Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Cosplay Means to Me

I wanted to take a moment a express how lucky I am to have cosplay in my life.

Growing up, as with most "nerd" types, wasn't the easiest for me. 
I grew up on the outskirts of Nashville, so when I wasn't in school I spent my time at my house playing in the woods or on my farm. 
Not a lot of opportunity to make non-school related friends.

I spent my years in school being made fun of for one reason or another. Sailor Moon was my big love as a child, and walking the halls with themed school supplies was basically marking me for bullying. The laughter and harsh comments still ring in my memory. I was even physically assaulted on multiple occasions for simply being different. Children can be cruel, and trust me when I say my bullies were.
The thing for me was, I never wanted to change who I was for those people. Of course I hated the bullying, anyone in that situation would... but not once did I want to change who I was to make it stop. I just continued to be who I am until I found a place to fit in... 
And for me, that place became theater.

When I began performing in my local community theaters in High School I knew I had found a home. I continued to follow my creative drive, and ended up majoring in Theater Performance in college.
I had found the place where other "weirdos" like me gathers to be creative and do things outside of the norm. I found myself more willing to express my love for a variety of things from video games, and anime, to sci-fi and cartoons... and I found wonderful people who opened my eyes up to a side of the geek world I hadn't experienced yet, like comics and conventions.

It was just after I had completed my bachelors degree that I attended my first convention. Dragon Con 2010 was a life changing experience for me. I walked in having no idea what to expect, and ended up finding my place in the world. I had seen all the amazing costumes and met so many amazing people that I couldn't wait to come back the following year and participate in this amazing art! 
I had finally found a place where I could not only combine my love of geeky things with my love of theater... but I could be recognized for it! People would see my cosplays and ask me how I made it and what inspired me. People asked to take pictures with me. I was being told that I inspired others to cosplay as well! I found so many new friends and began to finally feel as thought I had become a whole person.

My journey into cosplay has built a sense of pride in myself. I have become proud of the person I am. It has become my drive to help others in this community feel the joy I have from cosplay.

I tell you all this not to make you feel sad for me, or see the hard path I've been down, but so you can understand why I work so hard to bring positivity to this amazing community.
Being someone who has felt both the joy and the sorrow that can come from living life as a nerd I have made it my goal to bring more positivity and acceptance to the cosplay community. Everyday I see people fighting and hurting each other over silly topics like 
"sexy cosplay" 
"being a real nerd" 
"who's cosplay is better"
Why do we do this? Haven't we all experienced enough of this before? If you have felt the pain of being bullied just because you love something, why would you want to spread that pain? 
It doesn't make us who we are. I doesn't help people grow.
Being supportive and constructive it what helps us become bigger and better. Cosplay is a safe haven for so many of us. Its the place where we feel most like ourselves, and it is important that we make sure to keep it that way. If we, as nerds, geeks, and dorks, tear our community apart, what will we have left?

So next time you see something on the internet or in person that you don't like or agree with 
(as long as it is doing no harm)
Do yourself and the community a favor and just ignore it. We cannot keep complaining that only the negative behavior and aspects of cosplay we don't like get the attention if we keep feeding those things the attention.
 The way to make that stop isn't to add to the negative behavior, but to find something you love and build that up instead! 
Offer advice to a new cosplayer on new techniques and ways to grow their craft!

Cosplay has changed my life. 
It has made me into a better artist and a better person.
I will continues to build this community up as long as I can, and I hope that if it has touched your life the way it has touched mine, you will do the same.
<3 <3

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Co$t of Co$play

The Co$t of Co$play

Budgeting Around Your Hobby

Cosplay is an expensive hobby.... or at least it can be. 
The trick to being a cosplayer, and being financially responsible, is budgeting and planning.

I personally like to at least do a preliminary list at the start of each new year. This is a list of conventions I am planning on attending and cosplays I want to do at those conventions.

This not only gives me and idea of what my time frame for builds will be, but it sets out a financial map for supplies I will need.

Now, of course, this list will change and mold. Sometimes group cosplays come up, or I have a new idea that I really want to push to the top of my list, but generally its a great place to start with budgeting.

The key for me with cosplay budgeting is to not buy everything I need for a cosplay all at once!
I will slowly collect the items or fabrics I need, this way I can spread my funds out, rather than dropping a butt load of money in one swoop!

This also lets me take better advantages of sales and coupons!
(BTW- In case you didn't know, Places like Joann's, Hancocks, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby take competitor coupons!)
Coupons are a cosplayer's best friend!

I am a cosplayer who prefers to make all or most of my cosplays.
this can be a big factor in racking up the bill for cosplays too!

Sometimes the best choice can be to outsource pieces of your costume depending on what they are.

I work closely with Michelle over at Damsel in this Dress when I have a cosplay that requires a corset. Michelle owns a company that does nothing but makes corsets, so she is able to get the supplies needed at a much lower cost. Working with her allows me the opportunity to stay involved with the design process, while being fiscally responsible.
Added bonus, I get to help promote the amazing work of a friend and build her business!
Everybody wins!

Just remember: Goodwill is your friend!

Utilizing thrift shops is a great way to save money as a cosplayer. 
I often will go shopping for clothing or bedding, and cannibalize those items for fabric! This can be wayyyyyy cheaper than a trip to Joann's, and often I can find different fabrics I wouldn't have!
The trick is to stay creative. Using things like sheet as lining in a costume can keep a couple more $$$ in your pocket!

Now I know its become a thing for cosplayers to put amazon wish lists out there, or even straight up ask people to buy their cosplay supplies for them.
Frankly I think this isn't okay, so its not something I participate in.

People's money is their own, and in the end they will do with it what they want, but I think morally we have to ask ourselves where the line is.
Also, its not needed!
I've been a cosplayer on a variety of budgets, and I always find a way to make it work!

So, if you can think ahead and be a coupon cutter, a deal shopper, and a smart planner; then any cosplay should be in the realm of possible for you!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Constructive vs Destructive- The Cosplay Community at War

Constructive vs Destructive- The Cosplay Community at War

The cosplay community is at war.

It is a daily battle between the positive and the negative.

With so much of the cosplay community online, there is an overwhelming opportunity for people to be just down right nasty, and hide being this social media persona of "being real."

I wish this said "be your best self on facebook"

The thing that people fail to realize is that by acting this way, they aren't being real or honest, they are being destructive; and sadly this happens constantly in this community.

I've heard from people that 
"Cosplay is an art, and that kind of adversity is what makes better artists."
or even 
"If you can't take it then you shouldn't be doing it"

I come from a background of theater. I have been an actress, dancer, and singer most of my life. I have given everything I am to the arts, and never would I agree with this.

Sure pulling from life's adversities can influence art, but that doesn't make it others responsibility to be the driving force behind that adversity, and then sit back and act like they did nothing wrong.

We have to lift each other up

This doesn't mean that we have to like everything we see; or lie and tell people their work is our favorite or amazing when its not.

It means that we have to be constructive.

Criticism does make better artists. Its how we learn of new techniques that we may otherwise not have known.
But the word criticism does not have to be directly associated with negativity.
Our community needs to put into practice the ability to criticize in a way that teaches, rather than a way that bullies. 

It is so much harder to chose to be positive and helpful, than to simply attack someone or something; just as hatred is a much easier emotion than forgiveness.

 The flip side to this is that we also have to stop feeding the negativity with negative attention.

While it gives me hope when I see the community rise against bullying, sometimes it happens in a way that just turns into a ball of negativity itself.

The best tool we have against hate, is positive support.
So next time you see someone posting nasty comments, instead of fighting back and feeding the fire; show the subject support and positive criticism and advise.  Build them up to be better.
Don't let the focus become on the one bad egg, but rather on the work that was there in the first place.

