Interview with Zeek: Cosplayer and weightlifter

Saw pictures floating around the web of a beefy guy dressed up as Pokémon’s “Misty” ? He’s here.

Hairy, in love with lifting weights and a soft spot for cosplay. Internet celebrity Zeek reminded me of myself in several ways and I felt he might have an interesting story to tell so I approached him for an interview.

I was not disappointed. Being playful and pulling silly shit up to the point where it might hurt your career, practicing polyamory, building a strong body and using strength training to cope with the tough times in life. Just a few of the topics that come up in this interview with Zeek.

The audio file is too big to upload here, but if you want to hear it: It’s around 23mb. Just send me an email for it and I’ll send it to you. You can read the transcription and watch some pictures down below. The transcription is slightly abbreviated here and there for ease of reading, and it also misses our sparkling laughter throughout the interview, unfortunately.

———————————————————-

Zeek - The biggest Misty you've ever seen.
Zeek – The biggest Misty you’ve ever seen.

We’re here with Zee Kotwal -better known as Zeek- who piqued my interest because he combines two concepts that I often promote on Endure and Survive: getting stronger and being playful. He’s also fucking hilarious. His internet fame skyrocketed after he cosplayed as the character Misty from Pokémon; an odd choice, considering his respectable amount of hairy, burly manliness.
Zeek, take it away, please introduce yourself. What do you do, where are you from, how old are you, are you single, whatever?
“Hi guys, my name is Zee Kotwal. I came up with the name Zeek because my name is Zee, the initial of my last name is Z and put together it’s Zeek, which is also a play on ‘geek’ which makes it ‘Zeek the Geek’. I’m 25 years old, I live and was born in Australia, got a slight American accent because I lived overseas for a while. I’ve been lifting for… Way too long, 10 years? I love Pokémon and I love dressing up as Misty for some weird reason and torturing my masterballs downstairs with short shorts. I don’t know why, but it’s fun!”

Okay, as for the most important question, since my BFF asked: Are you single?
“Ahhhh, that’s an interesting topic, I’m actually polyamorous. I have multiple partners. It depends, if I find someone whom I can have a relationship with, I will bring the person in and ask my other partners. Long story short: Yes and no.”

I’ve actually read up on the subject a bit, even if it’s not my thing, but if I’m correct: that basically means you can openly connect with different people at the same time, in terms of love like in a ‘normal’ relationship?
“Yes.”

Okay. That’s cool, that means, for all you ladies out there, there’s still hope for you.
“There’s actually a lot of hope for ladies. And men.”

And men? Wow!
“Depends on the guy. I’m a special type.”

This interview is going in a different direction than I initially expected.
“Well, you do have a beard so it’s kinda like “WELL HELLO THERE-“, and our beards shall touch and meld.”

I guess this is kind of a bromance thing starting because of the beards? I see a lot of possibilities here… But let me first go on with the most obvious question: Why Misty?
“It was for my mate’s videogame birthday party. She’s like “Oh, come as a videogame character!” and I’m like “Okay, what can I do to be outrageous, funny and stupid” ? I decided to do Misty, I cut up a pair of denim into shorts, took them with me in the car and at the last minute outside her house I got self conscious so I was only wearing this full top -I hadn’t cut it yet-, suspenders and cargo shorts. I didn’t have the wig yet either. People were like “Oh, that’s really cool and funny! It’s Misty, you should totally wear the shorts!” and I was like “Oh, cool, I might actually do that.”

Two days later I put the shorts on at home and put a picture of it on Reddit and it went absolutely freaking viral and people were like “Holy shit, it’s manly Misty! But he doesn’t do leg day!” and I’m like “Oh my God, they’re right, I have been skipping leg day. That was back in January this year, and since January to May I actually smashed my legs twice a week to get them up to size, haha! And then Comic Book day rolled around and my mate’s like “Oh, do you want a red wig for Misty?” and I was like “Yeah, sure!” so I got the wig, styled it, cropped the top, pulled the shorts up, went up and convinced Evey Dantès, who is a major cosplayer here, to go as genderbend Ash. (Ketchum, from Pokémon. – Jeremy) This tiny, little, adorable girl that looks like a boy when she genderbends is Ash, and here’s me going “YES I’M MISTY I’M BURLY AND CRAZY AND LIFTING EVERYONE”. One of our mates put a picture on Reddit and that went viral too, making the rounds on College Humor, fucking Dorkly… Everywhere. A month later we had Sydney Supernova (A big, Australian convention. – Jeremy) down here and I’m thinking I should break out my Misty cosplay for the first time on a convention. I honestly had no idea what the reaction was gonna be, but it was insane – I literally couldn’t move in the con at all. I would move five paces and hear “Oh! Misty! We need photos!” – “Oh, really? Okay, yes. I’m gonna walk this way.” – “No, no! We need you over here! More photos!”

