[TCN Artist Interview] – Bianca Bella

Cosplayer Bianca Bella has returned to The Cultured Nerd!

In this interview, TCN and Bianca Bella will discuss various topics such as Cosplay, Mental Health, the Geelong Cosplay Society and many other things.

Photographer: Will Cook

Q:  First off, how have you been doing since we last spoke in our previous interview?

A: Firstly, I’m so happy to be back for another interview! You really do your research and it is such a pleasure speaking with like-minded people. To actually answer your question, I’ve been an absolute scatter of emotions. I’ve noticed all the snap lockdowns here in Victoria are really starting to affect my mental health, whereas beforehand my hermit-at-heart mindset kept me quite calm. I’ve been awfully stressed out at work as a customer service officer, which right as I was feeling at the end of my tether, I had the opportunity to move away from into a more creative area of the company. As that move happened, my grandmother passed away. The afternoon of her funeral, after only a week or so of a lockdown being lifted, we snapped back into another that night. To go between such highs and such lows is so incredibly draining. My grandmother was always upfront about how she was feeling, so by answering this question in this kind of detail, I’m practicing reversing my habitual answer of “I’m good, how are you?” The fact is, we’re all a bit all over the place, right? It’s important we are honest about our feelings so we can address them and move forward, not recoil inwards because we’re too afraid of being honest for whatever reason. I know I worry about burdening people, so one way to stop an unnecessary worry is by being honest with myself and with the world. You can be honest without being a let down!

Q: In our last interview, we discussed your favorite moments and experiences as a cosplayer. Now I’d like to ask what is your favorite thing about being a cosplayer?

A: What means the most to me as a cosplayer is creating immersion. Making magic. I’m not the type of cosplayer who’s in this to be pretty or beautiful. I’m in this to hopefully make you think the character I’m cosplaying is real. For example, the kind of comments that mean the most to me is when people say I make a cool Spider-Gwen, because that’s how I feel when I look at a superhero. That childlike wonder comes back alive and it’s one of the best feelings in the world. It’s why I always talk about how I love making people smile and sharing a memory. I’m not the best Spider-Gwen out there, but I certainly try my hardest to be the best Spider-Gwen I, personally, can be. 

Q:  You recently celebrated your birthday and as a gift, your friends set up a Cameo message from the legendary Matt Hardy. What was that like?

A: Very cool! I was honestly having a tough time with my mental health that day so I was much less excitable than I normally would be, but gosh, did it mean a lot. One of the things my friends passed on to Matt was that I’d been a bit unwell, so he kindly included a message to stay strong – in Broken Matt fashion, of course. I have so much respect for the effort he puts into his Cameos. He’d popped up on my Instagram feed a week or so beforehand, clearly doing research to make it more special and personal. It was so lovely to have a message tailored just for me!

Photographer: Will Cook

Q: Now that places are beginning to open back, what’s it like returning to conventions?

A:  Sadly, as I mentioned, we’re still experiencing snap lockdowns and fluctuating restrictions. We’ve only managed to make it to one convention this year here in Victoria, which was Melbourne Supanova. I did feel it was a bit soon to hold such a big event, but did decide I ultimately wanted to check it out and I’d be fully protected all weekend in Spider-Gwen and Carnage Spider-Gwen. It was really great to get back in the convention atmosphere, but I do hope next time a convention is possible, our environment is much more stable. 

Q: What are some of your favorite things about conventions?

A: For me, it’s purely a social event. It’s all about catch ups with friends and meeting other attendees as my character. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I do try to check out some booths and make a point of visiting photographers so I have memories of the con, but ultimately, it’s interaction all day long!

Q: What can you tell us about the Geelong Cosplay Society?

A: The GCS, as we call it for short, was founded because there were so little opportunities to cosplay and assist my hometown and its surrounding areas. Cosplaying is such a great way to draw attention to a cause, especially in a place that isn’t really “used to” seeing people dressed up for reasons beyond the holidays. So, all that really needed to happen is for someone to start something and grow it. Our founder, Samm Williams, is the one who did that and we eventually expanded to cover Bendigo and some areas of Melbourne as well. We’ve had the honour of raising thousands of dollars since we’ve been in operation for the Barwon Health Children’s Ward, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the Good Friday Appeal, the Ronald McDonald House Charities and so many others. We also do general roaming and entertainment at our local cinemas and have been part of Geelong’s famous Gala Parade and the Geelong Show as well for a few years running now. We’ve been on a long hiatus because of COVID-19, but we do hope as things stabilize, we can return to doing what we love safely. 

Photographer: Will Cook

Q: When you’re not cosplaying, what are some of your other hobbies?

A: The big one is gaming! I am by no means a “good” gamer, but I have been playing various titles since I was really young and it’s my go-to hobby I spend most my time doing when I can. Next to that, I simply enjoy watching television series and movies. I also used to really enjoy making YouTube videos, but I have dropped off on that as I just don’t have enough time and energy to set up, film and edit them since I went back to working full time.

Q: Chronic pain affects millions of people worldwide. Do you have a message or advice to anyone out there that may be dealing with chronic pain?

A: Keep holding on. Keep looking for things that help. Keep your hope alive, however you can! It’s so easy to feel broken and helpless when you can’t function the same way other people do. Practice speaking to yourself kindly and never stop trying to help your body cope and repair. And, if you’re like me and you’ve been told you shouldn’t be in pain anymore and all you do is get bounced around, don’t stop asking for answers. Don’t let it go unresolved, no matter how long it takes! I’m still looking for my answers and it’s been over 5 years now. Get your answers and get the help you need – I believe in you!

Q: What is it like being a cosplayer that deals with chronic pain? If you don’t mind sharing your personal experience. 