This is our community, and we have to work to make it what we want.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to become a Hero of the Cosplay Community- Lessons from "Heroes of Cosplay"

Lets start off by saying that this blog is not a review of the SyFy show "Heroes of Cosplay" , nor is it even directly about the show itself. I want to discuss the lessons we can take away from  "Heroes of Cosplay" and the behavior of the cosplay community regarding it.

In case you didn't know, but really who doesn't, Heroes of Cosplay was a 6 episode series on the SyFy channel that followed a group of cosplayers from convention to convention as they competed in various costume contests. It had it ups and its downs. There were times that various people on the show were not shown in the best light. Words were often said that were either not meant, or were edited for the most drama. Overall the show was focused on ratings (as reality shows often are) and less on showing what cosplay is really about.

Every time the show had a moment where a cosplay was either portrayed as mean, or expressed an opinion on a touchy subject, then the next day the internet was in an uproar. There were people defending the actions on the show. There were those who thought it was all wrong and attacked every aspect of it. There was bullying and fowl language and slander thrown everywhere on the internet.

Even with all of this behavior, the underlying theme seemed to be that cosplay should be a community that supports itself.

This seems like such an unreachable dream for the cosplay community. 

So many times I see people post and talk on how the cosplay bullying shouldn't happen, or how we should support each other and it shouldn't matter skill level, location, gender, sexual appeal, or any of that other crap.
Sadly, more often than not, these are also people who then turn around and say some of the most judgmental and hurtful words.

How are we suppose to build this community of support if we can't even show that to each other in our daily lives?

Watching the uproars over action on Heroes of Cosplay highlighted this shortcoming in our community. People who were upset about someone saying another cosplayer was too sexual were then writing posts about how that cosplay was a whore anyway, so she shouldn't be talking.... and that sexuality is okay. This as a whole screams hypocrisy to me! 

Now to be perfectly clear, the issues is not about what you think or believe regarding this, or any of the issues brought to light on this show or in cosplay in general. People have the right to think, believe, and form opinions on whatever they want. The issue is the manner in which people have been expressing their opinions. 

You cannot scream to the world that you want cosplay to be about supporting each other and the crafts and fandoms we love, and then turn around and slut shame, or bully, or anything else that you know will hurt someone. This is the issue in our community. This is what we have to overcome.

Everyone is entitled in their opinions. Everyone is allowed to do things their own way. As long as what you do and you say isn't hurting others, then no one should be allowed to tell you no.
We have to learn as a community, that if we don't agree with something we must either express those opinions in a tactful and tasteful manner, without spitting fire at others with our words... or we simply have to ignore it and move on.

If you take the time out of your life to constantly feed negativity and hatefulness, then it will consume you. You end up hurting no one but yourself.

We have to all learn to not feed that hate.

Of course there are times when we are all overwhelmed with hatred and anger. It is at those times that we have to find better ways to express that. Find a friend and vent to them. Get it all out, but in a way that wont hurt anyone. Most importantly, think before you type. Cause once its out there, there is no taking it back. The internet is an unforgiving place. It remembers everything you post. And now with sharing and screen capturing, there is no way to run from a post written in a moment of anger or pain.
Words are the same. Think before you speak. Ask yourself- is what I'm about to say going to add to our community, or damage it.

Heroes of Cosplay may not have shown us how to be very heroic, but it has offered us an opportunity to witness our faults as a community.... and better yet; it is giving us an opportunity to correct them.
This will not only help our community become the loving supportive place we all claim we want it to be, but it will also make each of us involved in it happier in what we do and how we do it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Prude Shaming"

Living life as a Cosplayer, I have stumbled across the term "slut shaming"

From Wikipedia:Slut shaming (also hyphenated, as slut-shaming) is defined as the act of making a woman [person] feel guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, dressing in sexually provocative ways, for requiring access to birth control, or even for being raped or sexually assaulted.

From what I have seen in the cosplaying community, this tends to be aimed at cosplayers (specifically women) who dress in a revealing manner, whether or not it is part of a characters design.

