As in the past, this year's Dota 2 International tournament also played host to a lucrative cosplay competition with a $15,000 prize pool. This year, someone who has only been cosplaying for four short months, won first place, taking home the grand prize of $3,500 at only her second competition.
The cosplayer "Ellie" created a costume based off the Dota 2 hero Clockwerk, specifically his upcoming "Pressure Regulator" set that casts Clockwerk as an old-school deep-sea diver. Ellie sat down with GameRevolution to talk about her victory, and how, even on stage, she mistakenly thought that she only got third place.
GameRevolution: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into cosplay.
Ellie: My name is Ellie. I started cosplaying four months ago. I was in the cosplay industry working as an event organizer in Romania (where I'm from) six years ago. I had a lot of cosplayer friends, but I never actually tried it for myself.
Since I haven't been working and I have all this free time, I said "what the hell? Let's do cosplay."
GR: So how did you start getting interested in Dota?
Ellie: I started playing the original Dota, then I moved to League of Legends, then HoN and finally to Dota 2 because I was working for Secret Shop selling Dota merchandise, and I felt so bad not knowing how to answer questions from people. So, I was like "OK. I'm going to start learning this game." So if someone asks a question not necessarily related to our merchandise, I'm going to answer their question.
After that, I couldn't go back to playing League or anything else because I got so hooked on Dota and I was playing it all the time.
GR: You chose to cosplay as Clockwerk. Did you know you wanted to go with him first, or did you consider a few different heroes?
Ellie: I first wanted to go as Treant Protector, because he has a set that looks so cool. But then, I had to think if I had enough time and resources. I looked up a video of someone doing a similar hero in League of Legends, and they had a full team working for more than three months developing it. I was like "I can't do that in three months!"
So I wanted to do something that fits my body type because I'm really short, and something that will let me just walk around without hurting my body. I didn't want to do a "female version," or exaggerate it. I just wanted to be Clockwerk. So I started looking up tutorials - there are so many videos on this set, and I tried to be as accurate as possible.
Initially I wanted to do another set for Clockwerk, but they announced the pressure regulator set, and I was like "whoa that's neat, I want to do that."
GR: What was your first cosplay?
Ellie: I tried to do a female Axe at Dreamhack Austin, which turned out pretty bad, because I'm really bad at body paint, and when I made the boots, they shrunk, but I wore them nonetheless. I got some really bad feet injuries that got infected.
It was my first cosplay, but I got put in the intermediate group. I understand now that my body paint was really bad, and my wig was OK. It was a bad cosplay now that I look back at it.
GR: How did you change your strategy from that Axe cosplay going into The International?
Ellie: Well the most important part was that I stopped using hot glue. I used as little as possible so that it's almost non-existent. I switched it out for contact cement. It was very sturdy. A lot of people were worried they would break my costume, and I was like "no chance." When I was walking, I hit a tree and a couple poles, but it didn't fall apart.
Plus, I also studied more. I got cosplay books, watched cosplay tutorials from other cosplayers on Instagram. I think I spent at least 50 hours just doing research. I watched Clockwerk from all the angles possible. I took screenshots, I was using DotaLoadout.com, a website that lets you test hero sets. I also went away from body paint, because I'm not very good at it.
I do want to say that if you work with contact cement, wear a mask for the fumes, because it's very toxic. I had a bad day when I used it.
GR: Were you surprised that you made it as far as you did, becoming a finalist and then winning?
Ellie: I actually was really surprised. Everyone was telling me to be confident and that I'd at least get top three, but I don't take anything for granted. When I got the message that I was in the finals, I was screaming and yelling, and I was really happy. Then during the finals, I actually thought I won third prize, and I was really happy about that.
GR: So, even on stage, you didn't know that you won?
Ellie: I couldn't hear or see anything, practically. The only thing I heard was "Clockwerk!" and I stepped up front. I thought I got third prize. I was like "Yay, I got in the final three!" Then I walked back really slowly, and my boyfriend took my helmet off and I was like "I won third prize!" and he was like "No, you won first!" And then I started crying because I was so happy.
GR: Was there any hero you absolutely didn't want to do?
Ellie: I definitely not going to do Queen of Pain ever. I don't feel comfortable being that naked. Don't get me wrong, I think all the cosplays here were amazing, and they're so beautiful, but I'm not OK with doing something like that myself.
But I do admire them for their courage because it takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there like that. Maybe one day, who knows, maybe I'll have that courage as well. For now, I'll just hide under a Clockwerk Costume.
GR: Are you looking ahead to any other competitions or considering other games to cosplay?
Ellie: I actually want to start this year on my next TI costume. I want to make something amazing. I heard a lot of people say "the best cosplayers were at [the Manilla Major]," or "the best cosplayers were at EPICENTER," and I do not disagree with that. Those people are amazing, but this was my first time, and one day I will be at that level.
I'm actually thinking about doing some Overwatch, because I always wanted to go to BlizzCon. I went to GamesCom and saw all this wonderful Blizzard cosplay, and was like "one day, that's going to be me."
GR: What do you think of the organization of this event compared to others you've been to or competed at?
Ellie: It was so amazing. Everyone was so nice. They had changing rooms, a place to drop your stuff. It was the nicest thing [PGL] could have done. They also gave us water and the information was on-point all the time. I've never been treated so well at an event as I have with PGL involved. They were incredible, and I'm so grateful.
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