Ever since I started interviewing cosplayers, I’ve wanted to be able to sit down with a fellow Bostonian face-to-face, and it finally happened! Serena’s a Boston-based cosplayer who’s only gotten into the scene within the past few years, but has already amassed quite the following. In addition to being a rising star in the cosplay community, she’s also a former Disney princess and spends her days working in environmental science. Impressed yet? If you aren’t yet, I promise you will be by the end of the interview with this lovely person who’s fighting to help save the planet and entertain the masses with her impressive cosplay skills.
AiPT!: Tell us a little bit about where you’re from and how you like to spend your time when you aren’t cosplaying.
Serena: I’m from Boston and I have a degree in environmental science. I work full-time studying climate change which keeps me very busy. On the weekends I’m traveling for conventions or working on new cosplays. Trying to catch up on some sleep when I can [laughs]. I really enjoying reading and spending time with my friends.
AiPT!: What’re you reading right now?
Serena: I try to vary between high literature and trashy fantasy. Currently I’m reading the Throne of Glass series, which I’d never heard of prior to picking it up. I went to a book store, asked what was popular and this is what they gave me. It’s more on the teeny bopper girl side of things, so I don’t know how much you’d enjoy it. [laughs]
AiPT!: Where’d you go to school?
Serena: I went to school out in Chicago at a small school called Wheaton College, it’s a small private school. I also studied abroad and lived in Ireland for half a year. That was the start of my wanderlust and my travel bug.
AiPT!: What was your first exposure to cosplay and the convention scene?
Serena: When telling this story I always laugh. I was probably in middle school and my father used to work at the Prudential Center in Boston where they used to hold a lot of conventions. I went with him to take your kid to work day or something like that, and we were walking through the mall as a convention was going on. It was definitely an anime convention because I distinctly remember seeing people in anime costumes. At the time I had never encountered or heard of anything like that before, so being a judgmental young kid I remember thinking to myself “These people are so weird! I would never do this.” [laughs] So that was my first ever exposure and looking back at it I always laugh because now I’m one of those weird people.
I was always involved in theatre growing up and met a lot of creative people through it, which helped me with trying new things.
AiPT!: Did that make it easy for you to step into a public stage such as cosplaying at conventions?
Serena: Yeah. I met some people who were mainstream geeky and they cosplayed. I actually started because they begged me to be in a shoot with them for the Fantastic Four. So I was the Invisible Woman and they got my suit for me and being blonde it was very easy [laughs]. So I did it and I loved it. I already knew the characters from growing up in a fairly geeky family and I loved the feeling of bringing this character to life. It gave me a little taste of the bug, but I didn’t start consistently cosplaying until years later.
AiPT!: What changed for you that made you want to get back into it?
Serena: When I first started I was still in college, I was busy and I was away from home. Plus I was working with a college student budget which really doesn’t allow for much [laughs]. I was also very studious and focused on getting my degree and graduating. So I only cosplayed when I came home from break or if a friend was leading the charge on it and I could jump onto it.
But then I graduated, starting making a lot more money and had more free time. I made friends that were interested in cosplay. But the real impetus was I started working as a professional Disney princess for a character company. I grew up loving Disney and I always wanted to be a Disney princess. So I jumped at the chance to use my theatre background, dress up as a princess and get paid really well for it. Where could you go wrong with that?!
Being a princess was obviously a job, but through that I made friends in the cosplay community. In turn I started going to cons and realized I loved conventions, meeting new people and connecting so quickly with strangers over a shared fandom. All these things combined helped my hobby keep growing and growing and growing. In the last year I’ve been going to conventions constantly. It’s taking over my life.
AiPT!: What’s the furtherest you’ve traveled for a convention?
Serena: LA. I’ve been to LA two or three times in the last four to six months. The first convention I traveled for was D23, the Disney convention this last summer. That’s kind of when everything really started taking off for me.
AiPT!: Is this something that you could see becoming a career for you, or do you love what you’re doing with climate change that you couldn’t give your career with that up?
