Ashes to Ashes: An Interview with Artist Tranquil Ashes

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Luisa from “Encanto”, Velma from “Scooby Doo” and Korra from “The Legend of Korra” fill the Tranquil Ashes Instagram grid. In the cosplay photos, artist Anita Riggs, aka Tranquil Ashes, is not only dressed like each character, but embodies their ways. In Luisa’s photo, taken at this year’s AwesomeCon, Riggs proudly bends and poses next to a beaming young fan.

With over 17,000 followers on Instagram, Riggs’ cosplay origin story happened naturally while he was living in Japan, teaching English at the Japanese Embassy.

“In Japan, a lot of our co-workers had events where you dress up, like Halloween, and anything themed,” says Riggs. “I would have these opportunities to dress up, and because I’m all about the theme, I realized I really like doing it.”

Upon her return to the United States, she noticed that cosplay and anime had become more common, and decided to try dressing up and attending conventions. With a dual degree in art and mythology and a love for anime, the writing was already on the wall. Now, eight years later, Riggs is being invited to conventions, has a growing following, and is creating spaces in the community for BIPOC cosplayers to connect. Last May, Riggs created Black MerMayDay, a May Day “for all the aquatic melanin fantasy cosplay.” We spoke to Riggs about the upcoming gala she’s founding, got makeup tips, and learned the philosophy behind her character choice.

District Fray: How do you choose the character to cosplay?
Anita Riggs: The character that makes me feel good is the character that I tend to cosplay. And I like to feel strong, so I often cosplay strong characters. I tend to be gender-leaning, which is to cosplay as male characters and bring them to life in my own way. I also like to play bad guys.

Why the bad guys?
Villains tend to have very good characterization and often dress better than our heroes. And sometimes their stories are gripping, even if they’re not the hero. So, Akuma from “Street Fighter” is the one I really like to cosplay because he’s diligent and has a code of honor. He won’t fight you if you’re not at the same level.

Quiet Ashes as Velma. Photo courtesy of subject

Last year, you launched the CosGala. The second CosGala is September 17. Why did you want
creating your own cosplay event?
Think of it as the Met Gala but for the nerds. You know how designers make clothes for stars? Well, we make our own things and present them at the gala. It’s a space where creatives and like-minded people can come together, commune and network. And it’s a talent show in a way because I’m trying to showcase a lot of talent in the area and grow the artistic community. I don’t think our local talent gets enough love. When I go to any type of event that showcases talent or has guests, very often they’re not DMV. Also, I like big fancy balls.

What is the inspiration behind the garment you are going to wear at the CosGala?
I found the theme for this year, cyberpunk. I’m a “Star Trek” fan. And in one of their most recent shows, “Star Trek: Discovery,” there was a sort of mobile suit character that I was just like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. How can I take that and make it into a dress? And that’s what the gala is all about. I want people to broaden their minds, try new things and combinations that you’ve never tried before, and see what kind of doors will open.

How was your experience in the cosplay community?
I kind of just did my cosplay, went to conventions and then went home. But once I started making friends with people in the community, I went all the way. I’ve had mostly positive experiences, but I’ve also had negative experiences on the internet because people don’t like to see you enjoying things. you do this if they think you don’t fit a certain mold or standard. And I really try to use my platform to demystify all those kinds of thoughts. The point of cosplay is that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s meant to be for everyone. It’s meant to be something where people can get together and enjoy fandoms and literature and art and whatever comes with whatever mutual thing you love. And there should be no color barrier. There should be no weight, height or age barriers. As a culture, we’re still stuck on those barriers, and I’m just against that idea. I never went in there thinking I was going to be an example. But as I progressed, I realized that I am an example for others so that they know they can dress up as whoever they want.

Tranquil Ashes in Rose Quartz in battle armor. Photo courtesy of subject

rapid fire

Which costume did you take the longest to prepare for?
Rose quartz in combat armor

The furthest place you’ve traveled to for a convention?
California

Disney Channel, Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon?
cartoon network

Your favorite literary fandom?
“Game of Thrones”

What are your makeup brand recommendations for foundation?
Fenty or Make Up For Ever. For a cheaper option, NYX.

For the eyeshadow?
ColorPop

For the eyeliner?
Kat Von D. She has this precise mini brush.

For the lip gloss?
NYX or ColourPop

The best makeup remover?
virgin olive oil

The CosGala: CYBERPUNK will take place on September 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Martin’s Caterers in Baltimore. Visit the website to learn more about the event and get tickets, or follow them on @thecosgala. To keep up to date with Riggs, follow her on Instagram @tranquil_ashes or on Twitter @TranquilAshes.

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