The Evil Queen Has A Twin! – Interview with Regina Redeemed Cosplayer Reini Side

Can you tell which witch is which?

Which witch is which? - Lana Parilla and Reini Side as the Evil Queen / Regina from Once Upon A Time
Which witch is which? – Lana Parilla and Reini Side as the Evil Queen / Regina from Once Upon A Time

I couldn’t.  At least not at first.  Had it not been for the fact that Lana Parilla was already on stage at D23 Expo, I would have sworn she had just walked in with full costume.  Reini Side, also known as Regina Redeemed, is the most amazing Evil Queen cosplayer I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  And she’s super nice.  Just don’t say that to her face or she may have to choke you.  Reini agreed to do an interview with me about her cosplaying as Regina.

Thank you so much for allowing me (a mere peasant) to interview you, my Queen. I’m sure many of your loyal subjects would like to know more about you!

Greetings Peasant, I see you survived my choke hold. For that boldness, I shall answer your questions. ::::wink::::

Me getting choked by the Evil Queen - just glad she didn't rip my heart out!
Me getting choked by the Evil Queen – just glad she didn’t rip my heart out!

When I saw you at D23 Expo 2015, I had to do a double take. Regina is my favorite character on Once Upon A Time and you nailed her look so perfectly. Although the dress is stunning, you really have that regal saunter about you. When you get in character, do you do anything special to get in the right frame of mind or does it just come naturally?

Thank you for your generous compliment, Craig; I have thoroughly enjoyed cosplaying our Evil Queen. I do have to say that while most of the sass and saunter comes naturally, I do take the time to study everything about Regina that I possibly can, and donning the dress helps me in playing the part. I feel like I step into character as soon as I look the part, and usually take a moment to take a deep breath and tell myself, “Ok, I AM the Evil Queen. Let’s roll.”

What would you say defines Regina’s character? Her sass? Her strength? Her vulnerability?

I would say all three define Regina! Regina’s sass is what makes her so loveable as a character, for one thing. Her sass is her personality; it’s her façade that she uses to deal with situations and people.

She is forged by her strength – it is her greatest quality, but it can also be her greatest curse, as it causes her to act alone much of the time. However, this trait is mostly good because she is able to make difficult decisions for the greater good (when she’s not killing peasants), and she is KNOWN for her strength. Regina’s strength combined with her sass makes her “Bold and Audacious,” as Robin Hood says to describe her. It’s something we admire about her.

Regina’s vulnerability keeps her human and allows us to empathize with her – otherwise she’d be an unredeemable villain – and after so much loss and tragedy, that would be a waste. Her vulnerability is ultimately what allows love and goodness to win inside her and completely transform her. Regina is redeemable because of her vulnerability, and that is a strength.

All three combined make Regina capable of much more greatness than any one thing alone. So, to sum that up, Regina’s vulnerability is the window to redemption, her strength is what allows her to persevere, and her sass is her coping mechanism as well as her charm.

Unlike some cosplayers who dress as multiple characters, you specialize in doing Regina / Evil Queen and in fact you have different Regina outfits. Tell us about the different ones and why you chose those?

I do only specialize in Regina and the Evil Queen. Currently, I have three costumes I wear, and a fourth is under construction.

I have the Evil Queen’s stand-up collar dress from season 1, episode 21, “An Apple as Red as Blood” – this one my mom and I chose to replicate because it was so iconic of the original Disney evil queen! It is also my absolute favorite dress that the Evil Queen wears. I feel truly regal and evil in that gown.

Reini in front of Mr. Gold's pawn shop in the real town of Steveston Village in British Columbia, Canada
Reini in front of Mr. Gold’s pawn shop in the real town of Steveston Village in British Columbia, Canada

For my Regina/Madam Mayor cosplay, I wear the red Helmut Lang blazer over a black dress with knee high black boots and the gold pyramid necklace Lana Parrilla sports in season 2, episode 12, “In the Name of the Brother.” I loved this one because it’s so sassy! I was able to find the same blazer used in the episode, and similar items in piecing the look together. (I sported this while visiting Steveston (Storybrooke) in Canada, and had a group of young girls mistake me for Lana, which gave me a good laugh and let me know it was a successful cosplay).

The third costume I have is actually not a replica of any Evil Queen costume, rather, it was a piece that was reminiscent of something she would wear and worked well as a transition piece between events. It was a SteamPunk blue riding coat worn with leather leggings and over-the-knee riding boots.

The fourth piece is going to be magnificent, but it’s a surprise. I WILL hint and say that it’s one of the more form fitting Evil Queen dresses.

