Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Video Gamer Gauntlet: #CruiseCon, Cruise Controversy, Cruise "Conned"?

Back in June, it was announced that the grand prize for the cosplay contest at the inaugural Blerdcon in Arlington, Virginia would be an all-expenses paid trip for 2 to the 1st cruise for gaming and tech, the Video Gamer Gauntlet hosted by a company called Gamer Tech Events.

While I had entered the contest just to push myself, I was shocked to learn that I had won. Being recognized was all that was on my mind until I was reminded by the people around me that this cruise that was going to the Bahamas was the prize. I had never been to the Bahamas and had never been on a cruise, so this was exciting!

After getting info about registration and such, I looked up the event, looked at my calendar, discussed it briefly with my dad (who I selected to be my +1), and eventually registered through Eventbrite. All I needed to do was get in touch with the Blerdcon Chair about airfare to Port Canaveral, Florida, the place from which the ship was to depart.

It was from Hilton that I found out about the incident, and so I went to investigate, starting with social media. If you look up articles, tweets and videos about this event, you can get more information than what I'm willing to outline here, since I don't like to be repetitive by reporting what other people already have; I'm writing to express my thoughts about matters connected to the incident.

"Why hadn't I heard about this cruise?" 

I don't know the logistics behind getting sponsors and charters and whatnot, but when it came to gaining awareness among the gaming community, the biggest issue I noticed was inefficient use of social media. The Gamer Tech Events Twitter had been around since May of last year. I get that getting reach on social media is hard, but when you scroll through their Twitter feed, there is a glaring issue: Many of these pro gamers and some of the cosplayer guests who were invited were either tagging the incorrect Twitter/Instagram handle, or at some point in time Gamer Tech Events decided to change their handle, thus making all previous mentions invalid.

At the time I am writing this post:
  • The official TWITTER handle for Gamer Tech Events is @gamertechevents.
  • The official INSTAGRAM handle for Gamer Tech Events is @gamertechevents.
  • The official Facebook page title for Gamer Tech Events is Gamer Tech Events, with an @ handle of @VideoGamerGauntlet.

For the past few months, the mentioned handles I’ve been seeing are @vgugamergauntle on Twitter and @vgugamergauntlet on Instagram. If you try to look those up, you get what looks like a fake account and no account at all, respectively. Since I wasn’t there from the beginning, I’m not sure if Gamer Tech Events decided to change their handle along the way, or if these guests/sponsors were typing in what they thought was correct and just picked the first name that showed up in their suggestions. I’m guessing it was the former.

See that Twitter handle on the right? Look up "vgugamergauntle" and see where it leads.

So even though @gamertechevents, the current Twitter, was retweeting all of these people who were mentioning their event, there was little to no engagement there. Judging from their feed, their reach was quite impressive; I was surprised by the people they had managed to get to promote (or at least mention) this cruise on social media. But either the wrong username was tagged, or Gamer Tech Events unwisely changed their name at some point. While low social media outreach isn't necessarily a death sentence, the username problems/changes are not good for a company that is JUST getting started.

"I've heard both sides--who do I believe?"

I won't tell you who to believe. This is at least the second time that I've been connected with something that had accusations against them, either for being a scam or for not being transparent enough. And after the fact, I take a look at things to try to gauge my trust in someone. I always try to see both sides in everything, and not just hearing what a person is saying or showing us in pictures, but looking at how they behave. I'll say that it's easier to trust someone and give them a chance when you have nothing to lose. For me, this cruise was gonna be free; if it didn't happen, I'd just move on. For people who invested hundreds and thousands of dollars? They'd probably be a little more anxious than me.

"So...is it really a scam? And if it isn't, is it still gonna happen at this point?"

Believe what you will, but honestly, I think it's reasonable to believe in either outcome. I think Curtis (the CEO of Gamer Tech Events) had every intention of making this cruise into a reality, and I think he's still trying. The idea of gaming and being on a cruise is an awesome idea, and I think everyone would LOVE for something like this to happen and be a success, regardless of what it's called, when it is and where it's going.

One thing for sure is that poor planning, poor advertisement, poor public relations, low social media outreach, and not a lot of time is more than enough to dismantle an event. Dashcon and Fyre Festival were disasters due to poor management, and because of that, people are very wary of these new cons and festivals popping up. I hope that people can learn from experiences like this. We're living in a "startup age" (one that may end soon) where everyone has an idea. But not all founders make great CEOs.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cosplayer Profile: celsius

While I've never really spoken much to celsius in person, I became familiar with her through MaeMae Twin, the cosplayer I featured in April. I was delighted to find out that she shares a deep love for Japanese anime and games like I do! As a fellow UtaPri fan, I hope I can cosplay with her sometime soon!!

Arietta the Wild from Tales of the Abyss - Dark Alchemy Photography

Name: celsius
Nationality: African and Native American
Gender: Female
Top 3 Favorite Series: Shin Megami Tensei Persona series, Tales of series, Uta no Prince-sama
Special Talent: Voice acting... at least I would like to think I'm good at it.

When and how did you get into cosplay?

