Many times throughout my time on social media, I get messages asking why I started to cosplay, and what do I specifically get out of parading around in cosplay at conventions? In order to explain this, I’ll paint you a picture of my younger self.
From a very young age, I began performing in community theatre productions. My mother had always been very theatrical, and I was essentially raised on showtunes. Hell, my first time on the stage was as an unborn child, my mother was pregnant with me while she played ‘The Baker’s Wife’ in Into the Woods at a local theatre company. Watching my mother’s VHS tapes of her performances was one of my favorite pastimes as a child, so when I had the opportunity to audition for one of these shows myself, I literally leapt at the chance. Watching my mother’s performances made me smile, and I wanted to make others smile with my own performances.
Many of you may not know this, but like many people in this community, I was bullied throughout elementary school and some of middle school. I had severe ADD and I came off as annoying to some of the other kids, and therefore became a target. And this was BEFORE I was into comics and the like. In 7th grade, a friend of mine introduced me to the popular show Teen Titans on Cartoon Network. I had watched shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Spiderman, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while growing up, but this was the first time I had ever watched a superhero-esque show and comprehended what was going on. I tuned in weekly to see how the Titans’ would take down Slade. I did my research and learned that there was more than one Robin. I read about all the characters and their origin stories. Soon enough, I knew more about these things than my friend who had introduced me to the show, and I was hungry for more animation. Again, some of my “peers” found this weird, and wrote me off for it, but I didn’t care. This stuff was absolutely amazing to me. However, I much preferred anime over comic books, and immersed myself in the Adult Swim line-up after the Toonami block that aired Teen Titans.
Flash forward to a few years later. My father had been running a business where he printed sports related lithographs. One of his clients, Steve Geppi, was a popular comic distributor at the time, and extended my father free tickets to Baltimore Comic Con. I’d never even heard of Comic Con, and barring my Titans and Batman knowledge, I knew nothing of comic books. I was about 15 or 16 at the time, and when my father told me about this, I was skeptical, but we took the journey down to Maryland for a weekend at the convention. Little did I know, this would be the first of many.
All around me, people were in costumes. There were vendors everywhere, selling all the anime and comic book merchandise I could ever want! This was literally an eye opening experience for me. I even got to meet some artists, and at the time, I was really into sketching and doodling out some ideas, so this was extremely confidence boosting for me. These were ADULTS, full grown adults, unashamed of liking comics and anime, and in costume. I knew immediately that I would go to another convention the next chance I got. And I did, that following year, in 2008, I attended my very first New York Comic Con (and NY Anime Fest, at the time!) But, I wouldn’t cosplay until 2010.
With 4 or 5 conventions under my belt, and after seeing so many people in costume, I finally decided it was time to get to making my own cosplay, Ash Ketchum from Pokemon, my favorite show as a child.
I was always bigger in size than most of my friends, so I assumed I would do well in a costume that covered up most of my body. It was such a great experience for me! People stopped to take pictures with my friends and I (who were dressed as Team Rocket to match my Ash), and I met so many awesome celebrities, like Seth Green, Veronica Taylor (a voice actress famous for, yup, POKEMON) and Stan Lee himself.
The year 2011 marked my very first comic con where I would cosplay a comic book character, Dinah Lance, the Black Canary. By this point, I couldn’t get enough of reading comic books, had marathoned Justice League and Justice League Unlimited on Youtube, and made friends at my local comic book shop, here I was, ready to cosplay a character that wears literally nothing but a corset, leather jacket and some fishnets. I was ridiculously nervous, for a girl who had been bullied her whole life for her size , appearance and hobbies, wearing a costume like that is never easy. But I knew she was a character who meant so much to me, and who I wanted to represent. Suddenly, the opinion of others didn’t matter anymore. I wasn’t the weird, annoying girl anymore. People wanted MY picture. People who liked the same things as me wanted to be my friend.
There will always be people who disapprove of you or what you’re doing. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin, it shouldn’t matter. I cosplay because it makes me feel good about myself. Not only that, but seeing others’ excitement when I am dressed as a character they love themselves, brings me back to my days as a child, propped in front of the TV watching my mom perform, and I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.