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Cosplaying While Fat Roundtable: Experiences With Community and Cosplay

When I decided to do my first full-on cosplay at Flame Con, rather than just pulling pieces from my wardrobe for simple closet cosplays, several things went through my head. Chief among them was the thought that I needed to cosplay as someone fat, so as to 1) create more visibility for kick-ass fat characters and 2) feel comfortable in whatever I chose to wear. Then, my spouse challenged that thought and suggested that I wear whatever I wanted; so, I cosplayed an X-Men character (Polaris) and walked through Times Square in a green leotard and tights.

Cosplaying while fat can be pretty fraught—much like every other part of existing while fat. However, there are several people in the cosplay community who are actively fighting against fat stigma and creating incredibly intricate cosplays that challenge our ideas of who can be a fan, and how. Despite negative critique and harassment for daring to cosplay outside the “fat box,” people of various body types, sizes, and abilities have truly made cosplay their own.

I reached out to three of these cosplayers via email to discuss the cosplay community, its attitudes toward body diversity, and their favorite cosplays: TaLynn Kel, a writer and health communicator who’s been cosplaying for 13 years, Janette G, a writer who’s been cosplaying for 12 years, and CloudKBD, a teacher who’s been cosplaying for 8 years. Here’s what they had to say.

How did you first get into cosplay?

TaLynn Kel: A friend talked me into going downtown during DragonCon one year and once I saw that people could be dressed up, I knew I wanted to do it. The next year, we were downtown in costume, joining in on the fun.

Janette G: I think for me getting into cosplay was one of those “oh, dressing up like characters I like will be fun!” sort of things, and as I got more into anime, it was more of a thing that was acceptable at conventions.

CloudKBD: I went to a small local convention for the first time in 2010 in a very “First Cosplay” sort of cosplay. Once I got to college, I began to meet more geeky friends who were pretty hardcore cosplayers, and I felt like I needed to step up my game to keep up with them. So by the time 2012 rolled around, I really began to consider myself a “cosplayer” and I began to take a lot of pride in what I was able to create.

Why do you cosplay?

TK: Cosplay is another way for me to be creative. I love the problem-solving aspect of it. I love trying to figure out what I can do with my meager skills. I like learning new things and it’s a stress-reliever of sorts. Plus, there’s this definitive deadline I need to meet, so it has an endpoint. I love working through problems in my head, trying stuff out and seeing if I can make it work. … If there is one thing I would change, it would be the visibility of cosplayers and maybe ending the elitism that is part of the hobby and the diet culture that’s a part of it. But that would take a whole shift in our society as a whole to make that different.

JG: I like dressing up. I very much like sewing and crafting things, so cosplay for me is also a hobby that gives me something to do when I get home. I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I finish putting a cosplay together and finally getting to wear it. I love that cosplay has given me lifelong friends, new skills, and reasons to travel.

CloudKBD: I cosplay because it’s my way of paying homage to characters and series that I genuinely love. Creators spend a lot of time crafting stories for us, as an audience, to consume, and I think that cosplaying those characters is a really unique way to tell someone “Hey, I loved the character you created enough to spend (a ton of) money and time on a costume that hopefully does them justice!”

When you started as a cosplayer, did you feel limited in the characters you could choose because of your body type or size?

TK: I have cosplayed whoever I wanted. Occasionally I want to cosplay someone a bit more risqué, but I generally find that I wasn’t interested enough in the character to actually pursue it. I am not comfortable showing my stomach, so I’ve avoided midriff-baring outfits. Other than that, no. I’ve cosplayed whoever I wanted.

JG: I think teenage me didn’t care as hard about body type or size so much as how much skin a costume might bare. I’ve always been a fat girl, but teen me had zero qualms with cosplaying L from Death Note or Link from The Legend of Zelda. It probably wasn’t until college when I really started feeling limited by size.

CloudKBD: Not when I first started. I really just picked out characters that I loved at first and did my best to represent them!

Next page: Have your feelings about cosplay changed over time? How so?>

 

(featured image: TaLynn Kel)

Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager whose work has appeared all over the web; she collects it at her portfolio site, The Verbal Thing. Samantha lives in Rhode Island with her spouse and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also likes vegan food. For more, follow her on Twitter.

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Samantha Puc is the co-creator and editor-in-chief of Fatventure Mag, as well as an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bustle, The Beat, The Mary Sue, SheKnows, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. For more, follow her on Twitter.