Written by: Gary M. Kenny, CC2K Comics Editor
In 2015 at NYCC, I met with Tom Catt to take a few photos for CC2K. My intentions were to compose a quick interview and take a few cool comic-con shots. That quickly changed the minute he introduced himself. Tom has an aura that’s completely inviting, approachable, and motherly. However he’s not a small person. His persona, stature, and essence scream ‘amazon.’ That could be intimating to some; but the minute you talk to Tom, you get comfortable, you relate, and you feel welcomed. We were able to find a quiet place at the Javits Center to take a few photos and complete the interview. The people followed though. Politely, con goer’s photograph requests didn’t stop, even when we were recording our conversation. That didn’t matter to Tom, if you wanted some time, Tom was there with a smile. I found that Tom was one of those rare people that, if he chose to, could unite and inspire many.
I meant to write this piece about Tom Catt back in 2015 for CC2K. For unfortunate complications it wasn’t published. I am happy to finally write it with a current follow up:
CC2K: Hi Tom Catt, is this your first time at NYCC?
TC: The first time I came out (to con) was 2011. Well, the first time I came out I was 20 (wink, wink). I go anyplace where it’s good. I’ve gone to Katsucon, Outacon (Boston).
CC2K: What got you into cosplay?
TC: I’ve always loved putting on makeup, always did, even when I was younger. I love the idea of switching up genders. I love the idea of breaking normality. I hate normalcy.
CC2K: What’s the fun in that?
TC: Exactly, thank you. What is the fun in that? What’s the fun (for me) dressing up like Batman or dressing up like the Joker? If you are a woman, dress up as Batman; dress up as Joker, who cares! That’s how I ended up as what you see before you (Catwoman).
CC2K: You’ve been turning a lot of heads here as we have been talking. When did you start?
TC: Halloween I think is every cosplayer’s starting point because you can dress up as almost anything you want. My first cosplay I ever genuinely did was Ursula from the little mermaid. That was my very first rodeo; I came to the New York Comic Con in 2012. I came as Ursula, Cruella de Vil, and Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Me: I ask every cosplayer this, because i truly believe in a friendly and positive community: Have you had any problems?
TC: Oh, of course I have. You can’t walk around with tits and being the size that I am and not get strange looks or questions. For every bad comment that I get, there’s always 1 or 2 good ones that I’ll just hang on to and love and adore. Just walking around today I got – “work it,” “Fabulous,” or “you look so great.” All of these wonderful, wonderful comments and they overpower the negativity.
CC2K: I like that; fighting negativity with positive outlooks!
TC: Here is a good story: I dressed up as Amazon Eve from American Horror Story. Erika Erving who (if I’m not mistaken) is transgender; she is a tall imposing woman. Being able to do that (myself) and my friend giving me the opportunity to dress up with him and his group was astonishing. I would hear people say: “Oh my God, he’s so beautiful” or “She’s so gorgeous.” I was gender appropriate. I was completely and totally happy. That was my first instance that I passed as a woman. Yes, every time that I get dressed up in the Disney villain shtick, people will say “oh, he’s gorgeous” but it’s nice to not feel unwanted. It’s difficult for some cosplayers (to not feel unwanted).
CC2K: I feel you have to promote love and acceptance more and more. The whole point of the comic/anime community is to make the unwanted feel accepted.
TC: I’m a very big advocate for those who don’t fit the criteria that most con goers expect of cosplayers. Yes, if you have the body for the cosplay, wear it. If you want to do that, do it! But if you don’t have the body… here is a great example: I had dressed up as Cruella de Vil for two Halloweens and a convention. Let me tell you something, when you are the size that I am, rocking a 42 DD chest, you’re not only going to get looks but you’re going to get praise from certain people and aggression from others. It depends on the audience. Most cons are very welcoming to a certain demographic and I am a firm believer in that everyone should have the right to cosplayers to whomever they choose. Be free of persecution, free of judgment. That’s what cosplay was at one point. Cosplay was all about getting into costume and having a good time. Now it’s become so structured and monotonous. It’s getting to a point with our panels. There are panels about body positivity and body image; where this wasn’t an issue 10 years ago. That’s one of my biggest concerns about conventions. The uniformity of constantly seeing gorgeous men dressing like Superman or Colossus. I personally feel like if the costume is well constructed (even if you bought it) rock it anyway. Who else is going to put you on a pedestal? People can constantly bring themselves down all they want. It’s when you meet people and they praise you and say “good job, keep it up,” that’s what it’s all about.
