There are times when we all need an escape from reality. Some people read and others work out, but those of us who are self-proclaimed nerds like to combine ingenuity and fandom to enter the magical world of cosplay.
Cosplay is a type of performance art where a person, known as a cosplayer, portrays a character from a novel, comic, TV show, movie, or another pop-culture medium. It is the ability to recreate, and sometimes actually physically create clothing and items that only exist as art on a page. Many times, biology and physics are not considered when artists create these characters, yet for cosplay, someone must breathe life into those images and make them a wearable reality. Some cosplayers dive into their character and take on their personality, while others continue to be themselves while dressed like their favorite character.
For me, cosplay is a way to live my personal truth in a world that often erases or exploits me. The cosplay community gives me an outlet where I can constructively express rage, creativity, love, fear, and pain in a visible, yet protected way. (Can you tell I’m an introvert yet? ) I wanted to start cosplaying years ago, but as a plus size queer woman of color, I feared being openly rejected or that people wouldn’t be able to recognize my character because I’m not white. Then, one day my wife showed me an episode of Cartoon Network’s, Steven Universe and I was immediately drawn in by the over-sweeping feminist tone, the diversity of the characters and all the female heroines who didn’t feel the need to prance around in a cape. In that moment I knew despite my fears I would become a cosplayer.
Last spring, I put on my big girl panties and headed to C2E2, a comic and entertainment expo as Garnet, the character I connect most with from Steven Universe. Garnet is a fusion of Ruby and Saphire, a couple who has many individual flaws, but together they’re close to being perfect and love each other so much they can’t stand to be apart. Do you see the lesbian couple resemblance here? After the reveal of Garnet’s origin story, I couldn’t help but feel as if the character is a visual representation of my marriage and was giving a voice to aspects of myself that often have no place in society.
I can’t even begin to express how much this has helped with my confidence and creativity. It’s art, fandom, engineering, community, style, and a party! Plus to top it off so many children of color got to experience their first comic and entertainment convention surrounded by characters that look like them. Some of them were so excited they hugged hard enough to make my leg go numb.
People who don’t have to navigate the cosplay scene as a member of multiple marginalized groups often either don’t realize there’s a problem or they know what is going on but are unwilling to acknowledge their own hetero-normative, cis, male and white privileges. We are not all the same. Therefore, none of us bring the same things to cosplay. The fact that we are different, doing our art our way strengthens the entire cosplay community. Change in the cosplay community is possible; I’m living proof of that. There truly is room for everyone who wants to be here and all I want is for more people to recognize, understand, and work to expand that idea.