Spotlight on: LVLUP Expo 2017

We had the distinct pleasure of going to the LVLUP Expo this past weekend there we were able to speak with three distinct and very different artists. One, a talented illustrator who goes by the guise of niapuddi. A body pillow and crafter of customer stickers and jewelry who calls herself LilyPop. And lastly, a magnificent cosplayer who’s known all around those circles as Steff Von Schweetz. Below is our transcription of the interviews I conducted where I ask about some of their inspiration and their favorite films.

NIAPUDDI:

So since we are a movie site, and one of this cons focuses on Anime what are some of your favorite anime movies?

N: I really like Summer wars, EVA (Neon Genesis Evangelion), of course, Akira, Satoshi Kon’s films  like Perfect blue, and Paprika

I love Perfect Blue. You’d be surprised to know that you’re the first person I met at this Con that knows that film and has seen it.

N: Really?

Yeah. Did you know director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) bought the rights the Perfect Blue just so he could copy ONE shot from it?

N: I didn’t know that! Very cool

Now, what are some of your favorite regular films?

N: I love Wes Anderson films

That’s great inspiration because he’s fantastic

N: Absolutely! Honestly Moonlight too, I think it’s also a very important film

I think it’s very important as well, even though I personally didn’t feel an emotional attachment.

N: Really, I thought it was very emotionally grounded for me even though I cannot personally relate.

I feel as though its themes are pretty universal!

N: Not just the thematics of it. But like with Wes Anderson it’s the color usage and composition it’s like perfect to just pause for a moment and just kind of storyboard so to speak. Just tot get inspiration on how to set everything up.

I think you’re on to something even in the film (Moonlight) the way (director) Barry Jenkins sets up the shots. I don’t know if you know this but it’s based on a play.

N: Moonlight in particular?

Yeah!

N: No I didn’t know that!

Yeah, it’s based on a play called in Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue and I think that really guided his color scheme. Lots of purples and blues

N: Like the neonish pinks, and purples

One thing I think is interesting is that the timeline isn’t really spoken about. You don’t really know when this takes place

N: I didn’t think about that. I was really just sitting in a theater admiring the visuals.

Now, this is probably the most important question I ask? Where can people find your stuff because you’re wayyy more talented than me.

N: Oh my goodness! Well, I’m more active on Instagram and Twitter. I don’t quite use my Tumblr anymore.

Are they all the same right?

N: Yes they’re @niapuddi

Cool name!

N: I do also have an Etsy store niapuddiart

Cool, so we’ll put that together to where people can go to your store and buy things.

N: Awesome!

Is there anything else you would love to tell the people about your art.

N: I just love drawing cute girls

Well everyone like cute girls

N: EVERYBODY LOVES CUTE GIRLS!

Dudes, other girls. You don’t see much of the cute guy thing though

N: I should really start drawing cute guys more.

Yeah! But guys don’t really gravitate towards cute guys

N: Maybe not and that’s unfortunate.

It’s reverse sexism!

N: (through laughter) I guess.

You know there’s a girl down there who makes body pillows of half naked superheroes!

N: Like guys?

Yeah like a Hawkeye…with a nipple ring. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.


LILYPOP

So usually we’ll start with talking about your inspirations, so what inspired you to make your weird pillows?

L: Ooh good question!

That’s why I’m here.

L: I think it’s just because I love fandoms so much. I love shipping. I just love making weird versions of these characters and defiling them into my dark fantasies and whatnot.

Yeah, I can see that! You really enjoy these half naked men.

L: I do, I do! Gratuitous booty shots!

Jack Septic Eyes butt is…uniquely placed on this one here. Why is it so far out.

L: That it is. Everyone likes a nice set of cakes you know!

Even on a dude?

L: Yes even on a dude.

I didn’t know that, being that I do not have one. Since we’re a movie site let’s talk about some of your favorite anime.

L: (Quickly) GHOST IN THE SHELL!

The 1995 one, the original?

L: Yaas the original.

It’s funny you mention that because the newest animated movie that just came out…we’re one of the only reviews on there.

L: REALLY? Oh my god! You know I still haven’t seen it.

Yeah…it’s isn’t very good.

L: WOW! I’m glad I didn’t spend my money on it!

Yeah, it wasn’t good, unfortunately. What else are you into? Stuff you look at and say “THAT inspires me!”

