Latina Cosplayer Finds Strength in Disney Encanto's Luisa
All hail the thick and muscular Luisa! For Latina cosplayer Sarah Storminger, seeing a representation of herself in the character of Luisa Madrigal in Disney's Academy Award-winning animated film Encanto resonated deeply.
"I'm the strong one, I'm not nervous I'm as tough as the crust of the Earth is."
All Photos by Bhrett Woodard of With An H Media
"As a white-passing female with Latin roots, I was also thrilled to see the variety of skin tones, hair types, and body shapes represented throughout the character design,"
As a cosplayer of North American indigenous descent, Storminger says "I couldn't pass up the opportunity to celebrate my Latin roots. It was a way to honor the sacrifices my ancestors made to ensure our family survived, a thread we see running through Encanto as well."
Says Storminger, "It's rare to see a larger female character whose size isn't made into a joke."
Storminger is often seen backstage at regional theatres, clad in black and running crew. Her cosplay journey has pushed her further into the spotlight, having previously cosplayed Agatha Harkness from WandaVision in a creative collaboration with costume designer Philip Odango. This time, Storminger joins Odango's Encanto Cosplay Project, a multidisciplinary costuming project explored through film, photography and theatrical performance.
"Being front and center was definitely a jump outside of my comfort zone. I'm generally blending into the ensemble or taking the reins behind the scenes as a stage manager or production assistant. I'm getting a little better at the photo shoots but bringing the whole package for a video is another thing entirely."
Storminger describes Luisa as "a bit of a loner," which she says she relates to.
"She has obligations and responsibilities to the greater community, but she also seems rather isolated," says Storminger. "I related to this most of all, as someone who has never felt like they fit in."
"I like that, eventually, Luisa's sisters begin opening up to her and including her in this newfound sisterhood they're creating."
Luisa Madrigal does get her spotlight in Encanto, with the musical number "Surface/Pressure" by Lin-Manuel Miranda, where Luisa reveals the anxiety she experiences. Much like the donkeys, Luisa serves her community similarly as a beast of burden.
In a visual interpretation of Luisa's danger-filled and sometimes sweet moments in Surface/Pressure, Storminger is joined by cosplayers and performers Caitlin Fitzhugh, Krystal Tuzon Gonzalez, Jessica Martinez and choreographer Coral Mapp as Luisa's donkey friends. Filmed at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens with costumes and video produced by Philip Odango, Storminger and friends ask, "Who am I if I can't carry it all?"
“Surface Pressure” performed by Sarah Storminger, from Disney’s Encanto
by Lin-Manuel Miranda, originally sung by Jessica Darrow
Luisa Madrigal: Sarah Storminger
Costumes: Philip Odango, based on characters designed by Neysa Bové
Luisa’s Shoes, Hair and Makeup: Sarah Storminger
Photography: With An H Media
"I hope to do the same for the ladies I've met on the project - to welcome them and celebrate them as unique and wonderful, just as they are and not in spite of it," says Storminger.
"I want to build this community, this familia, so we can share our triumphs and our failures, knowing that there are people who aren't here to compete but to cheer with us and cry with us." - Sarah Storminger
The voice actor of Luisa Madrigal - Jessica Darrow - positively reacted to Storminger and crew's portrayal: