That roundhouse kick in heels is a flawless victory!
The hottest accessory of 2020 has definitely been the face mask. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re on the tips of everyone’s noses — or, in the very least, on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Plenty of memes have been made about the facial covering, especially in the gaming community, which has referenced plenty of Mortal Kombat characters when joking about the accessory. Mandy Pursley of Be The Spark Cosplay, however, decided to take it to the next level with an absolutely toasty Mortal PROMbat photoshoot. Can we say FATALITY? Because they killed it!
When the pandemic first hit, Pursley’s cosplay skills came in handy when she started sewing masks for the community. In an attempt to instill a little elegance into the situation, she created a beautiful, over-the-top mask, presumably for fancy nights in. An elegant mask called for an elegant gown, and a quick “glam-pocalypse” shoot was organized. After posting the photos, Pursley noted that one comment after the other remarked her likeness to Kitana from Mortal Kombat — who just so happens to be her fave Mortal Kombat character — and the rest, as they say, is history. “My cosplay friend Ryan Anderson asked if we could turn that look into a full Mortal PROMbat shoot together,” said Pursley. “Of course I said, ‘YES!’”
As it would turn out, it was incredibly easy to put together, as she had already purchased the gown and Anderson provided the suit — they just needed to figure out the accessories, including an epic Sub-Zero mask to pair with Kitana’s. “It goes to show you that great cosplay doesn’t have to involve a ton of time and money investment,” Pursley says. “Creativity and a sense of fun go a long way. Don’t be afraid to repurpose the things you already have!”
As Mortal Kombat is less about dancing and more about leaving the other fighter in a completely unrecognizable, bloody state, the pair realized they needed to focus more on their footwork in a different way. Luckily, Pursley had already been taking martial arts classes for the past two years at USSD Oceanside Martial Arts; however, most dojos require leaving shoes — especially high heels — at home. “I was actually a little nervous to attempt it at first!” she said of her amazing roundhouse kick in heels. “Thankfully, every kick went flawlessly!”
Another flawless shot? That fantastic photo where the pair are in their “Kombat” stances, fan flying in-between them. “One of my favorite pictures is where the fan is being thrown midair, because it is the most perfectly timed shot.” Pursley said of the photo. “To achieve that, the photographer, Kelly [Anderson of Phyreworks Photography], counted us down. Then, I threw out the end of my dress for dramatic flair while Ryan actually threw my fan towards me, and we quickly assumed our fight pose.” Pursley noted the action shot had a one in a million chance of getting it so picture perfect. “Kelly captured the moment so perfectly — I don’t know if we could recreate it if we tried!”
The photoshoot was a match made in heaven, marrying many of Pursley’s interests together, including cosplay, formalwear, martial arts, and, of course, gaming. “I would definitely consider myself a gamer!” Pursley said. “I’m a huge fan of RPGs in particular, with Dragon Age, Skyrim and classic Final Fantasy games being among my all-time favorites.”
“Now that I’m a mom, it’s a little harder to find time for the newest teen/adult games, but I’ve recently been revisiting some favorites from my childhood with my daughter! We’ve been playing through Super Mario World and Legend of Zelda on the classic SNES together, and it’s been a great way to bond.” Pursley added, with the entire editorial room at HeyPoorPlayer.com applauding this absolutely pro-parenting move.
Speaking of pro-parenting moves, dressing up with her daughter is what actually motivated Pursley to truly pursue cosplay. “I did my first true cosplay when my daughter wanted to be Belle for Halloween, and I decided to make a matching costume for me too.” The most involved cosplay she’s done to date? Her uniquely creative, absolutely magical Cinderella.
“Last year I completed my dream cosplay: Cinderella, who traded out her glass slippers for a glass arm. That costume, along with Prince Charming’s, were definitely the most labor-intensive pieces I have ever attempted. There were a lot of details, and I knew everything had to be completely perfect. I was incredibly happy with the final result though.”
“You know you’ve done something right when you feel like a real princess!”
It’s safe to say that Pursley didn’t just feel like a princess — she absolutely looked the part! In fact, her cosplay was so inspiring that she was invited to speak about it on a slew of media channels, including the Kelly Clarkson show. In that touching interview, she met with a little girl who also had a limb difference, like Pursley, who was elated to have a princess who looked like her to look up to.
Purlsey was happy to meet the little girl, her own childhood bereft of such experiences. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have many role models with a limb difference, and I didn’t personally know anyone with that experience. As a child, it can be lonely to feel like you are the only one with a physical difference, and I spent a lot of time trying to hide that part of me. Even with my early cosplays, I focused on able-bodied characters and wore a cosmetic prosthesis to try to physically embody them as closely as I could.”
All that changed one fateful Comic Con, when she decided to cosplay as Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road. Furiosa already has a prosthetic, so it was natural to incorporate one into Pursley’s cosplay and she found the experience empowering. After cosplaying another character with a limb difference, Tenel Ka from Star Wars Legends, something clicked. “I realized I wanted to start incorporating my limb difference as an integral part of my cosplays instead of trying to mask that part of me.”
“We often love characters because of who they are, not just what they look like, and all body types should feel empowered to literally step into the shoes of the characters who inspire them. I’ve seen more people embracing cosplay in the last few years who have a physical difference or disability, and I hope that trend continues!”
Just like her Cinderella cosplay which incorporated her own limb difference into the narrative to showcase something totally awe-inspiring, Pursley supports others doing the same. “I love seeing the ways people are able to integrate those differences into their cosplays to create something that is truly unique. We can take the things which the world might see as a limitation and turn it into a work of art.”
Pursley notes that, although she believes she’s seen more cosplayers with limb differences — or any kind of physical difference — as the years go on, they still appear to be few and far between. When asked if that is because the cosplay community has not always been kind to those that are in minority groups, she stated that hadn’t been her personal experience. “From my perspective, the response has been almost entirely positive. I’m fortunate to have rarely experienced the kind of ignorant and hurtful comments that BIPOC cosplayers often face.”
“Cosplay should be about creating art around our bodies, not in spite of them. The more we see people doing that with confidence, the more people who will be inspired to do the same.”
Reading about Pursley’s cosplay journey and looking at those amazing photos definitely helps with limb difference visibility in cosplay; for those who are interested in getting involved with the community as an ally, she recommends a variety of different ways, starting by getting informed. “The best way for an able-bodied person to be involved in the limb difference or disability community is to just take the time to learn about us! There are a lot of misconceptions that having a physical difference means we are less capable or have challenges that extend beyond the physical.”
“I often find that people with disabilities have a hard-won resilience and sense of creativity, but in the end we are just normal people who experience joy and frustration like everyone else. People with disabilities just want to be treated like everyone else without having to hide that small part of who they are. It may seem like a fine nuance, but highlighting us as cosplayers WITH a limb difference rather than DESPITE a limb difference goes a long way towards portraying us as fun, capable members of the community.”
Pursley also suggests connecting with an organization for those wanting to further get involved with the community. “There are also a ton of great organizations out there to educate about disabilities and bring the community together. I would highly recommend getting connected with Be More Adaptive, the Amputee Coalition, and the Lucky Fin Project.”
As for her advice to all cosplayers — aspiring, active, or otherwise — out there? “Cosplay is meant to be fun! You don’t need the ‘perfect’ body or the ‘perfect’ costume. Embody the characters you love and make them your own!”