It’s March 1st, Now What? Here’s a #28DaysOfBlackCosplay Bonus Feature About Me!
Meet, well... me!
Let the record show that I had no intention of doing a feature on my damn self. I haven’t cosplayed as much as I used to for reasons (ahem pandemic) so I’ve had some imposter-syndrome like thoughts of not being a real cosplayer anymore because we all know that the hardest thing to do is practice what you preach (in this case, the preach would be you’re a cosplayer, damnit, because you like dressing up as your faves and you have fun doing it, don’t be so hard on yourself). Besides, I was featuring a whole lot of talented folks, and I was happy about it.
But then a couple of things happened.
- I wanted to write something today to highlight the fact that just because February’s over doesn’t mean you should go back to not seeing color, as most of the cosplayers in my series have mentioned when asked what they wanted to happen come March 1st.
- My mom and my wife are big ol’ bullies who had the audacity to make me feel bad for not acknowledging myself as a cosplayer, lol.
Every year, I write something about #28DaysOfBlackCosplay. I’ve watched this event go from being an idea Chaka Cumberbatch-Tinsley had that we all thought might get a little bit of visibility, to a movement so ingrained in the community that everyone just KNOWS to start sharing come February 1st. Outlets that we thought would never acknowledge us (let alone even know what cosplay was) would email, in advance, to try and get pieces together. It became a regular thing in the year, and I’ve loved each and every February that’s come and gone.
But over time it became apparent that outlets, and people, would stop giving a flip once February was over. All the grand gestures of support would vanish until we ended up trending again, and at that point, we were most likely trending because of something negative that happened. It’s like they didn’t realize that #28DaysOfBlackCosplay was a movement, and movements continue past their initial start point.
So in thinking about what should come now that Black History Month is over, I decided that since that is one of the questions on that interview form I had all the cosplayers fill out, I’ll answer it AND talk about myself.
How long have you been cosplaying?
Since 2004, but I’ve always loved dressing up for Halloween. My wife and I still dress up for Halloween unless if we have to work. I always wanted to grow up to be the house on the block the kids run to because I have the best decorations, costumes, and candy. Still working on that goal.
What got you interested in cosplay?
I met my wife in 2001 on a Gundam Wing yaoi fanfiction mailing list. She’s the one who told me about anime conventions, and we decided to meet in person at Anime Central 2002. Hilariously, Anime Central is in my home state, only about an hour away from where my dad lived (Chicago suburbs) but I never knew it existed.
My dad drove me to the convention with his girlfriend (not knowing that I was meeting my girlfriend, he’d find out later), but we got lost on the way. As we drove around I looked out the window and freaked out because someone was cosplaying Vash from Trigun. “I think the convention is that way,” I told my dad, and there were all these cosplayers walking down the sidewalk. When I met up with my wife (at the time, my girlfriend) she was cosplaying and she told me all about it.
Even if I discovered it in 2002, I didn’t cosplay until 2004. I initially thought I had to find a character who looked like me, come to find out that there aren’t too many Black, plus-size options for characters in geekdom, let alone options that get cool outfits like everyone else. Finally, I decided to cosplay who I liked because if I stuck with who looked like me I’d never cosplay (or at least, I wouldn’t cosplay as much as everyone else).
How do you decide what you’re going to cosplay?
Usually a character I like and whether or not I have an idea on a design I wanna do based on their outfit.
What cosplay are you most proud of? And yes, it’s absolutely ok to say ALL.
My wife makes all of my cosplays, but over the years I started to design alternate looks to characters I wanted to cosplay. So like, instead of wearing the spacesuit for Buzz, I sketched an idea for a dress that my wife went ahead and made!
From that, I think I’m most proud of my Rainbow Brite dress. I sketched it, and my wife asked if she could quilt the ruffles with different patterns in rainbow colors. I said yes (begrudgingly, because I couldn’t quite envision what it would look like) and most of the dang thing was made from fabric she had in her fabric stash! The dress turned out amazing, but now I can no longer shame my wife for her fabric collection, lol!
(It’s the dress in the middle of my feature pic).
What’s a cosplay moment that you remember fondly?
When I first shared my Wonder Woman dress I got some haters, but then Lynda Carter herself complimented it. After that, it was like … what haters?
Besides that, any moment with kids, because they really do see the character in you and it’s adorable. I’ve been asked to hold babies a few times and I am truly flustered about it because I worry that I’m holding the baby incorrectly or the baby will squirm out of my arms.
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?
Currently watching all the shows in my anime round-up, or house renovation shows to judge people’s taste/unrealistic expectations when looking for houses. My wife and I just watched the Fatal Fury movie + OVAs and High Speed (one of the Free! Iwatobi Swim Club movies) because we’re trying to institute lazy weekends.
I’m still playing Animal Crossing. I have a list of games I wanna play and manga I wanna read but it’s far too long. I’ll probably review some of the manga though, stay tuned (I just finished Monster and the Beast and looooord!).
Speaking of unwinding, who are your comfort characters? Who are you going to when you need a pick me up?
My number one sunshine boy Izuku Midoriya. Or Kuroko—especially his birthday episode. I also adore Yuji. My god I have a type, please help.
If you could live in a fictional universe where would it be and why?
Animal Crossing. I’d get over my fear of bugs if it got me hundreds of thousands of bells thanks to a goth chameleon. Also, I want a wallpaper of gentle snowfall without having to worry about shoveling the snow.
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.”
It depends, but lately, it’s me putting my own spin on it. This ranges from cosplay to every day looks like this:
Or … um … my wedding dress:
So my wife and I had this giant Mortal Kombat wedding planned then decided, eh, let’s just elope, and dress as our current fave ship, lol. She altered some dresses from Torrid, added that extra skirt, and BAM! Marriage.
