In 21st-century fan culture, cosplay thrives as one of the most active forms of fandom expression. But for a select few, the hobby of dressing up as fictional characters from pop culture is a bonafide way of living, and easily one of the biggest, most successful names in cosplay is Jessica Nigri.
In early 2018, Nigri will give her legion of fans — some 8,107,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined — a rare look at her life as a professional cosplayer in a revealing new documentary, Becoming Jessica Nigri. Inverse has the exclusive trailer.
Directed by Mat Hames and premiering on January 26, 2018, on Rooster Teeth’s FIRST, Becoming Jessica Nigri from RT Docs will follow the world-famous Nigri as she journeys to BlizzCon 2017 in Anaheim, California, which took place in November. All the while, Nigri explores her origin story, as well as the blessings, and curses, that come with being one of the most famous personalities in cosplay.
Although cosplay is a hobby and cottage industry with millions of enthusiasts around the world, it also has very few superstars. Jessica Nigri is one of them, who rose to viral fame in 2009 with a “Sexy Pikachu” at San Diego Comic-Con. Instead of fading away into obscurity, Nigri leveraged her celebrity into a brand, becoming an official cosplayer for entities like Warner Bros. and Microsoft to promote games like Lollipop Chainsaw and Gears of War 3.
Nigri wasn’t the first person to become famous for cosplay. That honor, arguably, belongs to literary agent Forrest J. Ackerman, who in 1939 went to Worldcon in costumes sewn by his girlfriend, Myrtle R. Douglas, a fanzine editor. In the ‘70s, Brinke Stevens became famous for her cosplay of Red Sonja, which allowed her to win the inaugural Masquerade Ball at Comic-Con, a tradition that continues today.
But modern cosplay really started to boom in the 2000s, parallel to the rise of social media. For many reasons, the most popular cosplayers tend to be young women, many of whom find fame elsewhere as models, TV hosts, actors, and even pro wrestlers. Nigri herself has dabbled in acting, voicing the character of Cinder Fall in Rooster Teeth’s animated web series RWBY.
Becoming Jessica Nigri will hit Rooster Teeth FIRST on January 26, 2018.