At Comic Con Africa 2018, Square Enix and Xbox partnered to bring attendees their first official glimpse of Shadow of the Tomb Raider – the final game in the recent Tomb Raider ‘reboot’ trilogy. In addition to a fantastically designed and decorated stand, South Africa’s official Lara Croft (Noelle Adams) was also on-hand for photo opportunities and meet and greets with fans of all ages.
There are only a handful of video game characters who have managed to pierce the zeitgeist of popular culture in the way that Lara Croft has. As such, to be classed as ‘the official Lara Croft for South Africa’ is quite the achievement. With this in mind, I knew that I simply had to interview Noelle Adams. I needed to learn more about her and to understand what it means to embody a character that has become a household name; one that continues to inspire men and woman of all ages with her strength, agility and endurance.
As per our Transparency Policy, this interview has been reproduced as accurately as possible. However, grammatical edits have been made in terms of brevity, clarity and style.
How long have you been cosplaying for and why do you enjoy cosplay?
I have always loved dressing up. There are loads of pics from my childhood, and teens, of me in costume as everything from a Ninja Turtle and Cheetara to Supergirl and The Crow. When I was college age and a bit older, I used to take costume parties very seriously too. My first proper convention cosplay, though, was in 2013 when I brought Reboot Tomb Raider to rAge of that year.
Why do I enjoy cosplay? There is something about slipping into the skin of characters that you love, literally becoming them, and enjoying their strengths, for a few hours. Being recognised as the character by others, and appreciated for it, is a huge buzz, of course. Behind the scenes of each cosplay, there is also the artistic challenge and related cerebral rewards of actually creating the costume. There is a LOT of problem-solving throughout the crafting process when you are making a costume yourself by hand, so when you pull it off, there is a definite sense of accomplishment.
As a cosplayer, what drew you to cosplaying as Lara Croft? Why Miss Croft, over other video game characters?
Although I had played the original 1996 Tomb Raider (many times), when the 2013 Reboot came out, something just clicked. I have been passionately into fandoms before, and this feeling was the same. The young Reboot version of the character really resonated with me – the fact that she struggled and was frequently scared, but ultimately always dusted herself off, got back up and kept on going. That is really inspiring.
All versions of the character, from cool Classic Lara to the more grubby, real-world Reboot Lara, also represent charting your own course. They are women who defy norms and have the courage to live life on their own terms. We could all do with that bravery. Plus, they are fabulously wealthy with no need for a day job, and they get to travel the world, constantly having adventures, and visiting amazing archaeological sites. That is supreme wish fulfilment for me.
How long did it take you to create your current ‘Lara Croft’ look?
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was only unveiled in April or so this year, and it took a while for the official cosplay guides to be released online, so there was no starting before June at least. Also, I was busy with other costumes for ICON and ICON Durban, so I would say I only properly started work on the cosplay in early July (although I started gathering resources before then), and then I was only really working on weekends. Let us say the process took me about two months. I have cosplayed all three versions of Reboot Lara, but the only elements I could carry over from my Rise of the Tomb Raider cosplay were Lara’s axes (made from layers of board over presentation foamboard) and necklace.
I am putting together a series of video tutorials on the process of making my Shadow cosplay, but overall, the crafting was a combination of finding and adapting materials, like the boots, trousers, gloves and belt, and making things from scratch. Lara’s machete, thigh holster and bow are all made from eva foam, including Mr Price gym mats, and were shaped using a Dremel rotary tool. The quiver and knife sheath are vinyl glued over cardboard, with twine stitching and fake fur. The dowel-rod arrows I authentically fletched with painted hadeda feathers (although the tips are con-safe foam). The harness is made from repurposed backpack straps, webbing and buckles. Meanwhile, as I have no machine sewing skills, my partner Tracy was a huge help by sewing Lara’s fancy new shirt using the official pattern.
You have cosplayed as other versions of Lara Croft before. Can you tell us which outfit is both the easiest to make, and cosplay as, and which one is your favourite?
