Staying in Character

Tiffany Hone (dressed as Supernova from TV show Rick and Morty) is one of the team behind MagnetiCon - Townsville's Pop Culture Convention, which will return this June with more guests, more stalls, and more Cosplay than ever. IMAGE: Sarah Joy Photography.

Tiffany Hone is a character unto herself.

The Townsville local, whose pink hair makes her easy to spot in crowds, is a regular on the Civic Theatre stage as part of the cast in many musicals; but its in the wonderful world of cosplay that she has found her true calling.

Tiff’s family began MagnetiCon – Townsville’s own annual pop culture convention – in 2016, after realising the desire for such events extended beyond the capital cities.

“Years ago, I went to visit one of my friends in Brisbane when Supanova [a nationwide pop culture convention] happened to be on – and my friends said we had to go and check it out,” said Tiff.

“They helped me put together a last-minute Poison Ivy costume, we got there, walked in … and I was just overwhelmed. It was so exciting. In the blink of an eye, you go from seeing celebrities to Storm Troopers passing you in the corridors, and I kept pinching myself.

“I was hooked after that and began dragging the rest of my family along. My mother, sister and I all went to one in Cairns a few years ago now – it was just in a PCYC shed but it was still so much fun. As we were driving home, we started thinking there was an opportunity for us to do something similar: there was nothing like it in Townsville but clearly people in regional areas wanted these events too.”

Tiff as Undyne. IMAGE: Doust Photography

During that car trip, MagnetiCon was born.

“A lot of names like TownsvilleCon and TropiCon were already taken by other groups, but we wanted something that really embodied the region and which had a positive energy that drew people in. So that’s where the name came from, and everything grew from there: my sister’s friend designed our koala mascot, dad created a Facebook page, Ryan Catholic College let us use their hall for the weekend, and suddenly we were a real thing.”

MagnetiCon spans two days and includes panel talks, celebrity guests (this year will welcome the original Hercules, Kevin Sorbo, to Townsville), exhibits by everyone from 3D printers to real-life birds of prey, and cosplay competitions.

“It got bigger and there were roles that everyone in our family just fit into: dad is really good at managing projects, so he took over that side of things; mum is a great communicator so is our social liaison; my sister Kirra is great at planning so she did a lot of the programming; and I’m not the best at planning or management so stayed out of the way until it was time to do the stage up and run the cosplay side of things.”

Providing a safe local platform for people to celebrate their interests isn’t the only benefit Tiff has found in MagnetiCon.

“Cosplay and MagnetiCon have also opened the communication lines for us as a family; it’s a common interest that means we always have something to talk and be excited about. Parents need to understand that too: don’t just brush off your kids’ interests because you think they’re geeky! Take the time to understand why they love what they do. If it gives you connections, stuff to talk about at the dinner table, and isn’t hurting anyone, then what’s the harm?”

Tiff as Princess Celestia from My Little Pony. IMAGE: Ellusion Studio

Cosplay, a shortened term for costume play, involves dressing up to pay homage to a specific character – be it from a movie, TV show, book, video game, imagination, or any facet in between. While it can be as simple as pulling on a blue shirt with an ‘S’ emblazoned across the chest, for some it can be lifechanging.

“Going to school, I was definitely different. I was eccentric, I liked a lot of kids’ shows, and was always into video games. You always have a friend group that appreciates you and what you do, but I wasn’t the prettiest or smartest or anything so was sort of in that middle ground – not anyone special.

“It made school a struggle: anxiety and depression have played big parts in my life, so I always felt judged and like I had to prove who I was. It’s hard when people don’t understand you or the things you like just because it’s not what they like.”

“When I started cosplaying though, there was just something about getting in costume that changed everything. You’d walk into a convention and people would either say ‘Oh my god I know exactly who you are, you look awesome,’ or ‘I have no idea what character you are, but you clearly went to a lot of effort on this costume and that’s awesome!’ You meet all these people who, while they may not get you at first, appreciate you.”

Over the years, that appreciation is something Tiff has experienced both sides of.

“As soon as I put one of my costumes on, I don’t feel like I’m being judged anymore. People are seeing that you’re enjoying yourself and celebrating what you like, which is all that really matters in the end. I’m so grateful to my friends for introducing me to it all those years ago.

“During our first MagnetiCon, I had a stall set up with information on my cosplays and a young girl came up to me to say that what I was doing and what I’d achieved made her feel so much better about herself and gave her so much confidence and courage. To have someone who was in the same position I had once been in come up to me and say that literally made me break down.

“It was humbling to know people liked what I did, and I inspired people to have the same experiences and find their tribe. It’s a bit surreal.”

While costumes and celebrities are two main drawcards of pop culture conventions, it’s that camaraderie and support that makes the events special to so many.

“You come here to be you.”

Be yourself when the third annual MagnetiCon Pop Culture Convention takes over Townsville RSL Stadium on 2-3 June. Tickets are available from magneticon.com.au

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