I remember watching Sailor Moon at 6AM am during my grammar school days and always wanted to be a senshi (because who doesn't want to be a kickass female who is a defender of love and justice at age six?). As I grew up with anime, I discovered more and more characters I resonated with. And even when I did my first cosplay (Rinoa from FFVIII) at seventeen I didn't realize that cosplay was a thing in line of “dressing up as a character”; I just wanted to be the character. I may have started cosplaying in 2003, but I didn't really consider myself a cosplayer until 2006.

What’s the biggest distinction between yourself in costume and yourself out of costume?

Pulling the Persona card here, but I'm a huge hermit. I social overload pretty easily now to the point where after a con (doesn't matter if it's one or three days), I'll disappear for weeks on end. It used to only be a week. I like being around people, learning new things, and doing panels at conventions, but I can't handle it like I used to. Extrovert turned introvert I guess.

Also in cosplay, I make it a point to not look like me... so people sometimes have a hard time recognizing me outside of cosplay and honestly, I rather keep it that way haha.

Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 (Photo: Soul Drive Photography)

What difference has cosplay made in your life?

It's made a substantial difference. I may look happy and super interactive on the outside, but I use cosplay as escape from the reality of how my life's card has been dealt, and believe me, I have a pretty crappy hand and I've gotten pretty good at bluffing.

In those moments of cosplay, I forget who I am, my problems, situations I'm unable to tackle at the moment to be someone else and enjoy the company of others. Of course, I have to go back to said issues, but that temporary escape is something I need in my life to I think what a lot of people tend to forget is that we're people too. Some of us have great lives and others not so much. So we need that break to just destress from real life (even though cosplay is it's own stress haha)

Negativity aside, I've made some good friends in this hobby and lost some too. But in doing so, I've been able to find out who I am and have grown as a person. Not to mention that my creativity has gone through the roof. I just need to challenge myself more.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into cosplay but is afraid of being ridiculed? What would you say to someone who would ridicule you or other cosplayers? 
Have you ever been bullied by anyone for your cosplay? Have you ever been sexually harassed by someone while in cosplay?

I'd like to combine these, if that's okay. I run Cosplay 101 panels and some times I get parents in said panel and they're worried about their child's safety physically and mentally. And I say, “cosplay is a way of self-expression and a way to challenge oneself. My dad used to ask me why I cosplay and why I decide to spend money on this. And I would tell him, 'Dad, would you rather it be 3am and you have no idea where I am or hear sewing machine noises coming from my room?''

I also tell them that as cosplayers and especially ones that are older, we've been through a lot of negativity and some of have had to deal with “Cosplay is not consent” ourselves. But if you worry about your child and these events, one thing is us cosplayers look out for one another. So if something is going on, tell them to never be afraid to approach another cosplay with their concerns. Hell, if I'm at the con, come find me. A lot of us know how to handle situations with being harassed. We shouldn't be, but we do.

Otoya Ittoki from Uta no Prince-sama: Debut (Photo: Otaku-Haven)

We do this hobby for ourselves. Some may do it for fame and others not so much. But we do this for ourselves and not for anyone else. I've gotten side comments for people who just see it as immature dress up and some other comments of calling me outside of my name because of the color of my skin. I grew up in a time where 4chan was a prominent side of trolling and cosplay hate. But when you do something you love, you can't let what other people think get you down. Don't let people trample on your passion. It doesn't matter if it's for cosplay, theater, arts, or just getting ahead in life (as long as its within the law). Don't let anyone put you down.

I've been trolled, low key sexually harassed, and stalked in cosplay. But I've also been admired, a role model, and inspiration for others in this hobby. I do cosplay because it feels good and right. It may hurt with a couple of pricks of pins, iron burns, and being stabbed with scissors to the hip (and yes I've done all of these things), but I'm still here and surrounded by amazing people.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Be encouraging. Be uplifting. Be true to yourself.

Kagamine Rin from Vocaloid (Pair of Wintry Winds). Photo by Kema Photo

Celsius has gorgeous cosplay photos and also offers services on her Facebook page as a voice actress and a panelist as well! You can find her on the following:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stapre: An App for Getting LINE Stickers

I know there are still a lot of people who still want to get Japan-exclusive LINE stickers and have given up because all of the guides floating around are out-of-date and/or require a VPN and tiptoe-ing around account settings.

If you have an Android phone, there’s an app called タダでスタンプ取り放題&登録不要!スタプレ (スタプレ or Stapre for short) that you can use to collect coins, which you can exchange for stickers and themes in the Japanese LINE Store. The app is found in the Play Store, but if you don’t have a compatible Android device, you can Google Search for an APK file of the app and manually install it.

The app is entirely in Japanese, so if you need help I made a quick guide: 

Some extra notes:
  • You can get coins from other activities like downloading apps and signing up for stuff, but because it’s a Japan-based app, you won’t be able to download and run some apps to get the credit, and signups may require a Japanese address or phone number. So I recommend sticking to games.
  • After your very first play of a game it will ask you to input a name for posting high scores and such. This resets after 24 hours and you’ll have to input a name again, so just watch out for that.
  • Some bonus coins aren’t granted immediately; wait 24 hours and they should show up in the app.
  • If you enter an invalid URL when applying for stickers, it could take as long as a week for them to return your coins, so make sure you get the URL right the first time!
Depending on how much time you have to play the games, it can take a few days to a few weeks to get 100 coins, but it definitely works! I'm still pretty new to using the app so there are still some features I haven't used yet.
Unfortunately I haven’t found an equivalent service for iOS, so iPhone users will have to find a generous Android user who’s willing to play games and get stickers for them. I can confirm that you can have stickers sent to someone other than yourself, provided you have their LINE URL.

