Cosplay, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the activity or practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction (such as a comic book, video game, or television show).” For many people who enjoy participating in cosplay, it allows them to express themselves, combining fashion, makeup, and acting to their chosen character. Cosplay is seen as exciting because everyone has the freedom to dress up as their favorite character and live the life of a character as if it were a reality, and for some, that can be a source of happiness for them. Cosplay at its core, is supposed to be a unifier, an activity that people from all over the world can enjoy together as they fangirl/fanboy over their favorite fictional characters, but when certain people are excluded from participating simply because of their skin, it easily turns cosplay into this exclusive activity that only certain people can participate in, despite its definition implying inclusivity and positivity.
Black people who are apart of the cosplay community have often felt excluded for not being the same skin color as the characters they portray. This leads to Black people who are interested in cosplay not sharing their pictures online in fear of being judged. The lack of representation for Black cosplayers led to the hashtag #BlackCosplayersHere being created on Twitter in order to uplift Black cosplayers and create a community that supports each other.
Despite the positivity the hashtag garnered and the obvious message, it seems that some non-Black cosplayers continued to see cosplay as an activity that needed division, targetting user @Vaelniel_ after she posted one of her cosplay looks.
First time doing cosplay kinda nervous 😳😳😳😳 pic.twitter.com/RE3MrUYYzl
— ✞🖤Xylochi🖤✞ (@Vaelniel_) November 23, 2019
After posting her looks onto her Twitter account, she received some negative feedback from people who thought she should stick to certain characters who share her skin tone, or that she did not fit the image of the character she choose to portray.
anitwitter: no one comes for black cosplayers just for being black
black cosplayer: *cosplays*
— 𝕛𝕒𝕜𝕖𝕟 𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕟 (@teliadiavian) November 24, 2019
This prompted the previous hashtag, #BlackCosplayersHere, to come back full force in support of @Vaelniel_ and also in support of other Black cosplayers who often felt too nervous to share their own cosplay pictures because of comments like the ones above that can be posted under posts or sent privately. Black cosplayers came together to share their experiences of racism in the community and post their beautiful pictures where they are shown posing proudly in their costumes.
With recent events, its time for a cos-positive SHARE TRAIN!
WHERE ARE MY BLACK COSPLAYERS AT!?
SHARE YOUR WORK, SHARE OTHERS, SPREAD POSITIVITY
— Akakioga@Ohayocon (@Akakioga) November 25, 2019
— anarkee (@itsanarkee) November 26, 2019
I usually don’t do side-by-sides but I had time today. Thanks @Akakioga for bringing this tag to life today after we all saw that disgusting display of yet another racist loser group.
— lily @ ikkicon/ala prep (@SAILORSADIST) November 25, 2019
Hi Everyone! I forgot that I never properly introduced myself!
I am Alexis and I have been cosplaying for over 10 years! I love this community but I want us to change for the better. I’m black, proud, and here to stay! ❤️ #BlackCosplayerHere pic.twitter.com/UIaocvU7GX
— Sakythia @ JERITZAAAA💙🦁💚🐉 (@SakythiaCos) November 27, 2019
Skin color should not matter in costume. A person does not need to be told their physical appearance is not good enough to match their favorite fictional character, and those who feel Black people should stick to characters with darker or similar skin tones are creating barriers for Black people who wish to be apart of the cosplay community. There is simply no room for colorism and racism in the cosplay community, a community built off of differences and unity. The uplifting displays of positivity shown by the Black cosplay community and those who support Black cosplayers have proven once again that freedom of expression should be available to everyone, and that Black cosplayers are here to change the community for the better by normalizing the idea that Black cosplayers are awesome too.
Featured Image: worldofblackheroes.com