I’M A BLACK COSPLAYER AND I’M JUST AS GOOD AS OTHER COSPLAYERS.

Bigtog

Me as Black Rose. Photographed By: TheBigTog

When I was a child, I was taught “black is beautiful,” so it was a huge surprise to me growing up that black faces were not represented in common society.  When I turned on the TV, when I flipped through magazines, even when I read books, a sea of white faces stared back at me.  Heroes and heroines in books were described as having flowing blonde hair and blue or green eyes.  There was nothing black about them.  I began to wonder; was black really beautiful?  Surely not, because if we were, why were there so little of us in popular culture?  I went through the phase of wondering why my hair didn’t grow like Kasey’s, my white best friend’s hair.  I’d supplement this by getting long synthetic braids put into my hair.  I’d tell myself that my braids were long, and so they were pretty, just like Kasey’s blonde locks.  Pretty soon; I didn’t think I was that beautiful at all and I found myself wishing I were white.  Story sound similar?  That’s because it was, and still is, the story of millions of girls today. How does this relate to cosplay? Let me tell you.

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Chaka as Huntress. Photographed By: Nerd Caliber

Last year, a wonderful woman named Chaka Cumberbatch wrote an article for XOJane entitled “I’m a Black Female Cosplayer and Some People Hate it”.   It spread like wildfire upon my Facebook newsfeed and Tumblr dash, and made the cosplay community open their eyes to the racism and prejudice black cosplayers face.  This also inspired many to speak out against such prejudices and thus propelled many black cosplayers to reach out to one another.  It was a breath of fresh air and what many thought was a step in the right direction toward the end of racial discrimination within the cosplay community.  What I’ve encountered in the past week tells me that unfortunately we have a long way to go.

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Shiny of Shiny & Jackal Cosplay: Photographed By iM Photography

Recently, some words were said that resonated loudly throughout the cosplay community and even louder with black cosplayers.  A photographer made the implication that black cosplayers do not inspire, therefore are absent in their portfolio.  This wasn’t the surprising part; as another photographer has made a similar declaration in a Youtube video.  What was surprising however, was the fact that there were people agreeing with this sentiment.  It is no surprise that many cosplay photographers prefer white or people of fair complexion as their subjects as evident by their portfolios.  It is absolutely within a photographer’s right to choose who they want to photograph but what disappoints me, is that these statements were made publicly, then given a pass because of a weak excuse of us not being “inspirational”.  The sentiment that black cosplayers are somehow grouped and considered non inspirational is absolutely prejudice, as there is NOTHING that ties us together other than our race and there is no way to get around that.  Yes we are a minority in a sea of cosplayers that do not look like us, but that is not a weakness.  We look just as great next to fair skinned cosplayers.  We sew, craft, construct and put our all into costumes just as any other cosplayer would, so why are we always overlooked or downplayed?

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Cassian Cosplay as Michonne. Photographed By: Starrfall Photography

Much of this stems from the fact that like I said before, we are a minority within such a large community.  Hell, we are a minority within many of the fandoms that we love.  If black cosplayers were to strictly stick to characters that look like us, we’d have pretty slim pickings.   That being said; that shouldn’t be the case anyways.  No one should be made to nor expected to stick to characters that represent their skin color or race.  Sounds simple right?  let me tell you another story.

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Me as Harley Quinn. Photographed By: Destructoid

Con Goer: Hey Who are you cosplaying As?

Me: Harley Quinn 

Con Goer: Oh that’s what I thought.  I just wasn’t sure because you’re black. 

This was said to me by a black person at an anime convention.  Similar things are said to black cosplayers everyday.  We become “the black -insert character-” or the “chocolate” version.  There are also those who add some sort of praise to this as well (wow a black Tifa! Awesome!).  This is JUST as bad as overlooking us altogether.  The worse part is that many people don’t know they’re being offensive and when confronted, do not see anything wrong.   Singling out a person’s race automatically negates any notion of a compliment being made.  If you think it isn’t a big deal consider how many other times a person has heard this.  Believe it or not, it HURTS to always be reminded of your race in how it separates you from a community that you’re so close to, even though it shouldn’t.  It is discouraging and may cause someone to stop cosplaying altogether.