Hope this guide helps! Have fun!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cosplayer Profile: Luna Mirage

Lisa, AKA Luna Mirage, is not only a fellow Sailor Moon and Uta no Prince-sama cosplayer, but was also my travel buddy during a recent trip to Tokyo! Her passion and loyalty are such treasures that any friend would want to have on their side--it's no wonder she makes a perfect Sailor Moon and Kurusu Syo, and even her birthday is in the same month as the two characters! Happy Birthday, Luna Mirage!

Sailor Moon (Event: Anime Boston 2014)

Name: Lisa or Luna Mirage is my cosplay name
Nationality: Italian, First Generation American
Age: 31
Gender: Female
Location: NYC
Top 3 Favorite Series: Sailor Moon, Uta Pri and Ouran HS Host Club
Special Talent: Not sure, I like learning all kinds of things, so I do a bit of everything. ^^;;

When and how did you get into cosplay?

Back in 2009 I made new friends at a local con, one day they invited me to go with them to Otakon and asked if I can cosplay Basil from Reborn. I wasn't sure at first, but since it was normal clothing & didn't have to know anything about the anime to take photos I thought "why not?"

After having lots of fun being in cosplay and enjoying the photo shoots I thought, I want to do this again! I had a friend help me make Sailor Jupiter for the next Otakon gathering. It was so much fun!!! Then I decided to make my own cosplays, it could be fun to do. I never sewn or used a sewing machine in my life! I did lots of research and practice to make my first cosplay, Sailor Moon, in 2013. It was very challenging, but I was so proud of myself making this cosplay on my own that I wanted to do more! That I did! I went from cosplaying many characters from Sailor Moon to Syo from UtaPri! There is so much I want to do now, but so little time, lol.

What’s the biggest distinction between yourself in costume and yourself out of costume?
I feel that when I am in costume, surrounded by people who are similar to me, I open up more and can be myself. It feels very free that I can be my true self. I tend to talk a lot more and my shy/quiet self goes away. Otherwise in normal wear in an average life, I feel I have to hide my true self and be the “standard” person in order to avoid people giving weird looks or judging me.

Though I have realized over the years, who cares if people judge you, be who you are! It is because I started to cosplay many years ago, I started to open up more to new people, make new friends and stop, not completely, being quiet and shy. It broke my shell of many years of hiding in it.

In the last 2 years or so, I have started to open up myself to my coworkers with a show and tell of my costumes. They love seeing them and encourage me to do more. I was afraid of judgement this whole time, when there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.

Human Luna from Sailor Moon

Is there a recurring theme for your costume choices? If so, what is that theme?

Yes! At first my goal was to do all the Sailor Senshi & certain side/villains characters from Sailor Moon. As of right now, I am missing 3 Sailor Senshi and a few villains, but I’m slowly changing it to just cosplaying my favorite characters. I love cosplaying the characters I can relate to and understand them. I feel a close bond to them and want to dress as them so I can be them when I wear it. Will I go back to my original goal? Maybe? As of right now I have more fun being a character I can relate to.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into cosplay but is afraid of being ridiculed? And what would you say to someone who would ridicule you or other cosplayers?

I learned things the hard way, but my best advice is to do what you love and who cares if people judge you. Never let them get to you! It’s your life and your happiness. You want to cosplay your favorite character, but afraid of your weight/height/race? Who cares! Just cosplay that character! I personally am short and yet I cosplay Sailor Jupiter--one of the tallest characters--because she is one of my favorites. Yeah, there are people who will judge me for not being accurate, but I don’t let it get to me.

Cosplay is for fun, not a competition. You do it because you love it. If anyone does something negative to you, tell a friend, relative, people running the con, security, etc.. There are people in the community that will help you out. You are not alone. I am rooting for you! You can do it!! ^o^

If someone were to say something negative to someone about their cosplay, I would cheer up the person who got hurt by that comment. That person who started it isn’t worth my time or energy to talk to. The person who matters the most is the one who got hurt by that comment. If that person were to keep on going I would confront them and asked them to leave after they apologize. I have been really lucky I never gotten in that situation before, but I would always defend those who were hurt.

What would you like to tell others about cosplay in your own country?

It’s a lot of fun and the community is really friendly. I love that during a con we can go out and eat in costume and no one minds at all. I have even gotten compliments on my way to a convention in NYC wearing my cosplay. Some even ask for more information about my outfit or the convention.

Syo Kurusu from "Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love Revolutions"

In addition to cosplay, Lisa does other crafts as well as drawing and is very devoted to collecting Sailor Moon items! She also took many photos on her first trip to Tokyo, during which I accompanied her! You can find her work and other activities on the following:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cosplayer Profile: MaeMae Twin

Notes from Sooyong: Despite having cosplayed for a few years, I didn't really have any cosplayer friends and becoming long-term acquaintances with cosplayers was difficult until I met MaeMae during Otakon 2011, due to our common love for Dynasty Warriors. While our cosplays don't overlap very often, meeting her was one of my most memorable experiences when it came to expanding my social circle as a cosplayer.

