Sometimes things just happen for a reason. In the thick of trying to navigate a career at a young age, opportunities can come at the most unexpected time. Such was true for our last guest, Alexis Noriega.
She grew up in a household that was very science and math-heavy. Her mother is a veterinarian, her father is an accountant and her grandfather was an engineer. They all encouraged her to pursue her interests in STEM and never once told her it was a ‘boy’s club.’
“When I was in high school, I had talent in both science in math, but also in art, and it was a decision,” she said. “You know, do I pick some kind of art field, or do I pick some kind of science field? My dad encouraged me to do art as a hobby, and I did, which seemed like sound advice at the time. But life has many twists and turns. So, here we are.”
She began going to college before the market crashed in 2008. At the time, she was none the wiser on what was about to happen to the seemingly infinite possibilities before her.
“Everything looked rosy on my path,” said Noriega. “Unfortunately, the market was pretty flooded with experienced workers in my field that were taking jobs, so you know if I was looking for a masters level job, I’d be lucky to get a bachelor’s level job just because all the PhD’s that were about to retire now have to go back into the market because their retirement fund is out so, I just couldn’t find anything.”
Despite not finding a job with her master’s degree, she was able to land a job as a geotechnician for solar panels. At the time, environmental science jobs were still in demand.
The day job started to turn into her whole life as she started working up to 80 hours a week.
“I think that my husband was watching me at this job and honestly it wasn't the job itself, just more the hours... I was dying,” she said. “My husband wants me healthy and happy and not dying is his preference. We sat down and said, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’”
After leaving her job, Alexis and her husband had to move back in with her parents and rent out their home for about a year. During that year she dove into what has now become her career: cosplay and building wings.
“I was just trolling around on the internet looking at tutorials, cuz that’s what I do, and occasionally I find one that I’m like, I have no reason to make this, but I’m gonna do it anyway, cuz it looks fun, and that was the case with a set of wings,” she said.
Now she is running a full business of making wings. Her background in science and engineering has helped her to perfect her craft and she continues to challenge herself with new types of projects.
“I think a scientific mind, or a scientific mindset is really important when doing something like this, because I have a lot of people tell me that they’re afraid to start on their project, because they’re afraid they’re gonna fail,” she said.
The business itself is not without its challenges, even if it is something she loves doing. There have been times when she had to put her own costumes and designs on hold in order to fill orders for clients. At one point she had so many orders, she started to not like the work. That was when she decided to hire someone to help her.
Now she is able to complete orders and get her own work done. Some of her favorite cosplays she’s done include: Tinkerbell, Mogana, and most of all, Hawkgirl.
“I get to interact with little girls a lot who come in and their parents are trying to encourage it,” said Alexis. “They get to see a girl doing a girly thing with science and math and technology. And they go ‘oh, it’s not all for boys. I can make fairy wings. How cool is that?’”
With her success in cosplay, she has found a bit of fame with it as well. People recognize out in public from time to time.
“It’s still a little surreal, especially when I go to Joann's or something and people recognize me, and I’m like oh no, I’m not wearing makeup,” she said laughing.
Alexis continues to help in any way she can within the cosplay community. Not only by making her wings, but by sharing any advice she can.
“Don’t expect perfection from yourself,” she said. “If you’re getting into anything similar to this, document it, for one. If you have a way to post what you’re doing, and show everybody what you’re doing in the process, that makes it easier for people to follow along. You’re never gonna succeed the first time, and that’s like with science. You don’t know that your experiment’s gonna work.”
Still want to hear more about Alexis and her wings? Click here to listen to the full episode!
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