L: I haven’t really seen an anime movie that I really liked.

Perfectly acceptable answer and that leads me to my next question. What kind of regular films do you like?

L: I will watch any superhero themed or supernatural themed movies. I love comedies…

When you say supernatural what do you mean?

L: It could be ghosts, demons etc.

Any specific films that you could just say “I love that one”

L: Probably the one that stuck out the most was The Conjuring. It definitely hit a lot of notes for me.

Well now the director of The Conjuring is doing a superhero movie, he’s doing Aquaman.

L: WHAT! Oh my god!

Pretty cool right?

L: That’s very cool! It better be good because Annabelle was not good!

He didn’t direct that though (I say with a sigh of relief). So where can people find your stuff if they want to find you? Do you have a store?

L: I don’t have a store yet. They can hit me up on my Instagram or my website. I’m actually in the process of getting my own online shop.

What’s your website?

L: My site is lilypop.life

Cool, I will put that in there along with your Instagram. Is there anything you wanna say to the mass of people who will read this?

L: Who doesn’t like a good butt. If you like nice butts on guys hit me up.

Thanks so much for your time! You were amazing!


Steff Von Schweetz

FSR: Alright so the first question I ask everybody is what inspires you?

SVS: I love the creativity that goes into creating things. I’m just a creative person overall. I always loved Halloween as a kid dressing up was really fun, school spirit days. My mom would always make my Halloween costumes so I’d have something cool and unique. So Halloween was always fun. For me it was always about creating something new, I had a lot of self-esteem issues when I was younger…

FSR: Did it help with that?

SVS: It does! I mean you’re cosplaying as these powerful characters and that’s kind of how people see you. Not you as this timid meek high school kid. They don’t know you but they know you’re cool enough to be THAT character.

FSR: I wanted to touch on that so I’m glad you brought that up!

SVS: So like when I cosplay as someone like Sailor Saturn it’s like “Ahh sweet I’m the sensei of death and destruction. I can blow up planets oh I’m so cool”. Or like a really outgoing character. Sometimes I’ll do characters I really relate to or who have a really sad and tragic backstory. I’m not trying to be edgy I just really relate to this. It helps me to move along with my life to be able to relate to someone else even if they’re not real.

FSR: So you see yourself in these characters and they have either attributes that you strive to want or they represent attributes you already have right?

SVS: Yeah, yeah exactly!

FSR: We are a movie site so one question I always ask is “Since this con focuses on anime as a huge theme what are some of your favorite anime movies? Not series but movies.”

SVS: So everyone likes the classics like Akira and Ghost in the Shell. I think one of my favorites is…well its only thirty minutes long it’s called Voice of a Distant Star. It’s made pretty much by one person (Makoto Shinkai). He did all the animation on his computer and it’s just this very compelling story, the music is gorgeous it’s just overall really well done. I recommend it to everybody.

FSR: I’m sure your word is going to go a long way on that one! (She laughs) What are some regular movies you like, stuff that isn’t anime?

SVS: I’m a big sucker for Titanic!

FSR: I’m glad you brought that up because in my notes from your earlier panel I said: “We are going to talk about Titanic!”

SVS: I LOVE TITANIC! Its such a running joke between me and my friends because I put it on, and its such a good movie to have on when I’m working because I don’t have to worry about looping it!

FSR: What about that movie do you like? Besides the romance, because the romance is huge right?

SVS: No, you know I actually don’t give a shit about the romance.

FSR: Oh, dammit for me that’s huge!

SVS: Yeah, because I don’t think it’s a believable romance. I think its more a believable coming-of-age/becoming your own person type story for Rose especially. So not necessarily the romance because they know each other for all of 3 minutes but I think the want for her to become her own person is very real. I think the cinematography is gorgeous! The fact that they don’t have 3D and special effects type stuff its all built. Most of it was all sets that they built. The music is beautiful, the costumes are beautiful

FSR: The costumes are fantastic, particularly the ball scene.

SVS: I wanna cosplay Jack (Dawson) so bad and my best friend Mel wants to do Rose and I want to make all of their costumes!

FSR: Is that a gender swap (I learned the correct term later was CROSSPLAY)

SVS: No just me because I dress as a dude a lot.

FSR: I was going to say! I know this I’ve seen this and we’re going to talk about that in a minute!