Mitsuki Konishi from "The World Ends with You" (Photographer: Houkakyou Cosplay & Photography)

Name: Mae Mae Twin
Nationality: Chinese American
Gender: Female
Top 3 Favorite Series: Why three? So hard! Hahaha. If I were to choose--Trinity Blood, Dynasty Warriors, and Kingdom Hearts.
Special Talent: Illustration (digital and traditional pencil) and cooking

When and how did you get into cosplay?

Summer 2008--without realizing it was cosplay? I was playing one of my favorite series- Dynasty Warriors (6 to be exact) and played as Yue Ying, who was a character I loved. One day I decided I wanted to try to replicate her design into a real outfit. I went to the fabric store for the necessary materials, looked online for a wig, and even went to my first con- Otakon! This was all before I had known this was cosplay (I learned about it at the con and did later research). Since then, I’ve been cosplaying ever since!

Guan Yinping from "Dynasty Warriors 8" (Photographer: Plumvs project progress)

Is there a recurring theme for your costume choices? If so, what is that theme?

The theme changes so often, but one theme that I’m known for is choosing designs with the colors green, white, and gold without realizing it. And those aren’t my favorite colors. It’s blue.

Character-wise for the women/girls- I choose from the cute to the mature. It really all depends on the design grabbing my attentions. For men/boys- I only choose shouta characters because I know I can only pull of those types of characters based on my body type.

Leafa from "Sword Art Online" (Photographer: William Joseph Photography)

What difference has cosplay made in your life?

Cosplaying has been a positive influence on my life in a lot of aspects. It has let me become more outgoing and social while being able to learn how to be more observant of my surroundings and people while at conventions and events. I have also been able to meet amazing people that I can call my friends in real life. (Love you guys!) Cosplay also continues to let me learn new skills in design and illustration (a heavy influence), sewing skills, and how to gauge things like budget, mock-ups, etc. I’m going on to nine years and not sure how long I will keep doing this but I love it.

Are you open to your peers and family about being a cosplayer?

Yes and no. I base it on how I know the person and the “relationship” we have. Some of my friends and family are supportive while some think it’s a waste of time and money and/or it’s just plain weird. Those who support it enjoy the processes I go through for the cosplay making and the transformations. I even get to cosplay once in a while with my twin sister!

Dori and Gura from "Utawarerumono" (Photographer: Lazy Cat Cosplay & Photogrpahy)

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There are many things I would like to add but I will list what I think would be major points:
  • Cosplay is for anyone- no matter what age/gender/size/nationality. Do cosplay for yourself and not for others (and for fun!) 
  • This is an expensive and time consuming hobby- plan accordingly and don’t be afraid to go budget. If you can’t afford the expense- save up. 
  • Real life anything takes TOP PRIORITY over this hobby. If you need to put it on hold- do so. Cons will be around and so will cosplay. Your peers will understand. 

MaeMae has so many more amazing cosplay and work-in-progress photos that you should check out!! You can find her on the following:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Guide to Cosplayer Gatherings and Fan Meetups

I recently volunteered to organize a schedule for cosplay gatherings and fan meetings for a new convention coming up this summer, and after I wrote up the form and the spreadsheet, I decided to make a guide for people who are unfamiliar with gatherings and meetups as well as those who want to host one. The terminology used here is my own and may be different depending on the convention; this blog post is based on my own experience participating in and running gatherings, and contains some general information on how such events might work.

What's the difference between a Cosplay Gathering and a Fan Meetup?

A cosplay gathering is a get-together of cosplayers from a particular series or theme. A fan meetup is a general meeting of people who are interested in a series or theme, regardless of whether or not they cosplay. The theme can be as general or as specific as you want. Here are some examples:

  • Dragonball Z Cosplay Gathering
  • Fans of Fighting Games
  • Harley Quinn Cosplayers
  • Lolita Fashion Enthusiasts
  • Pokemon Go Players
  • Cosplayers of Anime Idols

I'm not a cosplayer, can I still attend a Cosplay Gathering to watch and take pictures?

Yes! You can take pictures or watch the cosplayers, but please be sure to not distract them, as their character may be called by the organizer for group photos. If you are looking to take photos of a particular cosplayer, it's best to wait until the organizer has wrapped up and/or the cosplayer is ready to break away for solo shots. If you happen to come across a group of cosplayers during a convention, make sure you find out whether it is a gathering or a private shoot. Cosplayers and their photographers may find it distracting and rude when a passerby stops to snap a picture during a private shoot. At a meetup, always ask first before taking photos. Some meetup attendees may feel self-conscious or may not want their picture taken for privacy reasons.

What is the role of the gathering/meetup organizer?

As organizer of a cosplay gathering, you are responsible for scheduling the event and deciding the location. You should also show up to the location early to welcome spectators; let attendees know in advance what you'll be wearing (or provide a photo) so they know who to look for and talk to. During the event you're in charge of calling out characters for group pictures (ex. "All Harley Quinns for a group photo!") and keeping track of how much time they have before they break for another group to come in. Taking photos typically lasts no longer than a minute or two--when it's time to wrap up, count down, "5! 4! 3! 2! 1!..." and be ready to call the next group.

For fan meetups, the activities are up to you--you can have a fun game planned, take selfies, or just let everyone chat. Don't feel alarmed or upset if people may not want to do what you have planned--the most important thing is that everyone attending is having a good time. But if you really want something to happen, make your plans known in advance so that people know what to expect.

