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Toni Darling – Exclusive Interview

Toni Darling as Lady Thor by CAS Photography 4After a year of hanging around South Western States’ Comic Cons with World-Class cosplayer Toni Darling, the Omega 1 staff figured it was time that we introduced her to our fans. Mark Edward Lewis and Alina Andrei, the co-creators of Omega 1, sat down with the stronger-than-Thor beauty. She gave a never-before-seen, intimate look into the fascinating life of the passionate Toni Darling.

Omega 1: How old where you when you first realized that you were destined to cosplay the most powerful women heroines?

Toni Darling: Only a year ago! I’d always wanted to “be” my heroes – men and women I admired from books, stories etc. When I realized I could actually do that through cosplay I was elated! The idea of embodying a character I love so completely was really powerful and exciting.

O1: Was there a cosplay that you did before Zombie Cowboy? If so, why did you choose it?

TD: Nope, not really. Halloween was always my favorite holiday and I would spend months prepping a costume. But before the Zombie Bikini Contest, I had no idea the world of cosplay existed.

O1: How did you feel when you stepped into your first con as a cosplayer?

TD: Nervous. What if no one liked it!??!

O1: What kind of a response did you receive?

TD: I was really spoiled to be honest – my Thor photo had gone viral about 2 weeks before the con- so as soon as I stepped on to the floor, I couldn’t move more than 5 feet without stopping for a photo. It was really inspiring and humbling all at the same time. I had been training really hard core and had made numerous modifications to the costume so I was just really grateful that people liked my work so much. I had no idea it would be my foray in to a potential career in cosplay!

O1: You are a woman who is a go getter. What has been the most challenging aspect of cosplaying and being the owner running the successful Cosplay Calendar?

TD: The most challenging aspect is maintaining a sense of myself. My natural instinct is to focus on the business and its success, thereby all my energies are spent promoting the calendars and the girls in the calendar. I often fail to promote myself and spend time on my brand as a model/cosplayer.

O1: Well, we suspect that the support that you bring to your fellow cosplayers and creators is changing the entire industry for the better…not to mention helping so many. What gave you the idea to make Hero Elements?

TD: After Phoenix Comic Con 2012, my trainer Heather Wood (who is now my best friend and business partner), and I were talking- many of my fans had been asking me about my workout routine, so I pointed them in her direction. She had so many people asking about it that she decided to do a bootcamp. Now a year later, we are turning it in to so much more, with her running the fitness end and me running the business end. At some point I too will have my training certification so I can run the bootcamps myself. But for now I just post my workouts via blogs or youtube videos.

O1: Will you be releasing any workout products? DVDs or downloads?

TD: YUP! Hero Elements just launched an official youtube page (youtube.com/user/hero-elements). We will keep posting our workouts and bootcamp routines here for now and once we have a following we will put together some video packages that come with meal plans for purchase.

O1: What about dating? Does Lady Thor cause any trouble for would be suitors? 

Ivy Doomkitty, Alina Andrei and Toni Darling at Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con

TD: No. I choose partners who can handle it and are confident enough in themselves that they’re not intimidated by my fan base. I am not an easy woman to try and pursue, I am very ‘Viking’ in my standards- only the strong of heart, body and mind survive [Toni smiles big as she says this].

O1: If you had it all your way, what would Toni Darling’s life look like in five years?

TD: Producing music and singing on stage in a Viking Rock Band wearing my Thor costume. Traveling conventions and concert venues promoting geekery, fitness and music. I will have also modeled for at least one fitness magazine, bringing the world of cosplay in to fitness on a whole new level!

O1: That’s an amazing and exciting future to live into. Of course, you’re preaching to the choir. [Mark has produced several #1 records over seas and is a composer for film and television.] Music is the best!

In all the amazing things you’ve done so far, what is the one thing you are proudest of?

TD: I have a song on iTunes with a band I met at Comikaze last year- Its a cover of White Rabbit done with Human Factors Lab. Chris Vrenna was awesome enough to produce the album and Human Factors Lab was gracious enough to include me on that track. It’s one of my favorite classic tunes, so I was honored by the opportunity.

O1: If you could change one thing about the Comic/Fantasy world, what would it be?

TD: More acceptance of one another. Geeks come in all shapes and sizes, and varying levels of interest and knowledge. I think veterans should be more welcoming of rookies who take a sincere interest in becoming part of the culture.

O1: Did you not receive a lot of acceptance when you started? Do you see a lot of “hating” going on?

 TD: No, I received a lot of suspicion and doubt. Even to this day some people think I just get paid to do this. The reality is that I invested a ton of time and money in to this for the sake of my fandom before I ever got a paid offer. Cosplay is not about the fame or money- its about passion for your character. And my father always said- do what you are passionate about and the rest will follow. He was right.

O1: What can fans of Toni Darling always count on her for?

TD: Taking everything I do to the next level. I won’t stop at just one thing. I plan on world dominance- fitness, music, cosplay, modeling….you name it.

O1: Who are your mentors or people who you look up to?

TD: Jesse James and Ivy Doomkitty [see her exclusive interview with Omega 1] have been incredibly supportive and insightful. I look to them when I need guidance. I also look to my father for wisdom. He is a strong business man but also a creative type. Having toured the country years ago with Crazy Diamond, he has experienced alot in life and always helps me find my way. He’s also reliable for a good kick in the head when I need it. Which is somewhat often [sic]. Thus me needing that helmet…. I also look to my good friend Hong Le from Geek News Network for not only professional advice but for support. I really wouldn’t be anywhere without all these people pushing me to believe in myself and my goals.

O1: Any thoughts about the upcoming San Diego Comic Con cosplay-as-Sigma from Omega 1?

TD: I am SO excited to play such a rich character [from Omega 1] that embodies so many of the female-power values I hold dear.

O1: Do you have any special talents that Omega 1 fans should know about? Juggling? Sprint Car Racing? Jazz pianist?

TD: I’m a decent drag racer, I am pretty talented in drawing/inking portraits and figures. I trained Kali Escrima for 3 years, along with some Wing Chun Kung Fu and Muay Thai.

O1: You probably didn’t know that Alina studies extensive martial arts in King Fu, Tae Kwon Do Muay Thai, and Mark is instructor rated in Tae Kwon Do, Karate and also studied Escrima for a time. Of course, Mark and Alina met at a sword class and later created their world-renown “Super Swordfighting Series.” Gee. We all have a lot in common in the world of martial arts it appears!

What’s the most important aspect of Toni Darling that Omega 1 (and Toni Darling) fans should know about her?

TD: I don’t ever give up. And neither should you [Toni points intently].

O1: Thank you for your commitment to empowering women in cosplay, fitness and all that you do. We’re looking forward to what the future holds for you…especially the world domination part.

TD: No Thank You! I am incredibly excited about premiering Sigma at SDCC!

[editor's note: Be sure to find Toni Darling as "Sigma" at San Diego Comic Con 2013!]

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Edited by: Wilfred Hahn

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