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#28DaysOfBlackCosplay at The Mary Sue, Day Twenty-Five (Part Two)

Meet Iheartnella, The Cosplay Dad, and TaLynn Kel

 

Cosplay from Iheartnella, The Cosplay Dad, and TaLynn Kel

Welcome back, fellow cosplay enthusiasts! Here is the second part of our special double feature for #28DaysOfBlackCosplay to make up for me missing a day. Check out these three amazing creatives, read about their cosplay journey, and find out how the heck they’ve managed to stay motivated.

Iheartnella

 

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A post shared by Im 5’2” and Fine too (@iheartnella)

Iheartnella has been cosplaying for 4 years. As an artist, she would draw herself as her favorite characters, and decided that she wanted to embody them in real life. This got her into cosplay! You can check out her story below!

How do you decide what you’re going to cosplay?

I usually get an idea based on TV, video games, or drawing.

What cosplay are you most proud of? And yes, it’s absolutely ok to say ALL.

ALL, but special shout out to my Rainbow Quartz. It was my first big cosplay and I wore it on the subway.

What’s a cosplay moment that you remember fondly?

Being Bulma/Detective Pikachu in the streets of NYC. I was royalty! I got free food, I didn’t have to hold a door all day, and I got free Pokémon cards on Pikachu day.

Hey, it’s time to take a break from making that cosplay or buying it off your wishlist, what are you watching/playing/reading to unwind?

Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Squaresoft era Final Fantasy, drawing, and watching josei anime like Princess Jellyfish.

Speaking of unwinding, who are your comfort characters? Who are you going to when you need a pick me up?

Sounds weird but my comfort character is Squall Leonhart, also Tidus from FFX, Jigglypuff, Usagi, and the Crystal Gems.

If you could live in a fictional universe where would it be and why?

I would choose the Pokémon world. Everyone is working hard, having fun, and bonding with sentient animals. I wouldn’t train them to fight, I would probably be a Pokémon breeder.

Do you tend to cosplay the character/creature/entity as is or do you put your own spin on them? Any particular reason why? And yes, it’s perfectly ok to say “because I like to.”

I put my own spin on them. I LOVE BIG HAIR, and it’s also important that no matter the color, my hair reflects my naturalness. I make most of my wigs myself with braiding hair so it looks like blown-out natural hair. I also change it to reflect my personal style or blend in other popular characters from TV or movies (my Pikachu, Cher Horowitz blend.)

It’s cruel to ask what your favorite cosplay is so what are your top three (at most)? Are they the ones being featured or are they different ones?

Detective Pikachu, Rainbow Quartz, and Bulma.

What do your 2021 cosplans look like? If you’re trying to keep it secret OR you have no plans, that’s fine!

At-home cosplay: some secrets based on some new art!!

In an alternate universe where money and resources are plentiful, all your bills are paid, and you’ve got nothing but time, what dream cosplays are you doing?

The Queen from Bridgerton, Catsy from Sailor Moon, and Final Fantasy X Shiva.

In yet another alternate universe, conventions are safe to return to, so where are you headed?

NYCC, and why not the official San Diego Comic-Con.

What inspires you to stay active in the community, especially in these trying times? If you haven’t been active that’s fine, too!

Nerdom is our saving grace, so speaking to people who love their characters enough to throw money into looking like them comforts me during this time.

What does #28DaysOfBlackCosplay mean to you?

My favorite time of year to find new talented Black cosplayers to bond with.

It’s March 1st, 2021, what would you like to see happen after the 28 days are over?

We continue to follow and support each other.

How can the community (people, events, etc.) do better to represent you and other Black cosplayers?

I truly believe everyone is doing their best. When I was younger we were very secretive about these activities. Now we’re out in the open and supporting ourselves even in the face of racism.

Any tips for newcomers who are waffling on whether or not they should cosplay?

Just do it! Start small, get that basic colored dress from Amazon, and begin to piece everything together.

What are you looking forward to in 2021? It doesn’t have to be cosplay-related, it can be anything.

HOPEFULLY, NYCC coming back. Other than that I’m expecting the unexpected.

Social media time! Tell us where we can find you! Give me as many links as you want. Twitter? TikTok? Patreon? I want it all!