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?
Why would you ask this, me?! Okay, hmmmmm, I’m gonna say Rainbow Brite, Buzz Lightyear, and Danny Sexbang. Danny was fun because my wife said if I could get us Ninja Sex Party VIP tickets she’d make me a Danny Sexbang dress. The rest is history.
When we showed up at the concert people started cheering. I thought it was because Ninja Sex Party showed up, come to find out it was because people loved my dress that much! This pic isn’t from the concert, that’s from a con we went to later.
What do your 2021 cosplans look like? If you’re trying to keep it secret OR you have no plans, that’s fine!
Hahahahahahahahaha plans, what are those?
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?
Anthy, Rita Repulsa, and The Flower Card from Cardcaptor Sakura. I still wanna do Tanooki Suit Peach someday, too, oh! And Toadette Peach!
In yet another alternate universe, conventions are safe to return to, so where are you headed?
Probably some local ones to me like Anime Detour and CONvergence. Definitely Anime Central, Naka-Kon, I have a long list because my wife and I used to go to conventions for work all the time. IF money wasn’t an issue then things like SDCC and Anime Expo. I REALLY wanna go to BlerDCon again.
What inspires you to stay active in the community, especially in these trying times? If you haven’t been active that’s fine, too!
Hahahahahahahahaha active. Okay fine, recently, I DID wear my Mario cosplay for a react video to the Nintendo Direct. Honestly, though, seeing all the cosplay features from last month did remind me how fun cosplay is.
What does #28DaysOfBlackCosplay mean to you?
It’s a chance to highlight us for positive reasons. It’s hard to swallow this truth, but a lot of the Black cosplayers I know and love I met because someone was harassing them online so we all came together to defend them. That shouldn’t be the only reason people care about us. We should be highlighted just because we like cosplay. As important as it is to speak up about the issues in the community, there needs to be just as much attention on us just BEING geeks in this community.
That’s what #28DaysOfBlackCosplay does. It shows our geekiness and creativity and says, “We’re here,” and that’s it. It inspires others to get out there and try. I guarantee Black cosplayers starting out already know that discrimination is a possibility because it’s a possibility in EVERY space we inhabit, so this hashtag shows them that fun is the ultimate goal here.
It’s March 1st, 2021, what would you like to see happen after the 28 days are over?
- I want white/NBPOC to take an interest in us outside of a trending hashtag. This hashtag makes us more visible, which has to continue past February.
- I want folks within the Black cosplay community to realize HOW diverse our space is. I want the same from folks outside the community, too. I’m Black AND bisexual, I need folks to realize the intersectionality within our space. Gender. Sexuality. Disabilities. Size. Skin color (as in, dark-skinned cosplayers). There needs to be more focus on this.
- I want white/NBPOC to start doing the work themselves instead of relying on us to give the okay re: racism against us. I don’t expect everyone to completely understand, but I’m tired of folks expecting free education from the very group that’s dealing with racism. And please, if we do take the time to educate, LISTEN.
- Stop using our movement against us. Yes, people showed up for #28DaysOfBlackCosplay, don’t use that as a jumping point to lament the level of support for other communities. “Show up for (insert group of cosplayers) the way you showed up for #28DaysOfBlackCosplay” is not the flex you think it is.
- Realize that there are SO MANY Black cosplayers and we aren’t all gonna agree with each other. That’s fine. That’s how people are. But don’t be shocked when one Black cosplayer has a different take than the other. Treat us like well-rounded people and not “I need a Black stamp of approval for this take I have that I’ve done no critical thinking about so I’ll find the Black person who agrees with me.”
How can the community (people, events, etc.) do better to represent you and other Black cosplayers?
Invite us, first and foremost, and invite more than one of us. Don’t just invite us to be diversity mouthpieces, either. It’s true that some of us are all for talking about diversity, but if we wanna talk about costuming or why we’re hype for My Hero Academia season 5, we should be able to do that, too. Don’t just call on us to discuss racial issues in the community. Representation isn’t just “invite Black folks to address the issues.” Realize that we’re more than our struggles. Give us space to express our fandom love, let us be nerds, let us thrive in this community and highlight our wins.
And when you do invite us, pay us for our time, don’t expect us to show up for nothing because “you get to come to our event.” If you’re paying everyone else involved, pay us, too.
Any tips for newcomers who are waffling on whether or not they should cosplay?
Everyone pretty much said it: if you wanna do it, do it. You don’t have to be a certain skill level or have access to whatever material you think you need. You can legit just look in your closet and build from there. I know there’s this fear because of the shitty comments, and even if you know they’re a possibility, they suck to hear. But there is an entire community here for you. There are spaces you can go in, people you can connect with, there is room for you.
On the flip side, if it ever does feel like it’s too much, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. ESPECIALLY considering our circumstances right now. It’s amazing to watch the cosplayers who are still doing their thing, but if that’s not you, that’s fine. No one is gonna fault you for putting yourself first in 2021.
What are you looking forward to in 2021? It doesn’t have to be cosplay-related, it can be anything.
There are some big things I can’t talk about but I’m really excited about them. When I finally can talk about them, I’ll be screaming about them loud enough for everyone to hear me. Otherwise, looking forward to My Hero Academia coming back along with Moriarty the Patriot. Oh! And I’m REALLY excited about the Mortal Kombat movie, like, PLEASE give me that movie.
I’m also looking forward to weekends with my wife, us continuing to find random stuff to fix up in our house, and hopefully, some sort of relief in this whole pandemic thing. I don’t think it’ll be instant at ALL, but just some kind of step in the right direction would be nice.
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!
Imma cheat and do this:
Happy March 1st, everyone!
(image: Adrestia Photography/Elyse Lavonne/Nude Carbon Studios)
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