During our coverage of MegaCon in Orlando, Florida, FreakSugar had the good fortune of striking up a conversation with Lauren Edinger who not only cosplays at conventions and local events in central Florida but also takes her love for costume play to the next level as an artist who crafts costumes and combines that with her professional photography and modeling business.

Check out FreakSugar editor Steve Ekstrom’s interview with Lauren Edinger:

FreakSugar: Let’s start with some simple background information. How did you get into cosplay initially? This isn’t just “dressing up”…

Lauren Edinger: I got into cosplay from a young age. My Dad is a super-dork. He frequented DragonCon, raised me in the ways of the Force, and taught me to be a good padawan nerd. When I “grew up” I really never lost interest in dressing up as my favorite characters so I slowly expanded my wardrobe of cosplay until I ended up with a pretty extensive list. I think I have 37 now and about 5 that are works in progress.

FreakSugar: 37?! Sweet Christmas! That’s pretty awesome. You’re a very active participant in the cosplay community in central Florida; what sorts of events have you attended lately? How do you think cosplay enriches environments?

Edinger: I love including my hobbies in giving back to the community!  My most recent was a charity cosplay event with Costumers with a Cause.  We teamed up with Nathaniel’s Hope at Lake Eola and it was a HUGE event with an incredible turn out.  We also frequent theaters in Orlando and Tampa for movie releases and raise money for children’s charities by taking donations for photos with characters from the movies!  Last event I did was for Infinity War as Captain Marvel.  I am also a member of Agents of Mirth, based out of Brevard County, FL and Guardians of Justice.  Cosplaying these famous characters really brings attention to these events and attracts people who may not otherwise become as invested in the support of these charity events.  It brings some excitement to some really serious subjects and I’m very excited to finally do a hospital visit!  I’ve been talking to my boss to get time off (they are usually on a Wednesday) so that I can attend.

FreakSugar: And you work full-time and you’re a mom; how do you make time for fun and hobbies?

Edinger: Well, I think most people sleep regularly I don’t know what that means… [laughs]

FreakSugar: And the list goes on! You’re also a photographer and you model too. Was it just a natural fit to combine your two interests together with cosplay?

Edinger: Yes! I met one of my good photographer friends doing just that! Glenn Whiting. Amazing photographer and amazing person. I was cosplaying at a local event just for fun as Rogue and I had a group modeling shoot later that day. I showed up at the modeling event wearing cosplay and Glenn grabbed me and told me I wasn’t allowed to change yet! That was my first shoot in cosplay, professionally. From that point on it just worked.

I love shooting cosplay in cosplay. I am the photographer for all the Space Coast Comic Con events and it introduces me to new cosplayers, new friends and new clients. The next event I am doing for them is Cosography on June 30th. It’s a convention specifically for Cosplay.  I love working with them, they are all amazing people and amazing nerds.

FreakSugar: Is it hard to get into as a hobby? Can it be expensive?

Edinger: Cosplaying is a fantastic hobby because it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. It can be if you want it to be, but you can make a closet cosplay for free any day!

What is wonderful about cosplay is that EVERYONE can cosplay and there are NO RULES. You can get a purple shirt, a green skirt, put shells in your hair and be a relaxed Ariel. You do you. Always. There is no rule on how “exact” you need to be or whether it needs to be handmade and cost a million dollars to be a good cosplay. Cosplay is fun. Cosplay is for yourself. Never make it a negative experience out of fear of acceptance.

FreakSugar: That’s sounds pretty great but, like most other hobbies, purists can be somewhat exclusive; is the cosplay community very inclusive?

Edinger: There are always extremists in hobbies like this, but I must say that the majority of people that I meet are just happy to see another nerd, no matter what kind of nerd you are. Cosplay, for the majority of people, is about having fun and making friends who love the same things. There are groups you can join in different fandoms but, no matter what fandom you are, people are always up for taking a photo.

FreakSugar: So you’re taking something that started out as a hobby and you’ve turned it into something that can generate revenue to further your interests, correct?

Edinger: My entire goal when doing hobbies is to break even. When I started, I didn’t make anything so my cosplay was less expensive and my camera equipment was minimal. Slowly, I just got better at making cosplay for cheap and booking photography and modeling gigs.

Now, I just reinvest my modeling and photography earnings into fancier cosplay. My goal is not to make a bunch of money, my goal is to have fun and not lose my house doing it! So I set small goals, I sell a few prints and that pays to upgrade something. I book shoots to pay for my con costs. I put love into everything I do and I feel like that is why I do well.

FreakSugar: Let’s shift gears; how serious are issues of harassment in the cosplay community? How does the community police itself when there are issues of this nature?

Edinger: In every situation where people are being approached for photos or have fans, there is harassment issues. I have had mostly good experiences with it and in mainly cosplay situations I have found people to be generally respectful.

Now aside from that, I have had some pretty nasty experiences with “fans gone wild”. Private messages, inappropriate solicitations, photos you wouldn’t show your mama. There are people out there that are not respectful but I also feel like it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing to these people…they are not respectful period.

FreakSugar: That’s unfortunate. How does the Cosplay Community handle this sort of behavior?

Edinger: The cosplay community is AMAZING support for those being affected by this. They will stand up to strangers, they will stand up via social media, they will STAND UP. We do not put up with disrespectful people, no matter the situation. Never feel ashamed to reach out to any of us.

FreakSugar: There’s a phrase that’s pretty prevalent online: “Cosplay isn’t consent.” Would you care to elaborate on that and how important it is for people to understand it?

Edinger: I think people that aren’t really acquainted with cosplay view people in cosplay as more of a fictional character instead of a person in a costume. Cosplay is not Consent is a blanket statement saying: These are people in costumes. Would you touch a random person in the street? NO. Don’t touch a random person just because they are wearing a cosplay. A cosplay does not give you the right to touch. Yes, seeing your favorite character come to life is exciting in many ways but real people don’t want to be groped, hugged, kissed, or hit…without being asked first.

FreakSugar: Well said! You’re at MegaCon this weekend; what’s your favorite part of attending shows of this magnitude? What other shows will you be attending this year?

Edinger: MegaCon is pretty awesome. My favorite part would probably be meeting all the cosplayers and seeing kids run up to take photos with me. I am also a panel go-er. I usually plan my cosplay to match the panels I attend.

This year, I’ll be attending Cosography June 30th in Cocoa as a guest and photographer; SuperCon, DragonCon, Tampa MegaCon, Space Coast Comic Con (as a guest and photographer), and Holmat.  I’m sure a few others will be added but those are my “for sures”.

FreakSugar: For anyone reading this  article, where can folks find prints of your cosplay modelling or photo shoots you’ve done for other cosplayer?

Edinger: You can order prints of my cosplay on Etsy or you can choose one of the Patreon print options and get one regularly. If you are local and you want to pick up prints at one of the cons in Florida that I’m attending, you can contact me on my Facebook and pay for the print and skip shipping. Any of my cosplay photo shoots you can purchase prints by contacting me on my Facebook also.

All of my prints come signed with a message!

Be sure to check out Lauren’s cosplay pages on Facebook, Etsy, or Patreon and she’s also on Instagram.