Jessica Nigri on Cosplay, RWBY, and Her New Documentary (2024)

There's a good chance you first became aware ofJessica Nigri thanks to her world-famous "Sexy Pikachu" cosplay. Perhaps you're one of the cosplay queen's nearly 725,000 Twitter followers, 2.8 million Instagram followers, YouTube subscribers or Patreon patrons. Or maybe you're a fan of Nigri's voice work, like her role on Rooster Teeth's hit anime seriesRWBYas the villainous villainess Cinder Fall. But even if you've been following Nigri's career over the last decade or so, there's a good chance her new documentaryBecoming Jessica Nigri will give you some insight into her daily life and the surprising vulnerability that exists beneath her cosplay-friendly exterior.

I had a chance to chat with Nigri between her many, many cosplay photoshoots in order to dig into her documentary a bit more. We talked about what made Rooster Teeth the right company with the right people topull off such a project, and why this was the right time to share her most personal moments with the world. The documentary offers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look into her life, both pre- and post-San Diego Comic-Con 2009. Two things become clear very quickly: Nigri is a life-long nerd and she remains incredibly grateful to be supported by the community, a community she's equally grateful to be a part of. For fans of Nigri, her cosplay, or simply the cosplay-curious,Becoming Jessica Nigri is a surprisingly insightfullook into her life and her craft.

RT Docs' Becoming Jesica Nigri will arrive for Rooster Teeth FIRST members at 3pm ET today, so there's still time to sign up if you haven't just yet!

Before we get into the interview, check out a trailer for the documentary below:

Jessica Nigri is an internationally renowned cosplayer with millions of followers across social media. Directed by Mat Hames, Becoming Jessica Nigri explores Nigri’s life, from a magical childhood growing up with quirky parents in New Zealand, to entering middle school in the U.S. where she was mercilessly teased for her “nerdy” interests. Through cosplay, Nigri learned that becoming someone else gives her the courage to be herself.

So why is this the right time for your documentary?

Jessica Nigri: I've been fairly private about my personal life. I've been approached by other companies to do a documentary about cosplay and about my life, but I've never felt comfortable. With Rooster Teeth, I felt like I could just totally surrender myself and my vulnerabilities because it's such a huge part of my life. So it felt right, it felt good.

What made Rooster Teeth the right fit for this?

Nigri: Rooster Teeth has such an amazing community and they've always had such a beautiful perspective on inclusiveness and family, I would say. I've followed Rooster Teeth since theRed vs Blue days, the very first season, so their humor is my humor, their comedy is right on par with what I like. I grew up with them, essentially. I like to look at Burnie [Burns] as my dad. [laughs] It feels like they've been in my life this whole time and it feels as if they're not going to take anything the wrong way; they're going to look at me the right way, the way that I want to be seen.

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Before, with the other people, I didn't really feel like I deserved it, and I didn't understand why people would approach me for that. But in talking with Rooster Teeth, and how reassuring and amazing they were with everything, it just felt right. They approached me because we've slowly been building our relationships, which has been wonderful and amazing and inclusive. It's just been such a positive experience for me; it felt so natural.

What was your reaction to the idea of going ahead with this documentary?

Nigri: I was excited. I was really excited to just kind of open up because I really haven't, ever. They made it really easy, they worked with my schedule, they were very accommodating and very considerate to my needs and everything. It was just a really good experience.

Did you have any moments during filming where it was difficult opening up?

Nigri: Yeah, there were a couple of times where there was self-reflection and self-actualization, things that I've always kind of known about myself but never put into words. To have someone there to be like, 'This is what's going on and this is what's happening,' that was startling but comforting in a way. I'm really bad at conveying what I think and feel into words in a way that people can understand, so to have somewhere there to help me kind of put that into a sentence was really, really nice.

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How did the experience of filming a documentary compare to other interactions with your fans, like on YouTube or through Patreon?

Nigri: I kind of feel like I owe it to the people who follow me, in a way. Like, I want them to know more about me because they've done so much for me. I wouldn't be where I am without any of them. I'm pretty damn average, so for them to think that it was okay to help me and to go along on this journey with me, it feels right to give it to them. I hope they like it, I genuinely do. And I hope they can understand me just a little bit more, or can relate to some things on a personal level a little bit more. Maybe it helps them; maybe it helps me look inward and figure out what's going on and what I want; maybe it'll help others figure out what they want from cosplay.

What's your favorite way to interact with your fans?

Nigri: Cons, actually. Conventions and playing video games with them. Going to a convention and being able to see someone's face and get that immediate reaction is so amazing. Being able to just hug them and thank them for everything that they do is really important, it's very important, because, again, I wouldn't be here without that person, so for them to take time out of their day to come see me, I definitely want to show them that I'm taking time out of my day to come see them.

When we play games online, it's always so fun because that's something that we genuinely connect with because they usually like the same stuff that I like, so connecting with them there is amazing. Buncha nerds doin' nerd sh*t! [laughs]

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For conventions, how do you decide which ones to attend?