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Spectra Marvelous as Ronin Hawkeye. Photographed By: We Rise Magazine

Fortunately, there are many people from all walks of life who still speak against discrimination of any form.  There are also pages such as Cosplaying While Black and Best Black Cosplay that showcase black cosplayers doing their thing.  While these pages exist, I think black cosplayers need to be positive and confident in THEMSELVES.  We are just as nerdy, beautiful, talented, sexy, cute, as other cosplayers.  The only thing we can do is keep creating a presence and keep inspiring each other.  There is no greater feeling than getting a message from a budding cosplayer of any race saying that I inspire them.  In actuality, the discrimination may never end.  It is important to remember that ALL OF US are in a community that is misunderstood by a majority.  From the outside looking in, we are a bunch of adults who spend lots of money to play dress up and that is weird to those people.  Why further ostracize?  Just keep calm and cosplay on.

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Polychrome Dreams as Link. Photographed By: Elysiam Entertainment

101 responses to “I’M A BLACK COSPLAYER AND I’M JUST AS GOOD AS OTHER COSPLAYERS.

  1. I feel you. As black cosplayers, rather, as a black community in general, we need to have more pride and confidence in ourselves and stand against racism of any degree.

    I won’t babble on and say that we AS black cosplayers, get the worst of both words, because I’d be lying, I have seen others in similar roles. I haven’t cosplayed for very long, and as of yet, still have a long way to go, but when I do toss on an outfit, I do so never to impress. I just do so to say, “This is what I am, take it as fact, or leave it and go.” I care not for attention so long as I’m not disrespected and shunned.

    But hey, in the end, I guess it’s a matter of how a person feels about what they do. Say wat you will, but heresay/insult or no, I’m not backing down from doing what I enjoy. I just wish we all had a similar stance on the subject.

  2. thank you. There have been many times I’ve wanted to quit cosplaying. I would always thing I’m not good enough or I would not look good in that costume like my Asian or white friends and then I see people like you m, Chaka and my friend Krystal doing your stuff and looking great. You as well as them have kept me in this community . Thank you. You do not know me, but if love to change that, so again thank you.

  3. This is so inspirational and I couldn’t agree with you more. People are people and we are ALL nerds. Why do we need to separate each other when we love the same things?

    As a cosplay photographer I will never understand those that exclude people just because of their skin color. For me, I love capturing a person’s natural beauty and the mood of the character. It’s a bit of a challenge compared to traditional portraits, but it’s exciting and I wouldn’t change for anything. I love your works and think you’re an absolutely gorgeous model. Keep it up!

    • Thank you so much Katheryn. It was really disheartening to read/hear. To know that is happens is one thing but to actually have someone put it to words/say it is another thing entirely. I’m glad that there are people who don’t share these ideals and find inspiration in all types of people. I’d love to see your photography 🙂

  4. The thing I’ve never gotten is the whole “I’m not sure…cause your black.” That costume is obvious Harley Quinn, what is it about skin color that suddenly makes people question the obvious truth. Is it so impossible to invention black people as a character that it destroys deductive reasoning

    • THANK YOU! Believe me, I was just as shocked as you. I couldn’t even say anything to the guy because I didn’t know WHAT to say. If a costume looks good on a person, it shouldn’t matter what their skin color is.

  5. This was nicely written. It is a bummer that prejudice at all happens in the cosplay community. Like you said we are all in it together so why hurt each other for no reason at all. As a photog also, for me if I see a well crafted costume I would love to photograph it. It doesn’t matter what people look like at all. 0.o I mean we are one big family lets embrace it and stop judging. Humans suck sometimes.

    • Thank you Honore and I 100% agree with you. I’ve been discouraged at times for even seeking out photographers because I’m afraid to be turned down because of my skin tone. There are certain photographers who will shoot cosplayers of color ONLY if they’re cosplaying something that matches their complexion. It’s a ridiculous prejudice that hopefully in time will minimize.

  6. This is heart breaking but true, I’ve often felt like as a black women is be judged twice as hard because I’m not of “fair-skin” it’s sucks. I’m a noob at Cosplaying and I’ve been iffy about Cosplay in fair id be posted on some site as a joke and the “n-word -character cosplay-” but after reading this I want to Cosplay even more to show role we can do it just as well and enjoy Cosplaying just as much

    • Stevon – It is unfortunate, however the only way we can overcome it is to keep cosplaying and showing our skill. There will always be hecklers. Not everyone will like you, but you’ll find that there are far more people who’d rather just see people cosplaying, than pick apart their costumes. I hope you continue to cosplay 🙂

  7. This made me tear up. It’s such a struggle to stay strong against all the hate and negativity. It has made me never want to cosplay since I feel like i could never do it “right”. I cant’t even talk to my friends about it because they just say “who cares do it!” Which given is really awesome of them but I feel like they don’t really get it. Thank you for this post and please keep being my inspiration. Hopefully I can get some will power and cosplay up soon!

