Riot's latest agent NEON dropped last week (and here's a guide on how to play it). Riot Games partnered with Filipina cosplayer and streamer Charess AKA kittykatchii95 to create the first-ever official NEON cosplay, a project that resulted in a stunning electric-inspired video and photoshoot.
Inven Global caught up with Charess to talk about her collaboration with Riot for the NEON cosplay. We spoke about the behind-the-scenes of the project and about the Viper cosplay that she credits with catching Riot's attention in the first place.
Cinematographer: Nicko Wong - WongBros (TVPS)
All image credits for Charess and her team are linked at the end of this article, and published with Charess' permission.
How did you get into cosplay, and what inspired you to do your first one?
I got into cosplay because I loved anime when I was young. I was really into anime, and I had a friend who was into cosplay who said I should try. I saw cosplay first in a magazine, it was not in the mainstream media back then. This was like 2010, 2011, and then I finally joined in 2012. My first cosplay was Saya Kisaragi from Blood-C, it's a vampire anime.
Since then, how have you established your look and your brand in video games?
As of now, I have been cosplaying characters from video games, since I don’t watch anime as much anymore. I don’t have time, I am getting old haha. When I started I would cosplay anime or manga characters only, but when I started streaming, I shifted to video games. I still cosplay anime characters from time to time. I mainly stream on Facebook and on Twitch.
What keeps you motivated to keep making new costumes?
I have been cosplaying for 10 years, but on and off. Sometimes, I stop if I need to focus on my studies or my work. Recently, I just started cosplaying again, in the last quarter of 2021. I cosplayed someone from Genshin last August, then I did Viper from VALORANT.
It goes on and on. I have photoshoots every two weeks, which led me to NEON. Right now I realize that the quality is more important than the quantity or amount of characters I cosplay. Everytime I cosplay or do another shoot I make sure to surpass the quality of the previous shoot to make sure I produce better cosplays
Do you work with the same videographers and photographers on a regular basis?
[The photographers I have worked with lately], we have been friends for years, but I started working with this team since Viper. It's a team, we have a photographer, videographer, a VFX artist, and then I have friends who do behind-the-scenes videos. They call themselves team Warm-Up, but they just have pages as individuals.
Let's talk about the official NEON cosplay. You were contacted by Riot for that one?
Yes, I was contacted by Riot through my agency, Rumble Royale. It's a streaming/gaming agency, and they are the ones who got contacted by Riot. And they said Riot requested for me because I think they saw my Viper cosplay.
They requested you do NEON specifically, does that mean they showed you the design far ahead?
At first, I was only told I was going to cosplay someone from VALORANT. I thought I would be playing Killjoy or Jett or some other already existent agent. It wasn’t confirmed yet that there was an upcoming agent. When we had our meeting with Riot games, I was dumbfounded that I would be cosplaying an upcoming Filipina character, I was so shocked I was the chosen one. Of all the cosplayers, why me? My jaw dropped literally, my bosses had to talk for me when Riot was talking to me, asking if I can do this? So yeah, the bosses had to talk for me!
So after you agreed, they showed you early NEON so you could make the costume?
Yes, but only at the meeting. They can’t reveal it in chat or in an email, because I had to sign some NDAs. But NEON wasn’t finished yet, the design that they showed in that meeting was different than what we see right now. They gave me the full design a week or two after the meeting.
How much time did that leave you to make the costume?
One week for the costume, and one week for the shoot and editing. It was very hectic!
What were some of the biggest challenges making this cosplay on that tight timeframe?
At first, they wanted me to do everything, make the costume and the wig. But I had to say I can’t do everything in that time, because at the time I was also doing the Jinx shoot, and was about to join a gaming tournament, so I couldn’t commit to making the whole costume. So they agreed I would contact my costume maker [Ding Parado Cantos], props maker Shocross Neko, and the wig stylist Ranchii. And from there I called them and asked if they can commit if they can do it in a very short time. They said yes, and from there I told Riot that we can do it.