So the entire weekend was just non-stop photos. I think on saturday alone, I had 250+ people pulling me over. Once I started posing, you kinda had sort of a circle going around, and I was like, “What the hell?”

Like a freakshow.
“Yeah, pretty much. Someone wants a photo and all of a sudden there’s twenty photographers and people diving in for selfies and going nuts, and I’m like “WHAT IS GOING ON?!” But yeah, that was actually a really fun weekend and of course more pictures went viral. There was a Kotaku article, the Reddit one, the 9gag one, Dorkly and Collegehumor… It was crazy. I don’t think people expected to see a really buff guy wearing really short shorts and a wig.”

So basically it was a tiny gag that escalated into… Worldwide… Chaos?
“Yeah, it was basically trolling everyone and people loving it. Hilarious.”

Well, that’s cool, I remember you mentioning that the number of likes on your Facebook page sorta exploded after some of the pictures went viral.
“Yeah, I originally had the page for weightlifting and stuff, with 200 likes or something, and that went up to 2500 after the Supernova weekend.”

I saw you posting that you would cosplay nurse Joy (Pokémon), I thought “Isn’t he dragging out the joke a bit too much?” and I saw the pictures and I was like “Nope, it’s still fucking hilarious”. So I gotta ask – any other cosplays planned?
“Everyone’s asking me, you’ve done Misty and Nurse Joy, so when is Officer Jenny coming? I’m doing it, but it’s going to be a tank girl, combat style, more brutal, gritty, army girl. I’m getting one of my mates to do a Growlithe gijinka (An anthropomorphic Pokémon. – Jeremy) and she’s gonna be paired with me – Sort of a Rambo Jenny. An army helmet, a bazooka, decapitated Pokémon heads all over me, there’s so many ideas for this cosplay. That’ll be my last genderbend for a while. I’ll move into more serious stuff afterwards. I’m actually working on Khal Drogo (From Game of Thrones. – Jeremy) at the moment, which is costing a fortune, and I’m doing Zangief (From Street Fighter. – Jeremy) in two weeks time, so I’ll be shaving my head.”

 

 

Nurse Joy questioning her (his?) decisions in life.

 

Even more awesome! Now for a more serious question, while we’re on the topic… There are people who love to do playful things. They have odd hobbies like cosplay, they do crazy stuff like cross dressing as a cartoon character like you did… I’ve seen people who are into cosplay or even genderbending or whatever, who may feel ashamed for being nerdy, they may have separate Facebook accounts for their cosplay stuff, just to make sure their colleagues won’t find out exactly what they do. They’re afraid it might damage their careers or whatever – like when you apply for a fancy job and your would-be boss will see you doing weird stuff online. How do you feel about this? Are you afraid it could damage your career in the future? Do you think this is a legitimate concern for people in general?
“I reckon it is a legitimate concern. I saw a lot of people, especially in the alternative scene who are into body manipulation and things like that, posting on Facebook that companies aren’t accepting of who they are. That’s on the extreme side of the spectrum of course… As for cosplay and crossplay, I haven’t received anything negative which is astounding. 

People go “Wow, a guy as Misty!” and are taken aback, but they’re not offended, they’re not going “You shouldn’t have done that!”… The general reaction is “Wow, that’s really cool.”

If it did affect me career wise I would be upset, but at the same time if people are so close minded that they can’t see the fun side of why I’m doing it… Really, I wouldn’t want to work there anyway. Career wise, I’m actually a personal trainer so I’m going to be using this internet fame and craziness and of course showing off the muscle and shit to promote me, like, I can teach you how to look like this. In a way, for me, the shock value is good. I’m not working in a corporate office of babyboomers who are very close minded. I’m looking to train the young and upcoming people who are my age, 25-30 years old, who actually get it, grew up with Pokémon, who understand the pop culture going on these days and who appreciate it. So for me it’s not much of an issue, but for other people I can see it being quite an issue and I see why they’d have separate Facebook accounts or keep things hidden because they’re in a more… Traditional environment where it’s not accepted as much.”