    • I’ve been exactly where are are right now. You definitely have to be in the state of mind where you know that there will be hecklers and you just have to grin and move on from them. Sometimes, even now, I find myself wondering why I still cosplay if I’m always going to be up against someone of a fair complextion but then I remember that I do it because it’s fun, it’s a stress reliever and I have met some very good people out of it. You have to be able to take the good with the bad. Thank you so much for your post and I do hope you consider cosplaying 🙂

  8. Pingback: I’M A BLACK COSPLAYER AND I’M JUST AS GOOD AS OTHER COSPLAYERS. | General Miles Leonhart·

  9. You are an awesome and amazing cosplayer! 😀 This is a really inspirational read, too. It’s sad to know that black cosplayers have to deal with this kind of negativity on what seems to be a regular basis. I’m glad there are people like you who are willing to step up and say something about it. Cosplay on, my friend! 🙂

    • Thank you bud :). It is very unfortunate, but all very warming to know that there are people who support and acknowledge cosplayers of any race, body type, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I’d say that every day we get a bit closer to equality.

  10. You really are a strong, fantastic human being. I feel bad cause I’m ‘mixed’ with my own race and skin tone so there are not a lot of characters for me to emulate as well or better yet, as ‘accurate’.

    But that is a lie. I’m cosplaying for fun and giving props to the character as best as I can. The more of us that stand up and cosplay who we want and not what is ‘best’ to our ‘(insert type)’, the more the stigma will decrease.

    Cosplayers united.

  11. The haters will always find something to complain about. You’re too black, you’re too pale, too fat, too skinny, stay in character, you took too many artistic choices with this character. In the end they’re all just noise. The whole goal of cosplay is to enjoy yourself, and that’s the best thing you can do to squash these negative people.

    I think many people get “bullied”by people on their cosplay, especially online. I know I have gotten TONS of negativity over my weight and such like it’s something that can be changed with a finger snap. People out there think I shouldn’t be cosplaying at all. I have been told as much, multiple times. But in all reality, I thumb my nose at them because it’s my life and I can do what I want. Beautiful cosplay btw.

  12. I read Chaka Cumberbatch’s wonderful piece shortly after it came out and it just filled me with happy. I am SO EXCITED that it succeeded in encouraging and empowering black cosplayers, or, indeed, ANY cosplayers that don’t look like an idealized skinny white girl.

    I have a custom cosplay business, and the majority of my commissions are for people who bear no resemblance in size, sex or skin colour to their characters, and that actually makes me enjoy it more. Because it’s about fandom. It’s about the love of the character or the game or the book or the movie or the comic. It’s not about who you might happen to look like. It’s about who you love.

    Your cosplay is gorgeous. Your friends’ cosplays are gorgeous. Chaka Cumberbatch’s cosplay is gorgeous.

    When someone who is not a nerdy white boy finds something to love in genres that are pretty much exclusively designed for nerdy white boys, that should be celebrated. That should be encouraged.

    So, thank you for boosting the signal on this. And congratulations on some really beautiful cosplay work.

    • Thank you for writing and thank you a million times for being you! It is extremely refreshing knowing that there are people out there who are proactive in trying to end discrimination. Chaka has inspired me and so many others! Keep being fantastic and wonderful Naomi 🙂

  13. Cosplay is about living the fantasy of all the worlds we send our imaginations too. It isn’t racist, sexist, fat shaming, etc. Only people, with their own hangups and inadequacies make it so. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something you love. Do it anyway and keep proving them wrong.

  14. When I was young. I cosplayed Snow White at a Halloween party, and spent the whole party getting poked fun at because of my being the “black Snow White” and the apparent absurdity of the name. I never wanted to cosplay anything after that. But yours is an amazing message. And let me just say that you inspire me to break from that prejudice and enjoy cosplaying the way everyone else is allowed to; tthe way that I did so many years ago 🙂

    • That is awful. No one should ever be made to suffer things like that. I do hope you pursue cosplay again. We need more cosplayers of color storming up and down convention halls. Thank you for writing me Lee and keep those cosplay dreams alive 🙂 🙂

  15. I hate hate hate hate that people are still thinking this way. You’re an amazing cosplayer, you obviously are having a hell of a time in these photos, and any photographer that can’t find you, or anyone else “Inspiring” needs to go back to school and learn their damned craft.

