Cosplayer Interview

Cosplayer Of The Week: Ray Ballard Jr.

Leo Nocedo : How did you discover cosplaying?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I had gone to comic/SYFY/gaming conventions for a long time and had seen everyone dressing up, but I never felt comfortable doing it myself because I was very overweight for most of my life and did feel like I could fit the part.
Leo Nocedo : What was your first cosplay?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Beside doing renfest type stuff the first actual character I put together was a Time Traveling Steampunk Wizard based in the world of Harry Potter.
Leo Nocedo : What are your next 3 cosplay plans?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I work with my wife and we never have set plans. We kind of just let the muse lead us on what we are going to create next. A lot of times it is something we find when we are out on the “hunt” for cool items that will inspire us to make a new character.
Leo Nocedo : Have you ever been in a cosplay contest?
Ray Ballard Jr. : We have been in a few contest and won a few, but I don’t feel that I need to enter a contest to show off my stuff. I would rather just go and hang out with my friends, lead panels on creating stuff, and sometimes be a judge at the cons.
Leo Nocedo : Do you prefer sewing, armor making, or wig working?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I love creating! I work in a lot of mediums, but my favorite is foam work. I love to make weapons and armor that look mean and heavy but are light and easy to get around it.
Leo Nocedo : Do you prefer to do photoshoots at cons or at specific locations?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I love to show up at a con and have photos taken. We have done specific locations and that is fun too.
Leo Nocedo : Is there a type of character you cosplay frequently?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I am known for my work in Steampunk and all of the sub-genres like Diesel, Dust, etc.
Leo Nocedo : Do you have any favorite cosplayers?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  I am always amazed at some of the stuff that Thomas Willeford, Tayliss Forge, and James Neathery put out. And one of my favorite local creators is my friend Thirl Hupp. He makes some of the most incredible stuff and does it very inexpensively.
Leo Nocedo : What’s the most detailed cosplay you’ve ever done?
Ray Ballard Jr. : That would have to be A.R.G.O. a diesel punk military cyborg.
Leo Nocedo : What are your top 3 craftsmanship tips?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Keep an open mind and don’t see stuff for what it is, but what it can be. And don’t ever say “I can’t do that!” because with a little practice anyone can learned to anything!
Leo Nocedo : What is your favorite cosplay you’ve done?
Ray Ballard Jr. : My Time Traveling Steampunk Wizard is still one of my favorites because I have added so much to the character when I put on the garb I become him.
Leo Nocedo : What is your worst cosplay “horror” story?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Probably like most, things breaking or falling apart just before the contest time. People not paying attention at the cons and running into you and destroying some of your costume.
Leo Nocedo : What’s your funniest cosplay story?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  I don’t know if it was funny at the time, but it was a few years ago at Tampa Bay Comic Con and we had got settled into our hotel. We started getting ready for the first day and my stuff was not to be seen. I asked my wife if she had packed it and she said she didn’t know. I had to haul it back home, about 3 hours round trip, to get my stuff that did not get packed. I actually did the trip in about 2 ½ hours and I won’t tell you how fast I was driving!
Leo Nocedo : What’s the best in-character interaction you’ve ever had?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I have an owl puppet that I use in my wizard cosplay and I was at a steampunk event in Mount Dora. There was this little old lady who had to be at least 90 years old. I fool people a lot into thinking my owl is real and she completely believed it was. She asked to pet it and commented that she had always wanted to pet an owl. I couldn’t tell her it was not real because it totally made her day!
Leo Nocedo : Have you ever cosplayed with a family member?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Actually, my wife and I cosplay all the time. In fact, most of my cosplays are part of a team we develop.
Leo Nocedo : What is your favorite cosplay photo of yourself?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  I have one that was taken in this nasty alley at SyFy Bartow a couple years ago. We are in our diesel punk military gear and it looks like we are ready to kick ass and take names. It was a fun photo to do, but man that alley was stinky!
Leo Nocedo : What are your go-to stores for cosplay materials/full cosplays?
Ray Ballard Jr. :Harbor Freight is where I get a lot of my stuff from. Also, we hit up thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, etc. to find things we can repurpose and make into something else.
