Interview with Aurora O’Brien
By Michael Bradley
[Note: This article is for publication in The WOD Magazine and a future podcast of KWOD Radio. Aurora O’Brien is one of the many awesome Arizona cosplayers and models. Haven’t moved to Arizona yet? LOL, you have no idea what you are missing.]
MB: Today our interview is with Aurora O’Brien, an outstanding young cosplayer and professional model. Most people see you at events or photos and have no idea the true diversity of your interests. You studied at the Art Institute of Phoenix and are an artist as well as a model correct?
AO: Yes! My dream has always been to be an artist. To create something from nothing is the best feeling in the world. After attending though, I lost interest in art completely, not drawing for over five years. I soon realized I had to let out my creative energy somehow so I decided to give modeling a try. I later linked up with famous American comic book artist Steve Rude and became his model in exchange for lessons! He helped me regain my passion for art, and now I can’t stop!
MB: Tell me about your outdoor lifestyle. I know you have an interest in motorcycles, riding horses, and even welding.
AO: Oh yes! I’m just one of those people who loves an adventure! These are my escapes from reality. There is nothing like hopping on my bike to go see my horse, spending the afternoon with her, then making my way back home to help fix something. A fun lil fact, is that I did not learn to ride before getting my bike or horse. I just decided I wanted to do it, and learned along the way!
MB: How long have you been into cosplay now, and what got you started?
AO: I first became interested in cosplay in middle school…well, I mean I wanted to dress up like my favorite anime characters. I went to my first con in 2009 and had the time of my life! I felt like I had finally met people I could connect with. Sadly, I did not have much money and I was only able to attend two others in the next few years. After I began modeling though, things changed. One my amazing photographers paid for my ticket and gas costs to get in just so he could take my picture and hang out. Then I began getting paid to be a booth babe and asked to cosplay more characters! It’s so amazing how things work out sometimes!!
MB: What are some of your favorite characters to cosplay?
AO: Revy from Black Lagoon & Red Sonja for sure! I just love their rough around the edges attitude and the way they rose up from a rough past. As they say, the flower that blooms from adversity is the most beautiful…or in this case, badass!!
MB: Do your cosplay choices match those you read and watch, or are there some differences?
AO: Yes, 100%. I cannot cosplay the character unless I can connect with them in some way. Otherwise it just isn’t all that fun. If I have a request for a cosplay, I will check out the series first. Besides, it’s just another excuse to watch more anime!
MB: How many cons and events/photo shoots are you doing per year?
AO: That is a hard question…Sadly I cannot afford to attend many cons. Usually, I only get the opportunity to go to about three or four a year. As far as photo shoots go, I average around 75 per year and the events are always a surprise. I am a brand ambassador so I work anything from a cigar girl at Barrett Jackson to promoting liquor at clubs on the weekends or holidays, and even caddying for golfers (including the D-backs) for charity events. What can I say? I am all over the place.
MB: You look a lot different in many of your shots, which is a credit to your modeling skills. When I saw you at Amazing Arizona Con with Mary DeBalfo, I at first did not recognize you. You even had a contest to find you this year at Phoenix Comic Con. How many people were able to found you each day?
AO: Thank you so much, it’s something I take a lot of pride in. I was shocked at how many people found me each day! I certainly felt the love! It was so great to finally meet the people who follow my page in person! It’s much better than just reading messages!
MB: No one naturally looks good on camera. I never met a model who had it easy. When you wore your Red Sonja outfit one day at Phoenix Comic Con, I was kind of shocked at how ripped your abs were. It reminded me of Toni Darling, and I know she does physical training for a living. Do you have a special diet and exercise regimen as well?
AO: Oh my, you are so sweet to say that!! Well, honestly I don’t enjoy working out in conventional ways. Sure I do some crunches and yoga from time to time, but I find that hula hooping, dancing, riding my horse, jump roping, and playing Kinect on Xbox is WAY more fun!
MB: Are there certain photographers you have recently worked with that you would recommend to other cosplayers/models?
AO: Adam Patrick Murray is fantastic!! He is so easy to work with, creative, and catches the character in a simple, clean, yet engaging way. Another one would be Dave Kelley. He is sort of my go to guy, and one of my best friends. We just had our 30th shoot together the other day!! He is amazing and SOOOO creative!! As far as professional modeling photos go, Michael Luna is the best Arizona has!!
MB: What are some of your favorite events or locations?
AO: The geek in me loves Amazing Arizona Con! It’s not too big, not too small….its juuuust right! You have much more time to get to know your favorite artist and authors. Not to mention you can actually walk in the aisles without getting bumped and crinkling your brand new comic book!! The rebel in me however, loves working bike week selling cigars! The crowds are so free spirited, fun, and are always offering me free beer!
MB: Do you make all your outfits or do you have some preferred helpers?
AO: Here is where the pros will get mad at me… I cannot sew. Instead I go on the hunt. Thrift stores are wonderful for piecing together outfits, and finding other clothes to bring to photo shoots.
MB: What are some of your best cosplay moments?
AO: Meeting fans is always a touching moment. It’s still hard for me to believe that people are legitimately interested in meeting me and hearing my opinions. That being said, one of my all time favorite moments, was at an anime con before I was a ‘public figure’. It was help at a hotel that had a bar in the center. Since I was cosplaying Revy, it only seemed appropriate to have a drink…you know, get into character and all. As soon as I sat down, a man ordered me a shot of rum, winked, then walked away (Black Lagoon fans will understand).
Soon after another guest approached me & bought me a shot then handed me a six inch moveable Revy statue (which I still use today for my art). He said I did an excellent job with the cosplay and he would consider it an honor if I took the gift, and a shot with him! We downed our drinks, hugged and he left…I think there were about three others that came almost immediately after to have a shot with “Revy” before I decided that was enough.
MB: Do you cosplay just for fun, or do you have a store and blog site we can plug for you? Also, for photographers out there and people needing advertising or spokespersons, what is the best way for them to book you?
AO: I cosplay for the fun of it! What other reason is there? I do have a store where prints are available, but that’s only to help with some of the costs of cosplaying. You are welcome to visit my store at aurorart.storenvy.com. If anyone is interested in hiring me for an event they can contact me on my website, www.auroraobrien.com or send me an email at email@example.com
MB: How safe do you feel at cons now that the attendance has grown so much? Is it safe to walk from parking lots in costume? Are the bigger crowds bringing out “touchy” people who break barriers they shouldn’t?
AO: I am exceptionally thankful to say I don’t really get messed with at cons. I think I have a natural aura around me that says, “ I may be cute, but I can kick your a**”. I’m pretty thankful for that too, because I would hate to subconsciously knock someone out over a wandering hand… again.
MB: What advice do you have for people starting out?
AO: HAVE FUN!! There are no rules, you are among friends. Be fearless, and if anyone makes fun of you, just laugh it off. For those people, just aren’t your people, and are probably just jealous of how awesome, brave, and fun you are!! Just be you, and make new friends. That’s what it is all about, don’t forget that.
MB: Who would you like to give a shout out for being someone who helped you get started with modeling and cosplay and friends you look forward to seeing at events?
AO: My shout out would be to all of my amazing fans, photographers, family, friends and supporters! If it wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t have the confidence, nor the drive to get as far as I have. Before I entered the modeling world I was not in such a good place. Since then though, I have met countless amazing people who have shown me what it is to be happy, strong, loved and simply not ashamed to be me.