    I run a facebook group called “Cosplay is for everyone” and I’d like to feature this post on there for folks to read. I’m a plus sized cosplayer who’s older than the average cosplayer, and the fact that people still can’t wrap their head around the fact we’re all just dressing up as fictional characters, and there is no such thing as “You should not cosplay that character”. If we had to be held to the exact physical standard of these characters, NO ONE physically is an exact match (Sorry, no woman can physically pose like Rob Liefield draws them without snapping her spine, or make her eyes look like an anime character)

    I also work at a library in a new england city, and my teens come from all backgrounds and families. It breaks my heart when I hear a kid say “I can’t do that character, she’s not black” or “She’s skinny”. I tell my kids to rock their cosplays for our events no matter who they want to be, and seeing them just go for it gives me hope that we’re going to see this crap end someday.

    I love more than anything to see a cosplayer loving their character, and having a great time doing that cosplay. And it maddens me that thats not the criteria that people are looked at by. Hell we’re all nerds who are judged by the outside world as man/woman-children that need to grow up and stop playing dress up. Do we really need to add to that by trying to tear each other down?

    Sorry for the rant, this is one of my hot buttons.

    • Rant on, sister! I’m glad that people are speaking out and I would be absolutely honored if you shared. No one should be limited in what they cosplay and the more people who stand up and say so, the better! Thank you for putting that Facebook group up 🙂

      • If we ever get to meet at a con, you come hang out with us. Everyone is welcome in our cosplay group, and I would be honored to be add such an amazing person as yourself into our ranks.

        And fangirl moment: Your Harley Quinn is badass, adorable, and yet totally scary at the same time. (In other words, spot on!) And I squeed at your Link!

  16. I am huge comic book fan and a massive geek who will usually rant about any changes made to a comic book character in movies or in comics but cosplay is all about honoring a character you love so it doesnt matter if your black, white, asian, or indian and the character just happens to be a diff race as long as your having fun and honoring a character you love. My hat goes off to you hun and to ALL cosplayers who do this for love of a character and the art of cosplay itself.

  17. Hmm. I often have a hard time with this topic of racism.

    Many times I’ve encountered Black, and Latinos like myself, that feel that they are getting a raw deal in life. I’m sure in some cases this is true, but in others I think they are just being whiny and making excuses in life.

    I’m not well connected in the cosplay scene, as such my perspective is quite limited. But to my limited eyes, I’ll say that I don’t give a damn what color you are, if you look good in your cosplay, then you look good in it.

    Keep on doing your thing, and the best of luck!

    On a side note, the text on the site is very difficult to read. The pink on black has my vision blurry, and I couldn’t even make out the hyperlinks! LOL. Sorry, I’m a web nerd. Take care now!

    • Angel – I am so awful at using WordPress. I’ve been trying to fix the text but I don’t know how @_@ Forgive me. I understand exactly what you mean in your first paragraph. Many minorities get into this slump where they think because of what they’ve suffered in the past, they should be owed something. No one in this life is owed anything but respect and life. You choose what you do with it. In the cosplay scene cosplayers of color want what all cosplayers want and that is respect, recognition and to just have fun. It shouldn’t be about race and hopefully soon it won’t be. Thank you for writing Angel 🙂

  18. I’ve dealt with this before. I dress up as a ton of characters, and sometimes I’ll get “Hey, its Black Ness,” or “its Black Zorro.” And I’m usually correcting them. Its very disrespectful. I hate being identified that way, and Its something that more and more needs to be addressed. Thanks for posting this. I hope that you’re doing well overall 🙂

    • It’s an awful feeling. At MAGFest I cosplayed Tifa and was called “Queen LaTifa”. While I laughed, inside I was kind of disappointed. I think we have to decide whether we will stand up and say “this isn’t right” or we will sit back and just let it happen. As more and more black cosplayers come around I think it becomes more apparent to people that we are just like them. Thank you for writing Pally. Your cosplay looks awesome 🙂

  19. You know, I wrote an article about being a plus sized, black cosplayer, and you know what? I’m so happy that more people are writing things like this. This response is going to be really long because I love everything you’re saying, so now I’m going to be that long winded person ^^:;;

    Like you, I grew up being told that “black is beautiful” and to be proud of who I was, but then if that’s the case, like you said… where are we in geek culture? I was born in the 80s, so pretty much at the start of this anime and video game boom and it’s slowly getting better, but it’s still very, very slowly. I didn’t realize how much I really wanted a black character until I started watching X-Men and saw Storm. It was so cool seeing a confident, black woman who was just as competent as the men, just as necessary as the white characters, and not just some background character.

    Then it hit me. I had Storm and… who else?

