We first met Amanda Wisley at BlizzCon 2010 as a perky, green-eyed blood elf paladin in full Judgement. Who could forget those eyes? Though she wasn't selected as a finalist in the Blizzard costume contest, her popular paladin attracted crowds of gawkers and fans anxious to be photographed with her off the main convention floor. We chatted with her several times over the course of the weekend, and I encouraged her to get in touch with me if she ever found herself preparing for another run at major BlizzCon cosplay.
Amanda didn't attend BlizzCon in 2011, but she contacted me this summer as her preparations for an trip to Anaheim and an attempt at the 2013 BlizzCon costume contest got into full swing. What has transpired in the weeks since then is an astonishing patchwork of dastardly deadlines, agonizing anticipation, bitter disappointments, and unwavering persistence and hope.
Will Amanda's custom-made pandaran monk be ready in time for November? Will she nab a coveted spot among the first 100 registrants for the BlizzCon costume contest? In the face of purchased tickets and completed travel plans, how will she adapt to roadblocks and disappointments along the way? We'll meet the intrepid cosplayer this week, share the ups and downs of her preparations as we get closer to the convention, and finally join her behind the scenes at BlizzCon itself in November.
Main character Pandalyn, pandaren windwalker monk (formerly Lunalyn, blood elf retribution paladin)
Guild Hunger Games
Realm Korgath (US-Alliance)
WoW Insider: We first met you back at BlizzCon 2010 -- you've been around Azeroth for quite a while! Which came first, the World of Warcraft or the cosplay?
Amanda Wisley: I've actually always been into cosplay, since I was a kid since before WoW was around. In 6th, 7th and 8th grades, I was the Easter Bunny at a local mall with my Girl Scout [troop]. When I went to high school, our mascot was a roadrunner, and I was the one that wore it. It was a ton of fun! I went to Otakon in Baltimore about six or seven years ago, as well, as one of the Bleach characters.
Three years ago, I started my own kid's entertainment company specializing in mascots, princesses, superheroes and other costumes, which has been a huge success.
I started playing WoW maybe about five or six months before the original Naxx was released, so I did play during vanilla. I've been off and on since then, with BC being my favorite expansion. Now I don't play much anymore but am still excited about dressing up at BlizzCon this year. I will probably start playing more again in the future because my husband won't stop bugging me to, but probably not until I have more assistants to help me with running my business. I do like Diablo as well and plan to start playing that again when that expansion comes out.
Is WoW cosplay your only cosplay focus, or do you venture into other games and settings?
I like costumes in general, so my cosplay spans over everything from generic characters like the Easter Bunny -- I have my own custom fursuit for that as well -- to Disney princesses, Blizzard characters, and anime. I like to go all out.
I would also like to state that although I like getting fursuits made for some of my costumes, I don't consider myself a furry. I have no desire to just walk around for fun in a fursuit or attend a furry convention -- or, for that matter, have a random furry character made up. I'm not downing furries at all. I think their suits look awesome, and the fursuit crafters have tons of amazing skills, but their lifestyle just isn't for me.
I only like to dress up at places where I am hired to dress up at or where it is appropriate, like a convention. I wouldn't just walk out of my house in a costume casually unless it is Christmas and Santa is coming on the fire truck and I run after him as Frosty the Snowman -- which I did this past year. It was a ton of fun, haha!
Tell us a little bit about your business.
My business is a kid's party entertainment company that specializes in mascots, princesses, superheroes, face painting, balloon twisting, magic and other similar entertainment services. I don't have any kids myself but entertain everyone else's, haha! Our website is BubblesProductions.net if you want to take a look, and I post a ton of events we are doing and other updates on our Facebook page.
We do everything from private parties for kid's birthdays to adult events at bars to large events like University of Maryland home games, Race for the Cure, Relay for Life, pancreatic cancer walks, ovarian cancer walks, and you get the idea. I've even done stuff for some famous people like Bret Baier of Fox News and for Jim Murren, the CEO of MGM Grand. Pretty fun stuff!
The last time we saw you at BlizzCon, you were a green-eyed blood elf paladin. Tell us a little bit about that costume.
The blood elf costume was a lot of fun to do. I hired a cosplay place in China to make that, and total it probably cost me about $900 to $1,000. The only thing that upset me is that because I didn't have a picture of how the back should look (since I did the special version judgement set that the BC blood elf wears), they didn't make the back how I wanted. But other than that, it was a pretty good suit.
I got the glowing green contact lenses from a UK company, since you cannot buy them in the U.S. without a prescription, and the ear prosthetics were from a company in Tennessee, I believe it was, that makes amazing ears that even match skin color.
What was that BlizzCon experience like? How much time did you spend out of costume, and what did you do when you were in costume?
I wore the costume both days to the convention and even got to pose for pictures with Clara from The Guild. I checked out a good bit of stuff at BlizzCon three years ago when I went, but my main focus was getting pictures of other costumes and posing for people's pictures. I did an interview for someplace too; I don't remember who, but I got a free flash drive for it! I went to the BlizzCon after-party that year, which was phenomenal, [wearing] just my ears and green eyes.
This year, you'll be cosplaying a pandaren monk. What made you decide to climb into a full-body fur suit?
I was going to get [the Judgement costume] upgraded and make it bigger and better, like actual boots instead of boot covers, but when I saw another Judgement paladin win two years ago, I scratched that idea and decided to start on a different idea.
One of the main reasons I wanted to do a full fur suit was because I've never seen anyone do it at BlizzCon before. I could be wrong, and I have seen some amazing partial suits there, like a tauren that was there when I last went, but it was wearing regular clothes.
When I do stuff, I like to go full force, even though it comes with a heavy price tag. Everyone calls me the "Costume Queen" because of my business, so I figure I'd better do it right. I did pick an easier fabric set to go with, though, which is the starter monk set, because actual armor would take a lot more time as well as a lot more money, and I would have to find a place that could even do it. I might look into that next year, though!
How long have you been planning and working on the monk costume?
I've been planning this monk costume for about 10 months, and I've had the work started on it about four months ago, such as the reference sheet and finding the fursuit company that could make it in time as well as to my needs.
How are things progressing?
Things seem to be progressing okay. The fursuit company has done everything but the head, which is the most complicated part, but I believe they started on that two or three weeks ago. Because pandas have real hair (as opposed to fur style hair), they are actually going to weft the hair into the head to make it look authentic, which I'm really excited about! The seamstress has been slacking, but promises me pictures soon, so we shall see. I have my fingers crossed!
In our next interview with Amanda, we'll peek behind the scenes as the pandaren monk costume slowly comes together -- and meet a few unexpected challenges head on!
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) or a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.