Okay, so in your case you would say: Try to use it in a beneficial way.
“Own it. Just… Absolutely own it. I don’t give a fuck. I go out and have fun… If people wanna be idiots and troll and be “Oh, he’s such an asshole!”… Let them. They’re the 1% whereas 99% goes “I love it! Keep doing it!” because I’ve had so many messages of people saying “You’re my fitspiration!” and “You’ve convinced me to crossplay!” and “I’ve never wanted to cosplay until I saw you!” and THAT’s the kind of people I want to inspire. Have fun with cosplay, that’s what it is. It’s all about going out and having fun, that’s it!”

Good attitude! Different topic… Slightly related. I have to be a sceptic, that’s how I am, I’m a personal trainer as well… We need to know, do you even lift? How much can you squat, bench, deadlift, curl, whatever you do in the gym?
“Oh, let’s go for the major lifts, shall we? Today was chest day, I have a 125kg (275lbs) bench press, I do dips with 40kg (88lbs) attached to me, I weigh 98kg (216lbs) and I’m 6’2 (188cm) for reference. My standing military press is 85kg (187lbs). My deadlift is my strongest lift by far – 230kg (507lbs). Barbell shrugs, 180kg (397lbs)… Squats can be a lot better, they’re about 150kg (330lbs) ass to the grass, down to the floor – And that’s a long way to go at my height.”

Zeek actually makes those gaudy pants look good.
Zeek actually makes those gaudy pants look good.

Yeah, your legs are pretty long actually.

“Yeah… They’re ridiculously… Yeah, that’s a problem. Leg press at the moment… 475kg (1047lbs), that’s not too bad. What else? Curls? I don’t really focus too much on curls, I just grab a pair of 25kg (55lbs) dumbbells and I just curl to keep them going. I used to be a huge curlbro and be like “Yeah I need to do Arnold curls like this! Augh! Come on! PUMP UP!” (At
this point he’s mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent and I have a hard time containing my laughter. – Jeremy) I did that when I was… 19 to 20? And my arms – You can’t see it on camera but my arms are red with stretch marks. “I NEED BIGGER ARMS! COME ON!”

So that’s pretty much my list.”

I think you mentioned on your Facebook something about a powerlifting meet?
“Yeah! I’m looking to compete in deadlifting competitions next year and also in amateur bodybuilding. I’ve been training seriously for 5-6 days a week for a year now. I’d like to thank my ex-girlfriend for breaking my heart! While I was dating her, I would only go to the gym 2-3 times a week and she was like “Oh, you don’t even gym properly.” and I was like “Uoooh.” and then she broke my fucking heart. It hurt like hell and of course the gym was there so I sunk my life into it. A year ago, I was a lot skinnier, I was actually 92kg (203lbs) or so and nowhere near as strong as I am now. So if you’re watching this, thank you Arwen for breaking my heart and making me the best Pokémon gym leader ever! Haha!”

Haha, I’m sure almost every lifting man has had this phase in their life. So… You mentioned lifting for 10 years, how did you get started in strength training?

“My family’s always been into fitness. My mom’s been a triathlete for as long as I can remember, she was always at the gym. I grew up on the beach, being a surfer bum. Always dragged to the gym with her as well. I’ve always been active, done kayaking, used to be elite, a rock climber and around 14-15 I discovered basketball and weightlifting. From there I just kinda got into it and started lifting non stop. I’d say from about 16 to 24 I only lifted periodically, on and off. I wasn’t dedicated or focused properly. For a little over the last year I’m in the gym 6 times a week and actually seeing results. You really need to be dedicated and have to be there 6 times a week and smash your body to the limit.”

People in the cosplay world, but in general as well… People that want to start with training are often clueless. Do you have a specific training regimen or training principles that people could learn from?

“Definitely push beyond your limit. That is the biggest thing. Overtrain and push beyond your limit. If you don’t experience a pump or DOMS/soreness the next day, you didn’t work hard enough. You need to be in the gym for at least an hour of consistent, heavy lifting and good reps. More importantly: Perfect form. Let’s say you’re doing a chest press and you’re activating your front deltoids (Front of the shoulder. – Jeremy) instead of your chest, that’s a waste of a workout. It’s all about form and getting the muscle activation and pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do. If you don’t, you’re not gonna grow, you’re not gonna get to that next level of deadlifting. You’re gonna sit on 160 instead of getting to 200, your bench will stay below 100. You have to push and believe that can you can become stronger and bigger.”