    When I started cosplaying I actually searched for a black character. I thought, I absolutely had to go as a black, plus sized character, but… who’s out there for me? And for that matter, what if I don’t like the characters available?

    I remember when I shared my article someone actually told me to “stop whining” and just own what I am: black and plus sized. The problem isn’t that we don’t own who we are. In fact, to be honest, we really just want to cosplay and have a good time like everyone else. We sew, we craft, we geek out, and that’s what we want to do. It’s not like we’re going out to change the world. We’re dressing up like fictional characters, we’re trying to have fun. We’re not making these costumes like, “I’ll show them. I’ll show them all. My race doesn’t define me.” That’s not what I’m thinking about when I’m cosplaying. I’m thinking that hey, I’m at a con for three days, let’s geek out over Attack on Titan.

    The problem is that people challenge us because of how we look. We’re not trying to start a revolution, but then someone makes a comment that’s just uncalled for and you know what? We’re tired of hearing it and not saying anything. The fact that Chaka got called “Ghetto Venus” because she’s black? The fact that this photographer you mentioned said we lack inspiration because we’re black? This is a problem and I’m really glad that people are speaking out about it. It’s not “whining” to speak up about not being “ghetto” or “less inspirational.” It drives me nuts to hear people say that while, at the same time, telling cosplayers to be who they are. “Stop whining and own what you are.” I am owning who I am. I’m not ghetto, I’m not less of a person, that’s part of owning who I am. I’m a cosplayer just like everyone else.

    • YAS. YAS GIRL. *fans self* You hit on EVERYTHING that I was trying to say in this article. I’ve been told “just do it. Who cares” and “stop whining” just as you have and you know what, sometimes you have to make some noise otherwise everyone will think this is acceptable. We cosplay for the same reasons others cosplay. This isn’t a segregated hobby so why are people trying to make it that way? Everyone IS entitled to cosplay who they want and photographers are entitled to photograph who they want. The fact that things like this are said PUBLICLY and given a pass is what is disturbing. Hopefully in time we can all unite and be one cosmic geeky universe.

      • Not only will people think it’s acceptable, but it actually holds others back. When I got harassed (which led to me writing my piece), I saw people responding with, “This is why I don’t cosplay,” and that, to me, felt like the last straw. I’m 30 years old. I’m no stranger to being picked on for my size, or for the things I like, and things like that. But suddenly I realized just how much this hurts people. There are people who just won’t participate in cosplay not because they don’t think they’re skilled enough, or because there’s no character they want to do, but because they hear some jackass making a comment about someone’s size, or race, or orientation, or whatever, and they decide, “Nope. Not going to do it. I don’t want people to make fun of me.” And that kills me.

        But when articles like this surface, suddenly those people are like, “Hey… maybe I can cosplay. There’s a lot of support out there. There are people who feel the same way I do and they’re going out there and cosplaying, maybe I can too.” Cosplay is supposed to be fun. It’s not something to stress out about and be afraid of.

        I treat conventions like a chance to really, really be myself. It’s a place I can go to and be a geek without being questioned. I can’t do that in my everyday life, you know? The fact that I save up money to buy wigs for something other than Halloween, or the fact that I stand in line at midnight for certain games, the fact that my Hulu is for these animated series in Japanese, things like that aren’t exactly considered “normal” in society. But, in the geek community, there’s a bunch of people who get it. There’s this feeling of, “FINALLY,” because you can walk around and find a bunch of people who are into the same thing as you.

        The fact that there’s people who waste their breath on something so trivial is so crazy to me. You’re surrounded by people who understand your desire to dress like a sailor scout, or a rich guy in a bat costume, you really want to waste that by making fun of someone?

    • ” ‘Stop whining and own what you are.’ I am owning who I am. I’m not ghetto, I’m not less of a person, that’s part of owning who I am. I’m a cosplayer just like everyone else.”

      I love this response. Can I use that?

  20. I read your article and I read Brianna’s. I am white, so you’d think the hate thing wouldn’t bother me–well, if you think that you’re wrong. I catch hell because of my weight–or I did. I’m not shy. I hate injustice and I say so. The superheroes taught me that before either of you were born. I teach a class about creating a character and one of the things I stress is support other cosplayers and don’t allow haters to define who you can or can’t cosplay. If I see someone getting harassed because of their identity or physicality I’m right in the harrasser’s face. What I told Briannna I tell you too–you look great! BE who you are and dress as the hero you want. The reason harassers get away with it is because the good people do nothing. I say to all the readers–if you see someone being harassed because their body is different from the hero who inspires them–step up! The shame belongs on the bully. Put there and keep it there.