I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

 

The Cosplay Dad

The Cosplay Dad mashes up Star Wars and Monsters Inc

The Cosplay Dad has been on the cosplay scene for 13 years! From the cosplay name, you can probably guess how this Dad got into cosplay. Yep, it was The Cosplay Dad’s daughter! We’ve had some cosplayers talk about how their parents got them hooked, but now it’s time for the reverse! You can check out The Cosplay Dad’s story below!

How do you decide what you’re going to cosplay?

I look for cosplays I can do with my daughter.

What cosplay are you most proud of? And yes, it’s absolutely ok to say ALL.

Samurai Vader, Sulbacca, Zasalamel, Heimdall, and Cobra Bubbles.

What’s a cosplay moment that you remember fondly?

When Stan Lee walked up to me and said I make an awesome Heimdall.

Hey, it’s time to take a break from making that cosplay or buying it off your wishlist, what are you watching/playing/reading to unwind?

3D building or watching sci-fi.

Speaking of unwinding, who are your comfort characters? Who are you going to when you need a pick me up?

Cobra Bubbles or Mace Windu.

The Cosplay Dad as Cobra Bubbles

If you could live in a fictional universe where would it be and why?

Star Wars cause you can easily be on both sides. Lol!

Do you tend to cosplay the character/creature/entity as is or do you put your own spin on them? Any particular reason why? And yes, it’s perfectly ok to say “because I like to.”

I like to put my own spin on things in case I run into others playing the same character. Give it a different look.

It’s cruel to ask what your favorite cosplay is so what are your top three (at most)? Are they the ones being featured or are they different ones?

Samurai Vader, Sulbacca, and Zasalamel.

The Cosplay Dad as Samurai Vader

What do your 2021 cosplans look like? If you’re trying to keep it secret OR you have no plans, that’s fine!

I hope to 3d print Iron Vader and maybe a Space Marine from Warhammer.

In an alternate universe where money and resources are plentiful, all your bills are paid, and you’ve got nothing but time, what dream cosplays are you doing?

A Gundam-style robot with lights, sounds, and moving parts.

In yet another alternate universe, conventions are safe to return to, so where are you headed?

I’d like to cosplay outside the US.

What inspires you to stay active in the community, especially in these trying times? If you haven’t been active that’s fine, too!

I like continuing to inspire others to cosplay and if I can get other parents to do it with their kids that’s a bonus.

What does #28DaysOfBlackCosplay mean to you?

I think that showcasing how talented the Black cosplay community is helps those who are currently in it and maybe brings new cosplayers out.

It’s March 1st, 2021, what would you like to see happen after the 28 days are over?

Find a way to continue to inspire Black cosplayers and get them more involved at the cons. I’d love to see more in the competitions.

How can the community (people, events, etc.) do better to represent you and other Black cosplayers?

This is always a good way to do it.

Any tips for newcomers who are waffling on whether or not they should cosplay?

You can do this. Be yourself and find what makes you happy.

What are you looking forward to in 2021? It doesn’t have to be cosplay-related, it can be anything.

I miss the cosplay community and hope we can get back in the later months.

Social media time! Tell us where we can find you! Give me as many links as you want. Twitter? TikTok? Patreon? I want it all!

I’m on Facebook and Instagram.

 

TaLynn Kel

 

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A post shared by TaLynn Kel (@talynnkel)

Photographer credits for all the Storm cosplay pictures: Kecia Y Stovall Photography, Bryan Humphrey, AMP Images, Harry Fish, and Bosey Wales.

Photoshop by: Avery Byrd

Storm art by: Marcus Williams and Neidra Snead.

TaLynn Kel has been cosplaying for 15 years after she felt a need for a creative outlet. She discovered how fun it was to build a new look and make it work. You can check out her story below!

How do you decide what you’re going to cosplay?

So many ways. If it’s a specific character created by someone else, it’s when I identify with some aspect of that character. Or if their outfit is extra hot. Occasionally, I’ll join a group and cosplay something chosen by someone else, but left to my own devices, I’ll develop a concept and then work to realize that concept. It can take anywhere from a day to a couple of years depending on what I’m trying to do. Lately, I’ve been into creating my own characters, loosely influenced by fae and fantasy looks. I especially enjoy experimenting with different products to make my looks, so that is also a strong driver as to what I choose to do.

