KRISTEN HUGHEY: Summer's Favorite Cosplayer

by Alan Scholting
photos by Chris Brunson

Ahh, summer. For some, this wonderful season is enjoyed with toes in the sand and a nice refreshing drink in-hand. For others, maybe a family camping trip is what the doctor ordered: a full day of fishing, cooking hot dogs and s’mores, and telling late-night stories around the campfire. An afternoon at the ball diamond, or a picnic in the park; the list of wholesome activities is endless. However, there are those who prefer a little mayhem with their poolside sunshine. Sugar, spice, and everything nice certainly works for some, but sometimes the forecast calls for a little bit of flair and a whole lot of attitude. Of course I’m referring to the unbelievable portrayal of everyone’s favorite bad-girl by cosplaying sensation – Kristen Hughey!

Kristen has chaperoned her #Hugheycrew through four years of cosplaying adventures stretching all across the globe, including stops in Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Germany, England, and Canada. Lucky for us, those years of exploits and escapades have finally led her right to the cover of our summer special. The New York native sat down with us to talk about her love for gaming, cosplaying, and to give us a little insight to what the future holds for her.

CCM: Let’s start things off with the ever popular, when did you get into cosplay?
Kristen: I started cosplaying in 2012. Ultimately, it was a perfectly magical amalgamation of my interests coupled with fate that got me into cosplay. I failed at obtaining tickets to San Diego Comic-Con a couple times before finding out how many other conventions existed. Because I research the heck out of everything in advance, I found Dragon-Con and learned that a huge percentage of attendees wear a costume. I get pretty nervous if there is too much attention on me, so my thinking was that I would blend in more by cosplaying. My plan worked! What I didn’t anticipate was that I would find my calling, my people, and my place in life by putting on a costume of a character that I—and come to find out, so many others—loved.

CCM: Before you started attending conventions, what were some of your hobbies that lead to your interest in cosplay?
Kristen: Gaming, for sure. I only discovered what cosplay was a few years before I got into it myself. My brothers and I had been playing WoW together for a while, but they decided to take a boys’ trip to Blizzcon one year, leaving me behind. I still give them crap for that to this day. I had my first cosplayer sighting while looking through their pictures from the trip. I was floored. Knowing that people brought characters from games that I played to life was surreal. I had made myself Halloween costumes in the past and I knew from that moment that I wanted to make a costume to wear to a convention.

CCM: When you’re designing or building a costume, do you prefer to stick close to the source material, or do you enjoy putting your own twist on the costume?
Kristen: When I first started cosplaying, I tried to make every single detail as close to accurate as humanly possible. Not only was this stressful, but I didn’t feel I was challenging myself creatively. My style now is to design the character as if they existed in our world. I like to choose fabrics based on what would be available during whatever time period I imagine the character would exist. I think being able to take creative liberties in character design is why I like gender-bending from time-to-time too.

CCM: Even with the fact that you’ve been building costumes for so long, are there any parts or elements to costume design that you still struggle with more than others?
Kristen: I struggle with props of pretty much any kind; weapons, cowls, etc. I have made some of my own, but I don’t have the space, tools, time, or money to specialize in every single element of costuming. When I need a special item for a costume, I like to leave it to the professionals. Supporting other artists in the community and having props that don’t suck makes me happy.

CCM: I think we can all agree with that! How do you go about finding the right artist for the job when you have a prop in mind?
Kristen: If you are looking for reputable commissioners within the community, find out who has purchased items from them and get feedback from those people. This is something I will cover on my YouTube channel along with featuring companies/ artists that I have personally worked with.

CCM: Well let’s go ahead and talk about your YouTube channel for a bit. From what I understand it’s built around helping others begin their journey into the world of cosplay. What else can you tell us about it?
Kristen: Every time I go to a convention, I hear the same concerns and get asked the same questions: I want to cosplay, but I don’t know how to make anything. How do I get started in cosplay? Do I have to make my own costume to be a ‘real cosplayer’? Where can I find [blank]? A lot of these are questions that I had when I started cosplaying too, but wasn’t sure who to turn to. I want to be able to answer as many of those questions for as many people as I can around the world. My new series is focused on all aspects of cosplay from wigs and contacts to make-up and skin care, tips and tricks, store bought, homemade and closet costumes. I also cover con etiquette and cautions, prop makers and costume commissioners within the community, and so so much more. I have put some very simple costumes together this year to feature in this series. As a matter of fact, my Suicide Squad Harley Quinn costume is one of them. That cosplay is broken down into where to purchase the costume pieces, where you can get the same gun, and how to get her signature look with make-up, tattoos and hair.

CCM: I know you’ll cover this on your YouTube channel, but what is one major piece of advice you give to people who are just getting started with cosplay?
Kristen: If you are struggling with how to make something, the internet is your friend. More often than not, someone else has already done something you are trying to do… or at least something similar, and has posted a video or talked about their project in a forum. I have learned pretty much everything I know either by the generosity of others who share their knowledge via tutorials or by my own trial-and-error. Embrace mistakes; they can be wonderful teachers.