  21. Hi! I’m also a black cosplayer and I’m more and more proud of it. I totally understand your point 🙂 I’ve even choosed my cosplayer nickname according to my dark skin ^^ I wasn’t as confident first, but now I know that I make cosplay that are beautiful and unique ^^

  22. This might not be relevant, but a lot of your awesome pictures aren’t showing up in the post. Which is sad because you’ve done an awesome job with costumes and portraying characters. When I was younger, I wanted to cosplay Aqua Man as he was/is my favorite hero. Then I was taught “no…you’re black, that wouldn’t work” and it just stuck with me. I admire your courage on the matter of cosplay as a PoC. Your link cosplay made my day. 🙂

  23. Reblogged this on MWGS: Mom, Writer, Geek, Superwoman and commented:
    Because I think it’s pertinent and well-stated. The only negative comment I ever got about one of my cosplay outfits was my Harley Quinn outfit in that the person told me that Harley really should be blonde (I had chosen not to dye my hair or wear a wig for the costume and stuck with my dark hair). The reason I cosplay for the fun and creativity that it affords me, not so I can fit into someone’s preconceived box where they would place me.

  24. Reblogged this on Let's Talk Weekly and commented:
    In the world of cosplaying, there is a lot of things that go unnoticed. People do not usually consider things such as the amount of time it takes to develop costumes, the effort a person puts into making the character they are emulating come alive and one of the most important things, ways to keep the outfits from staying funky during conventions. There is however, a more serious aspect that goes unnoticed, the racism people face when they are portraying someone that does not favor their skin color. This issue is something that i heard about from friends who have cosplayed in past years, but when I came across this blog post by Maki, I got to see more of how this deeply affects a lot people. Please, take the time to read this articleand share it with your friends. Follow her blog, Maki Roll’s Chop Shop, as well.

  25. OK, I would not have guessed Harley Quin for that cosplay (I was thinking Kaylee from Firefly) because I have never seen Harley dressed like that in any Batman stuff (that I’ve seen – I’m not super well versed in Batman stuff) – the only thing that suggested Harley for me was the red/black top. Wouldn’t have said “because you’re black,” but still did have a hard time with ID-ing the character. Maybe con-goer was more embarrassed that they didn’t get the reference and fell back to their excuse rather than just admitting that they were unfamiliar. I mean, you’re rather pretty, and guys can get rather stupid around pretty ladies. Anyway, loving your cosplays – I think they’re all awesome!

      • Huh… I still kind of see Kaylee in the figure :-p Thanks for the link to clarify!

        Also, I noted the comment from bob and your response, as well as your response to Andrew Langerman. I like that you are keeping positive about this – it shows beauty of character and is really something that is needed to combat racism. I think that some people are racist intentionally, and others do or say racist things without knowing it. Either way, responding negatively just feeds it (more so if they’re doing it intentionally), IMO.

        The other thing I adamantly approve of is that you don’t say “white people” in your post. Maybe you do elsewhere (I don’t know), but that’s just as bad as saying “black people this” or “asian people that”. I mean, it’s one thing to say “white people were not originally from America,” because that is a fact (unless I’m wrong on that…); but saying “white people are racist” or “white people act this way” sounds just as offensive to me as the same kind of statements towards other races.

        TLDR – You’ve demonstrated a great attitude toward race relations difficulties, are beautiful on the inside (not to diminish your outward beauty in any way), and keep it up!

  26. thank you for posting this. I know that there are a lot of other people out here who have experienced what you’ve witnessed. I have have cosplayed a few time myself as The Punisher and Goku, but I was never really good at it. i encourage you to keep going with it. You determination to fight for what’s right is inspiring. it should just be called cosplaying at he end of the day. Not black cosplaying. There is no need to be separate, but I do understand why it happens. If you’re interested, I’d like to invite you to be on a podcast to talk about discuss this more and share more of your thoughts.

  27. I’m so glad you posted this. You’re right on all accounts. Most of my friends are Asian or white, and while I am not black, I am a large percentage Cherokee so I have a dark skintone. I look back at some of my first cosplays and hate them because I was so tan.. now I’m always trying so hard to keep light for cosplay.. which personally I’m fine with using a light colored foundation and I’m happy with my cosplay. But I know the struggle.
    I am guilty of thinking “oh yay, a black person confident in themselves and but helddown stigma of only Asians or white people should cosplay!” (One of my friends who is of color cosplays an AMAZING hiccup from how to train your Dragon) But I suppose that’s still different then the example you gave.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m happy you’ve wore this, and I really hope to meet you in person someday because you’re inspiring.