What cosplay are you most proud of? And yes, it’s absolutely ok to say ALL.

I did a Couture Killmonger cosplay that I spent months on. I hand-painted a camo maxi skirt with glitter fabric paint, created a “jewel” encrusted chest piece, created a broach of the Dogon mask Killmonger wore in Black Panther. I finished the look in Oct 2019 and planned to do a professional shoot in 2020 but never got around to it.

What’s a cosplay moment that you remember fondly?

My cosplay moment is when I truly accepted that I do this for myself and I love being seen. There is this interesting thing in our (amerikkkan) culture that tells us that we must always strive to improve and be better than we were. That we should always be striving to be the best. That ideology is rooted in hierarchal thinking that makes everyone else competition rather than collaborators. That’s one of the reasons why building community in cosplay is so challenging – people constantly seeking to 1-up themselves and those around them. When I realized that this is something I enjoy and that I don’t have to be the best armor builder, body painter, costume designer, wig maker, etc, I stopped looking outward for validation and just did what I wanted to do.

That said, I still sometimes get in my feelings when I see some spectacular cosplay because I know I’ll never be that level. Then I remember that this is a choice I’m actively making. I don’t find pleasure in perfection. Perfection requires doing the same thing again and again until there are little to no errors. I find joy in the diversity and unpredictability of creation – I love just looking around and seeing what I have and what I can possibly make from it. And the fact that nothing I do is identical can be a little frustrating, but, again, I’m not trying to do the same things over and over. I’m exploring what can be done.

Learning this was a game-changer for me and I appreciate it.

Hey, it’s time to take a break from making that cosplay or buying it off your wishlist, what are you watching/playing/reading to unwind?

These days, I’m on the Disney musical track. I’ve had Moana on repeat for the past 2 weeks. I love the music and these days, I need my entertainment to be uplifting and kind which has me avoiding violence as much as possible.

Speaking of unwinding, who are your comfort characters? Who are you going to when you need a pick me up?

I have power fantasies so I lean towards women characters. Dark Phoenix is who I go to when I wish I could change humanity. Storm is who I run to when I want something low-key but still beautiful and strong. Typhoid Mary is who I dress as when I want to exact some localized justice.

If you could live in a fictional universe where would it be and why?

The Hippolyta episode of Lovecraft Country spoke to me so deeply. I want the ability to move through time and space at will, learning the things that call to me, and having an unlimited amount of time to explore what could be. I would love that ability. I can’t even imagine the possibilities of that life.

Do you tend to cosplay the character/creature/entity as is or do you put your own spin on them? Any particular reason why? And yes, it’s perfectly ok to say “because I like to.”

I always put my own spin on characters. There are few well-known characters who actually physically resemble me and while my appearance is a part of my identity, it is not the whole of me. Also, I like to adapt the outfit for my body, which doesn’t always match the character’s look. And it’s fun! It’s fun changing the hair to something more in line with my actual hair texture or adapting the outfit for a different time period. A few years ago, I did a disco Dark Phoenix so that I could rock an afro and some bell bottoms. I wanted to do Storm with a huge white afro, so I did. I’ve also dressed as Velma and Zatanna with afros, with adorable results.

 

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A post shared by TaLynn Kel (@talynnkel)

It’s cruel to ask what your favorite cosplay is so what are your top three (at most)? Are they the ones being featured or are they different ones?

I’m assuming this is in addition to the one I previously mentioned.

Proxima Midnight is a fave because making that helmet and the metallic arm was hard, especially as I refused to use tutorials and chose to try to figure it out on my own. I frustrate myself but I also enjoy the creative freedom that allows. And, after a few iterations, I kicked ass on that cosplay.

I love my bombshell version of Storm. I love all the various iterations of Storm I’ve done, and I did link to an IG post that features them. Mohawk Storm, Afro Storm, but Bombshell Storm is my favorite of them.

I also loved my Bleez cosplay. I tend to build my cosplay on top of corsets and I did that with this cosplay. I made the chest piece and mask for that using several different fabrics. It was definitively one of my more creative builds.

 

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A post shared by TaLynn Kel (@talynnkel)

What do your 2021 cosplans look like? If you’re trying to keep it secret OR you have no plans, that’s fine!