Now as I have stated before, what a person wears is their choice.

I personally choose not to cosplay in a revealing manner. It is a personal preference for me and my comfort level. I would never say a woman can't or shouldn't wear something if that's what they want to wear. My only stand on the issue of revealing clothes is to maybe be considerate of the location, time, and environment you are wearing them in.
(ex- if there are children around, maybe wait to wear the revealing outfit until they have left or it has past the reasonable hour for them to be around.)
But, as I believe in any aspect of life, we should always be aware and courteous to how our actions and behaviors effect those around us.

What people don't realize is just as big of a problem in the cosplay community is what I like to call "prude shaming"

This, to me, is the act of making a person guilty or inferior for choosing not to be revealing with their behavior, dress, or costumes.

It is important to understand that ,just because a person doesn't choose to be revealing or open about their sexuality, doesn't mean they hate everyone who does.
It is a truth in the cosplaying community, and  in our world, that sex sells.
To deny this would be silly.
But to put down or ignore those people who do not choose that path is just as wrong as putting down those who do.

Too often people believe that people who remain covered have specific reasons for it.

  • Their religion
  • They have been victimized by sexual assault
  • They look down on those who are sexually open
  • They are ashamed of their bodies
  • They are jealous of others
  • They are disgusted by sexuality in any form
None of these reason need apply in order to be a cosplayer who stays covered.

Assumptions on both ends of this issue are what keep the hateful words flowing.

I have been approached many times, in both a respectful and disrespectful manner, on why I don't show more skin. I have heard ever reason possible on why they think I don't, and why they think I should.
I'm very open with having discussion on my choices with others as long as the conversation can remain respectful.For me I like to keep my attention on the costume and my love of a character. When people see my cosplays I would rather them see what I love and not just me in an outfit. This is how I approach my work as a cosplayer. This is just how I choose to show my appreciation to the characters I love, but there are a million other ways to do so. What is right for me may not be what is right for someone else.... and that's fine!
Thats what makes cosplaying so beautiful. You will never get the same result or perspective twice.

What we have to remember as a community is that it is never okay to be spiteful, angry, are hateful to someone for their beliefs or actions, as long as those beliefs and actions are doing no harm and are not bulling others.
We should stand up for those, both covered and uncovered, who face ridicule and bullying everyday.
If you see it happening, say something.

Because in the end the real issue isn't if you chose to be naked, or fully covered.

It's about Respect.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

To Cover, Or Not To Cover...... That Is The Question

As a female cosplayer I have, of coursed, noticed the trend of female cosplayers leaning towards more revealing costumes.

So the question becomes, is this wrong or right?
And of course the answer is neither!

Over the last few days I have seen a few different articles arise that do bring up some very good issues on the subject, and really get us thinking. Two of which that I have enjoyed are:

Drawing the impossible? Fully dressed Superheroines

Costumes Are Not Consent: Combatting Cosplayer Harassment

So why do I say neither you may ask...
While of course I do this it is important to keep in mind your location when selecting your cosplay choices (ex: maybe you should cover up if your going to be at a con with a large number of children vs adults), however in the end what you wear is your choice!

It's not what we wear, but how and why we wear it!

I firmly believe that the issue we have in the cosplay community isn't about how covered or uncovered ladies are, but understanding the motivation behind the choice!

I believe its vital for us, as women picking a costume, to decide why and who we are wearing it for.

Heroins like Wonder Woman and Power Girl don't get into their costumes and think "Oh man I hope everyone thinks my butt and boobs look great!" So why should we!

