Hi folks! It’s been a long time since I blogged, but I wanted to share a few thoughts with you. Over the past weekend I attended Otakon 2014 in Baltimore, MD which is one of my home cons. I’ve been attending for eight years now, and each year I go gets better and better in terms of cosplay. All troubles with the lines aside, I found myself impressed not only by cosplayers, but by attendees recognizing ALL types of cosplayers. In February, I wrote an article on the acceptance of black cosplayers (link here) in the eyes of photographers and others. This piece serves as a follow up and expansion of sorts, as well as a personal update on my journey as a cosplayer of color.
As I mentioned above, I went to Otakon and spent the majority of the weekend in cosplay. I debuted my Senketsu Kisaragi and Arcade Sona costumes to overwhelmingly positive reactions. I wasn’t able to go three feet without being stopped. That being said; in the back of my mind as someone approached me for photos, was always the question of whether or not I would be “the black Ryuko/Sona” or just Ryuko or Sona. I am proud and absolutely overjoyed to say that with over 300 people taking photos, it didn’t happen once. While out on the con floor, I also noticed something else. More and more cosplayers of color were at Otakon than I’ve ever seen before, which brought such happiness to my heart. One instance in particular stuck out to me more than anything else. I was approached by a woman who took my photo, and afterwards she pulled me aside and said “it’s great to see black cosplayers doing their thing. There aren’t that many” which sort of knocked me down from my cloud a bit. It occurred to me that what I was seeing was an increase of black cosplayers, but not necessarily an equal representation. Scrolling through picture galleries and professional photoshoots confirmed that notion. Black cosplayers and even cosplayers of size are never represented through photos galleries. It is a sad realization, but not uncommon. The good news is; it may be getting better.
In case you didn’t know, let me tell you something mindblowing. Are you ready? Anybody can cosplay! You want to know something else mindblowing? Anybody can cosplay ANYTHING they want! Finally that sentiment is being spread and embraced by cosplayers AND followers of all shapes, sizes and color. Brichibis Cosplays is a fearless and gorgeous cosplayer. She is an author, an artist, a lover and a wonderful human being. Still; some people choose to attack her for her size and the color of her skin. Instead of getting upset, she turned it into something positive and attracted attention from heavy hitters like Lynda Carter (original Wonder Woman, folks).
The one thing I’ve learned through my cosplay journey is that you have to be your own advocate and stand up for yourself when no one else will. Sitting around and asking “why not me?” or “why don’t cosplayers of color/size get recognized” won’t help fix the problem, because there isn’t a problem to be fixed. Being a black cosplayer is not a problem. Being a cosplayer of size is not a problem. Even if there are 10,000 people who think that way, you have to be the one person to say otherwise. You may be the voice that touches a person too afraid to cosplay due to fear of rejection. There will always be photographers who exclusively shoot certain types of cosplayers. There will always be fans who value accuracy and looks over anything else. You will not change most of those people, but you can still communicate in many ways that you are a strong, talented human being. All you have to do is keep cosplaying.
Cosplayer Polychrome Dreams said it perfectly: “We cannot change the way society feels about us. We have to change how WE feel about us. Change starts from the inside”. Be the hero that someone else deserves, even if it’s just yourself.