Alodia Gosiengfiao knows cosplay runs more than costume-deep
The Philippines-based Instagram and YouTube star has turned cosplaying into a multimedia empire. But she, too, had to start somewhere.
Cosplay—the fine art of dressing up like a favorite character from pop culture—has exploded in popularity over the past couple of decades, with millions of fans worldwide crafting looks from the simple to the sublime to the hilarious. It’s also a big business, driving around $4.5 billion in global market value and turning some folks from hobbyists into multimedia superstars.
You can’t have that conversation without talking about Alodia Gosiengfiao. A native of the Philippines, she got her start in the early years of the millennium entering con contests emulating favorite video game characters. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and she’s sitting on a cross-platform empire made up of some 1.8 million YouTube subscribers and 1.7 million Instagram followers. Along the way, she’s parlayed her cosplay popularity into a career as an actress, TV host, and co-founder of her own entertainment agency, Tier One Entertainment. In 2020, Alodia was named as one of the most influential women in the Philippines by DOS Magazine.
Even with all those irons in the fire, however, transforming herself through cosplay remains her primary drive and passion. She took time out of what sounds like an insanely busy schedule to share memories of how she first fell in love with the art form, and where she’s trying to take it from here.
What was your first encounter with cosplay?
I remember it was back in 2003. I was part of a forum called Anime Club, and there were usually event notices there. At one point, someone posted about a gaming convention and they said there was a costume competition. I didn't know what cosplay was back then. It wasn't as big as it is right now, I started out with my sister so I wouldn’t be so shy, because I'm such an introvert. We had limited knowledge, limited sources where we could get materials. Even wigs, we didn’t really have that yet much back then. But we tried it out.
What was the very first cosplay look you created?
Did you feel the magic right away?
To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting into when we stepped into the event. I didn't know we had to go up on stage, we had to perform, and I wasn't really ready for anything. We didn't win, but it inspired me to do better for the next ones.
What was first time you felt, like, "I am crushing it as this character?”
Maybe the very next one we did. We really tried to focus more on it. We did Final Fantasy X-2. I did Rikku, and my sister did Yuna. That time, we knew what to do on stage. We prepared. Sometimes,, you have to have stage presence and a little bit of acting. Luckily, we landed third place and People's Choice. I guess that meant something, that people appreciated what we prepared back then.
I was going to ask you about advice that you would give someone who wants to pursue cosplay, but it sounds like the big early lesson was that it's not just about the costume, but just as much about the performance that you're able to put on.
Yes, definitely! Especially if you're competing, you really have to embody the character. It's not just the craftsmanship or the level of difficulty in making the costume. You also have to practice the gestures, the movement, and sometimes even speaking lines and facial expressions.
How do you go about deciding on what you want to portray, in terms of properties or characters?
Usually, I get inspired by the current video game I play—actually, I really wanted to do my Sorceress character from Diablo IV because I really love the designs. I look at the design and I see if it's actually doable, because sometimes the designs are really too much! For example, if some things are floating, you have to actually figure out how to copy that. Sometimes, you use see-through bars, so that you make it look like something is actually floating.
What would you say is the skill that made this really work for you? What do you think sets you apart as a cosplayer?
I think I'm just very lucky to have an early start, to be honest, because if I started right now, people have such a high level of skill. Back then, I guess I was very exploratory. I'm willing to learn. I love to collaborate with my cosplay friends. I'm more of a crafter than a seamstress, so I like making weapons and armor. Back then, we didn't have 3D printing. We used to really do everything. We’d do the patterns. We’d craft everything by hand. I guess it’s just being early and being dedicated to this craft for so long, Some of my friends fell off the map, but I'm still here!
Do you have a craft build that you're particularly proud of?
Maybe the most recent one. I did Final Fantasy XVI, and I'm quite happy about it. We did the dress twice. Some of the accessories, I had to redo, just to make sure. I had to move the shoot so many times because I really wanted it to be accurate. We only had limited resources since the game wasn't out when we were building the costume. Not only that, but because we had to go to this beautiful place here in the Philippines called Tanay, Rizal, and we were shooting in this river that had white rock formations. Yeah, I was happy about that.
You now do this professionally. Let’s say someone doesn’t have a high level of visual arts skill, but really wants to get into the world of cosplay. What would be the advice that you would give them?
I’d advise them to go to a convention. They would be able to observe cosplayers at a 360 degree view. And if they’re lucky, some cosplayers may share how they did a particular craft. And start simple! If you're going to go for, for example, with Lilith from Diablo, that's an insane level of craftsmanship. I did this event in Singapore where I was also one of the panel judges. There was this lady who did Lina [DOTA 2], and her costume compared to the others was less intricate, but everything was on point. Even her shoes were made out of clear acrylic, so it looked like she was floating. It was pretty cool. Sometimes, you can just see that character in that person.
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📺 Check out Alodia’s YouTube Channel
📷 And her Instagram page