There are very few interviews where from the outset you know that you’re going to have a great chat every single time, but with Chris Stanley and Laura Gilbert (better known as Cosplay Chris and Infamous Harley Quinn), it’s guaranteed. I had the opportunity to speak to them both at OzComicCon this year about all things cosplay, relationships and living in the public eye.
Both Laura and Chris have made their names as individual cosplay superstars in the Australian scene, but together they’ve become a formidable force when it comes to all things creation and community.
On making time for cosplay
One of the most impressive aspects of Chris and Laura’s cosplay prowess is the hours upon hours of preparation that goes into a single costume, and managing that around living your regular life (behind the mask, as it were). Though Chris has now become a full time cosplayer and YouTuber, Laura still has to make time for university and regular work, so prioritising really does come into play.
“You definitely have to make the time,” she said. “It’s a passion as well, so you want to make time for the things you enjoy. Cosplay for me is not a chore – it’s something I look forward to as an outlet from uni and work.”
For Chris, the opportunity to work together is one of the biggest motivating factors, citing the fact that they created a couples cosplay for OzComicCon Day Two. “We’ve been working till the eleventh hour getting it ready but it’s all worth it in the end. The trick is, don’t make it a chore. And it’s never been like a chore.”
Both blogging the process, their relationship has made it easier to manage both cosplay creation and filming – but it’s also made it more frustrating on those days where you’re on you’re own and don’t have the helping hand.
“There’ll be times when Laura’s at home or I’m at home and I’ve gotta set up a shot, but I haven’t hit record on a one-shot take. It’s good having each other there for those times.”
On preparing for OzComicCon 2017
This past OzComicCon convention was a big one for the pair for one big reason: the debut of their first ever couples cosplay. Chris had already debuted his first version of Pirate Batman, but this year Laura decided to take the plunge and make an accompanying Pirate Catwoman, despite having never cosplayed anything other than a variation of Harley Quinn.
By documenting the whole process on YouTube, fans were given a sneak peek into the trials and tribulations of creating a cosplay from scratch. New to the world of urethane, stitching and weathering, Laura had a very steep learning curve.
“I’m only one year in to cosplay and I started off with having bought my cosplay from China – now I’m learning how to make stuff! I’ve never put the whole costume on at once. It’s been that pressed for time. Every bit has been worked on separately, but I’ve never tried it all on at once. And the makeup test? Couldn’t tell you. Contact lenses? Couldn’t tell you.”
But Chris is the first to reassure her that she’s a good student – a quick learner who makes things her own. That’s one of the things that Laura loved most about creating the cosplay in the first place.
“I’ve taken some things from my childhood. I used to play a video game when I was three called Captain Claw and it was about a pirate cat. There was this amulet that my dad bought me as a necklace a year later, so I would wear it for good luck to play this video game. Now I’ve taken that and put it in with the Pirate Catwoman, so it’s just kind of nostalgic as well as being creative,” she said.
And it wasn’t just a creative learning curve. There was a pretty heavy mental aspect to it as well, having become so well known for a single cosplay and wondering how people would react. “It’s really scary, because that’s what I’m known for – it’s my whole title”.
“People just expect Harley Quinn and I think that I was initially very nervous because I didn’t think fans would be as open minded as they have been. I’m really grateful that they’re wanting me to do something different and see me grow into other characters”.
When talking about the day’s preparation, both Chris and Laura laughed at the disparity between each other’s prep time. Laura’s Harley Quinn tattoos can take up to two hours to apply and dry completely, and the long blonde wig she was sporting can take ages to sit right. Meanwhile, Chris could use his natural hair and simply apply some black makeup to give himself panda eyes – job done.
“Maybe I should wear the blonde wig,” he joked. “I could be Fabio!”
On their relationship
As with most relationships in the public eye, theirs has had their naysayers. But for the most part, Chris and Laura have been nothing but blown away by the support of their fans and co-mingling of their communities.