CCM: Now, in addition to your YouTube channel, you also host live streams on Twitch. What sort of things do you stream on there?
Kristen: I’m a variety streamer for the most part. I typically play whatever my family is playing at the time because we all like to game together. We’ve been playing League of Legends for years and are currently playing a lot of Overwatch. I love pretty much anything Blizzard creates, so I will play Diablo or WoW from time-to-time. I’ll even hop on random games (like The Forest) when I can grab them for cheap on Steam. Those are always fun for laughs. When I’m not gaming on Twitch, I also host crafting livestreams on the Creative channel. It’s nice to be able to hang out with my Hughey Crew while working on costumes. They can ask me costuming questions during that time and hopefully pick up some tips for their own projects. I have the best Twitch community on my channel.

CCM: Getting back to cosplay, obviously we are in the middle of a pretty hot summer. But conventions go year round, so what’s necessarily comfortable for one convention might not be for another. Do you take comfort and location into consideration when choosing which costumes to wear at different shows?
Kristen: Absolutely! Lately, I’ve been noticing I choose costumes not only based on the weather wherever I am traveling to, but also based on which ones I can fit into my luggage. I typically need to travel with three per convention appearance. Large props and armor heavy costumes are a struggle if I am traveling by plane. They also aren’t easy to wear all day for a guest appearance, so I end up putting more intense builds on the back burner. I like meeting people in more comfortable costumes anyways; I am totally a hugger.

CCM: We all know convention tours are a big part of summer, but what are some of your other favorite summer activities?
Kristen: The same as my other season activities…gaming. Except sometimes I do it in a bikini.

CCM: I can’t say I’ve ever gamed in a bikini. I’m sure my gaming group is okay with that though {ha ha}. Now let’s talk about this amazing character you’re cosplaying. Why do you think Harley Quinn has become one of the most popular cosplays of all time?
Kristen: There have been several versions of Harley spread over television series, comics, videogames, and now movies. Even though they are all a bit different, they all share a quirky personality and insane devotion to the Joker. Whether it’s a personality trait or costume design and no matter which media the person follows, there is something about Harley’s character for everyone to love.

CCM: What are some of the reasons you personally love to cosplay as Harley?
Kristen: I’ve cosplayed as a few different versions of Harley and have plans for a few more. I love how complex of a character she is. Despite being a psychiatrist, she struggles with her own mental health issues. She is off-the-wall insane, but she is intelligent, eccentric, humorous, and just plain adorable. She has such an extreme personality… or maybe personalities. I’m shy and pretty laid back, so becoming Harley breaks me out of my shell a bit.

CCM: Since cosplay is becoming a bigger and bigger phenomenon every year, people tend to develop assumptions or stigmas about the community. What would you say is one of the biggest ones that you wish would go away?
Kristen: I can’t stand that people think you have to fit a character’s body type, skin color, gender, height, etc. in order to cosplay as them. That is absolutely not true! People love cosplaying for different reasons. Whether it’s showing their love for a character, creating a work of art from a pile of nothing, entering competitions, researching and shopping to find the perfect pieces to put a costume together, meeting like-minded people, playing the role of a character, or just getting out to have a good time. None of those reasons require you to fit a physical standard. In my opinion, one of the beauties of being human is that we are all different. How boring would life be if we were all the same?

CCM: Exactly! Now, a lot of people who follow you know that you are always doing new cosplay photo sessions for prints, calendars, or just for fun. But you are also a pin-up enthusiast as well and partake in many pin-up type photo shoots. When you’re preparing for a photo session, do you mentally approach a cosplay shoot any differently than a pin-up shoot?
Kristen: Part of the reason I love pin-up is because it has taught me a bit about how to pose in front of a camera. It has given me a lot of confidence in that department. I personally find cosplay shoots to be much more challenging than pin-up because you are trying to portray a character who may not have a personality anything like yours. You are playing a role. I try to find a few poses for my character before going to a convention or photoshoot, but that’s usually about all I’ve got. I revert right back into cutesy, pin-up posing after that because I can move easily through so many different poses. Luckily, that works for a lot of the characters I cosplay as.

CCM: With all the amazing talent out there, who are some other cosplayers you get inspired by?
Kristen: Oh man. There are so many amazing humans in this community. I can’t bring myself to name just some. I am inspired by the talent, confidence, and passion that so many cosplayers exude. My heart just about explodes with happiness every time I leave a convention. Whether it’s someone’s very first costume or they are entering a contest at Master’s level, my heart flutters listening to their story.

CCM: How about pin-up models? Are there any in that particular genre that you personally draw inspiration from?
Kristen: Just like the cosplay world, I get a lot of my references for styling, design and posing from the artists of the community. Gil Elvgren and Olivia De Berardinis are a couple of my favorites. I reference their art before a lot of my shoots. Probably predictably, Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page and Dita Von Teese are among my favorite pin-up models. I absolutely adore Dita for her style, class, and brain. She is a woman that I look up to for many reasons, most of which include the way she empowers women.

CCM: Before I go, I have one more thing I wanted to ask you about. I heard a rumor that you were doing some voice recordings for a video game called Liquid Metal. What can you tell us about this project?
Kristen: I’m so excited for this! Liquid Metal is a third person RPG/adventure game about an all-robot utopia that is invaded by humans. I will be playing a robot, who helps guide the main character [Doug] through chaos to find his missing girlfriend. Voice acting is something I have secretly wanted to do for a long time, but never realized was an achievable goal. Being able to voice a videogame character is an absolute dream come true for me.

For anyone interested in joining the ever growing Hughey Crew, you can follow Kristen Hughey’s cosplay shenanigans at
or at the following locations:
Facebook/OKristenHughey – –
Twitter: @KristenHughey – IG: @KristenHughey
Snapchat: oKristenHughey

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