    • Thank you so much for posting!! I did write it from my POV so it’s a lot about my views as a black person, but you’re absolutely correct. This happens to MANY cosplayers who have tan skin as well. I’m glad that you were able to get something out of this and I would love to see your cosplay 🙂

  28. I am definitely showing this to someone close to me. She believes she can’t cosplay because she is black. She said that fair skinned people should only cosplay because they resemble the characters the best. It really broke my heart to hear her say that because she wants to cosplay so badly, but she doesn’t want to be made fun of for being the “black -insert character name here-“.

    • I encourage her to cosplay whomever she wants, but if she is discouraged at the time, pick out a few darker/tan characters that stand out to her. Hopefully in time she will learn that she is wonderful and she can cosplay whomever she chooses.

  29. This is an interesting article…on the other hand…I feel similar about this topic as the “debate” about gay marriage. I think if we stopped paying attention to negative morons…if we stop feeding the trolls…they have no power. I would like to think that a majority of cos players are a fun open minded bunch with a few morons. Photographers are artists and who would want to work with one stupid enough to care about something like that? BTW who is the “top” cos-player (no idea how to properly spell it) I believe she is a woman of Asian decent named Ya Ya Han (sp). She has made herself into a brand despite prejudicial ass hats(TM). Good luck to ya.

    • Hi Andrew. I agree with you to an extent. I do agree that ignoring and enjoying are ways to temporarily get over adversity however, it is extremely disheartening to hear things that this over and over again. While Yaya IS one of the top cosplayers, you have to keep in mind that Asian cosplayers are much more accepted because cosplay is rooted deeply in Japanese culture. I originally wrote this blog as a way to put my feelings somewhere positive so I wouldn’t get upset about the subject, but through it I have connected with many cosplayers who have said that this gives them courage to finally overcome adversity and cosplay. I believe if people keep speaking out about issues, maybe JUST maybe we’ll get somewhere. Thank you for reading and posting 🙂

  30. I just want to say that you’re really brave, I’m absolutely terrified of other peoples opinions of me so I’ve never gone to any conventions or ever attempted to cosplay. I even stopped wearing halloween costumes by 5th grade because I was so self-conscious, and just to be clear this is being fat paired with social anxiety disorder not because of my race, but you’re standing up for yourself and what you love and that’s amazing.
    Oh, and one more thing, skin color is always going to be a defining characteristic (at least until humanity becomes the same color (which will happen eventually, just ask science)), it’s likely to be the first thing people notice about you (after all, humans do have a lot of skin 🙂 ), however if you can’t see beneath that (figuratively, we don’t have x-ray glasses(yet)) then maybe you need to take a closer look at yourself. Until recently nerds and geeks have been ostracized by society. The only ones we could turn to were others like us. We can’t take that sense of community away from each other, no matter what.

    • Thank you Mary. It took me a very long time to develop the thick skin that I have. Sometimes even still I get a little discouraged over comments made online. It really is disappointing that you cannot explore something you love due to this being a problem. Our skin is a prominent feature that we have yet it doesn’t define us as anything. If you ever want to take steps into cosplaying, please let me know 🙂

  31. I understand were coming at I am black and find any snide comment you or any black cosplayer received in uncalled for. Still I have to fault you allowing media that is produced by a closed, monolithic Japanese culture to cause you to doubt Black is beautiful. For the record I was station in Japan in the 1980’s.
    I never thought of doing any anime Cosplay because the very fact thee very little Black characters I can Cosplay. The big hindrance for me is the dreaded question: what are you cospalying as. Cosplay is part of the anime fandom, a fandom that is primary made of fans of what other created compared to Steampunk and Furry fandoms ; both who are fans of their own creation. Unlike most furry and Steampunk the Anime fans come to the convention with their own preconceived ideas what the character looks like and clearly do not have tolerance for innovation of Cosplay character. It sad and wonder you just getting the same flak as plus sized and older cosplayer, people who do not “play the character right”. I remember all the controversy over the shirt Cosplay: do I right or not at all. I wonder how many cosplayer and critics attitude that shirt describes, probably quite a few.
    The solution is do not let the haters define who you are.

    • When I had those feelings I was a child. 10 years old with no one in media to idolize as my other friends did. As I grew up that became less of an problem for me, as I found people and I developed confidence in myself. Now no matter what I face, I love my skin and my heritage. Unfortunately it takes a lot more for others who may still face these types of things many years later. Cosplay IS an art based on self expression. Yes you are basing your work off of a character already created, but it is also your time and your love for the character. There is no “right” way to cosplay in my opinion.