Despite vocally admitting to being a “disgusting couple” in terms of public displays of affection, their fanbase has never been stronger, each building upon the other to grow – and it’s the same for the two of them, too. Laura herself attributed so much of her progress in cosplay to Chris’ tutelage.
The crossover between fandoms has also resulted in them becoming a lot more well known to a wider range of cosplay fans. Of this phenomena, Chris said, “I’ll have little Harley’s come up to me and I’ll assure them that Laura won’t be too long, and they’ll ask for a photo with me! We’re honestly so grateful and pleased with the support.”
And it’s lucky they are, because the pair can’t keep their eyes off each other.
On future cosplays
When last I spoke with Chris at Supanova 2017. He had planned to complete a Freddy Krueger cosplay, and was even contemplating converting the classic cosplay to a steampunk format. The question was, did he achieve that?
“Actually we did do a gig two weeks ago for Events Cinemas because they’re going to be showing all the old school horror movies, so I got to be done up as Freddy and Laura was Regan from The Exorcist. I got to take all the stuff off my life-size Freddy and wear that. I’d always wanted to wear it but I never had.”
But does that count? He’s calling it a tentative maybe, saying, “I’ve sort of ticked that one off the list? I do wanna do like proper prosthetics one day and just scare the children.”
Beyond Freddy, next on the list is expanding the pirate universe (“it’s nice to feel dirty!”) and maybe even taking the first steps into Marvel territory with a Captain America Infinity War cosplay – though with Laura not being a fan of the character, it could be interesting. Laura on the other hand, is looking more into fantasy genres for inspiration.
“Before I was going to cosplay Harley for the first time I was initially going to cosplay Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones but I never got around to it. I’ve got the blonde wig, I’ve got it covered!”
And while dressed in the long wig, it’s not hard to imagine her pulling it off. She’s already got the character down pat, and as a fan of the series it makes sense. You’ll be able to hear her from a long way off
“I want dragons! Where are my dragons?!”
On being recognised
Now that their profiles are raised, it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid being recognised in real life – even without the familiarity of the cosplay. Chris’s reputation in his hometown has elevated significantly, which came as a surprise as he’d expected the demographic to lean towards more of a surfer-friendly fanbase as opposed to geek culture.
For Laura however, anonymity isn’t a luxury she gets to have. “My hair is a dead giveaway,” she said. “I don’t actively get people coming up to me. Sometimes I’ll hear them say ‘Oh that’s that Harley Quinn chick!’ but never approaching. It’s a constant insecurity for me at times, having the coloured hair and not being able to blend in”
Thankfully her studies haven’t been interrupted due to the attention – in fact, at uni that kind of self expression is encouraged. Next year however, things will change. Though she’s considered pursuing cosplay full time (and decided against it in the end), her ambition may mean saying goodbye to the Harley locks.
“As someone who wants to be a high school music teacher, the schools aren’t too happy with it. The hair is going to have to go next year when I really pursue my degree and become a student teacher.”
She’s done two placements so far and the general consensus is not in favour – especially if she is to work in more conservative areas or private schools. She’s adamant that she can help facilitate change in attitude as her career progresses though.
“It’s frustrating because we want to teach children that they shouldn’t judge people on their appearance and encourage their self expression, so I find it contradictory and I’d love to change that stereotype in the future when I become the cool music teacher.”
On convention food
Chris and Laura are definitely the type of couple who like to go out, and when they do there’s always something delicious on the menu. With Instagram pages dominated by the latest meal, there was only one question: how does convention food compare?
“My quinoa salad was right up there! I’m not going to lie, I’d give it an eight out of ten – actually maybe even an eight and a half,” said Laura. “If that was on a nice plate and was served to me in a restaurant, you’d be on board with it.” As for Chris?
“The potato fluffiness to crispiness ratio in my hot chips was perfect”.
And really, could you ask for more?
You can follow Cosplay Chris on Youtube here
and Instagram here
You can follow Laura on YouTube here
and Instagram here
Article by Stephanie Panecasio