Since I was young I have always enjoyed dressing up as different people, from celebs to anime and cartoon characters. I wasn’t aware at the time that this was indeed called cosplaying. I had much to learn.
Getting Started in Cosplay
Want to join the cosplay community but don’t know where to start? It can all seem really overwhelming, but I’m here to tell you there’s no need to panic.
My first tip is always to start small and use what you have: this is called wardrobe cosplay. For example, my Spinelli cosplay from Recess required only a leather jacket, red shirt, and an orange hat. The only thing I had to purchase was the orange hat which cost less than 5 quid ($6.50). And my Numbuh 3 from Codename: Kids Next Door required only a green jumper and straight black wig with bangs, which I already had. To be a “cosplayer” you don’t have to become the characters with super complex costumes. Every costume is valid, whether it’s bought or made.
Halloween is a great time to experiment with different types of makeup and costumes. I used to be that person who was afraid of face paint because it is a whole different game compared to actual makeup cosmetics. The techniques are different, but I made it my mission to buy some paints and just experiment with characters that required full face and body paint, and now I can actually say I am good at it, and have made it my own. So my advice here would be: That thing that you’re scared to start? Do it!
I became more serious with my cosplay in 2015 when I attended my first cosplay convention — where people who share the same interests in anime, manga, comics, TV shows (basically anything that creates a fan base and can be cosplayed) gather to hear talks, dress up as their favorite characters, meet and greet the actors who play said admired characters, and buy merchandise of their favorite shows. MCM Comic Con is one of the biggest global cosplay convention companies with events in London, Birmingham, and Manchester.
It wasn’t until 2018 that I took part in the online cosplay community to present my art of cosplaying, and from there have I have grown a supportive following on Instagram and Twitter. But of course, not everyone is supportive.
Cosplaying While Black
The lack of ethnic diversity in the cosplay industry stems from a shortage of Black people playing these characters in the original manga, shows, and films. Many Black cosplay artists would agree there’s a lack of representation and a stigma within the cosplay community for people of color. There is still a lot of racism, and Black cosplayers are usually the target.
When I had first joined the cosplay community and started to get properly involved in the anime community, I must say I was naive and thought everyone would support each other and it would be full of rainbows and fairy dust. However, we still have a long way to go to be fully accepted in this space. Even though it’s 2020, there’s always a Black cosplayer getting abused by a racist online and it does need to stop.
Any online personality knows there will always be negative comments and internet trolls who are not fans of their work. This is something I am all too familiar with. I have the support of my fans and followers, which I am grateful for, but I’m also exposed to nasty comments that include racist or ignorant thoughts. One comment that comes up a lot is when some people say I cannot cosplay a certain character because the character is not black. This is pure ignorance. Any cosplay is a person’s take on a character, not an exact mirror image of the character. How someone wants to represent a character is completely up to them.
Creating cosplays is something that helps me keep my mind off things and a way I cope with my mental health. I will not let these comments get in the way of me continuing to be active in the cosplay community and I will forever use my platform to use my voice. These trolls cannot stop me, and you shouldn’t let them stop you either. These are people hiding behind their computer screens. They’re most likely jealous.
My journey as a cosplayer has been quite a rollercoaster, to be honest. I wasn’t always confident, and I wasn’t always vocal. But the more I knew I wanted cosplay to be more than just a hobby, the more I grew confidence. The more characters I did, the happier it made me, and I would always look forward to whatever I came up with next. It also helped cosplaying quite strong characters that I admire, because they ooze confidence.
The Year of Covid and BLM
Covid-19 has caused 2020 comic conventions to be canceled, and cosplayers have been dealing with it in their own ways. Some are using this time to make bigger and better costumes so they can be ready for the next convention. Some are doing virtual conventions featuring special cosplayer guests, which is a super cool idea. Others, me included, are using this time to create as much content as they can for their socials.
The recent events taking place and the Black Lives Matter movement are not new, but they have sparked conversations on social media now more than ever. There has been an influx of support for Black creatives and we’re starting to get more recognition because of hashtags like #blerd and #28daysofblackcosplay, and challenges such as #amplifymelanatedvoices, founded by mental health therapist Alishia McCullough and activist Jessica Wilson, which invited users to spend a week promoting work by Black creators rather than their own. The intention was to show solidarity and amplify Black voices because Black creatives are often overlooked in comparison to those who are white or white passing. When it comes to allies in the cosplay community, I feel like a lot of non-Black people are still very quiet on these issues and don’t really fight with us when things happen, which is a shame because you’d think as a community, we are one. I have hope that things will change for the better, but like I mentioned, there’s still a long way to go.
Lastly, my most important tip is to just go for it, have fun! It’s so important to not take yourself too seriously when cosplaying because that’s when you’ll be too in your head and stress out. The definition of cosplay is literally “costume play” so play around, have fun, and don’t stress. At the end of the day, do what makes you happy and forget what anyone negative has to say because they don’t matter.
Amplify Melanated Nerds
I have quite a few cosplay faves but I’d love to highlight these individuals in particular as I don’t think they get the recognition they truly deserve. Each is unique and puts a different spin to the characters they cosplay. Find them on Instagram.
Petite Ebby of Savannah, Georgia, @chibimagicalgirl
Yuna from the video games Final Fantasy X and X-2, summoning monsters at Colossal Con 2018. “I’ve been a cosplayer for 9 years now. Throughout my cosplay journey, cosplaying has helped me so much: meeting new people, being an advocate in the cosplay community, showing and providing cosplay positivity, and inspiring people along the way.”
Stardust Megu of the Bronx, New York, @stardust_megu
Athena (Saori Kido) from the manga/anime Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac, 2019. “I made the whole cosplay myself (including the petticoat underneath)!” Satin dress and tulle petticoat, craft foam accessories, staff of EVA foam and PVC pipe, gems of cast resin. Winner, Judge’s Choice, International Cosplay Day, Central Park, NYC.
Andrien Gbinigie of Montreal, Quebec, @escoblades
Black Panther, Green Lantern, and Shazam, all 2018. “‘You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.’ The character that started it all for me: Black Panther.”
Shaihiem Tygee King of North Charleston, South Carolina, @tgyeesensei
“If you wanna stop this, then stand up! Because I’ve just got one thing to say to you! Never forget who you want to become!” —Shoto Todoroki, from My Hero Academia, 2020.
Dorasae Rosario of Cincinnati, Ohio, @akakioga
Wakandan princess warrior Shuri, 2019: “When @cutiepiesensei asked me to be Shuri, I said yes before I even knew where to begin! It was ambitious.” The bodysuit alone is sewn from 40 pieces. D.Va from Overwatch, 2017, is another favorite. “I gave up this costume for 3 years due to the racist hate I received. Now I bring her back to motivate and inspire others.”
Vaguely Cosplay of Undisclosed Location, @vaguelycosplay
Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy, 2018, and Black Canary from Birds of Prey, 2020. “I haven’t done anything new lately because of everything that’s going on in the world!”
Ryan Mottley of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, @ligerzero_gaming
Sora from Kingdom Hearts 3 takes a break from wielding the keyblade, 2019.