My apologies for the lack of updates. I’ve been busy with photoshoots, music articles for Purple SKY, and an attempt at NaNoWriMo. Now I’m back with another Beneath the Layers interview. If you haven’t read the first one, check it out here: Kyatto’s interview.
November’s cosplayer is a Doctor Who fan from Texas who will travel four hours to hang with the friends she has made through her hobby. Nikki, who goes by the handle Roseclear, loves animals and editing fan-made music videos. She works to remove trash-talking and cutthroat competition from cosplay circles she’s involved with and emphasizes keeping things fun. As she puts it, “If you don’t find joy in what you do, then to me there doesn’t seem a lot of point in doing it.”
NOTE: As this interview series aims to help banish harassment and bullying of cosplayers, any inappropriate comments made toward the interviewee or cosplayers in general will be deleted.
1. How long have you been cosplaying, and what is your favorite cosplay?
I’ve been cosplaying for over ten years now, starting out with video games and moving on to science fiction and movies. My favorite cosplay is Amy Pond (from Doctor Who), but I don’t think I could pick a favorite outfit.
2. What are the best and worst parts of being a cosplayer?
The best part of being a cosplayer, I think, is that moment when the outfit comes completely together for the very first time and you take your first look at yourself in the mirror. It’s right then, in that second, that all the hard work feels that it’s paid off.
The worst part would be the harassment that comes about your physical appearance. It’s going to happen no matter where you go—whether you’re in costume or not—but no one likes to be told they’re fat or ugly, and I think this goes more so for people in costume. It seems like the comments are referring to the costume as well, and the costume is what you’ve put work into.
3. Have you been sexually harassed, bullied, or discriminated against while in cosplay? Please describe one or two incidents.
The bullying has happened as a result of my weight. It isn’t any secret that I’m heavy; it’s something that has been a result of a hormone imbalance and some bad reactions to medications over the course of my life. When dressed as Amy Pond at San Diego Comic Con, my Doctor (a close friend of mine) and I were interviewed for a Japanese show streaming live. One of the commentators said Amy Pond was supposed to be “hot”, and another asked if I was cosplaying Amy before she lost weight. Thankfully, my Doctor was there with me and I didn’t allow it to bother me for too long.
There was also an incident with another costumer who said things about me behind my back about my weight. Needless to say, the comments did get back to me and it resulted in a long bout of hurt. I thought about quitting cosplaying altogether, but my friends weren’t having any of it. In the end, I’m glad that I chose to remain because things only got better.
4. What was your response to the Men’s Fitness article about “flabby” superheroes at New York Comic Con?
I’ve seen other, similar things spread across the Internet, but I was very surprised to see something like that in a fitness publication for men. The author of the article clearly missed the point of cosplay and of what New York Comic Con was about. Last time I checked, conventions like that weren’t a hunting ground for the next issues of Sports Illustrated. The people who were photographed and featured in that article might have taken a good deal of time in preparing their cosplays for NYCC, and look at the outcome: their hard work was someone else’s laughing matter. It’s something that all cosplayers potentially subject themselves to and something that I think is just a shame. Cosplay might not be something that’s recognized as run of the mill or “ordinary” if you will, but that doesn’t mean the people who are taking part of it shouldn’t be respected.
5. How do you feel about the idea that cosplayers should dress up as characters of their race, size, and age?
There’s something to be said about dressing in a way that compliments certain parts of your body, but I don’t let the fact I’m not the same exact body type as a character stop me from costuming as them. Amy Pond is a good example of that. I’m not tall and willowy like Karen Gillan, but that hasn’t stopped me from putting together more than a dozen Amy outfits. And I feel good in all of them. It’s about having fun and looking in the mirror and smiling back at your reflection when all of the pieces come together. Don’t let anyone stop you from a costume that you want to do. We all want to look and feel good—so do that. No one knows how to better than you.
6. What is your response to the stereotype of cosplayers being attention-whores?
I think that’s something which depends on the individual and their personality. Some people are okay with grabbing up any attention that they’re given, and it’s no secret that in cosplaying, we’re hoping for recognition at the very least. There’s effort put into the outfits and character depictions, and we all want to be told we’ve done a good job. But being an attention-whore, that seems to go a bit further. To me, that indicates someone wanting to be the center of attention around the clock. I don’t think that’s the case for all cosplayers.
7. How does the treatment of cosplayers differ between anime, sci-fi, and gaming cons?
More than anything, it seems to depend on the type of convention. If a convention is sci-fi themed and an anime cosplayer shows up, then it’s possible they might not be as well received, and vice versa. But when I was out at San Diego Comic Con, there didn’t seem to be any ill treatment going around. Anime, gaming, and sci-fi alike were all welcomed, and it was one of the largest and most diverse conventions I’ve ever seen. Ultimately, the only goal of cosplayers is to go out, show their work, and have fun.
