to tailor it to fit me. I also made a companion cube out of cardboard and painted it. Well, my first Chell got stolen on the streets of NYC and I had to remake the whole thing again really quickly before a con. I also need to rework the cube so i can travel with it.
My favorite is probably my Cthulhu or Raider costumes. Mainly because my face is covered and I get to walk around and then surprise people when I take them off and I am all glam makeup underneath. People always look so shocked!
(JC): Are you involved in the creative arts in other ways? Modeling? Acting? Artist? Writer? Etc?
(AK): I do some modeling and also produce and perform burlesque. You can find out more about my burlesque at D20Burlesque.com or more about me as a performer at facebook.com/AnjaKeisterBurlesque
(JC): Do you have any current projects you would like to tell us about?
(AK): I am really looking to get to more cons to perform, and do cosplay at, but it is hard to finance to bring performers out for this stuff. Dear readers, if you know of cons that would like to have me and my performers come panel or perform, please let them know and hopefully we can make it to a place near you!
(JC): What should my readers expect to see if they make it to one of your performances?
(AK): For those not familiar with burlesque, it is the art of striptease. What this means is that we tell a story, to music, while stripping out of a costume. It might be funny, as when I strip to impress my companion cube, scary, such as my American McGee's Alice act, or just plain old naughty. For me shows, I try to bring a mix of styles, but for most nerdlesque, you should expect to have a fun time, seeing us geeky performers embody some of your favorite characters or stories!
(JC): Where do you get your inspiration for your creativity?
(AK): I get inspired by seeing all my friends talents. I hang out with a lot of artists and designers, so seeing them post their drawings or costumes or read their interviews in magazines and see their photo shoots keeps me motivated to go out and make my impact on the world too.
(JC): Where do you plan to go from here?
(AK): I would love to learn more about fabrication so I can get more into prop creation and making large scale projects. I also dream of the day when I learn enough about lighting and electrical work to make glowing costumes.
(JC): In addition to the other sites I write for, my site is The Weird Review and I like to close my interviews by giving the interviewee the opportunity to tell me and their fans something weird and wonderful about themselves that they might not already know. Do you have something weird and wonderful you would like to share?
(AK): In the video interview I talked about winning a Miss Ugly Contest. Another story would be that, as a kid, I was really into the paranormal and used to try and contact ghosts. Since I lived across from a graveyard, I used to think I could contact ghosts. I went on some ghost hunts when I got older, but nothing conclusive.
(JC): Where can my readers go to see you at upcoming events?
(AK): I will be paneling at PAX Prime at the end of August (and performing at J&M Cafe Saturday night), Paneling at the Escapist Expo (and performing at The Pinhook during the expo), Dystopia Rising's DEATHCON in late October plus my monthly burlesque shows in NYC.
(JC): Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me and I will look forward to seeing you again at Gen Con 2014 if not sooner!
(AK): Thank you and hopefully we will see some of you, dear readers, at cons in the future!
More about John Collins