Serena: I love cosplay. A lot of people have encouraged me to make it a career but I’m worried that if you take something that’s a hobby, that you’re passionate about and make it into a job, you’ll lose some of the joy. I feel like it’s inevitably what happens with my hobbies. I did my princess gig for four years and I loved it, loved it, loved it, but the joy decreased significantly and now I’m almost sick of it. So I don’t necessarily want to monetize something that I love so much. I also worked so hard for my science degree and to get to where I am in my career.
AiPT!: Out of all the characters you’ve cosplayed as, which one would you say you align with the most?
Serena: I would say just about every character I cosplay I relate to in some way. Either you relate to them or you admire them. I think you see something in characters that you cosplay as that speaks to you. Queen Elsa from Frozen is the classic Disney answer, but she was the first character I cosplayed as for my princess job and I see it as the start of my cosplay journey. When I saw the movie I related to the character so much and was drawn in by her relationship with her sister. My sister and I were the same age as Elsa and her sister when the film came out, we have similar personalities, our family originates from Norway and there are just all these weird little coincidences there.
AiPT!: You have a large social media following that’s growing at a fast pace. While you receive a lot of positive words and compliments, there’s always going to be negative people. How do you deal with the folks who have nasty things, trolls and jerks?
Serena: I’ve been very lucky that people have been wonderfully supportive of everything I’ve done so far. 99% of people are complimentary, loving and supportive. I always try to thank people, put out a very positive image and generally stick to more wholesome characters. I want the cosplay community to be a loving and accepting place.
I’m very sassy by nature, so I try not to snap back at people because I want to be a good role model. I have a lot of young followers from my Disney cosplays, so I generally try and turn the other cheek. But if it’s something inappropriate or hateful to other people, especially people in my pictures, then I tend to snap back. Usually it’s just asking them to be kinder, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. If it’s harassment then I end up blocking and reporting.
AiPT!: We’ve established that you’re a huge Disney fan. How many times have you been to Disney World?
Serena: [laughs] Many, many times. My family used to own a lacrosse spring training facility for private schools down in Florida, so I used to go down to Florida once a year every year. Every time we’d go down, we’d go to Disney. So I’ve been at least 24 times now [laughs]. But I’d never been to Disneyland until this last summer when I went out for D23.
AiPT!: Out of the two parks what’s your favorite ride, attraction or place to visit?
Serena: I love Animal Kingdom. Obviously I’m really into the planet and the environment. So when they made that park I absolutely loved it. Having gone to Disneyland recently, I love the Indiana Jones ride which they don’t have at Walt Disney World.
AiPT!: Are you going to be planning a trip for the opening of Star Wars Land?
Serena: Of course! I’ll be out there since they conveniently planned the opening to coincide with D23. I really want to stay in the hotel inside the park where you can live out a Star Wars story.
AiPT!: Are you planning on going into The Last Jedi blind or are you theorycrafting?
Serena: I try not to theorycraft. I’d really like to go into it blind. When you have all these theories that you read about for big exciting shows and movies, such as Game of Thrones and then it comes true, it’s not as satisfying as it could be if you didn’t know about it.
AiPT!: I saw on your instagram that you were in Salem recently, which I love spending time in. Do you enjoy traveling around Massachusetts? Is there a favorite spot you recommend to people who visit?
Serena: I’ve always really enjoy history so I’ve always felt lucky that I grew up in the bed of American history. So I love Salem and definitely recommend it to folks. It’s not as fun in the summer as it is in the fall for Halloween.
You can never do the Freedom Trail too many times. I love doing that [laughs].
AiPT!: What’re you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Serena: I’m going to try and go to a lot more big conventions. This past year I went to Dragon Con for the first time and that changed my con life. It’s unlike any other con. I’m already super excited for next year — I’ve already planned the cosplays for it. I can’t release what they’ll be yet, but I’m super excited for it and seeing where my cosplay journey will take me.