Basically, two principles that our friend Schwarzenegger has been telling us for decades: Work hard and connect to your muscles.
“Yeah, it’s not rocket science. Get that mind-muscle connection and be a fucking dedicated lifter, it works.”

 

It works.
It works.

 

Good point. Can you tell us something about what you do in terms of nutrition?
*short, ominous silence*
“Let’s not talk about nutrition, shall we? Haha!”
*Zeek holds up an empty cookie box*
“I ate half a box of these today as a snack, biscuits. But I’ll say I drink about 4 litres (1 gallon) of water a day. My dinner is pretty consistent with 600 grams of lean meat like white fish or chicken or if I’m feeling ravenous I’ll have 2 steaks. Veggies… Carrots, broccoli, capsicum, all raw. I’ll balance it out with a loaf of garlic bread. Right now I’m having a post-workout meal. Two cans of tuna, bread, fucking apple juice… Breakfast is a cup of porridge. Before bed time I’ll have a protein shake, a huge glass of milk with a barley mix in it, fruits… I eat about 4000-5000 calories a day. When I’m out on a con weekend, I eat everything, I eat so badly it’s not even funny. But I need the food, I need the energy.”

So basically you just eat healthy, protein rich most of the time and gorge on snacks once in a while.
“…yes, hahaha!”

Well, I think that’s a good thing! You’ve got some people totally obsessed over every gram of carbs or fat…
“I can’t do that! I can’t measure every little thing. That makes eating not fun, I’m a foodie, I love food. I just eat until I know that I’m full and have the amount of food I need to perform at my peak. If I want half a jar of Nutella, I will eat half a jar of Nutella. Literally, I have an emergency jar of Nutella right here.”

*Zeek actually shows it to me*

You’re making me very, very hungry. But seriously, I think it’s a good thing. It’s like I always say, eat well 80% of the time and eating something bad in the other 20% won’t kill you.
“It won’t. And you need fat. People don’t understand that you do need fat in your diet.”

Okay, we’ve gone over most of my questions but I have one left: Why? What’s your motivation for getting bigger and stronger? Besides, of course, looking good in cosplay.
“Mental stability, I would say. I’ve had a lot of issues in life. Big life events, people that have affected me negatively… 

And I used to be a rage-o-holic. I’m very ashamed, I have actually hurt family with physical violence because I lost control. I use the gym to channel a lot of my stress and anger and turn it into something positive. To me, the gym is my anti- depressant, it is my focus, it is my sanctuary. I go there whenever I’m feeling down, whenever I need to think or just blank out. And I just literally dance in the gym while listening to music. People are like “What the fuck?!” and in between sets I’m literally dancing and shuffling in place. The guys in my gym all know me now so they’re like “Yeah, he just does that.” I scream my face off as well and call myself names if I can’t pick up the weight. For me it’s a really soothing way to release pent up emotion, and that would be the main reason.

The second reason came up recently. There are so many people following me now on my personal Facebook page as well as on my fanpage. I kinda have the feeling that I can’t let them down anymore. That I need to keep pushing and getting stronger and bigger because I am their fitspiration. I’m their inspiration to become healthy. To me, that’s quite humbling because I’ve never had people admiring me for my body and dedication. For me to slack would mean letting them down, so that’s a big motivation for them now as well.”

Cool story, bro. It’s a pretty intense story, I think a lot of people can relate to that as well. What else can I say? I’m really happy that you found something like that, both in terms of your own ‘mental stability’ as you called it as well as being able to inspire people.

Before we close this off, first of all I want to say that I’m a really big fan of your beard. I’m only halfway there. Do you have anything specific, any message for your fans or future fans that you want to share?
“Of course! Thank you so much for following me and messaging me and sending me your love. I mean, I never thought people would like this random bullshit I do. Let’s call a spade a spade, it’s random bullshit, haha. Seriously, if you guys want help with lifting or nutrition, leave me a message on my Facebook page. You want to get big? Eat big, lift big, get good sleep. For all the people that want to cosplay or crossplay, just go for it. Pick a character you love and just fucking go for it. Don’t be afraid of what people will say, don’t be like “Oh they’ll judge me!”, no, fuck them. Go and have fun. There are too many people being self conscious and afraid of what people will think of them and it holds them back. If you apply that to cosplay as well as other things, you’ll never get far in life. You need to push ahead and just fucking own it. That’s the best advice I can give you. Just own it.”

I think a lot of people would do well in following your advice.

Check out Zeek’s Facebook page to stay posted on his lifting efforts and cosplay silliness.