Beyond Halloween: The worlds of drag and cosplay take costumes to a new level

For some, taking on a character is a more than once-a-year occasion

Halloween is a night where people get to dress up into whoever or whatever they want, but in the worlds of drag and cosplay, costuming is more than just a holiday event.

On Oct. 11, ASU hosted Drag Night at the downtown Phoenix campus, where Sonja Jae Savage and Eddie Broadway showcased their talent as part of ASU Pride Week events.

Savage, Phoenix drag performer and Miss Gay Arizona USofA At Large, said the process of dressing in drag is not easy. Just putting on makeup can take a couple hours.

"For me, I am not a trans woman; I am a man, so there are things that I need to take into consideration like padding my body, or corseting my waste," she said. "You are creating cheekbones that weren’t there; creating a highlight, creating a contour that wasn’t there for the initial process."

For Savage, Halloween was the birth of her drag career: it was the first time she did drag. But she said she no longer participates in the dressing up for the holiday anymore.

"Now that I actually do drag, I don’t dress up for Halloween," said Savage. "I figure I’d do Halloween 364 days out of the year. I feel like I've become that old person that hands out candy."

Eddie Broadway, local drag king and current Mr. USofA Male Impersonator 2017, said Halloween lets him take his performance to another level.

"I love it. It's definitely my favorite holiday," he said. "I’m very much a clean-cut guy for the most part, but Halloween is my time to really show people the deeper, darker, sometimes crazy, messed up version of myself."

Is she the Next Miss UsofA At Large? #Nationalbound #teamthickems #usofaatlarge

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For cosplayers, there is a similar commitment to the art form of dressing in character.

Bryan Hanlon, cosplayer and ASU theatre senior, said there is a major difference between Halloween dress-up and cosplay.

"Cosplay has a little more intent, not just to look good," he said. "It's getting to embrace more of a sense of self and individualism."

Hanlon said there is the feeling of freedom to not be judged when cosplaying, much like the acceptance of elaborate costumes that goes with Halloween, but more than just once per year.

"It's getting to play dress-up as any of your favorite characters from anime or video games or anything," he said. "You can do it on all degrees and make it as easy or as difficult as you want."

Broadway said that with drag performers and cosplayers, the craft goes beyond just dressing up, and he said the performance element is where the biggest difference lies. 

"As a drag performer — and I think this is similar to cosplayers — we take costuming to a new level," Broadway said. "We do it in our profession, we do it in our spare time, on the weekends, all the time. We think like a drag performer, about the performance and the aesthetic of it in a more stage kind of way.

"People that don't perform ... just view it as 'Oh I can just buy a cute costume for the night and call it a day,'" he said.


Reach the reporter at ihaugen@asu.edu and follow @haugen_dazs on Twitter. 

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