I’ve been cosplaying for about three years now and I still love it.
What I learned when cosplaying while black might actually surprise you.
…Or May be not.
I go to a variety of conventions every year as both a volunteer and a regular attendee. Sometimes dressed to the nines in impractical clothing. Not just cosplay, but Japanese Street fashion and other counterculture looks.
For a few hours each day of the con, I get to be my favorite superhero, my favorite villainess, my dorky sidekick, and sometimes, a meme or pun.
But, I never noticed how different or how difficult it can be for someone like me…until the internet brought it to my attention.
There’s also this unspoken idea that if you can’t look like a character that just fell into our world. Then call it, creative liberty.
Mashups, Crossovers, and Alternative universes give permission for such things as Taco Belle or My Hero Avengers. Most of all, we crafters of the imaginary take great joy in playing with character designs and making something new.
But, let’s get back to “the Struggle” bus.
In the beginning, every baby cosplayer has this tendency to box themselves into a stereotype.
If your this tall, you can only do these characters.
If your this thicc, you are only allowed those characters over there.
If your skin is….
…You can probably guess where this is going.
It doesn’t help that the internet tends to veer towards the negative rather than showing the positives of Cosplay.
For what it’s worth, I found being apart of a local cosplay community and having a small circle of friends to run around with can be life changing.
Take my local community of the masked and anime crazed.
We have meet ups bi-monthly with shoots and mixers.
We’re invited to visit children at major and minor events for charity. Sometimes just to make a little kids birthday even more special.
We help people with questions and give advice for how to build “Y” bigger next.
We give directions to local wigs shops, shops that carry contacts, local tailors and trustworthy dry cleaners, and where to buy those tiny LED bulbs.
In person, no one would dare bring up any problems they saw last week on “X” message board.
That’s not to say that my little corner of the internet is not without some drama. It happens, but the point I’m making is that it doesn’t have to rule you. Don’t let it.
Because, the internet is a soundboard for what you choose to see.
I choose to surround myself with positive, loud, and crazy people of my fandom.
They bring me joy and call me out when I’m doing wrong. Their there when I need help with a character and willing to split the price of booking a room for the con.
Their not shy about sharing the latest shows that caught them in the feels or referring a new cosplay that might suit your next build.
I appreciate their geekdom and willingness to include me in case I might like it too.
What I don’t care for …
Being told you can’t because, well …. Your skin is wrong.
Or now that I’m slightly more tattooed and pierced … … That Character would never work with that many piercings or tatts.
Side note: If you came here looking for insight to the skin tone issue. I’m not going to beat a dead horse that resurrects every year. Feel free to pop that phrase “~Is it okay to tan for cosplay” into the Google Search for lulz. In fact, here’s the latest article on this subject to date.
As a black cosplayer, I’ll admit that reactions to “high profile” character portrayals are still mixed online.
However, in person at conventions…People are genuinely thrilled to see that someone else loves that show as much as they do.
And even more surprised when an obscure show is recognized in a costume.
It shows that you took the time and spent many days preparing to wear this thing only once or twice.
Why not celebrate it with fellow goofs of the fandom?
It really does boil down to how you feel about that character.
Like that famous quote that no one can agree on who originally says, ” Those who matter won’t mind and those who mind, don’t matter.”
In fact, I’ll recall a message I received over my cosplay of Isabela (aka Pirate Hooker) from Dragon Age 2.
I was privately messaged, by what I thought was troll or maybe some poor soul trying to help in their own, strange way.
“I don’t mean to be rude”, the message went, “But, that character doesn’t come in chocolate. I hope you know that. Love your wig, by the way.”
Was this really happening? Of all things, they took the time out to say to me. This was what they were concerned with? Love your hair, don’t like that you did that.
After I stopped laughing, I responded.
“Well, I guess today you know what a chocolate version would look like. Love your outfit posts, keep it up.”
And that. Was that.
So what have I learned from all my Cosplay wisdom?
The internet can be anything you want it to be.
If you look for it, you will find it. Another awesome quote with no origin!
I choose not to seek out the darker side of cosplay. The shamers, the trolls, the anonymous shit posters; Because, I chose to put more love into the community with my presence.
Especially, now that I’m older than maybe 60% of the cosplay community. Stick to my guns and correcting myself when I’m wrong. But also thinking twice about my actions before really leaning into someone online.
If my work can fuel another’s motivation or encourage someone to keep going then that’s enough for me. In fact, it warms my heart to know that my crafting skills are only getting better with each new project.
Cosplay is for everyone.
Cosplay can include everyone.
Cosplay is how I met my current circle of friends and plan to be there for them till the very end. Even when they decide to leave the hobby and move on to something else.
I don’t know what it will take to make me leave this hobby.
But for now, I think I’ll look forward to the next project.
Side Side note: You should totally follow Think.Nu on Instagram for little Cosplay moments.
Be sure to share this post if you enjoyed what you read. I’d love to hear more thoughts on what its like to cosplay while black.