So you would describe this process as high pressure?
Yes, it was very scary. And my costume maker is in a different city, so I had to fly to do a fitting. Usually, we don’t do a fitting, I just send her the measurements and she sends me the costume, and I alter it if it's bigger or smaller. But that time we have a fitting only once, and I am so glad when they gave the costume it fit, so I didn’t have to do much. I got the costume the day with the shoot being tomorrow.
So you had to fly to Manila, but was the shoot at home in Cebu?
Yes, it was at home in Cebu. The costume makers are from Manila. I only flew twice, for Jinx and then this one. But I really had to go to Manila for the tournament this time anyway.
I saw the NEON trailer video. I was impressed with your poses for NEON, what was the performance like?
It was painful, physically painful to do those poses. I do everything to justify the character. It was all planned by the creative director Archie, he made a content plan and storyboard, and he drew a lot of poses that I should do. It was hard!
Did you get to practice those poses before?
No, I didn’t have time to practice. My flight was the night before the shoot, so I arrived home at 12 a.m. and then had to shoot at 8 a.m., and I still have to prepare the costume and stuff I needed to bring, so I barely had any sleep that night. I also did the makeup myself. That was all my idea and stuff.
Do you like the NEON character design?
Yeah! I love it so much, it's edgy. It is so vibrant, it gives you the teenage energy, makes you feel young. And when we did the shoot, we didn’t know her skills yet. I am so glad we ended up with poses that did match the skills of NEON, like the sliding one. We only had the character design with her standing in different angles.
When you did your Viper cosplay you knew more about the character going in, correct?
Yeah, I am a Viper main, so I know Viper pretty well!
What do you like about Viper’s visual design?
I love her mommy vibe! Can I say that? I feel like she is hot, she is so sexy. I love Viper’s mask, the smoke, the playstyle.
In the shoot, you captured the Viper smoke, was that a fog machine?
Yeah, we had a fog machine, but we only used flashlights for lighting. We bought a speed light, but we didn’t know how to use it yet, we got it the day before the shoot. So we decided to just go on with emergency lights and flashlights. The green lights are from the props, so the lighting really helped and made it better.
With Viper did you also work with your costume maker?
Yes, it was also a commission. But I did the alterations on it to make them fit. The mask was made by the same props maker that made by NEON props. The neck thing, however, was made by Jello Grayson, one of the best props makers in the Philippines.
Is there a large costume/prop community in the Philippines?
There are a lot of good prop makers here. Most of the time it's in Manila though. I don’t know who are good prop makers in Cebu. I used to have my props maker here, but he has kind of stopped, so I just go to Manila.
Do you have something in mind for your next cosplay?
I don’t have one yet. I don’t know, after NEON, it's very huge, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I have a lot of costumes here I haven’t shot yet, I am still thinking, though.
Support the creators that made these shoots possible!
All the photos shared in this article are with the consent from Charess. Please go follow her and her team, to support the team of artists and creators that make shoots like this possible!
Credit for NEON photoshoot:
Cosplayer | Charess
Cinematographer | Nicko Wong - WongBros (TVPS)
Photographers | Macvan Dihayco / Andy Go
Creative Director & editor | Archie Abong/Digitalarch
Assistant Director | Gunslinger Dirge
Behind the Scenes | Danielle Deutsch | Nica Takishima
Propsmaker | Shocross Neko
Costume Maker | Ding Parado Cantos - Solibeau, The Seamstress
Wig Stylist | Ranchii
Credit for Viper photoshoot:
Photographer | Andy Go & MacVan Dihayco
Lightsmen | Gunslinger Dirge & Jan Marc Menasalvas Smokes | Danielle Deutsch
Brain & BTS shots | Nica Takishima
Suit maker | @Badj
Neck & shoulder thingy, belt, and boots | Gelo Grayson
Gun, snakebite, mask, and other props | Shocross Neko
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.