Ira Lupu

Tanya Croft is just obsessed

Idea, art direction: IRA LUPU
December 2015

Cosplayers often become a target for deep psychological analysis, in an attempt to expose their escapism, sexual deviations, childhood traumas and other messes leading to doubling of identities. But this professional Lara Croft cosplayer may prove that sometimes copying the protagonist’s looks is just passionate and lasting fun, yet with a pixilated twist.

“What do you know about madness?” — Alex Beyket, a 26-year old Ukrainian IT-specialist asks me. I assume I’ve learned something. From the formal looks of this guy, I don’t get sure that he did the same. Yet he did, as he dates Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider. Or, actually, her living embodiment in the flesh of Tatiana Sochivets, or Tanya Croft, who has been cosplaying the legendary video game bombshell for 10 years now. I discovered her on the web, and her self-made photoshoots immediately made me nostalgic about my teen mesmerisation for Tomb Raider. All those unsuccessful attempts of wearing gun holsters, sexy tight shorts and black boots to a Halloween party in my strict school…  God, and this girl went much farther.

“Madness is when we suddenly leave our office duties and everyday routine behind, grab camera and several cosplaying outfits, and escape the city — to do a new photo shoot”, — explains Alex, who is not only Tanya’s boyfriend but also her permanent assistant, photographer, meticulous costume and accessory designer, and sometimes even cosplay partner (as Tomb Raider’s fellow Kurtis Trent). Once, in a crusade for desirable pictures, Alex and Tanya have swum up to a real sunken ship — all holey, rusty, and rather dangerous to hang out in. Last time, they headed from their native Kyiv to the Southern part of Ukraine — and descended Odessa catacombs, extreme and tangled underground tunnels used by local partisans during the Second World War. Only to make a “Lara Croft: Reborn”-styled set, of course. It all still doesn’t sound that “mad” in terms of the warped world we live in. But such mesmerisation by a virtual mass-culture heroine may definitely seem peculiar to an average mind.

So for Tanya, how did this whole thing with Lara start? “Quite simple. At the age of 15, I’ve tried to play Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness on my sister’s ancient PC, and since that time, I couldn’t stop”, — the cosplayer jabbers in her charming rigid Russian with a melodical Ukrainian accent. “First, I’ve found tight black top and shorts, cut the fingers off my gloves, made the ponytail, though my hair was rather short… I didn’t know people do same things until I’ve found pictures of Jennifer Morgan, Lara Croft’s professional lookalike.”

The story makes me giggle — making that Lara’s impeccable ponytail, wasting all the hair gel on it, we’ve all been there. And that was fun. And wait… Maybe that constant buzzing about cosplayers being all defective, lurking under fake identities to conceal their own injured personalities, is sometimes just another pile of bullshit? The cheerful girl seemed to be enjoying herself to the fullest. Becoming Tomb Raider for a while must be just her tool for having even more fun, feeling even more cool. And those among you that are without sin of copying something, or somebody (although in a less obvious way), may you cast a first stone at Tanya Croft.

Maybe it’s my scrupulous Moon in Virgo, but like a blood-seeking shark, I proceed with attempts to find the trigger. Maybe the image of Lara Croft gives Tanya some personal features she lacks? “Maybe, but just a little bit. It’s more like we have something in common initially. I’ve always had this straightforward, a bit masculine nature. At the same time, Alex calls me “a little bitch”. People used to tell me I might have problems with own sexuality, but believe me I don’t.”

“Actually, being Lara is a very serious part of my life”, — Tanya proceeds. “Due to her, I’ve found my vocation, my loving and supportive boyfriend and even my previous job of a video game club administrator. Funnily enough, I’ve decided to quit because it didn’t leave me enough time for cosplaying. And no, cosplay is not my bread and butter, I don’t earn anything with it”. So it is all just determined fun? “Yeah, I would say so. There is no specific intention in this process for me. We’re simply trying to make our classical Lara better and better, and to keep up with the newest releases, like the recent “Rise of the Tomb Raider”. Perfecting my looks, costumes, photos… For the accurately detailed costumes Alex have made, I’ve been winning prizes from official Tomb Raider developers — that was nice, but still not an aim.”

“I’ve lots of admirers, but some people think I’m totally nuts. Even my mother keeps telling me, like, come on, you’re 26 now, you’d better stop your disguise games and devote yourself to a family life. But I don’t care. I’m just obsessed.”

Published at Tissue Magazine and Sang Bleu UK, text by IRA LUPU