By day, Kelly-Maree Newling is a graphic designer, and at night she puts on her amateur seamstress hat and cosplay outfit to become Kelly Deluxe. Since 2008, Peninsula-based Kelly has been engulfed by the world that cosplay – a hybrid of ‘costume’ and ‘play’ – has opened up to her, diving headfirst into the community in 2018 and organising her first shoot in 2019. From here she’s combined her passion for fashion, cosplay and performance to create her stage name, Kelly Deluxe.
“Kelly Deluxe encompasses both alternative fashion and cosplay, as I’m drawn to vintage and gothic styles,” said Kelly. “Fashion is just as theatrical, playful and intricate. My favourite thing about cosplay is that it combines so many skillsets: character acting, sewing, prop making, wig styling and make-up to name a few. You can focus on whatever you like.”
Having performed in dance concerts from a young age and participated in musical theatre later on, these hobbies add another layer of sparkle to her performances. Holding singing close to her heart, and favouring street Latin, jive and ballroom dancing, she hasn’t performed in a while but keeps that spirit alive through cosplay.
“Cosplay for me is a performance; you embody a character through their dress and mannerisms. Style is completely open to interpretation. You can aim for an accurate, movie-realistic look or create a Pokémon-inspired Rococo outfit. I love portraying strong female characters from Japanese animation and video games.”
Shoots require a lot of attention from Kelly. Not only do the photoshoot days require extensive organisation via the use of spreadsheets for the models, photographers, make-up and hair stylists, but they also demand time for the costumes that consist of handmade items, artist commissions and purchased items. It was later in 2018 that Kelly undertook weekly sewing lessons for over a year at Sew This Pattern. In the same year, Kelly successfully organised 10 shoots, while she participated in 19.
“My favourite cosplay moment was at Animaga 2015, where my partner and I dressed as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask. We watched Toru Furuya’s panel – the original Tuxedo Mask voice actor – and we were excited to meet him later on at his photo session. Instead, he came over to us and asked us for a photo. We got to have an in-depth chat after the session, which was quite special.”
With events off the cards for now due to COVID-19, Kelly’s focused on developing future collaborations and shoots. So she’s keeping her skills tip-top by giving her cosplay outfits some TLC, upgrades and creating a ‘50s-style dress to sharpen her sewing skills. When she isn’t portraying someone else, Kelly’s consumed in her calligraphy, playing retro games, travelling with her partner, or spending time with her noisy budgie, Pippin. Kelly’s also a self-confessed pinball witch and plays competitively in three clubs.
Kelly encourages anyone considering entering the cosplay world to give it a go. Join the Melbourne Cosplay Community group on Facebook or attend the Tech Games Fest at Frankston Chisholm run by Andrew Owen, where Kelly has volunteered since 2015. And remember that your first costume doesn’t have to be perfect. Kelly will hopefully see you at the next con, or you can say ‘Hi’ now on Instagram and Facebook @misskellydeluxe