It’s me again. I just felt the need to sit down and talk to you about something that has been bothering me lately. No, I’m not mad at you, but I’m just thinking out loud about our relationship.
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed again and I saw yet another cosplayer who isn’t black, or brown, doing blackface. I see my friends trying to tell them that our skin isn’t a costume, but instead of being heard they’re getting yelled at by the person doing it AND by people who think it’s okay to wear brown makeup for the sake of accuracy. What is going on Cosplay? Why is this happening again?
How can I tell people, who don’t live in this skin, that it isn’t easy being black ESPECIALLY when I throw you, Cosplay, into the mix? How can I say that because I’m in this skin, I know that one day someone will call me the “black version” of whatever character I’m doing? How can I tell them that it hurts when someone tells me, my friends, or other people of color that we’re too dark to play a character that we love? How can we, as POC cosplayers, have a successful and happy relationship with you Cosplay when there are some who want to see us be the couple they want us to be?
It’s okay for us to be together when I’m Storm or Yoruichi, but not okay when I’m Sailor Venus or Ino? Or what about those special date nights when I decide to wear my hair naturally with my Maleficent dress rather than braiding my curly fro so it can fit snugly under my cowl or a wig? What if I have marley twists or dreads and instead of wearing wigs, I tie my hair up so I can wear that double ponytail style you like so much, you know…like Sailor Moon or Miku? I know you will always find me beautiful Cosplay, but what about those who don’t know me like you do? I know, I know, ignore the haters and the negative comments. You and everyone else always say that but what if I’m not that strong Cosplay? I can’t be strong all the time so what do I do then?
What do I do when I’m told I’m an ugly Cinderella because my beautifully brown skin isn’t milky white? What do I say when I see a comment about how Sailor Mercury’s hair isn’t supposed to be a blue afro but straight and in a bob? How am I supposed to react when someone comments on my Sailor Pluto outfit, that I spent sleepless nights working on, is fine but she isn’t black? Can I cry a little, Cosplay? Do I have to maintain the strong, independent black woman persona or can I drown in my feelings for a moment because that’s how I process things?
When I first met you, Cosplay, about 10 years ago, I didn’t know there were that many people who looked like me and my friends who love you as much as we do; people who are proud to be in their brown/black skin who put their all into their relationship with you. Did you know people like me, black cosplayers, we have our own month? It’s called 28 Days of Cosplay. I know, it must sound weird having your name in it but it’s a sign of affection. You see, Cosplay, anyone with access to the internet can tell how much you are loved around the world. From blogs to twitter accounts to magazines to Facebook, you are everywhere and it is beautiful…sometimes. I say sometimes because there seem to be more couple pictures of you with people who aren’t as brown as me; people who don’t look like me or my friends. It almost seems like we’re not a loving couple some days if you scroll through some Instagram pages dedicated to you. I know what kind of relationship we have, the relationship you have with my friends, and other people of color but it’s never around when other POC who also want a relationship with you need to see it; to know that it’s okay to crush on you or even like you.
That’s why we have a month-long celebration, Cosplay. Just like how everyone else can show off their relationship with you, we POC cosplayers want to show off our relationship with you too! We want to tell the world that our relationship with you is no different than anyone else’s. The con crunches to finish outfits and props are the same. Rewinding episodes to memorize catchphrases and gestures just in case of a photo-op are the same. Having late night thoughts about running into people from the same series, comic book, video game, whatever…is the same.
Whenever we meet up – me, others, and you, Cosplay – we all share a wonderful moments. We can drop references or puns and someone will get it. We can talk about theories from a video game or start a random chant in the hallway as we wait to go into a panel and random people will join in! We can run up to someone and ask for a picture, see their face light up as they get into a battle ready pose that they’ve practiced. We may not know each other, we may not live in the same state, but because of you, Cosplay, we can connect. We can connect in the most basic of ways and go back home feeling better because we made a new happy memory to recall later.
There may be people who don’t understand the relationship we have, my need to call out black/yellow/red facing. There will be people who will judge us for being together, they may even insult me. There will be some days where I’ll question if we should be together because of a bad day from a negative person, but I can promise you this Cosplay; I will not break up with you. You’ve shown me how creative I can be, how brave I can be, and how friendly I can be when in the right situation. You’ve helped me find a better side to myself and despite of the bad things that could happen, the great things that will happen overshadow the negativity. I’m sorry for rambling, don’t mind me. Let’s keep being together to make great things and cheering on other black cosplayers; there are still 14 more days of our month. Okay, Cosplay?
A black cosplayer.