Everyone is different. We each have levels of comfort that we welcome into our lives.
It isn't a question of feminism, the human race being forced to embracing sexuality, or the belief that nudity is wrong. Everyone is going to be different. 
Its about being true to who we are as individuals and being honest with our motives.
If you are a cosplayer who wants to dress in a revealing manner because you like the attention that comes with it, good for you! Embrace it! Own it! Scream it to the world! Don't give the haters the chance to question your motives.
Disney's Belle
Artwork of Belle by J Scott Campbell
How we compose ourselves can be a huge indicator on our motives. Being strong and poised vs presenting your butt and breasts in person and photos can indicate to those around you what your going for.
Keep these things in mind when wearing your costume. If you don't want the idolizing attention that can come with overtly sexualizing yourself, then don't give them the chance."Slut shaming" shouldn't be apart of the cosplay community, but in reality it is. So why allow shame to be apart of it?

My Choice:

As a cosplayer, I prefer to be more covered than many cosplayer. I feel sexy and empowered when there is more to the imagination! That doesn't mean my way is right; it means my way is right for me! This is not to say I wont ever do more revealing cosplays, but I will be sure that I do them for me, and my own reasons... not to build followers, or to gain attention, or be notice, but because I love the character!!! That's just who I am 
Dork-a-saurus Rex!
It is also important to remember that we are always being watched! 
As Seriously Dan points out, How we present ourselves at a con with our personal friends and those we love may be different that how we interact with our "fans", but we must keep in mind that eyes are always upon us, and onlookers may think "Oh hey, I guess she is okay if I grab her ass since that guy just did it!"

My advice: OWN IT! Be exactly what you want!
Don't hide behind a shield of modesty, accusations of others, or needless defending if that's not who you are!
Once we become comfortable with our motives and our choices only then will this "issue" disappear!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Speak Up, Stand Up, Be Strong!

The cosplay community is a place that is often full of support and love, however, as in all communities, there is a darker side. 

Bullying is alive and kicking, even in cosplay.

This is an issue that I hold very close to me. It is something that I cannot stand on any level, especially when it effects something I love. 

Many cosplayers have been through the hurt and pain of bullying at some point in their lives. We are a unique group of people, we find joy in a way that much of the world doesn't understand. This, of course, will lead to the type of bullying that comes from ignorance and insecurities, but what about the bullying that comes from our fellow cosplayers.
Cosplayer hate is something that astounds and confuses me.
I attend a con, or go online, and all you can see and hear is messages and words of hate and judgement.

Its truly becoming an epidemic.

Be aware of your actions. Many people have been a bully before, and haven't even realized it.
  • If you have posted a harsh, cruel, or judging comment online.... even knowing that person would never see it. You are a bully.
  • If you make a point to seek out those online or in person, just so you can judge them either out loud or silently... You are a bully.
  • If you ignore other cosplayers because you think your cosplay is better... You are a bully.

Bullying come in many ways that we don't even see as bullying. Sometimes it can be hard to stop bullying, when we don't even realize its happening.

When I am faced with a bully, here are some actions I chose to take.

  • If happening in an online forum (like Facebook or Twitter)  utilize the "block" function! I know it can't keep people from visiting a fan page and seeing what is written there, but it can be incredible empowering to YOU! Knowing that you stood against those types of people gives you strength and courage!!!
  • If you have people in your life who bring you hurt and pain, simply remove them. This is something I had to learn in the last few years. We can all want to help those we may care about, but there comes a time when you need to love yourself! So Simply Let Them Go.
  • If you are forced to face a bully in person (like at a convention or a gaming event), this can be the hardest. You can be filled with damaging emotions that the bully has instilled in you. Often times you may feel like running, but remember you have a right to be there! You are a strong person who is important. DO NOT change yourself or your actions for a bully. Show the world the love you have for yourself.
  • Find a friend. I have been blessed with some of the greatest people I have ever known as friends. When you surround yourself with good, kind, loving people; then your life will be filled with all those things. Real friends not only listen when you hurt, but offer their hand to pull you from the pain. 
Bullying doesn't have to continue. If we each can make it our goal to not only better ourselves, but not tolerate bullying when we see and hear it, then we can help end it!
If you are being bullied, find a place, like Cosplayers Against Bullying, that can help you find support and advice.

We don't have to like everyone, but we do have to respect them.

"you know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I've never met anybody who wasn't important before."-The Doctor