If you are hosting a gathering or meetup for the first time, consider themes where 20 or less people are to be expected, or have someone be a co-organizer with you, as large groups can be overwhelming to manage. You should also be good at being a leader and projecting your voice so that the group knows that you are in charge. And most importantly, be polite! Don't be too controlling or bossy with directions and after the gathering/meetup has wrapped up, be sure to thank everyone for attending!

I've seen "unofficial" and "official" gatherings. What's the difference?

"Official" gatherings are usually those that are published in the convention schedule or sponsored by a company, while "unofficial" gatherings are not. Official gatherings take place in spaces designated by the convention and may or may not be managed by a staff member. If a staff member has been appointed for an official gathering space, all members (including the organizer) should listen to them for any directions. When submitting a gathering idea to a convention, always read their instructions carefully!

"Unofficial" gatherings are those organized privately and take place in locations other than convention-appointed spots. You usually won't see unofficial gatherings published in the convention's program guide, but may find them posted in the Cosplay.com forums or on Facebook. While unofficial gatherings may not get the same attention, it does have its advantages, such as a longer amount of time in a location not claimed by other organizers, potentially smaller groups, and no having to contact staff if you need to relocate, change time, or cancel. It's highly discouraged that unofficial gatherings take place in official spots unless there is an opening in the schedule and permission is granted by staff. All gatherings taking place on convention grounds, official or unofficial, are subject to the same weapon policies, dress code, and other official con regulations.

How do I find people to attend my gathering/meetup?

Creating a Facebook event page and sharing across social media is a great way to get people to attend your gathering! You can track how many people plan to attend and how many people are interested, and it's also a good way to get new information out to everyone at once. Don't worry if the number of people who RSVP is low--sometimes people don't want to fully commit to attending but will still attend when the time comes, or may not want to imply that they are attending as a cosplayer but may want to take pictures.

What do I do if I have extra time left during the gathering/meetup?

Sometimes photography at cosplay gatherings wraps up early when all members have been photographed. If you're an organizer, ask your group if anyone has any other photo requests, such as for popular couples, certain poses, or retakes in case some cosplayers have arrived late and missed their turn the first time. (If you're an attendee, let the organizer know if you have a request.) Organizers can also wrap up activities early and allow people to mingle freely, but make sure everyone clears out before the next group comes in!

This guide will be updated to address other common concerns as I think of them. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

Cosplayer Profile: Gold Lion Armory

The first cosplayer in my Cosplay Profile series is Danny Chen, AKA Gold Lion Armory. When I introduced my project he stepped up right away ready to share, and I'm so glad he did because I got to learn more about him! He's been one of the strongest supporters of my cosplay journey and I'm honored to have the privilege of featuring his story here.

Photo by Cozpho Photography

Name: Danny Chen
Nationality: Chinese American
Age: 32
Gender: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Top 3 favorite Series: Metal Gear Solid, Lupin III, Street Fighter
Special Talent: Art. I like to draw, paint, sculpt and build!

When and how did you get into cosplay?

     I got into cosplay in 2010, after my friend decided he wanted to dress up as Captain America. I was always hesitant on doing it because I thought it was embarassing, until I saw how much positive reaction and attention he was getting, and then I wanted to do the same as well. I soon realized that cosplay was just an extension of talents I already was using for art. I design and sketch out cosplays on paper, hand sewn items from scratch, and use tools and materials to build props from.

What's the biggest distinction between yourself in costume and out of costume?

     I feel that in costume, I am more outgoing in costume than out. Cosplay for me is about having fun and it's easier to be more friendly and sociable when you're in costume and being a geek with everyone else. Growing up in NYC I tend to be more quiet, serious, and less amicable in person getting through the day. I also try and not draw attention to myself, which is the complete opposite when in costume. That's when I would love to be in pictures with other people and not be afraid to interact with other cosplayers.

Is there a recurring theme in your costume choices? If so, what is that theme?

     I feel like I always cosplay support characters who aren't pretty boys in general or very popular ones. Being in a group with younger cosplayers, I would take on the roles of older characters or father figure types: Masaoka from Psycho Pass and Hiruzen Sarutobi from Naruto, for example. I also tend to lean more towards support characters who are not main character status, often times this means the costumes are not as complex or visually appealing.

Have you ever been bullied by anyone for your cosplay?

     I've not been bullied for the most part, but I have been a target for racially insensitive and hateful comments for characters that I have cosplayed. Cosplaying as Western characters while being Asian and getting ignorant people making fun of that, essentially.

Are you open to your peers and family about being a cosplayer?

     I am pretty open about it, as I see it as an art form and hobby that shouldn't be hidden from people who are curious about it. I sometimes don't go out of my way to tell everyone I am a cosplayer, but most of my peers and family know I am involved in it because I spend a lot of time buying costume related items and building props, and they enjoy seeing my craft in person.

What would you like to tell others about cosplay in your own country?