Leo Nocedo : Do you prefer to buy pre-styled wigs or style your own?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I don’t wear a lot of wigs, but we always buy whatever is found and sometimes style it ourselves.
Leo Nocedo : Have you ever had someone mistake you for a different character?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I work on a lot of original characters with a complete story and there are times when people will come up and ask “Who are you?” I explain to them the story and they love it.
Leo Nocedo : List all the cosplays you’ve done.
Ray Ballard Jr. : Most of our stuff is original so to start naming them would not mean anything to most people. We have a lot of variations in the steampunk genre. I do not usually do mainstream cosplaying that you would typically see.
Leo Nocedo : What’s the biggest con you’ve cosplayed at?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  Tampa Bay Comic Con, Mega Con, and SyFy Bartow. Yes, SyFy Bartow…when almost 35,000 people show up for a one day event, I call that LARGE!
Leo Nocedo : Do you prefer cosplaying characters with props, or characters that you don’t need to carry a prop around all day?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Many of my characters have props incorporated into the costume so I have props almost all day!
Leo Nocedo : Have you ever lost a cosplay piece at a con?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  Thank god no! Have I had pieces broken? Absolutley, but I can fix them!
Leo Nocedo : Have you ever bought a cosplay piece at a con?
Ray Ballard Jr. : If I see something that is real quality made piece or I want to support a friend that is a creator, then I will purchase things at the cons. Mostly though, I usually buy art!
Leo Nocedo : Do you prefer to cosplay solo or in a group?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  Most of the time I cosplay with my wife.
Leo Nocedo:If you had a chance to meet your all-time favorite cosplayer, what would you say to them?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I usually tell them how much I love seeing their work and the dedication they put into their craft. And some I let know how much they inspired me to try something new when it comes to making garb.
Leo Nocedo : Have you ever done a cosplay panel?
Ray Ballard Jr. :There are many panels I love to do including the history of steampunk, cosplay on the cheap, and foam working.
Leo Nocedo : Do you prefer to buy or make cosplays?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  I almost always make my stuff. There are very few pieces that I use that I have not at least made changes to.
Leo Nocedo : If you could tell your past self anything about cosplay, what would you say?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Just do it and don’t be afraid. I didn’t start actively cosplaying until I was 42years old. Don’t wait! Get out there and have fun!
Leo Nocedo : What is your ultimate dream cosplay?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  I don’t have a dream cosplay…Is that weird?! Every new character of mine comes from my imagination and dreams, so each one is my dream cosplay!
Leo Nocedo : What’s the most difficult cosplay you’ve ever done? (Craftsmanship, wearing of, ect)
Ray Ballard Jr. : A.R.G.O. is the most difficult so far because of the level of detail. Also, I was wearing him in Mount Dora at an event and the temps rose to 95 degrees that day. Let’s just say that foam armor does not breath well. I drank about a case of water and never peed the whole day!
Leo Nocedo : What’s the most difficult character makeup you’ve done?
Ray Ballard Jr. :  So I do not do a lot of makeup on myself. However, I do horror makeup on my friends. The best one I had ever done was a witch that completely transformed my friend. No one knew who she was the entire night because the makeup had totally changed the shape of her face and it was one the best I had done!
Leo Nocedo : What, in your opinion, makes a cosplayer a “pro” cosplayer?
Ray Ballard Jr. : I think they more they create instead of buy makes them a pro. Also, the more they get into character and really make a connection to the character helps cross the bridge for people when they go to the cons.
Leo Nocedo : What is your favorite part of cosplaying?
Ray Ballard Jr. : Meeting all the people whether they cosplay or not. I have made some great friends at the cons. It is always so much fun catching up with each other, talking and seeing what is new, and taking photos. I really love to see the eyes of little kids light up when they see their favorite supehero and get to take a photo with them!
Ray Ballard Jr. : If I could say one thing to the cosplay community it would be, ”Stop the drama and back-stabbing.” We all just want to have fun at the conventions and it shouldn’t matter who is the best as long as we are all having fun!

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Leo Nocedo is a cosplay photographer who has been using a camera for the last forty years in many forms , in the military and professional studios in Miami and New York city . He got his start in cosplay photography attending conventions with his brother Juan Nocedo . He keeps on doing what he does to honor his late brother .

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