The world of fandom is multifaceted and ever-growing. What once was just a community for nerds to gather amongst themselves to discuss their favorite fandoms has developed new ways to celebrate who they are and what they love. Fandom fans create podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites to promote their favorites. Others make art, write songs, and create merchandise. Then there are those who truly immerse themselves into their fandoms: by becoming the characters themselves. We call that cosplay.
Cosplayers work tirelessly to perfectly emulate and capture the essence of their favorite characters. It’s their way of honoring the fandoms they love. These works of living art are painstakingly detailed and beautiful. However, like many things in the world of fandom, cosplaying still comes with gatekeeping. For a long time, Black cosplayers and women of color had to fight for their place in cosplay. Despite the hurdles they may face, WOC cosplayers continue to advance in the field!
The cosplay hashtag has over 48.4 million photos on Instagram and it grows every day! Since we know you don’t have time to endlessly scroll, we have selected some WOC cosplayers you need to know about! These women not only elevate the world of cosplay but also are breaking barriers! They have shared with us what got them into cosplay and some of the challenges they face as women of color.
Mega Mite’s origin story: “I started cosplaying roughly around the time I saw the anime Bleach with Yoruichi Shihouin and I really wanted to cosplay her because she was one of the few anime characters of color I have ever seen. It felt amazing to be able to become a character from an anime that I loved watching. I have always admired cosplayers and the talent that they had, but I never pictured that I could become one of them because of the color of my skin I want to show that you do not have to look like a character to cosplay them.”
On some of the challenges she faces: “Honestly, every day is a challenge. Posting pictures and interacting on social platforms as a black cosplayer is exhausting due to constant hatred and bigotry. It’s become mentally exhausting and it wears you down a little each day. Having to justify that you belong in a space that doesn’t exist for you is a challenge that each black cosplayer faces on a daily. ”
Being inspired: “I got into cosplay bout six years ago, I was inspired! I was so impressed with all the big costumes and art at my first con, I felt like I was missing out on part of the fun. At my second con, I put together a Bumblebee outfit from things at home and it has changed my whole con experience forever. There is a whole different fun to have with cosplaying and it is a unique way to meet awesome people. Cosplaying for me has been an enjoyable hobby and gives me an outlet for creative fun. I already loved crafting and creating things with my hands, and being a big comic and fiction fan added to the passion I have for cosplay. I feel like cosplay is an awesome way to show appreciation to creators and artists.”
On feeling limited: “There have been many moments of ignorance and mean comments in person and online. Some people like to point out that the person I am cosplaying is not of my skin complexion and point out the cosplay is bad because of how inaccurate the race is. Some people have found it weird that someone of my background has such a hobby, and it has been mentioned to me that cosplay is something weird for a black person to do. It can be disheartening. There have been many times characters were only suggested to me because they have my skin tone, and it is frustrating because when I bring up characters I like the response is like “oh but no, Storm would fit you way better.” As a woman, there seems to be an expectation of always looking cute or sexy, and I have gotten some comments that note I do not always take that route with my looks. When moments like those occur, they are disappointing, but I will never let them get in the way of doing what I enjoy and I rather go against the assumptions and limitations people feel they need to put on me. I cosplay various characters, many of who do not look anything like me, and I enjoy cosplaying for the sake of dressing up as a character I adore. I love seeing the abundance of various characters by everyone in the cosplay community who just enjoy what they do and do not limit themselves to the very small pool of options we would have if we listened to everyone’s suggestions.”
The start of Kay Kay Cosplay: “My cosplay journey started back in 2013 when a friend of mine dragged me to my first anime convention. I had always enjoyed the geeky lifestyle growing up but was shockingly unfamiliar with the convention scene and what it entailed. For weeks leading up to the convention, my friends had been working on their cosplays, while I threw together a hand-stitched Gameboy dress. I was one of those individuals that thought I might stand out too much if I went out in full-blown costume. (Little did I know..haha). I remember standing in line waiting for our badges, pretty much in awe of all of the cosplayers passing by. I was twenty years old at the time, but people could have mistaken me for a child in a candy shop. My mind was blown by the creativity and inspiration continued to flow through me throughout the whole weekend. I was never the same after my first anime convention and being introduced to the world of cosplay.”
Words of advice for other WOC Cosplayers: “I want to start off by stating that I am mixed race – Black and Asian. I have had my fair share of racist encounters growing up… Fortunately, in regards to cosplay, I have been blessed to not have to experience it as much. I have gotten the typically “that character is not black” remark here and there, but not nearly as much as the positive comments. I wanted to highlight this positive experience because I want other WOC that are interested in cosplay to know that it won’t always be bad and that the cosplay community is slowly evolving to becoming more accepting.
However, I must say that some of my challenges do stem from me just being a woman in general. Some have made claims that I do not know the character I am cosplaying because it is from a shonen. I have also been criticized for putting a female twist on popular male characters. I am a firm believer that you can cosplay whoever you want, as long as you are not black-facing or igniting insults on any group of individuals. There is always going to be some of those bad apples that want to tear you down, whenever they see you being successful and happy. My biggest tip is to do your best to ignore the negativity and keep doing what you love. There is plenty of WOC showing representation in the cosplay community; we just need to continue supporting and showing them just as much love.”
Follow Mimi on Her TikTok: mimicry_mimi
Pandemic Boredom: “I got into cosplay because I’ve been to so many cons and have seen it online and really liked it a lot and wanted to try since covid started and I have nothing better to do at the moment haha!”
Dealing with canon purist: “One of the biggest challenges I face as a WOC in cosplay is definitely gatekeeping with a character’s canon race. I’ve deleted comments stating how I can’t cosplay a certain character because I’m not skinny or white or even Asian in accordance with a character’s race.”
On why she started cosplaying: “I was inspired by my love for Sailor Moon and Sewing! I’ve been sewing for 7 years now as my love of cosplaying has developed.”
Kia shares what she finds challenging about cosplaying: “My biggest challenge is figuring out what to cosplay most of the time, I have so many characters on my list it’s so hard to choose. Plus I have so much fabric and so little time.”
Sailor Xtasy tells us about herself and how she got into cosplay: “I am an almost 42-year-old woman living in Brooklyn NY with my almost 9-year-old son. I am a special education 7th-grade teacher, a Zumba instructor, and a kick-ass person all around. I have been cosplaying since 2006 and I don’t show signs of stopping. I love encouraging people who look like me to get into cosplay for the fun of it and not to be hung up on the fame of it. My favorite Animes right now are Sailor Moon, My Hero Academia and Fairy Tail. ”
“My friend dragged me to my very first anime convention back in 2006 called Animazement in North Carolina. I didn’t know what to expect, so I went in blind. Once I saw people dressed as my favorite Anime/Video Game characters I was sold. I love to take pictures so I saw cosplay as an amazing way to have fun and get pretty for pictures.”
On gatekeeping: “Thank goodness I am not as popular as the big named cosplayers, I have yet to experience any challenges. I have seen my friends harassed and I am always ready to defend my fellow POC cosplayers from the gatekeepers.”
Stay Connected with Leaundra on Instagram and her TikTok lovely.leaundra
On why she loves cosplay: “I’ve always loved being creative! Growing up I was drawn to anime, manga, and cartoons! I would see the characters and put together outfits to look and act like them. Whenever I cosplay I feel like I’m putting on my own mini production of a show where I’m the character, actress, photographer, designer, and makeup artist. I love it!”
On not feeling welcomed: “There are definitely challenges cosplaying as a WOC. Not everyone is welcome to me cosplaying as characters who are not of the same racial background as myself. I have experienced both racist and rude comments, however, this type of behavior is not a reflection of everyone in the cosplay community. There is a big part of the cosplay community that is very kind and supportive. We make sure to look out for each other.”
How friends got her into cosplay: ” I have a lot of friends who cosplay and throw their own conventions, and I would always see how much fun they had, and I decided to go and give it a shot one day, and never looked back. I loved seeing the support and love from the community even though I was a newb and didn’t have the best cosplay, I got a lot of support and tips, and I’m glad I didn’t give up.”
On body shaming and other challenges: “Oh is there enough space to write it all lol? I get a lot of insults being a woman of color. I get called racial slurs, have people tell me that I can’t cosplay a character that isn’t black. I get people telling me I’m trying to “be white” when I do cosplays of my favorite characters, who aren’t black sometimes. I recently had someone call me racist on my black history month tribute post to Karan Ashley. I cosplayed Aisha Campbell, the Yellow Ranger, and I thanked her for giving me a black female character to look up to as a young girl. He tried to tell me I thought black characters are superior. So there’s no winning lol. I can’t even cosplay a black character without getting insulted. I also get a lot of constant body shaming me and people telling me I’m too “fat” to cosplay the characters I like to, or that I’m unhealthy and gross and unattractive.”
Starting her cosplay journey via a contest: “One of my best friends introduced me to it after I pretty much won 1st place weeb at our job.”
On how to deal with negativity: “I had some run-ins with people being rude and racists on my posts and I earned to delete them and ignore them because they’re just looking for attention. Just have to learn how to block out the negatives and embrace the positives!”
We hope you enjoyed getting to know these groundbreaking and up-incoming WOC cosplayers! We personally would like to thank them for their honest and incredible stories! Be sure to give them all a follow!