8. Do you feel that people who cosplay live-action characters get scrutinized for their looks more than those who cosplay animated characters?
Absolutely, and that doesn’t mean I agree with it. When a person is cosplaying, they’re depicting their take on the character they’ve chosen. Some choose to make variations; others go for as great an amount of accuracy as possible. But we can’t physically alter our facial features (not in a way that’s safe or reasonable) for the sake of a cosplay. We’re still ourselves. We’re still unique human beings. If we all looked like the characters we were trying to cosplay in the physical and facial sense, then where would the fun be in that?
9. You have emphasized that there is no such thing as “best” cosplay. What makes a cosplay, however, stand out in the crowd for you?
I’m very adamant towards not calling anyone the “best” of any type of cosplay because I’ve seen what kind of harm that can do. A cosplay standing out to me that involves more than just the physical work that’s put into it, though that’s certainly part of it. What really makes a cosplay shine in a crowd or photo is the spirit of the person that’s wearing it. I appreciate craftsmanship and work, but I think a lot has to do with the heart and soul of the person wearing it. If you feel on top of the world in your cosplay, it can radiate in your face and show to everyone around you who’s looking at it.
10. What is your opinion of cosplay contests?
I’ve only participated in cosplay contests once or twice, and that was years ago. I think the idea of a contest is great for those who put craftsmanship and work into their costumes… those who are able to sew and create beautiful things to put on display. They deserve the chance to have the work they’ve given so much time and effort towards to be recognized.
11. The relationship between cosplayers and photographers/reporters can be strained, especially with the recent articles mocking cosplayers or stories of creepers at cons. How can this be improved?
A lot of the “creepers” talked about are older men taking pictures of girls who are either younger, appearing younger, or dressing in something scanty. I think that if you’re going to go out in a more physically revealing cosplay, then you need to be prepared to have a certain amount of attention paid to you. I know a few female friends who have chosen that route, and they’re well aware of the ogling and things that will happen once they leave the hotel room. That doesn’t stop them from putting on the cosplay they want, going out and having a great time with their friends and other cosplayers. It’s just something they’ve come to accept and know how to deal with.
I think that if photographers and reporters want to be able to take an accurate picture or representation of a cosplayer, then they need to be prepared to treat that cosplayer like a person. Cosplayers are not their characters. We’re all living, breathing human beings with thoughts and feelings—both good and bad—and all living, breathing human beings deserve to be treated with respect.
12. What can cosplayers do to protect themselves from harassment and bullying and to stop perpetuating such behaviors?
The most important part of being a cosplayer is knowing that you’re stepping outside of the box. Keep that in mind no matter what because you’re exploring something that’s different from your day to day. And that’s a great thing—it’s part of what makes cosplaying so exciting. But remind yourself that not everyone you come into contact with will understand what you’re doing, and why you love it so much.
As far as the bullying goes, my best advice is to not to let it get to you. Don’t care about what anyone else thinks or says. Remind yourself that if you feel like a million bucks—that will show in your face. Cosplaying is meant to be fun. Don’t let it ever become anything but that. And don’t be afraid to talk to your fellow cosplayers if you’re facing a bad situation. Chances are that we’ve all been there at some point or other, and while it might not be possible to erase the situation altogether, a lot can be said for having a support system that understands where you’re coming from.
13. How has the rise of social media changed the way cosplayers are treated by both their peers and non-cosplayers?
Social media is a great way to keep in touch and spread news to friends and family members, and it’s definitely become a part of daily life. It also opens up the opportunity for cosplayers to be seen more freely by those who they network with. That can be seen as a good or bad thing, depending on the cosplayer and their social circle. I think it’s something that has to be used carefully, but social networking is just another way to get to know other people who are out there and share the same interest as you.
14. How has your life changed for the better as a result of cosplay?
Through cosplay, I’ve found friends that I would never have met otherwise, formed closer bonds with them, and discovered a confidence in myself that’s still growing to this day. It might sound strange, but dressing as someone else (namely Amy Pond) has made me see the beauty in myself, and in those around me. There’s a lot of drive and passion behind people who cosplay, and I think that radiates in everyone from the inside out, and I think it’s absolutely beautiful.
15. Any last words to fellow and aspiring cosplayers?
No matter what anyone else says, don’t ever stop doing what you love. What matters most is the way you feel, not the way anyone else looks at you. If you love a character or cosplay, then go for it and have a wonderful time. Bullying and harassment are unfortunate parts of our world, but the only way to let the bullies and harassers win is to run away. So don’t run. Keep your head up high and take pride in what you’ve done. You’re special, and you deserve your moment to shine. Take it.
A big thank you and an early happy birthday to Roseclear! All photos were supplied by her with credit to Christa J. Newman.