SVS: Okay good let’s do it!

FSR: But first your panel today was about, the one I just got the honor of seeing was about posing and in it you say “that posing can make up a lot of your character” what percentage of that do you think it is? If I’m dressed as something and I don’t have the right posture how much can that make or break it?

SVS: I don’t think it necessarily breaks it. I think it depends on what you want to get out of cosplay. So someone who just buys a um… Sailor Moon outfit or an Akatsuki jacket at a con doesn’t necessarily care about cosplay but they want to dress up and just have fun at a con.

FSR: They want to look cute.

SVS: Yeah, maybe they want to take some photos with some friends. They may not be in it for the craftmanship or anything like that they just want to have a good time. That’s a fun hobby for them.

FSR: I feel like that’s really important to you, the craftsmanship.

SVS: As a craftsman yes! I find that cosplay is an art. So I think about the fabrics a lot. I think about my specific choices that are going to make the costume mine. Even if someone has a Toon Link; like the one, I’m wearing, It’ll seem like mine.

FSR: You’ll notice that I used the word art when I asked you that first question to describe what you do because I agree with you. I feel like anytime someone is doing something that IS inherently them then it is art. You’re wearing a Link outfit like you just mentioned there are a thousand Links. So what about THIS tunic separates you from the other Link’s out there.

SVS: So I love fabric shopping! I had a panel yesterday about choosing fabrics for your costume.

FSR: I heard about that from some other people! I’m sorry I didn’t get to go.

SVS: It’s okay I forgive you! Like how posing can say a lot about your character I think choosing a fabric can as well. If you’re a Princess or some royal Emperor your costume isn’t going to be made out of cotton. You can do things like satin velvet, velour or suedes. Like all of these beautiful fabrics! These things that say something. Somebody should be able to see a costume, not know the character but be able to tell something about their story. Where they come from.  Going back to posing I think those things work together.

FSR: I guess so. So let’s say you’re a Princess. You want to project that regality. You want to be posed gracefully going back to what you said in the actual panel

SVS: Right, exactly! It all comes together as a form of expression. I want to truly bring these characters to life. For me THAT’S the fun of cosplay. The creativity and the challenge of making something that’s two-dimensional and bring it to life. I’m not a good actor and I can’t roleplay or get into the character all the time but if someone sees a photo of me I want them to say “WOW! That’s what I picture the character would look like if they were real” or “this is straight from the game/movie!”

FSR: That was a deep one so I’m going to go back to something more fun. What’s your favorite stuff to cosplay?

SVS: I’m everywhere with costumes!

FSR: The two days I’ve been here you’ve been video games characters.

SVS: To be fair this is a video game convention. Honestly, I love making stupid silly costumes but I don’t always make these elaborate things. You can bet if I can wear Shadow the Hedgehog you better believe I’m going to dress as Shadow the Hedgehog.

FSR: I’m going to probe a bit more, because that’s what a good journalist does. Can you give me like more specific examples of who you like to cosplay as?

SVS: I’m all over the place with characters

FSR: Maybe then some recent ones you’ve been doing?

SVS: I’ve been doing a lot of edgy characters lately so like Shadow the Hedgehog, Gladeon from Pokemon Sun and Moon, Yurio from Yuri on Ice are good examples of edgy characters. Honestly anything I relate to I like to cosplay. They tend to be small, cranky characters.

FSR: I kinda get that that’s a good vibe for you!

SVS: Here I am sitting here as Toon Link, and Toon Link is great because he has a lot of expressions, so I can have a lot of fun with it.

FSR: IT DOES! He has to since he doesn’t talk he has to use his expressions.

SVS: That’s the first time he’s had those expressions! When (The Legend of Zelda) The Windwaker came out and he had all of these crazy faces!

FSR: I love Windwaker! I know it got a lot of backlashes when it came out for its art style. It really helped that stand out and I think it holds better over ten years later. So who are some of your favorite cosplayers…besides yourself?

SVS: Oh gosh that is so hard! There’s a lot of people I admire. Nyell (sic)? I don’t think I’m pronouncing that right…

FSR: How do you spell that?

SVS: I’ll get back to you on the spelling (she never got back to me on the spelling)…she (Nyell) is amazing! Her accuracy and fabric choices are just gorgeous! She’s so humble about the things she makes. She doesn’t have a million followers on social media but she has some of the most beautiful costumes I’ve ever seen!

