Jan 9, 2019
452 Views

Black Cosplay: Can Black People Cosplay?

Written by

Can black people cosplay?

Hmmm what is black cosplay? I’m sure we have all heard someone ask this or maybe even thought it yourselves. Can black people (or any person of color) cosplay? … Can I cosplay if I am black?

It’s surprising that in 2019 this is still a topic that arises in conversations, sometimes creating tension and even ending in a few tables being flipped. There have been people who try to site character authenticity as a reason black people should not cosplay certain characters. Stranger still, others try to say that people of color (PoC) should create our own comics or characters to cosplay and leave the classics alone. Now I don’t disagree that we should be creating more and putting our voices out in the world, but it’s a bit short-sided to try and place rules on the art of cosplay.

So, the short answer is YES! You (or anyone else) can cosplay but if you do, here are 3 things that you must do in order to succeed.

Grow a Thick Skin

“You should cosplay for your skin tone, (insert character) is not black. You can’t cosplay play that”.

If your skin is any shade of brown, you will undoubtedly run into this problem. If you have not already heard this statement (or some variation of it) before, more than likely, you will.

Even though I think it’s bizarre to have such strong opinions about how people choose to personify fictional characters that were just made up in someone’s imagination.

Coconut Jacobs (Litchi Faye Ling) black cosplay
Coconut Jacobs (Litchi Faye Ling)

I experienced this kind of shunning on my very first cosplay. Young and joyful me. I was cosplaying as Litchi Faye Ling from the video game, BlazBlue. I was told that Litchi is not black so I don’t look good dressed as her. That statement took a mental toll on me, so much that I stopped cosplaying for a while. It was partially because I was a newbie cosplayer and was already a bit apprehensive about dressing up and going out in public, in the neighborhood I grew up in, we didn’t do that if it wasn’t Halloween. It was also because I had never in my life experienced that kind of blatant public discouragement.

black cosplay idea
Litch Faye Ling – BlazBlue

It was my first time! I was a cosplay virgin.

Coconut Jacobs

I really could have used some encouragement instead of unnecessary critiques that were meant to put me down. It was my first time! I was a cosplay virgin.

I was also taken back by the fact that I experienced this while in a setting with other nerds, whom you would think are a more accepting and tolerant bunch. It was just devastating, I mean, soul-crushing devastation. The whole experience made me doubt myself and my decision to cosplay.

So I stopped and walked away from something I loved.

It took me a long time to get back out there and dip my toe in the cosplay pool again. I experienced cosplay racism again, but as I got older, my skin grew thicker. I just stopped caring about the naysayers and the negative Nancys. No matter what you do in life, there will always be folks trying to pour pesticides in your fruit punch.

The cosplay culture sucked me back in. There is a reason for that, it’s my home. I no longer let some random people that I’m not invested in (and who have not invested in me) dictate the way I enjoy my myself. Me and my black cosplay are here to stay.

So if you are cosplaying in color, you will have to grow a thick skin. Block out the negative noise. Let the words roll off of you like water off a duck’s back. It’s the only way you will enjoy your passion. You have to care about the journey more than you care about the jerks. #cosjerk

Can we make that a thing? cosjerks? If only we had a hero to deliver us from these bad guys … le sigh

black cosplay : black superman
Bwildd Cosplay (Clark Kent) @bwilddcosplay
Photo by Coconut Jacobs

Make Goals

Just like you set goals in your normal life you need to set goals for your cosplay life. Make a list of things you want to accomplish. Write it down. Make your goals so vivid and real that you believe it has already happened. You have to set a plan to stay on track or you will say you are going to cosplay, but six months later you still won’t have anything accomplished.

I like to make a physical vision board of cosplays that I want to do. Not a Pinterest board but a real one. I want to see it as I walk out the door every day. This will literally keep your goals in sight. Grab a poster board from your local dollar store, print out images of the characters you plan on cosplaying and get to work cutting and pasting.

You can make your vision board cover a month or a year. I like to do a year because I don’t make that many costumes every year. However, If you want to get deep in the cosplay culture, and make a ton of costumes, you may want to create a new vision board every month.

Make a list of five cosplays that you want to do. No more than five, because the more options you have the more your mind will wander. You have to focus because focus is one of the most important qualities of success. If you can focus on just 5 cosplays instead of 50, you can make them happen. When you are done with this list, make another.

black cosplay princess tiana
Princess Tiana

My 5 planned cosplays for 2019

  • Princess Tiana (Original Disney version)
  • Princess Tiana (Hanna Alexander Version)
  • Shera
  • Shimmer and Shine (duo cosplay)
  • Jaylah – Star Trek Beyond

You should work on your cosplay every day for at least 30 minutes until it is finished. Completing a costume gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. This feeling releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.  Happiness creates confidence. The more confident you are, the better you will look in your cosplay that you worked so hard on.

Have you ever been around a person that just oozes confidence? It’s super sexy.

black cosplay: black he-man
Hellspawed Cosplay (Heman) @hellspawned_cosplay
Photo by Urban Innovation

Get Dressed

If you have darker skin, you can’t change that – well you can (Lil Kim did), but I don’t advise or recommend it. However, what you can do is get up and get dressed. Put on that costume that you slaved and agonized over. Strap that turtle shell to your back and hook those wings on your shoulders.

You have to get out there in the world. Take some chances. Get dressed. Risk it all. Just keep in mind that you are too blessed to be stressed by someone else’s inability to understand and accept that the world – real and fictional – is made up of many colors. I for one love the diversity. It keeps things interesting. If we all looked the same it would be soooo boring.  I loathe boring.

Tiburon Cosplay (Nidalee -League of Legends): Black cosplay
Tiburon Cosplay (Nidalee -League of Legends) @tiburoncosplay
Photo by Yinyue Photography

If you decide that you like it and it’s a fantastic cosplay, then it’s fantastic. No one can tell you what is right and what is wrong when it comes to the art of cosplay. That’s like telling Da Vinci that Mona Lisa’s smile is crooked and the background in the masterpiece is off centered and flawed. (now you are googling the Mona Lisa to check)

So if we can’t change the skin we are in, then we shall just have to rally together with other PoC cosplayers and change the way the cosplay community and the world looks at us. Black cosplayer unite! We can’t solve a problem that we are not willing to embrace.

Forget about stressing over silliness like “can I cosplay if I am black”. 

Start focusing on how you will make this cosplay happen. Get it done!

We are just creative people, creating. Let’s enjoy the ride!


I want to hear from you

❓What are your thoughts about black cosplay?

❓Can black cosplayers be good at it?


2 Cosplayers enjoyed this post
Article Categories:
Culture

Comments to Black Cosplay: Can Black People Cosplay?

  • Hey Coconut,

    You make a very valid point. Not only CAN cosplayers be Black, we NEED Black cosplayers. Yes, cosplay is a world off of the beaten path but those POC’s who love it should see representations of themselves at all conventions!

    Thanks for Sharing
    xoxo Lani

    Lani January 14, 2019 7:28 pm Reply
    • yes ma’am, I know people who turn their nose up at the fact that PoC (People of Color) would do something like cosplay. But a lot of us are nerds at heart and this is our thing. And I say, as long as it’s not hurting anyone…let people enjoy what they enjoy. #Cosplayer4life

      Coconut January 14, 2019 8:21 pm Reply

Leave a Reply