     Basically, do not place stress on matters that are beyond your control; that will limit you from having fun and enjoying the hobby. Because the U.S. is so diverse, this means that cosplays will be too. You get to see the creativity in cosplaying beyond skin tone, ethnicity, gender, body shape, etc . This is a gift that many others in other countries may not get to experience, so we have to embrace this and celebrate it.☆

Danny is an AMAZING prop maker and I highly advise you check out his work! Follow Danny and his cosplay activities via:

Want to tell your story or know a cosplayer who might be interested in telling theirs? See my Cosplayer Profile Questionnaire here!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Being Good at Everything, but Great at Nothing

Photo: Jim O'Connor (@obsidiandreams)

I was hoping to have some good news to share in the coming weeks but sadly that's not the case. Some of you already know this, so before I'm asked again what I've been up to and whatnot, I'll just say it here: There was an interdisciplinary graduate school program in Japan that I had been longing to enroll in, and I wasn't accepted. It's not really a shock to me; I was already prepared for the possibility, but it unlocked a wave of depression and low confidence that I've been feeling for years. During the application process, I had a nagging feeling that maybe I wasn't cut out for graduate school, and at the same time, maybe grad school wasn't for me. The more I thought about paying thousands of dollars to possibly become overeducated and even poorer, the less it appealed to me.

Photo: Luis Zapata

So not being accepted into that particular program wasn't what hurt. Rejection hurt. I've been silently rejecting myself for years, because I am a realist. Most people consider my talents worthy of appreciation and a smile--but not money. That's why I would try to tell myself that I was "doing things for fun and for myself." I'm good enough for myself but unfortunately I can't pay myself a living wage. I tried translating for a community that's been begging for translations, yet not a single person offered me even a donation for what I produced. Someone offered me $5 to translate an entire comic, and when I told her what I would and wouldn't translate for free, she happily asked me to translate only what she wouldn't have to pay for. I could go on and on about this but I'd rather not because it's not going to change anything. Right now I am an (intentionally!) unemployed mess who is tempted to feel like she made tons of big mistakes these past two years. The truth is that, behind all of these cosplay and modeling photos and blog posts about a country I once lived in, is a lot of sadness and pain. I've cried myself into a headache and a panic attack over the weekend and I'm crying again as I write this now. While I haven't been diagnosed with depression, I've felt for a very long time that something in my brain wasn't working correctly. I have a tendency to try to do too much at once. My attention span is very low and I find myself with a plan the night before but doing something else as soon as I wake up. I'm a "Jack of All Trades, Master of None." I can give you a long list of things I know about: I can teach ESL; I'm terrible talking to a camera but I'm great at talking to an audience; I can make my own costumes and props (to my satisfaction); I have basic knowledge of HTML and CSS, a lot of which is self-taught; I can draw; I have years of experience with Photoshop; I know Japanese language and culture; I have experience modeling; I've been complimented frequently on how I do my own makeup even though I've never taken a lesson or watched a tutorial all the way through; I know more about computers and technology than the average user. But I have no true expertise in any of these things, and I have no idea which one of these things is the correct one to pursue. The only thing I'm really good at is being me.

I avoided anything competitive because I was afraid of losing and being seen as "not good enough," even if I felt on the inside that I WAS good enough. I shunned popularity but craved it at the same time--not because I wanted attention or for people to like me, but because I thought that popularity was a sign that I was on the right path as someone who is artistic at heart. Yet I don't feel like I've grown--in fact, I feel like I've become worse. I willingly gave up teaching and living in my dream country of Japan to take a chance for once, because I long felt like I was on the "safe" route in life. I convinced my amazing, loving parents to support me while I take a risky, unpopular path in life and I feel like I've failed them miserably. Everything up until now came naturally, and now that I'm on my own, I feel lost. I feel like someone took the training wheels off my bike and I found out that I CAN'T ride a bicycle after all (if you know anything about my teaching experience in Japan you'd know that I have quite a bit of experience riding one). It feels like I'm on the edge between "getting by" and "failure." I've been watching my friends working hard and having fun and accomplishing so many things, and I feel like I'm being left behind. I don't know exactly what to do--I have been working on figuring that out every day--but one thing I cannot allow myself to do is to give up.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cosplayer Profile Project

Sometime this year, I want to start featuring short cosplayer profiles/interviews on my blog. One of my passions is learning about cosplayers beyond their costumes and photos; their thought processes and their motivation to cosplay as well what they like to do outside of cosplay. I also seek to promote intercultural exchange and understanding through cosplay between Japan, the USA, and other countries. Whatever differences we may have, one thing that remains the same is that we are all fans of something, and cosplay helps us to express that love.

I know that not every cosplayer wants too much information about them to be known, and some people really don't think that their personal identity is relevant in cosplay. But for others, certain details are a very significant part of one's own projected identity and it DOES play a part in the costumes they choose, so the option to disclose the information is there. I'm also not looking for EVERY profile to be incredibly serious and deep; light-hearted and humorous profiles can be just as inspiring!

To see the the outline I've written up, see the Google Document that I've uploaded here. You can also see a sample profile that I've written for myself here.

My current goal is to have one cosplayer featured per month. I'd like to translate profiles written in English to Japanese, and vice versa, and if possible have someone provide other languages. While all cosplayers are welcome, I especially want to highlight cosplayers of darker complexions, plus-sized cosplayers, cosplayers of multiethnic backgrounds, transgender cosplayers, crossplayers, those with disabilities, cosplayers over 35, and any other demographic that isn't often highlighted. And of course any nationality is welcome. This project is very much in its baby steps, so there may some changes made! Keep a lookout for updates!

Monday, February 27, 2017

#28DaysofBlackCosplay 2017: What I've Learned This Month (And since my last post)

I got a handful of responses to my last blog post about the POC Cosplayer Community (more specifically the Black Cosplayer Community, will elaborate below), and I am feeling way more optimistic. Although the month of February is almost over, I don't want myself nor anyone else to forget any of these concerns when next year rolls around:

So here are a few highlights from the past few days:

  1. A couple of people approached me online saying they were glad that I spoke up because they were feeling the same way. Thank you so much!!! This really pleases me because it tells me that this community, while somewhat broad, really IS diverse, but it's not so easy to see that. Someone on my Facebook timeline pointed out that it may be the case that people with certain interests are afraid to come out because they think their interests are too obscure and not loved by many. But when more and more people start to think that, suddenly you have a whole silent group in the dark, not aware that the others exist! So me saying something really helped me to connect with some of you and I'm really glad.
  2. A friend pointed out to me her concerns that other POC minorities have trouble being in the community because, although it is the "POC Cosplayer Community," the population is heavily made up of black cosplayers, and many people interchange "POC" with "Black" (despite being biracial, I am guilty of making that mistake from time-to-time). It's also possible that other ethnicities may not feel the need to join the community because they don't really face the same issues as black cosplayers, so it leaves some members without the backing that they need to stay in the community, or to speak up. This is just another way in which I think that saying "POC cosplayers" may be too broad, or maybe we need to start creating sub-communities and consider POC to be an alliance of those subgroups. Do remember that 28DBC is about Black cosplayers, but also remember that "POC" doesn't only mean black, and we should be lifting them up as well.
  3. My thoughts on some of the events during 28DBC still stand. Chaka Cumberbatch, the founder of 28DBC, expressed this perfectly on Twitter. Media outlets unsurprisingly mess things up when they turn things into a contest by titling their articles "The Best of 28 Days of Black Cosplay" and showing off only the best photos, missing the point of the movement. Some people focus too much on "being featured." Remember that not being on Buzzfeed or HuffPo doesn't mean you've failed as a cosplayer. A handful of popular cosplayers, while they DO deserve recognition, sometimes get overexposed, leading to people not being able to find other cosplayers that they may be more interested in following. Thankfully, I found out that the POC Cosplayers Facebook page has been indexing all of the cosplayers of color that they could find! This is an amazing thing because not all black cosplayers participate in #28DaysofBlackCosplay or even know about it, so it can be hard to find certain pages. They are featured alphabetically; you can find the post where my page is listed here, but I highly encourage you to take some time to check out all of the other lists on their page and find some cosplayers that share your interests, or just follow all of them!
  4. Not totally related to POC or 28DBC but another concern: My growing dislike for wearing sexy costumes stems NOT from how popular other cosplayers are for doing it; more power to them for doing what they do! My dislike comes from my personal experience of objectification from viewers, and the fact that I struggle for recognition of things I do and say, which are more important to me than looking good in a costume. Once in a while I'll still wear these costumes because I like them and I like the character, but the unwanted looks gets to be too much. I can't stress this enough: Cosplay is very visual, but for some of us it's much more than that. That's why I included stories with each of my #28DaysofBlackCosplay photos on Instagram, and I didn't always use my best photos. Whether you liked my more revealing Sailor Starlights costume series, or my more "covered up" G-Dragon costumes, I hope you read the stories that accompanied the pictures. While cosplay for me used to just be about trying to make amazing costumes and photos for other people to see, in my heart I've always just wanted two things: friends with whom I can cosplay; and for people to hear what I have to say.
With all of that out, I hope everyone had a positive 28DBC experience this year! I wish I had been able to participate more, but Katsucon and other things really got in the way. I'll be thinking about some plans for next year! Much thanks to Chaka Cumberbatch AKA Princess Mentality Cosplay (follow her on Twitter and Facebook, I highly recommend!) for starting this movement and sharing some of my photos/stories. This movement means a lot to me as a cosplayer of color and because of my other friends who have worried about being "too dark" or "not attractive enough" to dress up as a certain character. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Is the "POC Cosplayer Community" Too Broad?

I knew that when Katsucon was coming up, I was going to miss a few days of 28 Days of Black Cosplay, and figured that I would just come back to it after the weekend.

But I'm struggling to motivate myself to finish.

Since the beginning of the month (perhaps even earlier) I felt a small apprehension about 28DBC, and after the first two weeks I felt my feelings being justified.

While I relate to some of the issues of being a POC cosplayer, as a fan of Japanese anime and video games, I don't feel as though I fit into the POC cosplayer community as it currently stands. I'm admittedly not very involved so it's not as though I expect anyone to reach out, but my passions and interests are very much centered around what I like, not what I look like. Many of the POC cosplayers I've seen in Facebook groups and tagged on social media for 28DBC don't seem to share the same interests, and I've found that the POC cosplayers I've met who DO like the same genres feel the same way I do about 28DBC and POC groups. We feel a little left out because, while we are Black, there is a disconnect because we aren't heavy followers of Marvel and DC comics and Saturday Morning cartoons. We like anime (and not just Sailor Moon and DBZ), manga, JRPGs (and not just Zelda and Final Fantasy), dating sims and idol games. For me, simply being POC is not enough for me to bond and network consistently with people. When it comes to the Black community, creating a special space when not being welcomed in the mainstream is common, and it's a good thing. But for my particular interests, the current space doesn't work.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time talking and hanging out with cosplayers who are white or Asian, because we happened to like the same things. Me being darker than them was irrelevant; it was all about the fact that we shared a common interest. Every once in a while I get the occasional, "Hey, can you cosplay as [tan-skinned character]?" or "You'd make the perfect [other tan-skinned character]," (and this doesn't just come from white or Asian people, I get this sometimes from other black people), which bothers me only a little bit when I don't necessarily know or like the character, but in the end I embrace the fact that I can use my skin tone to celebrate darker-skinned anime and game characters, and in some cases it makes me aware of these characters that I didn't know existed.

