[TCN Artist Interview] Bianca Bella

In this interview, TCN and Bianca will discuss cosplay, Spider-Gwen and the importance of mental health.

Bianca Bella is an amazing cosplayer and a Mental Health Advocate based out in Australia. In this interview, TCN and Bianca will discuss cosplay, Spider-Gwen and the importance of mental health.

Q:  How long have you been doing cosplay?

A:  I started putting together and wore my first cosplay in late 2012, so this year will make 9 years cosplaying!

Q: Has cosplay had any sort of impact on your life? 

A: Very much so. In cosplay, I found motivation, strength and purpose when I felt I didn’t have any. My creativity was reignited. My social anxiety lessened. And best of all, I’ve been able to help people smile. For me, there’s no greater honour.

Q:  You’ve been cosplaying for a while now, do you have any favorite moments or experiences? 

A:  Honestly, whenever I’m cosplaying, it’s my favourite. I love cosplaying because I love making people smile. It’s the coolest thing ever. I don’t like to put special moments into categories or place one above another, as they all resonate with me. And they’re all close to my heart. Between conventions, fundraisers, hospital visits and all kinds of amazing events, I’ve shared so many wondrous memories with so many people of all ages. Over 8 years of it, in person and over social media. Words simply don’t cut it. I am profoundly grateful.

Q: Spider-Gwen is a huge part of your work. What about the character do you like so much?

A:  I always wanted to be a Spidey but never resonated with any of the existing female Spiders out there until Spider-Gwen came along. She was everything I ever needed. She had the classic origin of being bitten by a radioactive spider coupled with a backstory to fight for the greater good. She embodies everything I love about Spider-Man, but in her style. What’s most significant to me, however, is that her stories centre around fortitude. When she gets knocked down, she always gets back up. She never gives up. In an issue of Ghost-Spider, to another Gwen, she proclaims; “No Gwen Stacy anywhere, in any reality, gives up!” In Spider-Gwen, and embodying her, I have found strength when I needed it most. My connection to her character is very personal.

Q: Your Carnage-Gwen cosplay is amazing. What went into creating that one?

A: Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say. It started out as me trying to find a symbiote to add to my line up. Then one day, I saw Arachnid Studios’ female equivalent to his Carnage pattern and it just made sense. Anyone who knows me knows that I am fascinated by the macabre and Carnage is easily one of the most horrific characters in comic book history. He has infected a Gwen Stacy clone once before, so there’s a connection there. I went through two different suits before I was happy with the look and made the claws out of aluminum foil and foam clay, then painted them. I’m still working on her, however. I’m going to change the lenses, add a toothy maw and hopefully incorporate some tendrils as well. I don’t want this cosplay to stop at just a suit and claws. I want to make it truly freaky! 

Q: Other than Spider-Gwen, do you have another cosplay you enjoy doing?

A: I love all the cosplays I do! I won’t cosplay a character I’m not 100% passionate about and each costume has its own special memories attached to it. I do have a particular fondness for my Cryogenically Frozen Nora, which was my first horror-based cosplay. That sequence of events in Fallout 4 always stuck with me. I remember having the idea of cosplaying that moment one day, as I’d never seen anyone do it before and thought it’d be “cool”. Obviously, the puns that come with that cosplay are super fun as well.

Q:  Your social media is filled with amazing edits of your cosplay. What’s it like working with so many talented people to come up with these edits? 

A: It’s an honour. I absolutely love supporting other people’s art and cosplay is a great way to do it. Fictional characters give us boundless source material and it’s incredible how photographers and digital artists find a way to bring their world into ours. Some edits on my page have had little discussion and were just done for fun, or were kindly offered to me. The digital artist I’ve collaborated with the most is my friend Will Cook. We’re on the same creative wave length and honestly, the process is just geeking out over ideas. He then uses his years of photography experience to help direct me into the pose we need. And when we’re happy with the shot, that’s the one that goes through his wizardly editing process. It’s fun from start to finish!

Q:  Mental Health Awareness has been a much talked about subject lately and you’re a big Mental Health Awareness advocate. Is there anything you’d like to say to those out there dealing with a mental illness?

A: You’re amazing. Living with poor mental health is tough. Keep pushing forward, keep learning, keep breathing. No matter how dark things seem, know that you are worthy and you deserve to be the best version of yourself you can be. You deserve normalcy and happiness. If the company you keep isn’t helpful, don’t keep it. Count your victories, no matter how “small” they seem – the smallest victories are often the biggest. Keep a diary of some kind so you can recognize those victories, and use them as fuel. The more we learn, the less power the unknown has over our mental health. The less power it has, the more we can cope. So, seek that education. Seek therapy, where you can learn how to manage your headspace. And if you’re not learning, find another source. I know you’re tired, but keep fighting. Progress isn’t about how much or how little you’re making of it. Progress is simply progress. Trust in your journey. I believe in you!

Q: One of the cool things you used to do on social media was your Mental Health Mondays. Can you tell us a little bit about those and are you planning on bringing those back?

A: They’re definitely coming back! Honestly, since returning to full time work, I was burning the candle at both ends and started ruminating hardcore. I felt it was time to worry a little less about social media and put that focus on myself, which is what those posts were all about. The reason I started is because I wanted to help people feel less alone. If there’s one thing all mental illnesses have in common, it’s that they can isolate a person from the rest of the world. We all need reminders to bring us back and help us connect. Challenging mental health is prominent in my life every single day. I struggle with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from a car accident in 2016. I also have chronic pain from that accident, which affects my mental health as well. My partner lives with borderline personality disorder built on a lifetime of trauma. Many of my friends suffer from mental illness. So many people around the world suffer inside their own heads. Poor mental health is a global constant. It’s my hope that by posting my experiences, I’m helping at least one person feel validated.    

Q: The COVID-19 lockdowns took a lot out of people, especially those dealing with mental illness. Some people were even experiencing some type of mental illness for the first time. Do you have any advice to those out there that are going through this for the first time?

A: Be kind to yourselves. Life is stressful. We don’t go about our lives the way we used to in simpler times. These days, we’re working harder and we’re surrounded by convenience and distractions that can keep us from looking inside ourselves. I think, for a lot of people, the pandemic has “forced” them to stop and do this. And it’s overwhelming. I remember truly realizing for the first time just what an anxious person I was years ago. It was kind of like a mourning experience for myself, learning how much damage had come to my mental health and how it affected my life. So many questions and answers all at the same time, so much time spent ruminating and so little time helping myself. Then my car accident happened and I was presented with the opportunity to see a psychologist. Honestly, I should have gone sooner. I have learned so much and will continue learning. Like your body, your brain gets run down. If you’re hurt, you can’t always just put a bandage on it. Sometimes you need to see a doctor for assistance in helping you heal. Therapists help you heal the same way. And just like going to the doctor’s for a check up, you don’t need to be in crisis to gain from therapy. Your brain helps you operate your body, so if one is out of whack, it can affect the other. Mental health is physical health. Mental ailments often stem from our brain trying to protect us, so try not to view it as your opposition. Work with it. Help it heal.

Q: Lastly, are there any upcoming projects or anything you might be working that you’d like to announce?

A: I do have a couple of new Spider-Gwen suits in the works, unsurprisingly. One of them is based on concept art I’ve been in love with for over a year and recently got permission from the artist to turn it into a cosplay. I really want this one to be next level, so I’m keeping it and the other new suit a secret for now. I am also keen to expand back out from Gwen and bring in new characters. I plan on finally starting Ciri from The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, who has been on my list for years now.

You can check out Bianca Bella over on her social media: