Hailie “The Prodigy” Brown talks renaissance faires, Star Wars and of course cosplay!
I met a lot of incredibly talented cosplayers during my time at Boston Comic Con, but one of them in particular really stuck out: Hailie Brown. Hailie is only in high school yet she hands-down created one of the best cosplays I’ve ever seen. It was hard to miss her at Boston Comic Con, as she was walking around on modified stilts inside her astoundingly accurate K-2SO cosplay. The level of detail and complexity to her costume was truly amazing. I may just encountered my first ever cosplay prodigy and I’m calling it now folks: if Hailie sticks with it, I have no doubt she’s going to become one of the biggest stars in the cosplay scene. With Hailie was her partner in crime and father, Jack Brown. The fellow Massachusetts natives were nice enough to take time out of their day to talk with me about their shared love of renaissance faires, Star Wars and of course cosplay.
AiPT!: Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you like to spend your time when you aren’t cosplaying.
Hailie Brown: My name’s Hailie Brown and I’m from Auburn, Massachusetts. I’m really artistic, I love to draw and create things. So when I’m not cosplaying you can find me at school or drawing. I’m going into my junior year.
AiPT!: Do you know what you’d like to study in college?
HB: I’m pretty sure I’m going into animation, graphic design or something else art related.
AiPT!: What was your first exposure to cosplay? Did you understand what it was?
HB: Ever since I was little my Dad and I would go to a renaissance faire called King Richard’s Faire. It was there that I was first introduced to cosplay, but that’s not truly cosplay, that’s just dressing up for the renaissance. So when I went to my first convention I was introduced to real cosplay and I thought it was so cool. I loved it and the idea of it. Getting to dress up as your favorite character is so awesome to me.
AiPT!: Jack, you’re obviously into sci-fi and fantasy. Was it part of your plan when you became a father to rear the perfect nerd?
JB: That’s a great question. And yes, I love all of these genres and I was dying to introduce her. The only thing I introduced her to though was King Richard’s Faire. Growing up my mom made me follow all the things she liked, I played baseball and all of that. So I went opposite of that and didn’t introduce to her much at all and she discovered a love for this totally on her own which is awesome. Now we’re passionate about it together and I’m so psyched that she did this on her own. Maybe it’s in her genes [laughs].
AiPT!: Hailie, was your love for Star Wars something that came before cosplay?
HB: Yes, I definitely got into loving the movies before I cosplayed. After going to convention and seeing people dressing up, I knew I’d love to be in a Star Wars costume.
AiPT!: What was your first cosplay? Tell me a little about the experience of deciding on what you wanted to do and putting it together.
HB: The first cosplay I ever did was Castiel from Supernatural. That was at Rhode Island Comic Con and we actually made big black folding wings for him that were articulated. At first I just wanted to dress up as him for a school thing, but then since I already had this costume for him we decided we might as well make the wings.
AiPT!: What were you feeling going into your first comic con in cosplay and what was it like for you once you hit the floor?
HB: I was very anxious because I’m not a huge social butterfly. I get nervous and I don’t like to take photos and stuff. But I felt really confident when I got into the costume. Once everyone was asking to take photos with me I was having a great experience. The amount of people who were so excited to see me as Castiel was phenomenal for me. It was such a great experience, I loved it and it was what made me want to continue to do this.
AiPT!: Jack, what was your reaction when Hailie came to you and said “Dad I want to try cosplaying?” Were you familiar with it at all when she approached you about it?
JB: I was. I would dress up for King Richard’s Faire long before I took her. So she had never really seen me dress up. I went as Negan at Rhode Island when she was there. I was in drama when I was in high school so I love the acting side of things. So when she came to me and said that and knowing that she’s shy, I thought it was phenomenal because she’s going to get out there and maybe she’ll even get on stage and compete. It’s a great way for her to gain confidence and she’ll meet a lot of people that like the things she likes. In her school there isn’t that depth of people that like cosplay, so now she’s met so many people through conventions.
When she came to me with the costume idea I said “suuuuure” because I knew just from the few videos I had seen the amount of effort required. So I asked myself if she could stick with something that long and be passionate and it just blossomed. Initially I was very excited but a little trepidation wondering if she would really enjoy it. But she did and it just went from there.
AiPT!: You started with a pretty difficult cosplay, Hailie. Did you have any preexisting skills with costuming, sewing or crafts at all?
HB: I was initially artistic, I have been since I was a little kid. Before this I got into the model horse hobby. So I made a lot of little horse halters and things for them. That was my main craft experience. Prior to this I had never done any sewing or foam work at all.
AiPT!: Through the process of making several big difficult costumes, what would you say the biggest take away has been?
HB: Do a lot of research because there’s a lot of things out there and if you’re looking for them you’ll find them. It’s really fun and it gives you a boost of confidence, especially for someone who’s shy like me.
AiPT!: Tell me a little bit about the process for designing and building this K-2SO costume.
HB: There were no patterns out there. We had not seen another costume out there like this where someone was inside of the robot. So it was really difficult to figure out how I was going to fit inside of him because obviously I’m not seven feet tall or really lanky like him. We went through trial and error; we used different materials to see what would the build would look like on me. We had to use a ton of reference photos and measure them as best we could to see what was to scale. It was a long process and a lot of work to get the scaling and the patterns down because we had nothing to go on.
AiPT!: Jack, when she approached you with this idea were you gung ho, “let’s do this!” or were you hesitant because of how ambitious it was?
JB: So I was gung ho for a couple of reasons. My background is engineering, so anything I get to play around with is great and I love learning new things that she does, so that was a pro as well. I knew it was ambitious because the first couple of videos I saw for Iron Man there were all these prints and patterns you could use, but for this none of that was out there. Her first cardboard that she made I said “Yeah that’s not it, we gotta keep working!” [laughs]. It was her third or fourth take before she finally got the right dimensions. It was so much fun though, we bonded as dad and daughter.
AiPT!: Do you feel like anything is off the table for you in terms of cosplay? That you couldn’t complete unless time and money weren’t an issue?
JB: Wanna tell JJ what your next costume’s going to be?
HB: Yeah, we’re going to do the vulture wings from Spider-Man: Homecoming
AiPT!: WOW. You just keep one upping yourself huh?
JB: Of course, as dad with my background, I’m like “man, maybe you can hover!” [laughs] She wants the fans to actually rotate.
AiPT! Is cosplay helping to shape what you’d like to do in college or are you just enjoying the ride?
HB: Definitely. I could see this influencing me to get into costuming or being on a movie set. Already having my initial artistic ability and then finding something like this that I love, is definitely making me lean more towards that path.
AiPT!: How long have you been cosplaying now?
HB: Less than a year.
AiPT!: Oh my god. She’s a cosplay prodigy!
AiPT!: Have you thought of doing any YouTube videos on your creation process?
HB: Yes I have. I think we’re going to do that at some point.
JB: She’s thinking of some names for her studio or workshop, playing around with a few ideas there. She’s thinking of doing one minute cosplay videos on how to learn one technique in one minute. We couldn’t find anything like that when we were learning, all the videos were pretty long. So we thought it’d be awesome to have one minute videos.
AiPT! We’re four months away from The Last Jedi. Do you have any theories or are you trying to keep your blinders on and avoid all that until you see it?
HB: I have some theories but for the most part I have my blinders on for the movie. I don’t want to spoil anything for myself.
AiPT!: What’re you most looking forward to in what remains of 2017?
HB: Definitely New York Comic Con and King Richard’s Faire.
JB: It’ll be our one year anniversary of cosplaying at Rhode Island Comic Con.
Here’s where you can find Hailie Brown online: