When Your Biggest Cosplay Success Is Your Biggest Cosplay Failure
2018 was a year full of accomplishments.
I was invited as a guest to three conventions. I got my first press pass. I ran my first vending tables. I collaborated with a well-known activist to create an anti-racism workshop. I traveled to Baton Rouge and Seattle for the first time ever. I created a panel for a plus-size fashion event. I sold stuff. I did my first academic presentation at DragonCon. I was interviewed by multiple outlets, including InStyle, The Mary Sue, Brit & Co, Rolling Out, and Punk Black.
I was also featured in the New York Times.
The New York Times was an amazing opportunity. It was exposure on a whole other level that I could use to build my credibility, except for one thing – my cosplay was trash.
Generally speaking, this isn’t a big deal but my cosplay was trash for the New York fucking Times. I was featured next to two crafters who had done gorgeous work, yet there I was in my shitty outfit that I had the audacity to be proud of. And I am proud of it but when perfect builds have become the norm, my shitty work is, well, embarrassing. With the increased visibility of the fandom, people do everything they can to build or buy the perfect outfit while working to shape and showcase what society tells us is the perfect body. I do neither of these things, so being next to some beautiful cosplay made by two skilled cosplayers is wrecking havoc on my sense of self. The other cosplayers had clean looks, beautiful seams, amazing paint jobs…their cosplays were works of art. while mine was shoddy garbage.
Now, mind you, I love my cosplay. I have some super rough edges I need to clean up, but I wasn’t worried about it. With all the things I had going on this summer, the fact that I cleaned it up as much as I did was amazing. But then, seeing it in comparison to the other people in the article showcased just how much of a thrown together mess my cosplay was. I don’t spend hundreds of dollars and hours into building my cosplay, and that shouldn’t take away from anyone who does. But the fact that I don’t shows. Glaringly. This fandom encapsulates a wide range of talent, abilities, and skill levels and a part of me feels compelled to raise my game. But cosplay has always been an escape for me and this past year made it into more of a job…a job I wasn’t enthusiastic about performing.
It’s weird because as much shit as I go and as much stuff as I participate in, cosplay is the only space where I’m seen, and a lot of the time, I gotta fight for that, too. I am my most visible doing an activity in which I am spectacularly mediocre. I am simultaneously proud and ashamed of my cosplay accomplishments and it is weird, but it’s still my reality so, here we are.
I’m not talking about this for affirmation or to be contradicted. My confidence is fine on this. I’m acknowledging an uncomfortable space that has me thinking about my future…about what I want and how I want to attain it. About how I identify myself and what it means going forward.
I’m reflecting on what any of this means…especially as NYT is mainstream, aka white, so should this matter at all? Should anything?
I dunno. But it’s something I’m definitely thinking about and this will continue to shape what I do next year. In the meantime, I’m having to accept that something I considered to be a success was actually kinda humiliating and embarrassing.
And that’s okay.