Becoming Mr. Data

Cosplayer Eric Hall takes us step-by-step through his process of finding his inner android.

I love Mr. Data. And, to the surprise of some, I also love his evil brother Lore.

As a nerdy kid in the 1980s when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, I immediately identified with Data's quest to better understand humanity. I admired his positive attitude, his sense of duty, and his willingness to collaborate with those completely unlike him for the benefit of the greater good. 

I also happened to look a lot like my favorite robot already. There were times when I would be out and about in jeans and a t-shirt, and a random grocery store cashier or gas station attendant would approach out of the blue and say,  “Y'know' you look like that robot guy from Star Trek." Friends at work told me that I looked like Data as well, possibly due to my dependably slicked back hair — much like Data himself. And so in 1992, I took the cosplay plunge, starting with a licensed gold TNG Ops uniform Halloween costume from Rubies, with some black pants. I wore my new costume to work that Halloween, with some white crème Halloween makeup on my face and my hair slicked back as usual. It was a big hit!

That same year, I began attending Star Trek conventions in the Seattle area where I lived. Back in the day, Seattle was the top ratings market for TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and there were conventions in Seattle, Portland, and nearby Vancouver, Canada, just about every four months. During one convention trip to Vancouver I picked up a nicer and more accurate TNG Ops uniform and used that as I attended conventions going forward.

After a job transfer to Salt Lake City, Utah, I was within an easy six-hour drive to Las Vegas for the annual convention there, and I’ve attended each year since. During my first trip to the Las Vegas convention in 2002,  I was on my way to the convention hall when a woman at the other end of the room saw me, and yelled out, “DATA!” I was used to being asked to pose for photos and she looked so excited to see me, so I headed over to grab whatever selfie might result. When we were finally toe to toe, she looked me in the eyes, and a wave of disappointment washed over her face.

“Oh… you don’t have his eyes,” she said, before walking away. I decided right there to get some yellow contact lenses when I returned home so that I could take my cosplay to the next level.

 

My secrets and tips for being the best version of Data I can possibly be are listed below:

  • My hair is a dishwater blond, and Data’s hair is a darker brown. I use brown hairspray dye after I have slicked my hair back to darken my hair to match his, and to even out my hairline to android-like precision.
  • I keep my sideburns somewhat long so that I can trim them to a triangular Starfleet point before applying makeup.
  • The makeup I use depends on what I will be doing. If I’ll be cosplaying Data all day long, going outside into the heat, dancing or otherwise moving around a lot, I use professional stage makeup. Mehron Clown White greasepaint is a great option. For shorter time frames of just a few hours, I use Ben Nye Crème Foundation P-1 White makeup. Both  can be found at theatrical supply stores, or through online retailers.
  • After I have applied the makeup, I use a powder brush with regular baby powder to set my face. While there are professional powders available used to set makeup, most I’ve seen have a pink or tan cast to them. Using powder keeps foundation from smearing and sweating off, and helps to reduce the sheen and reflective glare in photos so that I appear to have pale artificial skin. I keep a small container of foundation with me so I can touch up my lips if needed after eating or drinking
  • I use white gloves (actually glove liners I bought at a military surplus store) so that my hands match the color of my face. That way, I can navigate conventions and events without leaving behind makeup from my fingers. 
  • You can purchase and thrift your costumes! My main TNG uniform, as well as my First Contact duty uniform and dress uniform, were all purchased. But for many of my Data variations, I've ventured out to thrift stores to complete the look. You'd be amazed at what you can find with some hunting — not to mention the money you can save.
  • Props are a great addition to any cosplay. For regular TNG Data, I have a mechanical toy cat that moves, meows and purrs that I carry as his pet cat Spot, as well as my original Playmates phaser and tricorder toys that light up and make sounds from the series. I also enjoy the challenge of re-creating props on a budget from thrift store finds.
  • I have the complete set of TNG DVDs and I watch episodes on Hulu as well. I’ve memorized a few lines that Data is known for, and I try to imitate his voice. For example, when people come up to me and ask me how I am, I respond by saying “I am functioning within established parameters,” without cracking a smile.

Hopefully, the next time you run into me at a convention I'll have rounded out some of the cosplays on my Data wishlist. I'm looking forward to getting not only Lore’s gold engineering jumpsuit from “Datalore," but Data’s British Royal Navy holodeck uniform from Star Trek Generations and his prisoner jumpsuit from “The Most Toys.” This android's work is never done!


Eric Allan Hall has been costuming since 1987. A lifelong Star Trek fan, he's  been featured in his Borg costume in the documentaries Trek Nation, by Rod Roddenberry, and in William Shatner’s Get A Life. Transplanted to Utah from the Seattle area in 2001, Eric has attended about 80 conventions since he first started cosplaying – often with his family. 

 

Tags
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Cosplay
Data