Lights, Camera, Cosplay!


Posted Fri, May 12, 2017

“October is going to be our ‘Zombie Prom’ presented by Club Cosplay. It’s a big Halloween show where we do our annual fundraiser for ‘Don’t Be a Monster,’ a non-profit organization. We go and do school assemblies to talk about anti-bullying, the effects of it, types of it, suicide prevention, self-harm and mental health.” — Sarah Shupe [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

DENVER — Body-paint, FX makeup and costume creations — welcome to the world of Sarah Shupe. Influenced by films of Tim Burton, Shupe developed an interest in art and makeup.

She earned a degree in theater from Cal-State Fullerton in Orange County, now making a living designing costumes and creatures for the southwest division of “13th Floor Haunted House.” Additionally, Shupe is the co-owner of “Club Cosplay Denver” and a loving mother to her three-year-old daughter, Ariel Aven Shupe. Although a juggling act, she takes great pride in knowing she doesn’t work a regular 9-to-5 job.

“Having a career as an artist is probably the biggest reward in itself,” Shupe explains. “I’m able to make a living off of my passion. That is a very rare thing. I love what I do. I get to create something that people enjoy, such as costumes people are wearing to events.”

Cosplay is a growing community of fans who dress up as their favorite characters from anime/manga, comic books and movies. These costumes are typically custom-made by the cosplayers themselves, sometimes taking months or years to complete. They compete in contests at events such as “Club Cosplay Denver” to showcase their creative skills and connect with other cosplayers within the tight-knit underground community.

Club Cosplay Denver opens its doors for another fun-filled night on April 15. [Photo: Kavann Tok]

About Club Cosplay Denver

“Club Cosplay” started as an event in Southern California, best described as a party which includes an explosion of visual creations. Sarah Shupe and her husband, Greg Shupe, brought this unique event to Denver about a year ago with hopes of giving local Denver cosplayers an outlet to express their creativity.

“Honestly, we’re not really doing it for the money. We’re doing it for the community,” says Sarah.

Other than being a judgement-free zone, there’s also a huge emphasis on body positivity. It’s a social statement directed at how television, media and internet have created a specific standard for the definition of beauty — super thin, freakishly tall and perfect hair. At “Club Cosplay Denver,” they are big on accepting people as they are, regardless of shape, size, background or sexual orientation.

“Club Cosplay Denver is opened to everybody and just for fun. I think people are just intimidated by the word ‘cosplay,’ just because they think ‘well, I don’t do that professionally.’ But no, just come and hangout!” — Moriah Lockhart [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

Cosplayers of Club Cosplay Denver

A self-proclaimed nerd, Moriah Lockhart, had trouble fitting in during high school and admits cosplaying was an outlet for her. Dressed as Poison Ivy, she has been working with “Club Cosplay Denver” for about five months after moving to Colorado from New Mexico, where she furthered her experience as a cosplayer. Lockhart went to art school, and now makes props and costumes for a living.

“I like that it’s a way to go out and have a nightlife with your nerdy friends,” says Lockhart. “You can dress up, see your friends and meet new people. It’s just a positive experience. It’s nice because it’s different than the usual nightclub. You can be yourself.”

Dan Kauffman, cosplaying as Deadpool, has been attending “Club Cosplay Denver” since they opened their doors a year ago. He was aware of the one in California but heard it was starting locally, where he made it a point to attend almost all of them. This distinctive event occurs every six to eight weeks, the next one scheduled in June.

“I love being around everybody,” states Kauffman. “I mean, who doesn’t like to flirt with Deadpool? I’d like to see even more people come out and this place just really get huge, loud and crazy!”

Greg and Sarah Shupe, the power couple

 Greg Shupe is the co-owner of “Club Cosplay Denver,” and also Sarah’s husband. When living in California, Greg worked in aerospace, describing that time as “it was a great job that I hated.” He desired a change, mostly to get away from the fast-growing population and the high expense of living. He scouted around, traveling from place to place until finally falling in love with Denver during a trip to a music festival.

Sarah Shupe demonstrates her application of body-paint and FX makeup on model, Alyxandria Montoya. [Photo: Kavann Tok]

“Everyone was kind to each other, paid a little bit more attention and more helpful for no reason,” Greg reveals. “I came home and told my boss, ‘I’m done. I’m finishing up my contract.’ I told Sarah and she wasn’t sure but I promised her a life and a home…everything!”

 Greg was always a secret nerd who collected comic books, games and toys. When he met Sarah, she was into it as well, transforming into an entire lifestyle for them. They previously worked at Southern California’s “Knott’s Scary Farm,” where they met through mutual friends and fell in love.

 “We both knew we wanted this kind of life,” Greg says. “and when you find someone who makes you happy and wants the same kind of life you do, you just feel it.”

Alyxandria Montoya, 26, as Mystique from X-Men, Sarah Shupe’s finished work. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

Final Introspection

 Some of Sarah’s favorite brands for paint are Mehron and Ben Nye. She’s 100 percent self-taught in body-paint and FX makeup, enforced by her background in theater and the surrounding of makeup artists all her life. At “13th Floor Haunted House,” she collaborated on projects with Denver local artist, Kevon Ward, who appeared on television show “Face Off.”

“It’s funny because he’s so down-to-earth, super chill and super nice,” she recalls. “I have met people who are excited because he has been on ‘Face-Off.’ I’ve learned so much from him. I’d ask him, ‘Kevon, how do I do this?,’ and he’d teach me.”

Sarah firmly believes you should constantly challenge yourself to be better, concluding that “Don’t let anybody tell you that you need anything to be successful. If you want it enough, you can have it.”

Watch Tok’s video coverage of Club Cosplay Denver and an interview with Sarah Shupe:

View this article in Story Form (extra footage!)

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About Kavann Tok

Kavann Tok is a freelance Denver-area journalist. Website:

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