OMGcosplay: Denton’s renowned cosplayer

OMGcosplay: Denton’s renowned cosplayer

OMGcosplay: Denton’s renowned cosplayer
September 01
14:00 2018

“Would you like to hold it?” Maggie McGehee said as she handed over a long, futuristic-looking assault rifle that stands taller than she does. “It’s much lighter than it looks.”

She rushes to her living room costume closet to rummage through the rest of her props, presenting the occasional weapon or accessory quite proudly. And she should, considering most of McGehee costumes were made by hand.

McGehee is a real estate senior at UNT who is currently saving money to attend law school, but what she is most known for is being a highly successful cosplayer in Denton.

Cosplaying is a contraction of the words “costume play” and is considered a type of performance art where participants often dress up as characters from anime, comics and video games and attend various conventions. For most cosplayers, the art usually goes no further than a hobby and means to express themselves, but for McGehee, it has quickly become a full-time job.

“No one is more surprised than I am that this is happening,” McGehee said. “I never dreamed it would be like this. I started this hobby as a sad, anxious 12-year-old that just wanted to not be themselves for a while and now it’s more than artistic expression. It’s more than me trying to escape something — less escapism than it used to be.”

McGehee currently has 224,000 followers under the Instagram handle OMGcosplay, 150,000 of which can be attributed to the last eight months McGehee said. 

She makes a living by using Instagram to guide followers to her Patreon account, where fans can support her with monthly subscriptions in exchange for exclusive access to her boudoir-style photos and private Snapchat account. However, McGehee makes it very clear that she has never and will never do nude photos. While she is not in the top 10 cosplayers in terms of size, she has been one of the top 10 Patreon earners for around a year and a half. 

McGehee began cosplaying almost nine years ago when her sister was given the choice to take either McGehee or her parents along to the A-Kon anime convention. Twelve-year-old McGehee was chosen and has been cosplaying ever since. However, a bad experience at her first convention nearly caused her to drop the idea entirely.

“Probably the most formative moment I’ve had in cosplay happened at my very first convention,” McGehee said. “It’s not uncommon for people to ask for photos — it’s almost like being famous — so whenever a guy asked to take our photo, we weren’t alarmed. He was like, ‘Hey, I don’t like the background. Can we move over here where the background is better?’ And he just kept on moving us further and further away. He was trying to get us into a service elevator, [and] was trying to take inappropriate photos. I almost stopped cosplay after that, but we decided to give the next day another try, and we had a really good day the following day. We kept going, but that was scary as a 12-year-old.”

Ever since that formative experience, McGehee takes extra precautions at conventions and stays on the lookout for other girls who may be feeling uncomfortable or caught in a bad situation. It is no surprise that she has made several life-long friends through cosplay.

“We started off cosplaying and meeting up [as] random strangers on the internet at Grapevine Mills mall,” said Claire Spigel, a digital retailing and fashion merchandising sophomore at UNT and close friend of McGehee. “We were anime characters, and we’ve been long-distance best friends ever since. I kind of stopped cosplaying when I went to school. But for Maggie, it’s always been like, she studies law in school and then outside she makes this her passion. She needs to express herself, and she loves it.”

McGehee’s passion keeps her very busy and is defined by her as a full-time job. She attempts to create between two and five costumes every two months, usually following the convention cycle. Along with creating costumes, she must constantly create new social media content to keep her followers intrigued.

Maggie McGehee, better known as OMGcosplay on Instagram, holds a squirrel tail she had commissioned for an upcoming Squirrel Girl costume. McGehee also hopes to use the tail in a future Sandy Cheeks costume. Trevor Seibert

“I work very hard, don’t get me wrong,” McGehee said. “This is a full-time job, but I’ve gotten absurdly lucky. Because I’ve been a cosplayer for so long, I entered the social media market before being a cosplayer was cool. I used to have a Facebook where I would hide all of my cosplay stuff so that other people at school didn’t know I cosplayed. It didn’t use to be a thing that was publicly acceptable, but now I can have conversations with adults that know what I do.”

While McGehee’s rising popularity may have come as a shock to her, it is no surprise to her friends.

“I think she is hilarious,” said Tristan Blodgett, manager and longtime friend of McGehee. “I think that a lot of cosplayers online don’t have a real personality, they just have kind of TV smile, and I think that she definitely brings more ‘her’ to the table.”

McGehee has always made a point to be very open, honest and personable with her followers and cites the introduction of Instagram stories as one of the keys to her success. They allow her to constantly post less flattering content, such as videos with her making double chins, bed hair and goofy voices. It has allowed her to become what she describes as “everyone’s quirky internet girlfriend.”

But she is also very open about darker parts of her life, such as her struggles with an eating disorder. She was shocked at how many fans messaged her about struggling with the same issues, especially considering 90 percent of her audience is male.

“Even me being somebody who’s more open about things than most people on my Instagram, what people do see is curated,” McGehee said. “You never get a full idea of what is going on behind the scenes. I actually recently made a post of this goofy photo set for around Valentine’s Day when I had a suicide attempt when I got home. You never know what’s going on, and so it’s kind of a reminder that people with bodies you like probably hate themselves, [and] people with lives you look up to probably hate themselves.”

McGehee’s supporters are very personal to her. Spigel recounts McGehee’s 21st birthday where one of her supporters sent her 21 individually packaged gifts.

“This follower was with her from the beginning,” Spigel said. “Stuff like that just goes to show that these people are her friends. She has met up with them — it’s not just like a face in the crowd. It’s very personal with her. It’s not just, ‘You are one of my thousands and thousands of followers.’ Everyone makes a difference, and she answers almost all of her messages unless they are creepy or weird.”

The largest takeaway for McGehee is the empowerment and joy she feels from cosplaying, which is evident in the duality of one of her favorite characters, Wonder Woman.

“One of my favorite things about the sexy internet cosplay is it’s just this group of girls that are normally very conventionally attractive, kind of these Barbie dolls, and they have the most impressive set of power tools,” McGehee said. “I used to keep safety goggles in my purse, and I just love that duality of these girls that love makeup and frills — we get our nails done, but I also have a power sander and a heat gun. So I love the duality of cosplay. It’s taught me some very functional skills, and I have more power tools than any guy I know.”

Featured Image: Maggie McGehee fixes a set of squirrel ears in preparation for her Squirrel Girl costume. McGehee creates most of her costumes and props by herself. Trevor Seibert 

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Slade Meadows

Slade Meadows

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