FSR: I’m noticing a theme there. A lot of these cosplayers are very nice people.

SVS: Li Kovacs is another one! She used to go by pikminlink online. She does a lot of Zelda, she’s a huge Nintendo fan! She has amazing craftsmanship but she also does some great crossplay, obviously with Link. She ends up finding these amazing locations. All of her photos end up looking like they came straight out of a game, and its like where did you find a castle? Where in the hell did you find a castle?

FSR: Interesting you mention that because I never thought about “Oh, location is very important”. So about that gender swapping. You do a lot of it. A lot of crossplay. Crossplay to me is very interesting its “oh cool that girl looks like a dude”. But the other way around is where it gets interesting. When a dude dresses as a female character. How do you feel about that?

SVS: I think it’s fine. One of my friends, he goes by Imehemay (sic) his real names Anthony and he does amazing women! He looks so good! He has a full-on latex breastplate. IT LOOKS LEGIT, and he looks gorgeous and I wonder “why can’t I look that pretty? Can I borrow your boobs?” (we both laugh because that hilarious) They don’t match my skin tone, but I need that!

FSR: That’s a conversation from the panel! (I continue to laugh)

SVS: If you can’t laugh at yourself you’re not livin’

FSR: So as far a the crossplay thing I didn’t do a lot of research before I wrote this question but after talking to you (yesterday) I did. There are some of these dudes that look better than the ladies (haha) and some of these ladies are better looking as a dude than I am. Your handsomer than I am as a dude (SMDH)

SVS: I feel so honored. That’s funny because I don’t have a huge social media following but I feel like I have a very loyal following. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t do a lot of “sexy” t and a type costumes. I don’t have a problem with those that do but its just not my style. I don’t have the body type to pull that off. I’m very slender and I can crossplay pretty well because of that slenderness so I say to myself “well that’s what I’m going to do!” and that reaction of “I feel so weird because you’re a hot girl but you’re also a hot dude too!”

FSR: I get it! That’s honestly what I like about your stuff. Its not just a lot of stuff with your ass hanging out..

SVS: I don’t really have an ass to hang out (we laugh)

FSR:… I was having this conversation with the pillow gal (Lilypop) and she was saying she loved “dat cake” on a gentleman and I told her “you don’t have to worry about that on me because I don’t have any baked goods back here”. Yesterday you told me your most famous photo is a hot dog suit. Tell me about that hot dog suit!

SVS: So when you have Amazon Prime, do you have Amazon Prime…

FSR: I do

SVS:… So when you have Amazon Prime every once and a while when I have some extra funds I go and buy something really dumb because its Prime and its two days and if I really don’t like it I can return it. For some reason I got a suggestion for a hot dog costume, but not a regular hot dog costume, it was a child’s hotdog costume. It said ages 7-9

FSR: That works for you?

SVS: It does! I thought “I’m pretty sure I can fit in a child’s 7-9 hot dog costume” and it was only like $9 and the adult costume was like $30, which is insane! So I thought alright $9 done here we go! I put it on and immediately took this stupid selfie in the bathroom where I had this giant shit-eating grin on my face like I was so excited to be here in this hot dog costume. I could not stop laughing and my friends loved it so much so they were like “when are the hot dog prints coming?” and I was like “Okay” so as a joke I made a print of it and I went out into the desert that is Vegas  and I took this stupidly epic looking photo of me as a hot dog on the side of the road and it ended up being a huge hit and its my most sold print out of anything its actually become part of my brand.

FSR: I noticed on your cards is says “Hot Dudes, Hot Chicks, Hot Dogs”

SVS: Yeah, that’s a thing I do now.  I’m coming out with like little cheebee version of me in the hotdog suit as stickers and keychains. So a lot of people are excited for that! (BTW I want one Steff!). SO it’s actually become a part of my identity. I never thought my life would go into that direction. I think that summarizes me as a cosplayer pretty well. I take the craftsmanship and the art of cosplay very seriously because its something I truly love doing!

FSR: Well you’ve been doing it half your life. I noticed you said that (in your panel earlier) and you said, we talked yesterday you were 28, thats 14 years that’s half your life you’ve been doing this.