So far, I've seen that 28DBC this year has heavily featured the same small handful of popular cosplayers over and over again. A lot of the people featured, while they look AMAZING, are often top-notch or super attractive cosplayers, which already ties into the issue that some people have with cosplayer hierarchy. During the first days of 28DBC I wanted to look for the lesser-known cosplayers: the ones who had page likes and followers in the double or triple digits rather than thousands; the ones who are just starting out in cosplay and aren't as experienced; the ones who aren't considered attractive by society's standards; the ones like me who are "otaku" rather than nerds; the ones who prefer to cover up instead of showing skin. Websites that have covered the 28DBC trend this month have been showcasing only the best photos, which does cut down the idea that black people aren't good at costuming--they most certainly are--but also inadvertently suggests that being Black is okay as long as your costume (and your body) looks good. For me right now, the POC Cosplayer community feels like high school again; watching cliques of cosfamous people get the spotlight while the "nobodys" struggle to find their place and their voice.

This isn't to say that I have any issue for 28DBC movement itself; I still support it and consider it to be important as a way to inspire and encourage others. But lately I've felt as though this year has lacked any significant progress, and the POC Cosplayer community is starting to solidify itself as a hierarchy.

I'll try to continue, and perhaps next year I'll try to push forward even further. I feel like there is a lot of ground that needs to be covered, beyond Facebook, beyond Instagram, beyond English-speaking countries. I also think that perhaps things such as fandom, interests, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and cultural background needs to be highlighted so that POC Cosplayers can find a niche within the community.

I don't really expect this blog to get much attention but I've been frustrated and hopefully if anyone else has been feeling the same way, maybe we can link up!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

28 Days of Black Cosplay 2017

February is already here?! That means it's time once again for #28DaysofBlackCosplay.

As a reminder, I will copy & paste my DeviantArt post from last year about what this hashtag is about. I've also added to it (See #5):

  1. 28DBC is about recognizing a minority. Take a look at WorldCosplay, guest cosplayers for anime conventions, articles about cosplay within the USA, etc. Most of the cosplayers recognized are Asian or white, or otherwise of fair complexion. These cosplayers look great and have done great work, but it’s unfortunate that there aren’t many cosplayers of darker complexion being recognized. It may be because there aren’t quite as many of us involved outside of Facebook or the Cosplaying While Black Tumblr, or maybe because certain websites only like to look for “accuracy,” i.e. a cosplayer whose skin tone matches the character. Whatever the reason may be, black cosplayers also deserved to be recognized and appreciated.
  2. 28DBC is NOT racist. Every year there's always that handful of people to say, "if there was a 28 Days of White Cosplay, it would be racist." You can read my first point in order to understand why a “28 Days of White Cosplay” isn’t necessary, because we see them 365 days a year—much more often than black cosplayers.
  3. 28DBC is about inspiration and encouragement. Some black youths who may be new to cosplay and/or the geek community may be worried about cosplaying because they don’t “look like” the character they want to cosplay as. Some of them may be looking at all of the amazing costumes worn by cosplayers with lighter skin, and so they severely limit themselves to characters that "look like” them, or choose not to cosplay at all. By seeing other black cosplayers, they would feel more encouraged if they saw people who looked like them rocking their costumes.
  4. 28DBC is NOT a “black cosplayers only” club. I’ve noticed in my lifetime that during Black History Month, it seems like the people celebrating it are mostly black people, while other people kind of sit off to the side. If a child was having a birthday, wouldn’t they usually invite their friends over to celebrate? 28DBC can be celebrated in the same fashion—I invite cosplayers of ALL races to help celebrate black cosplayers, out of love for cosplay as well as love for the diversity within the cosplay community. You don’t have to be black to celebrate black cosplayers!
  5. 28DBC does not represent a monolith. Not only are we celebrating that black cosplayers exist, we are also celebrating the diversity that exists within the black cosplayer population, whether those differences are ethnicity, gender, sexuality, size, body shape, interests, disability, costuming skill level. We are not all sexy, bikini-clad cosplayers, we are not all cardboard sword and armor-wearing cosplayers, we're not all into Marvel comics nor are we all interested in anime. We are not all from the same state nor are we all even from the same country. Some of us do genderbent versions of characters, some of us crossplay, and some of us do both. We celebrate not only that we share in the triumph and struggles of being a darker complexion, but also the differences among us that make each one of us unique.
This is what 28 Days of Black Cosplay means to me, and this is why it's important, especially this year with so much going on. That said, enjoy the month of February and see what black cosplayers have to offer!