Finding Confidence in the Nerdiest Places : Can Cosplay Improve Your Self Image?


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Photo by Darien D. Hester.

Sometimes, when your craft foam armor that you’ve worked weeks on starts falling apart, or days when your wig just won’t look right, or when you feel totally fat in spandex, it can be hard to remember why we cosplay in the first place. While cosplay can be frustrating at times,  it’s important for me to remind myself why I started in the first place.

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again. Like most of the nerd community, I was bullied as a kid. Not even just for being a nerd. For being “weird” or “annoying”. When I do something, I do it 100%. When I love, I love hard. When I care, I really care. So even the stupidest insults got under my skin. And yeah, I would be lying if I say it didn’t hurt to think about to this day. I’ve always been a sensitive person, which is not to diminish the fact that, yes, I was in fact, bullied as a kid. I don’t know what it was about me that really pinned me as a target, as I was never really “out” as a nerd when I was younger. But I digress.

It’s also no secret that I have been bullied, even as an adult, within the cosplay community. For not being “pretty” enough. Not being “skinny”. I haven’t been too public about the situation, but I did get harassed at NYCC this year. While dressed as Toothless on Friday I overheard a man saying to his wife not to “get in the way of the fat dragon.”  Sometimes, back before I was in a relationship,  I had to face that I was not what people wanted. Sometimes people can be small minded. And, real talk, I was rejected by a number of men for being “too fat” at clubs, and have been referred to as “the fat friend” to my face. Being involved in theatre, I’ve been to a few professional auditions where I was told I just “didn’t look the part” or “wasn’t a good fit for the role”, aka, too fat. Once again, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that bugged me a bit.

The rejection, however, spurred something within me. I had for so long been placing my own self worth on what others thought of me, that I never thought about how I felt about myself.

Back when I first shot my Black Canary cosplay, with Darien D. Hester Designs, I remember vividly getting back the shots, and being absolutely horrified. (DISCLAIMER: NOT BECAUSE OF HIS PHOTOGRAPHY. HIS PHOTOGRAPHY WAS AWESOME, I WAS JUST A BUTTFACE. Proceed.) Why does my stomach do that? Why does my chin look so horrible at that angle? Why didn’t anyone tell me how horrendously ugly I was?  Some of the pictures were to my liking, and those are the ones I later had ripped apart by some horrible Tumblr users (see my Tumblr for the full story), so for a while, I was completely sworn off of that particular cosplay.

This summer, almost a year and a half after I did that shoot, I went back through my email to find the pictures Darien had sent me. And the strangest thing happened. I loved all of the pictures I had once hated and found abhorrent. Why, you ask? I’m not really sure. I think it’s because I realized that I was letting others control how I felt about myself. That, no, I was not a size zero, but that didn’t make me any less beautiful. I was okay the way I was, and I was radiating confidence. The power stance I took in one picture could literally kill with fierceness.

Whenever I get hate or trolls on my page now, I take a minute to think about how it feels to embody such important women in the comic and entertainment industry. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt pretty damn good.

Bottom line kids, don’t let anyone every make you feel less about yourself. What matters is how you make yourself feel. Cosplay is a wonderful tool for your confidence, embrace it and let your imagination and creativity build your self-image, as it did for me. Strike a Wonder Woman pose! Dance around like Starlord. Give your best Batglare. That’s what it’s all about.


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