If you don’t mind, tell me a bit about your mom. It sounds like the two of you have an amazingly close relationship. I read on your blog that she actually helps to design and make these highly detailed outfits.

My mom, Carrie, has always been an amazing artist. She’s been sewing since she was a teenager, has perfected her skill over the years, and currently runs an alterations shop. My mom can make and create anything, and I love seeing her amazing work! She truly has an eye for fine details…things most people miss, but things that really make a difference. I trained under her for several months and enjoy working with her on projects.

For the Regina Redeemed cosplaying, my mom pieces together her own patterns to replicate the Evil Queen’s gowns as accurately as she can. I help analyze the shape and fit, and she does the footwork! As my mom works on the bulk of the projects, I work on the fine detailing, such as the lacework, sequinning, and beading. We also put together individual books per dress project; we do this to catalog our fabric swatches, pictures, patterns, designs, ideas, and pictures of the final products.

I can’t say enough good things about my mom and her amazing talent. I’m so grateful to learn much from her, and yes, we are very close!

I also read about how your husband passed away pretty recently. I’m so sorry to hear about that. I was incredibly moved reading about your similarities to Regina’s character and how much you identified with what she was going through. Were you always a fan of Regina or did you become more so as you identified more closely with her? What about Regina’s struggle has helped to give you strength?

Thank you, Craig. In truth, I wasn’t a Regina fan right away, but once I saw “The Stable Boy” episode when she lost her love, Daniel, Regina’s character clicked with me instantly. I understood her and her pain, and began to identify with her more and more, especially after losing my husband to brain cancer.

Watching Regina choose to survive tragedy and hardship and overcome her own struggles gave me inspiration to survive and overcome my own. In many ways, Lana’s portrayal of Regina’s character helped me find an inner strength I didn’t know I had. She was so bold and strong in how she handled people and situations, I chose to put on her character for a while during the most stressful points in dealing with my husband’s illness. It helped tremendously!

When our house burned down, Once Upon A Time helped us get through that loss and those difficulties. Even though so much of what we had was gone in the fire, something like this show kept us grounded. Why do you think this show has that kind of affect on its fans?  

Craig, I was so sorry to hear about your great loss. I am glad you and your daughter were able to come through it and draw closer together. I thoroughly believe this show keeps people grounded through tragedy because it sends a message of HOPE – hope for a happy ending, hope that things will get better if we choose to hold on, persevere, and never stop believing in it.

Reini flanked by Lana Parilla (Regina Mills / Evil Queen) and Sean Maguire (Robin Hood)
Reini flanked by Lana Parilla (Regina Mills / Evil Queen) and Sean Maguire (Robin Hood)

Okay, time for some fun stuff. Will Regina get her happy ending when the series ends one day in the far, far future?

I thoroughly believe that when the show eventually ends, the writers won’t leave us hanging – YES. I believe Regina will ultimately get her happy ending! Though I predict a little more frustration and possibly tragedy along the way…

What is your favorite Regina quote? (Mine is, “Admit it, you get a quarter from the hokey machine every time you say that.”)

Ooh, this is a fun question for sure, as there are many favorite Regina quotes!! Among my favorites (because I can’t choose just one) are:

“Oh, right, the conscience thing!”
“Stick to the lasagna, lady!”
“What the hell am I wearing?” (I meant to say this particular line to Lana when she first saw my Evil Queen gown, but like most Lana fans, my mind went blank and I only managed to squeak out a meager “Hi Lana!”)

What is your favorite Regina outfit?

Regina or Evil Queen? Muahaha! Well, I’d have to say the one my mom replicated is my favorite one…the iconic evil queen dress with the stand-up collar from season 1, episode 21, “An Apple as Red as Blood.” It’s my favorite because it is so iconic of the original Disney evil queen, but with a VERY sassy twist. I love the design and the cut, and the way Regina moves in that dress is AMAZING.

In saying that, I do have to say that it’s hard to choose just one, as Eduardo Castro was so brilliant in designing ALL of her costumes!!! There are two others that were a close second for me: The red form fitting velvet gown from season 1, as well as the silver gown from Hat Trick that Zelena steals in season 3.

Is Robin her true love?

Yes. Daniel was her FIRST love, a young love. But Robin is her TRUE love…a forever love, a mature love…her happy ending.

Thank you so much, Reini for spending time answering these questions. Your royal subjects will be quite pleased!

My pleasure, Craig. Thank you!

You can follow Reini’s adventures on her website, Regina Redeemed where you can find out even more about her and her amazing cosplay.  You can also follow her on Twitter (@ReiniSide) or on Instagram (@ReiniSide)

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