Creative cosplays weave adoption family together

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They only met three years ago, but this girl and her mother have already forged a lifelong bond – all because of their vivid imaginations and some very special photos.

Kelly Lewis and husband James adopted Alice, 10, when she was a seven-year-old called Destiny in 2012. “I never really pictured myself as a mother with a baby,” Kelly says. “I’ve never been one of those girls that oohs and ahhs over them. I figured that would kick in once I became an adult or got married, but it didn’t.”

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But one day, she came across a blog written by a family who adopted their daughter through the foster care system. Kelly and James met the family, who warned them adopting was a difficult, emotional rollercoaster. Undeterred, they went home and filled out their paperwork.

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They wanted to provide a “forever home” to an older child – and as fate would have it, the family they’d met happened to hear about seven-year-old Destiny and put her case worker in touch with them. When Kelly and James met the girl, they were mesmerised. After six months, she was legally part of their family.

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“We’re very open about Alice’s adoption and she’s proud of it. When you’ve had six mother figures before the age of seven, getting a permanent one is life-changing in the best possible way. Alice is very passionate about kids in foster care. She wants kids to know how great adoption can be and plans to adopt kids of her own when she grows up,” Kelly says.

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Destiny wanted to change her name and chose Alice, after Lewis Carroll’s famous character – one of her favourites. And like her namesake, Alice loves the world of fantasy. She and Kelly, a photographer, have created a series of amazing cosplay pictures based on famous characters.

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“The first planned cosplay was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Two weeks after she moved in with us we passed a dress while shopping, and Alice commented on how it looked like a Dorothy dress. I suggested that we do a photo shoot, and she was totally up for it. It was the first time she’d really posed for my camera as a model, and it was amazing. She immediately got into character and threw off little poses left and right without having to be prompted. She didn’t care that it was cold or super windy. She just became Dorothy,” Kelly, 33, says.

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They have since photographed scenes ranging from Alice in Wonderland to the Addams Family, Joan of Arc, Edward Scissorhands, Marie Antoinette, Wonder Woman, Hit-Girl, the Royal Tenenbaums and more.

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“Alice is a very imaginative child,” Kelly says. “Playing make-believe is how she’s coped with all the negative things she’s lived through. It’s just a natural part of her being now and cosplaying gives her a creative outlet to express herself and be whoever she wants to be. It’s her dream to become an actress.”

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Alice says her favourite cosplay was Wonder Woman because she got to wear a wig and do a superhero pose. Kelly says some people find some of the cosplays strange – Alice has a penchant for horror movies such as Carrie.

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“I know a Stephen King character seems like an outrageous thing for your daughter to be familiar with, but it’s because you don’t know her history,” Kelly says. “Alice watched a lot of horror movies with her birth family. She’s seen more scary movies than I have, and she loves them. It’s part of her past and reminds her of the people that were in it. There were a lot of behaviours Alice had to relearn once she was in foster care. Stopping her from watching creepy movies that don’t scare her was not important enough in the grand scheme of things to make that list. It’s something she did with her birth family that she misses.”

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They can spend weeks researching scenes and making costumes and props. ”It’s truly a joint effort. Once we’ve chosen a character we go shopping together to find all the right pieces to play the part. Thrift shops are our favourite. This is what we do for fun while spending time together, so Alice is involved in the whole process,” Kelly says.

You can read more about Alice’s story and see the full collection of photos at her website, Malice of Alice.

Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle is a journalist and mum to two girls who are obsessed with dinosaurs, fairies, pirates and princesses in equal measure. She lives in Melbourne's east with her husband, daughters and a giant, untameable labradoodle. Michelle loves all things vegetarian, wine (it's a fruit) and online shopping.

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