Think of Italy, and cosplay is somewhere far down the list of things you’d associate with the country. Pizza, yes, and handsome male opera trios maybe, but dressing up as fictional characters? Still, the young hunkish Italian Leon Chiro, a former national athelete and has risen to become one of the international geek and pop culture community’s most respected cosplayers, having won countless awards for his costumes of Tidus from Final Fantasy X and Dante from the Devil May Cry series.

As he prepares for his guest appearance at the annual Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention (STGCC) from 9 to 10 September 2017, we catch up with Leon to get a sneak peak into his life as a competitive cosplayer, and what to expect from him here in Singapore.

leon chiro interview singapore toy game and comic convention

Hi, Leon! We’re absolutely stoked to have you in Singapore. Tell us, what does cosplay mean to you?

Thanks for having me here! Being in Singapore represents a dream coming true, and I’m so happy to be able to visit your beautiful country.

Cosplay is art. It’s all about passion, heart, and interpretation by creating an artistic language. Cosplay is more than just appearance and it’s one of the most complete forms of art in my opinion. Your creativity can push you to your limits and when you wear a cosplay, I really think you live and play the costume, so it’s not only about ‘wearing’ things. Or at least, this is how I live it. Thanks to the art of cosplay, I transformed a passion into a full-time job and I would never exchange my life for another one.

Tell us more about the cosplay scene back in Italy.

Italy is a very competitive country, full of competitions and conventions every weekend. The cosplay scenario is very active and we have a lot of talented cosplayers. Like every country, Italy has its own internal disputes in the cosplay scene, but I always want to see the positive in every situation by trying to encourage the new rookies and motivating them to do their best.

Did you face a lot of criticism or objection when you first started?

Yeah! I actually did, because when I first started I was a very ‘easy target’. But I wanted to prove to myself that this is what I am made of, so here I am. I made it.

leon chiro interview singapore toy game and comic convention

What got you started on your first cosplay, actually? How long ago was that?

That was Tidus from Final Fantasy X in 2011. I wanted to interpret a video game and recreate a photoshoot with a video game theme. A friend of mine then told me about cosplay, and so, I discovered this wonderful world full of geeks, colours, video games and way more. I felt so good, like “I’m not alone on this planet!”

We hear you’re a stuntman, a model, and also former Italian national champion athlete. What’s that about?

I’m still training hard every day to improve my stunts and acrobatic skills, as one day I want to work as a video game model or stuntman for video games (for motion captures). I’ve always been connected with the sportive area, as I was a former national athlete with an intense career.

How long on average does a new costume take you to make and prepare? And what’s the process like?

It really depends on the complexity. It may require from two days to one or two months, especially for important competitions. First of all, I study the 3D model, then I choose the materials, create the patterns, and then I do the main shapes on the base material I have chosen.

It must get really stressful. How do you stay healthy and so fit?

Motivation. It’s all about motivation. If you truly believe in something, you will always find strength and time to dedicate yourself to it.

leon chiro interview singapore toy game and comic convention

Do you do anything else besides cosplay?

I study photography, play a lot of videogames (recently more mobile than PS4) and well…many other things.

What can we expect from you at the Singapore Toy, Games & Comic Convention 2017?

A lot of fun and a great impact! I’m coming to Singapore to make STGCC a memorable event, and I will do my best for all the people supporting me every day. I’m so excited and honoured to be there!

Any words for aspiring cosplayers?

Be yourselves and don’t stop believing. Keep focusing on positivity, and try to get inspired and learn from others without losing your own style. Make it yours, have fun, love, and share everything with your friends! May your heart be your guiding key. Always!

See Leon Chiro’s work here, or find him at the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention 2017, happening 9 to 10 September at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.