I have cosplayed Classic Lara, 2013 Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and, loosely as a makeup test, Alicia Vikander’s movie Lara. I would say that 2013 Tomb Raider and Classic Lara are probably the easiest to make in terms of finding and putting together the fundamentals (boots, cargo pants, shorts, pistols, strappy tops). However, as soon as you start trying to create outfit elements that are 100% screen-accurate – transitioning from a more casual cosplay – you will find things become a lot harder.
Also, I really cannot pick a favourite because I love them each for different reasons. Wearing Classic Lara is extremely empowering, for example, but given the hours I put into the props for Shadow and Rise, they are precious to me too. I will say though, that all of the Tomb Raider cosplays are extremely comfortable when it comes to hot and crowded cons. A Tomb Raider cosplay is always a wearer-friendly and “real world” option as opposed to, say, WOW [World of Warcraft] or DOTA [Defence of the Ancients] armour.
Since you do cosplay really well, have you cosplayed as any other characters? If so, please tell us who/what and why you chose those characters.
Although I specialise as Lara, I have also cosplayed as Korra, from The Legend of Korra, Catwoman (the Ed Brubaker / Darwyn Cooke redesign), Jessica Jones and The Spirit. I also cosplayed as WarCraft’s Lady Sylvanas, American McGee’s Alice and Classic Wonder Woman, all at the start of my cosplay journey.
Obviously, there is the technical challenge of cosplaying someone like Sylvanas, which pushes you from a crafting perspective. This said, I always cosplay characters who I admire for their resilience and courage despite the batterings they take. I wish I was more like them.
Besides Lara, if you have the opportunity to cosplay again as a strong female character (video game or otherwise), who would you be interested in cosplaying as?
I have a full page list, split into three columns, of characters I want to cosplay. High on the priorities list right now are Kassandra, from upcoming Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and female Wolverine, X-23 (Laura Kinney).
You are officially recognised by Square-Enix and Megarom as the ‘official Tomb Raider for South Africa’ – a wonderful achievement. Can you tell us how you were fortunate enough to be cast in this role?
I was also the South African cosplay ambassador in 2016 at rAge, when Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration came out, so I had proven my capabilities before. In summary, though, I was planning on cosplaying Shadow Lara at Comic Con Africa anyway, officially or not, and I was documenting the progress on my social media accounts.
I am also a member of the Facebook Tomb Raider Cosplay group, which is where Meagan Marie, community manager for lead Tomb Raider development studio Crystal Dynamics, often sources Lara cosplayers for the brand’s official Cosplay Ambassador Programme around the world (which is quite unique as far as I know). I have chatted to Meagan online before, and I met her in person when she came to ICON this year.
Megarom was aware of me being a big Tomb Raider fan, and working on the costume, so, to my understanding, it was more a case of Rene from Megarom contacting Meagan and checking that it would be alright to approach me. It was necessary to get the brand custodian stamp of approval. Of course I said yes when asked if I would officially cosplay as Lara Croft at Comic Con Africa – it is an amazing opportunity and honour.
What advice would you give to other cosplayers who aspire to be cast as ‘official’ figureheads for brands? In the way that you are “The Lara Croft”.
There is a combination of three factors at play, I think. First of all, you need to get on the radar of, and make connections with, the decision-makers who choose cosplay representatives, locally and abroad. Or, if they are not doing it, propose the use of cosplay faces. So there is a need for networking and putting yourself out there.
Second, I do not think you can just jump on the bandwagon, cosplaying what is trendy in the hope of landing a gig. It might work for some people, I suppose, but I believe you need to be a fan and ideally an active, supportive member of that specific fan community. The way I see it is that you are not a model; you are a brand representative so you need to be really clued up and genuinely passionate about the franchise and bringing its characters to life.
Finally, you need to be professional. Your cosplay must be of a high standard, with loads of attention to detail, and you need to have a proven track record of producing high-quality cosplay (documented on your Facebook page, Instagram or DeviantArt, for example). Brands look for these things. Image-wise, you also cannot be a combative, controversial or toxic figure because you are a brand ambassador, just like a tennis star being sponsored by Nike or TAG Heuer. Also, when it comes to events, you need to be friendly, punctual, in a physically good state and all those things required when working any job.
Given your role as Lara Croft, what life advice would you give young men and women who look up to you?
Do not look up to me, jeez. Look to Lara – she has such strength of purpose and courage to live life her way, on her own terms, no matter what. She defies norms to find satisfaction and purpose in a way unique to her.