SVS: It’s nuts! Who knew I’d be doing this for that long! For me cosplay has been something really fun I don’t wanna take cosplay seriously because at the end of the day we’re all just nerds in costume at a convention. There’s nothing serious about that.

FSR: I noticed that, I was in that room, a lot of people react to you! You get a large reaction, even people coming up to you  that you don’t know. They know who YOU are! How do you feel about that reaction to you?

SVS: (She says gleefully) I LOVE IT! I heard that a lot of the cosplayers, especially those with a large social media following, people tend to be really intimidated by them. They’re like “OMG, your cosplays are amazing! And mine look like shit” or “I was really nervous to talk to you” . A lot of people have said that like my Facebook page, my twitter page, instagram feel very…homey. Very personable and people were like “Oh wow you responded to my comment!” and I tolf them that “Yeah, I read all the comments! You guys are a lot to me. I wouldn’t be doing half the things I do without your support!.” I have offered my booth space to people who needed a place to sit and rest. There was a girl who was crying because she got kicked out of her room. So I had her take a breather, gave her some water, some food and she was good to go within a matter of an hour. The cosplay community has really helped me when I was really heavily bullied as a kid.

FSR: I think that everyone in this building was

SVS: That’s true but it was different back then because the internet wasn’t a thing. So I didn’t have a place where I could Facebook, where you have Facebook Groups and Tumblr where you can find people who have similar interest. We had a Myspace maybe but conventions weren’t as prevalent back then; they were far apart it was a completely different community so when I went to my first con it was life changing. People came up and talked to me, I was in a really awful costume like falling apart really bad, no makeup, no wig even and people were like “OMG your costume is SO COOL; I love that anime!” Let’s talk about this. People wanted to talk to me and they were excited to share their passion and I was excited to talk to them. I met so many people, we started talking and texting and it felt really great to be accepted finally in a community where I can just be myself without worried! That is what I had always wanted to do…give back. I never want people to feel like “Oh I’m nervous to cosplay because I’m fat or I’m not the right skin color.”

FSR: I’m definitely fat so I can totally relate!

SVS: NO, no wear what you want! I never want anyone to feel that way

FSR: #bodypositive right?

SVS: RIGHT! And people always say “Oh you can say that because you’re a skinny bitch!” I’m like “Do you know how many times I’ve been made fun of for not being a “real woman” because I’m skinny and don’t have curves?” Like that works on both spectrums. Why don’t we just come together? I just want everyone to be happy in this community and there’s no need for the drama, there’s no need for all the bullshit because again at the end of the day we’re just dorks in costumes! Why are we making this a popularity contest. We’re suppose to be having a good time and sharing our passion WITH each other not AGAINST each other.

FSR: So are these your actual eyes?

SVS: Yes! I actually cannot wear contacts.

FSR: So these are green eyes.

SVS: Yeah but on my birth certificate it says blue, because I was born with blue eyes.

FSR: My mom’s eyes did that! Her (my mom’s) were green and they turned blue.

SVS: Yeah except that they give me headaches and I have to wear glasses.

FSR: I have perfect eyesight

SVS: Ah well screw you! (we laugh)

FSR: Thank you so much for letting me interview you you are the sweetest.

SVS: I am…a hot dog…honestly.  I’m a weird potato, hot dog.

FSR: No! Today we’ve conclusively proven you are not a potato. (As I show her one of her prints) potatoes don’t look like that

SVS: I don’t know have you seen every potato in the world?

FSR: Yes ( This is a lie I have not)…So where can people find your stuff if they want to buy a print or just get to know you because they read this and they love it.

SVS: I go by Steff Von Schweetz on pretty much every social media site. I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I sell my prints through storeenvy (link below) I do have a patreon where I do paid content they get exclusive things every month which is always really fun.

FSR: Again thanks so much for your time!

SVS: Thank you for being patient and waiting!

FSR: Of course you were the last thing on the docket and I’m glad we were able to get this down.

You guys can follow Steff HERE:

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/SteffVonTweetz
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/steffvonschweetz/
PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/SteffVonSchweetz
STORE ENVY: http://www.storenvy.com/SteffSchweetz

Please support all three of these great artists! With that since this was chock full of anime goodness, I’ll leave you with the intro to my favorite anime! See you next year LVL UP and let me know on Twitter or Instagram if you’d like a follow up or collab with any of these dope ladies!

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