CC2K: I think it’s people, like yourself, who try to change the community with uplifting costume designs and re-imagining of characters that are needed. It brings the message that cosplay is for everyone. It helps others who give back: like those who dress up and go to children’s hospitals, that anyone can be part of this. Children can see their heroes and can be allowed to become anyone. Anyone can dress up and make someone smile. We don’t have to have one type of hero.
TC: I know a lot of Batman and Superman that dress up and do charity work. I am obsessed with them. I am so proud of what they do.
CC2K: Thanks Tom Catt for your time today. You are amazing.
I wrote to Tom Catt a few weeks ago, knowing my first article for the new CC2K had to be about him. I asked him about these last few years, has his message changed about the community:
TC: “As far as big changes the mentality is still the same. Everyone is invited, so long as you’re not rude or inconsiderate, but it’s become so mainstream that even people that at one point wouldn’t be caught dead at a con, are trying to get in on the cosplay pie. With this in mind it has become, to a certain extent, monetized where people look at cosplay as a “get rich quick scheme.” It’s not nearly as cut and dry. It still takes time to make cosplays, money, constantly going to conventions, and making your presence known. In my opinion the best way to make a good name for yourself to make sure everyone knows it and associates that name with positive light. I still stand by that this is a community of accepting people, but that isn’t to say this community doesn’t have it’s problems. Which ones don’t? It does have it’s elitists, people who feel cosplay should be one way or no way, its harassers, its bullies, it’s problem spots which call out culture and social movements, for the betterment of the community, have been made. If anything I have seen cosplay and cosplayers really trying to find they’re purpose. It’s both a beautiful thing and a nice change to the status quo. As times change so do the communities the world over. Either you change with those times or you get lost in the sauce.”
CC2K: I’ve notice pictures of you have been on Kotaku.com and various other places. I’m happy that your getting your image and message out there. Has there been a lot of new changes for you?
TC: “I’ve seen some great changes within me. I still challenge “normalcy” in this community with my crossplay and genderbending. I have developed a strong presence with the creation of a podcast with YouTube’s ShutUpKristen. We discuss issues within the cosplay community. We offer a fresh and positive perspective on what we see in the community discussing, time management for cons, race, and sexual assault among other topics as efficiently and reverently as possible. The podcast is cleverly call “Catt & Kristen” on Facebook. We also have a feature page on Instagram where we have a Cosplayer of the week. I also, along with cosplay & comics founder Nate Case, have created an LGBT Feature page, shining a light on Queer representing cosplayers. I’m also a featured page model for Big Beautiful Cosplayers created by Morgan Le Gay, featuring plus sized cosplayers. As for recognition, everyone I’ve met knows almost instinctively to call me “mom” or “con-mom”. I’ve also been working on cosplays that have always been a dream of mine specifically Winifred Sanderson, continuing my line of Bea Arthur based cosplays, and Ursula, among others. I still genderbend only because it’s easier to do that than to shave & do drag, but I have been trying you do drag and crossplay more frequently because it’s just fun to test myself as an actor and performer who has a penchant for female impersonation. It also provides me the ability to hold my babies close to my false, but still ample bosoms. Overall I’m seeing a change in my community and myself, and I embrace it. It’s ok to see change and to be a part of it. Cosplay is performance art and sometimes to even be a part of the change by way of this art is equally as important as growing with your community, because you’re progressing your group in a way that makes everyone enjoy this wild hobby and in some cases an occupation. Thank you for your time and thank you for being a friend.”
You can find more of Tom Catt on the links below:
Gary is a husband, father, fireman, comic reader, gamer, body builder, and rocker. He also is a co-owner of a bakery in upstate NY. He likes to tell everyone his favorite band is the Beatles, when his actual favorite band is the Alkaline Trio.