  32. I’m an avid cosplayer, and I’m really into the anti-bullying movement, which I imagine has involved racist comments, too, sadly. Glad to see you cosplaying as whatever the hell you WANT to cosplay as! Yeah, I’m human, and I have to admit that when I see someone who really resembles the way the character was drawn or the actor who plays this character, I tend to take more notice of it. I’m lucky enough to have a close resemblance to Hugh Jackman when I do my Wolverine cosplay, but your lack of a genetic resemblance (including race) should NEVER stop you from cosplaying! For example, my friend who is white does an AMAZING Storm, my friend who is exotic looking does a BEAUTIFUL Jean Grey, and my friend who is Asian does a fantastic X-23. Keep up your good work, and if you ever see me at a con, let’s take pics together. Do you havee a fan page I can check out to see your work? If you want to see mine, it’s at https://www.facebook.com/Lonstermash

  33. Actually i think that the color of the skin doesn’t matter at all, all that cares its if u enjoy it!, that is what cosplay’s about!!, dressing as the Character you like and pass a good time with your friends. No matter what the other say! If ppl say that u’r bad just for your skin tone, maybe its cuz they are jelous cuz black ppl’s skin get old slower than the white one xDDD LOOOL ! so be proud of you skin tone! 😀 when u get 60 years you may look like you have 30 or 40 years :3 <333 keep doing what you like girl!

  34. This is a great article. I use to cosplay a lot, but I have not for years just from the fact the I was tired of being “Black -insert character here-” It really sucks the accomplishment out of all the hard work that was put into creating the cosplay for the character when the first thing you are noticed for is not the character, but your skin color. The sad part is that there are times that I want to pull out my old cosplays but I don’t cause i’m just going to be “Black version of….”

    • I absolutely feel you. I hate that just as much as the next black cosplayer. It’s hard to speak out against it too for fear than people are thinking that I need to “ease up”. Keep cosplaying dude!

  35. I so agree with you! People shouldn’t focus on what race one another are.. You’re as beautiful as all the other cosplayers I’ve ever seen. Be strong and enjoy what you do!! I support you 100% of the way(:!

  36. I love your take on Harley. Very period and playful. You really captured the feel of the statue. Great job! Hope you do more with her 🙂

  37. My husband and I adopted transracially and are now a cosplaying family. As a white mom to black children now, it was very interesting to read your perspective on this. Thanks! P.S. LOVE your Harley Quinn!

  38. Beautifully done Maki and very well put. I hope this continues to bring our own community together even more so. Shame that at times we’re our own worst enemies in these situations. You’re wonderful and keep on inspiring.

    • Thank you. I absolutely agree on that last sentiment. Nothing kills me more than when people of color bring down other people of color. We have to just uplift where we can and show others that racism in any form isn’t okay.

  39. Reblogged this on nivispeaks and commented:
    Maki does it again, making my heart sing and really putting things into a perspective that no one should miss or ignore. Please read!

  40. Pingback: NSFW Gamer Cosplay Spotlight – Maki Roll | NSFW Gamer·

  41. As one of the regular NSFW Gamer cosplay writers, I have to say it’s shocking to know that someone would sweep you aside as “uninspiring,” and the faux pas of “Oh, a BLACK Tifa!” just blows my mind that someone could be that insensitive. I had thought that the “nerd” community was the one place where we could be all-inclusive, free from ridicule and just enjoy the common interest. I’ve been putting off contacting some of the Shinobu cosplayers from my “Best of Suda51’s Girls,” but now I have a new motivation to listen to that voice in the back of my head and get on it. Black IS beautiful, and colorblindness is even more brilliant.

    • DevilSugar – It’s a very interesting thing to face. What’s worse is that people believe that cosplayers of color are somehow “complaining” about an issue that is very sensitive. Some have actually said “get over it” or “just let it go”. So it’s interesting definitely. I think color is a beautiful thing and shouldn’t be ignored. Everyone is unique and should be celebrated as such but never put into a negative light or a “higher” standard because of it. I hope that makes sense >__<. Thank you for posting!

  42. Thanks for this article! I’m very new at cosplay (only 2 years) and I’m trying hard to get past the “Black (insert hero here)” thing in my own head. Next con I’m putting together a 1950s housewife Storm costume but following this, I’m really going to branch out and try something more scary for me. Blog posts and articles like this really help with my confidence. Who cares what photographers think are inspiring? Let’s inspire ourselves!

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