How does Lara’s character and personality differ from yours? Would you say that you both share similarities and if so, what are they?
Lara definitely is tougher, and has a stronger will than me. I often feel overwhelmed and discouraged with my efforts, while she maintains her focus. As for similarities, there is Lara’s “Got to keep moving” mantra. I believe that. Even if you are barely crawling, you need to keep working towards your goal because outlasting others is often the difference between failure and success. You do not have to be the strongest or most impressive – persistence is the key differentiator.
My other similarities to Lara? A belief in self-sufficiency and doing things on your own, without help (stubbornly, for better or worse); a love for travel to exotic places and clambering over ruins; plus a lifelong interest in ancient history, myth and legend. We are both introverted nerds in that department.
In terms of Lara Croft herself, which version of the character is your favourite and why? From all the way back to her origins, through to the most recent incarnation of the character – voiced by Camilla Luddington.
Reboot Lara (voiced by Camilla Luddington) means the most to me because the character, especially in Tomb Raider 2013, is so relatable. She has her vulnerabilities and weaknesses as a fairly ordinary young woman, but over the course of the game she discovers her amazing inner strength and emerges triumphant. I ended that game so vicariously invested in her success, and it was such a powerful emotional experience.
I also adore the Keeley Hawes-voiced Lara of Legend-Anniversary-Underworld and Temple of Osiris. She is gorgeous, a little bit softer than Classic Lara, and totally who I could picture Reboot Lara becoming after a decade of adventuring.
In terms of the video game series as a whole, which moments have been your most memorable? (One example for myself: it was when I encountered the bear for the first time in the original Tomb Raider – was my 10th birthday, and had a sleep over. We were all playing in the dark – when the bear came out of nowhere, scaring me and causing me to scream. That scared everyone else, so everyone screamed. I will never forget it).
The T-Rex lumbering out of the darkness of the subterranean jungle in the 1996 Tomb Raider is definitely one of those unforgettable moments for me. I would also say the radio tower sequence in Tomb Raider 2013 because it was both terrifying and triumphant. And the first proper face-off between Lara and her Doppelganger in Tomb Raider: Underworld, because that is one of the rare moments in Tomb Raider franchise history where you see Lara legitimately frightened. She knows she is outmatched.
Regarding the Tomb Raider films, can you tell us which one is your absolute favourite? What is it about Jolie’s/Vikander’s portrayal in your favourite film that makes it better than the others?
Every so often I hate-watch the first Jolie film. Do not get me wrong – I thought Angie was a fantastic Lara, but I will always dislike the film for how it introduced ‘Daddy Issues’ to the franchise, and we have not been able to shake them ever since. This year’s Tomb Raider movie reboot had Lara fixated on her father too as a central plot point, and I had big issues with it. That said, I thought Vikander was amazing as a scrappy, rule-breaking young Lara, and for its story flaws (and many chopped scenes), I enjoyed the new movie more than I thought I would. It was a fun, stripped-down action-adventure. The fight scenes were great!
But to be honest, what I really want most of all is a proper animated Tomb Raider TV series.
Lara Croft is well known for having a butler. If given the option, would you like to have one, and what name would you like your butler to have?
Absolutely yes. Having someone to handle all the chores and adulting stuff would be amazing; freeing up so much of my time. As for a name, I am going to borrow “Bates” from Downton Abbey.
Lara Croft has a lot of unique skills and past times (archery, riding motorcycles, rock climbing etc). Which skills do you feel are your strongest and what past times/hobbies do you enjoy taking part in?
I am certainly not as hardcore as Lara, although I do have my open water diving certification. When not working on cosplays – which are a major time sink, I will be honest – my “chilling out” pastimes are watching movies, reading comics and playing games. I am also into personal fitness, and though I have not been on the mat in months, I am a Purple Belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Oh, and I write Tomb Raider fan fiction to relax.
What is it that you do, when not cosplaying, and where can people follow you on social media?
My day job is as an advertising copywriter and editor. In my free time I am a pop culture commentator, reviewer and sometimes vlogger. As for social media, you can find me on all the major channels if you look for pfangirl.
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