Nigri: If we haven't been to the place before, we'll go there, or if there was a really good response at another event, we'll go back again to say hi. It is really cool to see people throughout the year and be able to reconnect. There was this one couple who I had seen, I think, three times over at a convention in Texas. They came up to me at the last one and they told me that they had named their daughter after me, and I didn't know what to say. It was crazy. I didn't realize that I had such an influence on these people's lives. It was really cool to see me having an influence over people in the same way that they have an influence over me.

The documentary did a great job at showing the time and effort it takes to pull off your complex cosplay costumes, but how do you find the time to actually do that?

Nigri: Can you tell me what sleep is like? Because I don't know. [laughs] Honestly, it's finding any time, anywhere, any place. I'm actually in the middle of putting on a scar onto my face right now because I'm about to do a photoshoot. I'm turning into Cinder Fall, which is the character that I voice for Rooster Teeth'sRWBY.

Since sleep doesn't factor in, what do you do for downtime? Do you ever go offline?

Nigri: I really like to hike and, ironically, I like to plug back in and play VR chat. I like to go in VR. You can become an anonymous person and just run around and hang out with people, and just shoot the sh*t about random stuff. There's no pressure to be Jessica Nigri. You're just whatever character you choose to be that day, which is really cool. It's like showing up and hanging out with people, and then having them respond to you in a positive way without knowing who you are, so there's no influence on their side. If I say a bad joke, they'll be like, "That's a bad joke." There's no fluff. "That's lame. Get outta here."

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I feel like we need to talk about Cinder, because I'm not sure how the Vol. 5 finale ended with her ...

Nigri: [laughs] Watch the last episode again. You'll just have to wait and see, huh?

Is voice acting something you enjoy doing? Is it something you'd like to do more of?

Nigri: Yeah, I actually really enjoy it. When I first started, I sucked so bad, but with more practice and more opportunities, hopefully in the future I'll be able to get better. There are so many times I'll be in the shower and I'll be talking as Cinder, and it's just the weirdest thing in the world. Just talking to yourself and your shampoo bottle, mulling over wine and evil things.

There was a time when Cinder was mute. Was that because of scheduling conflicts or was that always part of the story?

Nigri: That was a part of the plot. She needed to get wrecked because she was getting really co*cky. It was a way to demonstrate how truly powerful, and how much potential little baby Ruby had. At the time, Cinder was the one who was causing all the havoc and chaos. It was a needed plot point to show how truly powerfulRuby is and how frail Cinder was.

How do you get into Cinder's headspace?

Nigri: She's ambitious. She thinks she deserves everything and that no one else is allowed to have what she deserves. And everyone's out to get her and try to take what's hers. I think I try to get into a space of like a gnarly dragon over a hoard of gold ... or I just read some really negative comments. [laughs]

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What’s the question you get asked the most by people who want to get into cosplay?

Nigri: Most people ask, "How do I get started?" and I would say, just jump into it. You can go to a Goodwill and you can put something together really cheap. You can watch tutorials, and buy a whole bunch of fabrics and go balls to the wall, you can do it in any way, at any time that you want to. I would find a convention local to you and plan around that, and dress as something that you genuinely truly love and that you can identify with, and then just jump into it. Maybe get your friends involved so you're all embarrassed together; it'll be amazing! [laughs]

What else is coming up for you, either in terms of future cosplays or any other creative pursuits?

Nigri: We're headed to New Zealand, for Armageddon Expo, which is actually where I grew up. Then we're also releasing a photoshoot with some rescue wolves with Project Wildsong. We're going to be doing a donation thing where we sell the prints for the sanctuary. Then a couple of other things. Katsucon is coming up, and that's where I'm actually going to try to debut the costume that was in the documentary.

So you were able to finish that?

Nigri: It's not done yet! We're still working on it! [laughs]

How are you feeling about it right now?

Nigri: I feel pretty solid about it. There's always anxiety with costumes, even if they're really simple builds. There's always that pressure of like, "Is it going to be what I think it's going to be? Are people going to like it after there was all this hype around it? Am I gonna fall flat on my face?" There's always that anxiety mixed with stress mixed with excitement mixed with "Oh my gosh, it's going to be done and out of my brain." Because right now it feels like a second personality sitting in there and just keeping watch over my thoughts.

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Then when you're done, you can take a bit of a break before your next massive cosplay attempt.

Nigri: We might take a break. I don't know. Hopefully a long nap.

What do you hope your new and returning fans get out of this documentary?

Nigri: I hope that, if they haven't cosplayed, that they give it a whirl, and I hope that they like it. For people who have been following me for a long time, I really hope that they can get to know me a little better, maybe get to know the softer, squishy, emotional side of me, because I usually put up a weird side, so it'll be cool to be able to open up in that way to them. For people who have never seen cosplay before in general and have no idea what all of this is, I just hope they enjoy it and I hope they like it and I hope it's a good thing to bring more people into the Rooster Teeth community, into the cosplay community, and to help strengthen the community altogether.


Look forBecoming Jessica Nigri on Rooster Teeth FIRST at 3pm ET today!

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Jessica Nigri on Cosplay, RWBY, and Her New Documentary (2024)


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