A: The short of it is it’s manageable, but it’s tough. You just have to find your limitations and work within them. Overdoing it can cause a nasty flare up. For me, as a Spidey, it’s really hard. I struggle just to get up and down off the ground, let alone trying to get real low and twist my body to nail those dynamic poses. What really sucks as well is that it’s hard to even gain more strength and flexibility because pain holds you back. It’s a big emotional toll for me because it’s a dream of mine to be this totally acrobatic Spidey and it feels like it’s an unachievable skill. Heck, it’s a task just to get in and out of my suits. What I try to keep at the forefront is that I still have some control over what I can do and still get to be creative. I hope that, someday, I can harness my body normally once more – or at least be able to function on a more normal baseline.

Q: What do you think are some of the biggest struggles or challenges with overcoming chronic pain?

A: In my case, there’s two big struggles. The first is that I’m always fatigued. I haven’t felt fully awake or like I’ve slept well enough since this all started over 5 years ago. When you’re in constant pain, the body and the brain are also constant. Long term, you certainly build up an endurance and “get used” to dealing with being in pain all the time, but it doesn’t lessen the severity of it. It just becomes your normal. The second big struggle is the fact that most of the time, chronic pain and chronic illnesses in general are invisible. You can explain what’s going on to other people, but not everyone understands and you can’t produce physical evidence of it. When your life is modified by pain or illness no one can see, it’s so hurtful to experience that doubt and judgement. Sometimes those people are medical professionals. It makes you feel crazy. You try so hard to live as normally as you can though everything you used to do with ease in life is now a challenge and, because you’re always so tired, you can barely keep your brain from having an emotional meltdown. Invisible ailments are still so, so stigmatized. 

Photographer: Ian

Q: People get inspired in many different ways. What is inspiring you these days?

A:  I’ve honestly been struggling to get inspired lately. It’s a bit tough with the state the world is in. I don’t mind doing a bit of content at home, but as what I’d like to call an “environmental cosplayer”, I like being on location. That’s when I get excited and most inspired. At home, I get bored very easily unless I have a specific plan in mind, and even then I struggle. I’ve also been finding the stress of my job has been spilling over into my personal life, so all I want to do is rest and reset my brain on the weekends. I have dropped off quite a lot from socials for that reason. But what does keep me going is planning new ideas, new cosplays, new photo shoots and so on. I also love listening to music I find relevant to a character or watching shows and movies that inspire things in me. For example, the core of my love for Spider-Man stemmed from the original Sam Raimi trilogy, so everything from the soundtracks to the films themselves inspire me to keep creating as Spider-Gwen.

Q; How was your recent photoshoot with Ian (SnapHappyIan)?

A: It was so great – but SO COLD! We were all so excited to get back on location and have fun creating. I’m at my happiest when I’m shooting with Baxter and Christian and a photographer we all love and respect such as Ian. I just love being with people who collectively bring out the best in one another. We all inspire each other, look out for each other and lift each other up if we’re down. So, while it was challenging to shoot in spandex in the middle of Winter, we still had as much fun as we always do and left with full hearts. Plus, they’re my friends. There’s nothing better than working with your mates!

Q: Will Cook is an amazing photographer, what is like working with him? 

A: Apart from the fact that I get to work with a friend, collaborating with Will is ridiculously fun chaos. He’s always referred to it as “the madness”, which is just so fitting. I mentioned in the last interview that we’re on the same creative wavelength, so “working” is often just us showing and explaining ideas to each other and getting overly excited about them all. We just want to do everything at once because we can’t wait to bring the ideas to life! He’s also an incredible director. He knows just how to make a cool pose even more dynamic and get you looking your absolute best. At the same time, he’s very vocal about your well being and will ensure he understands your limitations before he plans out a shot. He’ll work in your windows. 

Photographer: Ian
Christian Pillirone (Left) Bianca Bella (Middle) Melbourne Spidey (Right)

Q: With Into the Spider-verse 2 right around the corner, what new stuff are you expecting to see from Spider-Gwen?

A: I honestly haven’t thought about her specifically. My hope is that we do get to see the original cast of characters return, and hopefully some more new ones as well! It’s clear we’re getting Spider-Man 2099. This, alone, could mean so much for the next installment! I make a point of not getting  carried away with speculation or expectations with upcoming films. It hinders the actual movie experience for me. I love seeing them for the first time, all brand new, without judgement!

Q: You have quite the following on social media with over 16k followers! If there was one message you could give them, what would it be?

A: The thought that always comes to mind is simply this: thank you. Thank you so much. I’m not an out-of-this-world cosplayer with an arsenal of skills to offer the world. I’m not a lookalike, or a spicy content producer. I’m a simple fangirl, who expresses her love for characters through cosplay. It’s all one big geek-out for me that I love to share and hope others can enjoy what I produce as much as I enjoyed producing it. The point is, though I feel I don’t have much to offer the world, you all stick around and support me. And you’re all still around even though I’ve really dropped off over the last few months on content creation (which I will be formally addressing in an Instagram post soon). I’m just always amazed and so, so grateful to all of you. I only hope I can continue to do you proud. I love you all!

Q: Lastly, is there anything new you’ve been working on that you’d like to announce?

A: Nothing new since our last interview but I am considering cosplaying new characters in future! One such example is Scream. I’ve been interested in her for a long time and recently, I’ve found myself getting more and more drawn in!

Not a question here, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Keep up the amazing work you do! 

A: Thank you for all your time and research into all this. I’ve personally expressed how impressed I am with your initiative and depth of questions you ask and how much it means to me. I just want to make it clear here how much I’ve enjoyed these experiences and love what you guys do. Keep smashing it!

Photographer: Will Cook