I started an Only Fans account in 2020 because I enjoy dressing up and the lack of cons was making it difficult. The other side of that was that I could feel comfortable taking more risks with the outfits I choose and have fun being sexy as the characters, which is something I avoid in the convention circuit because it makes things complicated fast. Even on social media, I’ve been suspended for wearing the equivalent of a bikini but because I’m fat, it’s considered against community standards. So I needed a space that wasn’t going to restrict me for being fat and half-dressed.

I currently have a list of 20+ looks for the next year – some based on characters in the comic universe but mostly I’m doing mythical creatures – elves, pixies, mermaids, unicorns, etc. All are my personal interpretation of these characters. I tend to do one new look a week and I post a PG version on my IG to avoid the censors.

In an alternate universe where money and resources are plentiful, all your bills are paid, and you’ve got nothing but time, what dream cosplays are you doing?

Ame Comi Raven – which is a cosplay I’ve done before but there is this interdimensional cape that I’ve wanted to create for years and it’s going to happen… eventually. It’s just a large piece that will take a lot of time to create and take up a lot of space when done.

I also plan to do Cable again because I messed up the eye and now know how to create better-looking prosthetics.

In yet another alternate universe, conventions are safe to return to, so where are you headed?

MomoCon and Multiverse Con in Atlanta. I’d also like to try Blerd City Con in NYC. I’d also like to participate in the Schomburg Center’s 9th Annual Black Comic Book Festival one year.

Honestly, I’m super curious to see how the convention scene will change after this pandemic because I suspect a number of events will be gone for a while.

What inspires you to stay active in the community, especially in these trying times? If you haven’t been active that’s fine, too!

This past year taught me how important it is to seek out joy in life. I’ve put a lot of things to the side to pursue a goal, but I had to learn through some harsh lessons that pleasure and joy are critical aspects of mental health and now I focus on making space for that. And giving myself space to rest and recover and just be. Life is hard and we don’t need to always be active and productive, especially not publicly, which is hard to remember sometimes.

What does #28DaysOfBlackCosplay mean to you?

From inception, I’ve appreciated this movement. It is an opportunity to unite and discuss the unique issues that affect Black cosplayers. From the elitism, to the centering of whiteness in fandom, to the lack of support for Black created characters and properties among the indie community. It has served as a vehicle to connect Black creators across the genres and I appreciate it.

It’s March 1st, 2021, what would you like to see happen after the 28 days are over?

Every year there is momentum from this hashtag that allows for more networking and connection. I love watching that happen and the magic that results. I want to continue seeing more of this.

How can the community (people, events, etc.) do better to represent you and other Black cosplayers?

I have said for years that inclusion is intentional – as intentional as the exclusion has been. Ensuring inclusion in the development of the organizations, planning committees, as well as the guest lists and amplifying the works of Black creators is key. Funding Black creators. Intentionally excluding whiteness from defining what’s racist and what isn’t because whiteness thrives on racism. We have to be proactive and intentional in the work we create, the communities we build, and how we respond to criticism as well as healing. The bubble that allows this monochromatic reality is man-made and it is cruel and damaging.

Any tips for newcomers who are waffling on whether or not they should cosplay?

You never know how you are going to feel about something until you try it. You can second-guess how you’ll react all day but until you do it, you won’t know how it makes you feel. That feeling isn’t stagnant. It shifts and grows as you do. The reasons I first decided to cosplay are different from the reasons I do it today because my choice to continue has gained layers and nuance that I couldn’t have predicted a decade ago. So I recommend centering the reasons you want to do it and then doing it for those reasons. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn about yourself as you do.

What are you looking forward to in 2021? It doesn’t have to be cosplay-related, it can be anything.

I’m looking forward to the rolling back of all the harmful legislation Trump put into motion. I am hoping to see some change from this exceptionally deadly environment. My hopes aren’t high, but I need to see something.

Social media time! Tell us where we can find you! Give me as many links as you want. Twitter? TikTok? Patreon? I want it all!

I’m on Twitter, Instagram, Patreon, OnlyFans, and Facebook. You can also check out my website.

That’s all for today! Come back tomorrow as we enter into the last weekend of #28DaysOfBlackCosplay!

(Image: Iheartnella, The Cosplay Dad, and TaLynn Kel)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)