If it's spooky, CyRhen Sohngs is into it.
From Southern Illinois, CyRhen Sohngs is a passionate cosplayer who has always loved dressing up for Halloween. When she discovered cosplay, that was even better. Transforming into characters from shows, anime, and video games — instead of just what's in the costume store — was the start of something exciting.
Or, as CyRhen Sohngs put it, "It was all downhill from there!"
So what was your first cosplay?
A character named Kurumi from a game called Hachi Koi. It’s an adult dating sim. I liked the character. She was the first plus-sized characters I’d seen represented in that kind of game.
How did you translate that character into a cosplay?
That was like a decade ago now! Maybe not quite that long, but quite some time. I couldn’t find the skirt at all. There were no internet boutiques that had the kind of stuff I was looking for. I couldn't find local seamstresses who could do it…
I got a hold of my friend’s mom and had her put together a skirt for me. At the time she wasn’t a super great seamstress but she was the only one that was willing to try. I couldn’t really find most of the other things either so I sourced it from Good Will.
I used fabric glue to glue on the trimmings on her school shirt and sweater vest. I checked out the men’s Good Will for a yellow sweater vest. I found some knee-highs and I hot glued little pink flowers to the side of it.
The only thing I really purchased was the wig.
Wow, most people's first cosplays were simply purchased. But you created your entire look! How did you feel that you were able to put it together?
There weren’t a lot of boutiques that sold cosplays. Everything was hard to find. It was even harder to find this character from an independent, adult dating sim. But it was affirming. There were so many roadblocks… Can’t source this, can’t source that… But once I had it all together, I was super excited. I was elated that I was able to convey this character well. It was a good feeling.
You said this character spoke to you because she was plus-sized. Why was it important for you to create a cosplay of this character?
I’m a plus-sized person. I'm six feet tall. For the past five or six years, I’ve been about 300 pounds. I’m a very large person. I struggle with finding fashion I enjoy. But when it comes to things like cosplay, it’s easy for a straight-sized person to hop on to an online cosplay store and just buy a costume of a character they enjoy. I can’t do that. It’s always a matter of getting custom pieces. Even in 2021, I probably was wearing close to a US 20-22. It’s still very difficult for me to find anything in a store or on a site. Especially for cosplay.
With the recent popularization of cosplay, I have been able to find a lot of boutiques and Etsy shops that cater to that kind of thing. That’s been a nice development.
So the cosplay I first noticed was your Roadhog cosplay! What made you decide to cosplay Roadhog from Overwatch?
To be honest, Roadhog started out as a joke. I’m a huge person so I figured it’d be a cool cosplay to do. But I’m 30. I’ve always been insecure about my stomach and how my mid-section holds weight. And I thought, "Isn’t it funny that I’m joking about this guy but he has my body type. Why can’t I just embrace that?"
I’d seen another cosplayer and she had done the belly tattoo. I can’t imagine painting that on my belly and making it last all day. But she bought some Spanx got it screen printed on the front. So I just stretched a pair of Spanx over a suitcase and painted them. Everything except the pins I wore were handmade by myself.
Wow it came out amazing! How long did it take to create this Roadhog cosplay?
I started working on Roadhog at the beginning of 2017. I wanted to go to a con in the middle of the year. But all the plans fell through and I had to cancel that one con. So I started working on him for a little while and feeling down about that. But another group was going to Anime STL and that was in two months so I started Roadhog again.
I found an old gas mask bong my cousin had. I gave her a piece of jewelry in exchange for the mask! Then I got an energy drink, drank it, cut it in half, and plastered the whole thing to make it look like one piece. I customized the front and the sides.
The armor on my arm and knee pads, that was all foam. Decorations on the armor were oven-baked clay. I get a lot of hate for this, but it only took me close to 12 hours. But it's becuase I was freaking out and rushing because I had a contest at the con.
The day of the con, I was still waiting for a piece of my costume to dry. I hot glued one of the pads to my pants. It hurt so bad, but it wasn't ready!
What was the gaming community's reaction to the cosplay?
It went over really well. I have this weird thing where I'm like, "I like to be looked at but don’t pay attention to me." So it worked for me. A lot of people were scared to run up to me since I was a big, intimidating character. But people did ask to get pictures, which was really cool.
Were you scared to do such a revealing cosplay or worried about getting judgment?
I was really proud of my cosplay. And a lot of the groups I posted it in, I received overwhelmingly positive reactions. There were still definitely people who had thinly veiled negative reactions they pretended were positive, like, “At least she picked a good cosplay for her body type.” Underhanded things.
It wasn’t super bad because of the positivity. But in some places and some circles, there’s not. There are pages of hatred for fat people or brown people. Like doing Roadhog because I’m black. Which makes no sense to me because he’s of native decent. That was annoying.
How do you deal with people's negativity, racism, and fatphobia?
The best thing I can tell you is to not look at the comments. It seems like a cowardly way to deal with it. But on the internet, people are emboldened because there’s a sense of anonymity. They feel they can do and say what they want, even if they don’t believe it. People will say and do cruel things they don’t even believe. They just do it because they know it will hurt that person.
The best thing you can do is don’t look at the comments. Keep it positive. Be proud of yourself for posting it in the first place.
A lot of your looks are makeup. Have you always been into makeup?
Yes, I have always been into makeup and costuming as a combo. Even as a kid, I’d steal all my mom’s nightgowns and smear green eyeshadow all over myself and pretend I’m a fairy. Just weird kid stuff. But I’ve always been like that. My mom is a very fashionable and dramatic sort of person so it translated over to me in its own way.
I love becoming other characters. It’s just fun. It’s a sense of escapism.
What is one of your favorite makeup looks?
The Mother Spider Demon from Demon Slayer. But honestly also a random neon spider look that I did. I had seen a lot of references of people making themselves look like spiders with mandibles. It was really cool looking. I wanted to do it but wanted to do neon because I’m dark-skinned and wanted them to pop. It’s a lot of orange and purples and yellows. Near my eyes, I drew eyebrows and then neon yellow lipstick. It looked really cool.
Why do you love this look?
One, I love spiders. Two, I didn’t think I would execute it well but it turned out really good. The photo turned out really good. I was really content with it.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a couple of different ones. I always have a million things going on and it's hard for me to sit down and finish one. But right now I’m working on a Velma cosplay and Bowsette cosplay. I was way late to the party!
Velma, I’ve always wanted to do that. I love Scooby-Doo and spooky stuff. I adore the movies. It’s a good vibe. She’s my favorite.
Firstly, I wanted to do Bowsette. I don’t keep up with Twitter or social media stuff. When I do, it’s just my friends or things I like. I had no idea what was happening when she happened. The first time I saw an image of Bowsette, an artist I followed drew her. But instead of blonde hair, she had red hair and was brown. It was more accurate to what Bowser would look like and I love red. I love wearing red hair.
I got married in 2015 and I have a giant, black, and purple wedding dress. How perfect would that be for Bowsette? I got my corset in. I’m ready for the dress. I just need to get my crown and horns made. We’re almost there.
Are you excited for cons to return?
I’m cautious but very excited. A lot of cons are trying to get things rolling this year. I don’t feel safe going out this year. But I'm excited about going to cons next year.
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