This is a guest post by Kymberlyn Reed, whom I had the pleasure to meet on a fiction website. We got acquainted on Facebook, and I dare say, anyone who is a fan of Calvin and Hobbes is alright with me.
Please, enjoy reading her experience in cosplay and leave a comment. Have questions? Leave a comment!
My Life in Cosplay – The Beginning
My first experiences with the idea of cosplay happened a year after Star Wars (A New Hope) came out (yes, I am that old). I remember how life-altering that film was for me, a little girl who loathed the weak, simpering “heroines” of Disney films and which populated a great deal of he books I had the misfortune to have read. The moment Princess Leia literally exploded on screen, sassing up Darth Vader without flinching and pretty much rescuing the very guys who were
supposed to be rescuing her, I just knew I wanted to be her, or like her.
I never stopped to think that I couldn’t be Leia and no one ever told me—at least at first—
that I couldn’t because she didn’t look like me. In my neighborhood it wasn’t all that unusual
for little black girls to be dressed like Cinderella and Snow White for Halloween. None of us
knew there was some sort of “rules”. We did know there were no black princesses and while they were curious as to why, they just co-opted the ones they knew. So for one Halloween with cinnamon bun braids and a dress cobbled together by my great-grandmother–for one moment in my fledgling geek girl life, I felt like I could conquer the universe. Leia represented the kind of power and strength that in real life I lacked and so desperately wanted.
When I attended my first science-fiction convention at The Biltmore Hotel that same year, I also saw my first (and to date only) Klingon Wedding. There were nearly three-hundred people who looked like escaped extras from Paramount Studios (save for the parents of the bride and groom who had that “is this what I sent my children to college for” look). I was surrounded by the
Klingon Empire and people dressed like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Tom Baker-
era Doctor Whos and several members of Moonbase Alpha (Space 1999). There was even a
guy (I guess) dressed as The Alien who scared people to death, especially in the dark of the film
rooms. I had the unfortunate pleasure to have him seated next to me during a screening of Jason
and the Argonauts–a film that to this day I cannot watch without remembering the too-close
proximity of those jaws to my head.
Good times. Not.
Flash forward to my college days. That was when I was introduced to the world of Renaissance Faires. I started as an attendee, fell in love with the whole idea of participating in historical re-enactment, and that next year started my new Faire life as a wench. I was also attending local sci-fi/fantasy cons as well and seeing people dressed as Sailor Moon, G-Force (Battle of the Planets) and of course, superheroes. I saw my first clan of Wolfriders (a la Elfquest) and the cherry on the sundae, the first black woman dressed as Storm and that was such a revelation. For one thing, she was black like me–a rarity at sci-fi/fantasy conventions at the time (thankfully that’s changed) Number two, she looked absolutely AMAZING, with her deep dark skin and that white blonde wig and the whole muscle definition thing. Even then I didn’t know there was an
actual word for what we were doing at the time. I just thought we were dressing up and scaring the mundanes.
Over the years, my forays into cosplay have been less about dressing up as a specific anime
character (though I have dressed as Emma, the Victorian parlourmaid) and more about creating a persona that I find powerful. You will NEVER find me dressed as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, but most definitely Mina Harker from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I have portrayed GoGo from Kill Bill, complete with styrofoam and aluminum foil mace and straight
black wig with bangs. Over the years I’ve gravitated more towards Steampunk which for an elder goth like me makes perfect sense, mainly the dark Victorian romantic look. And I happen
to love corsetry.
The past eight or so years I’ve been attending Anime Expo in Los Angeles, the number and diversity of cosplayers seems to grow exponentially, along with the level of complexity when
it comes to making their costumes. I totally respect the time and effort many cosplayers spend in creating as close to the character they’re portraying as possible. Most of the anime/game
characters are completely unknown to me (though I just about squeed when I saw a couple dressed as Dio and Luciola from Last Exile. I also saw several black Alex Rows. And I just
about died when I saw two people dressed as Kamijo and Hizaki from Versailles Philharmonic
Quintet!). On the other hand, I also loved the group of frat boys dressed as Sailor Scouts (hairy
legs and all). I’ve seen black and latina Lolitas, pint-sized Gokus, and mis-matched Luigis.
That, to me is what the overall essence of cosplay is–it’s PLAY. It’s dressing up like someone
you’re not and never will be. I will never have blue hair down to my butt or breasts the size
of floatation devices. My fangs are not real and as comfortable as a corset can be when laced
properly, I would not wear one everyday. But for one (or two) days a year, I can be that person
surrounded by hundreds of other people just like me, and not have to explain anything.