Desperately Turning 50

I turn 50 this year.


So does my best, oldest and dearest friend. We’ve been tight since 1981.  We agreed that we should do SOMETHING awesome in honor of our big birthday year. Not something appropriate, really, just something ridiculous and badass.

Let’s go to Vegas!

Let’s see Def Leppard!

Ah, the 80s. Hair and denim. Still love it.

Chess and I saw Def Leppard in…1987? The Hysteria tour, so what better way to celebrate our birthday year than to see them again?

We booked a nice hotel, planned a spa day, and purchased MUCH better tickets than we could have afforded in 1987. Such are the benefits of being middle-aged with a steady income.

Now, Kiogenic (aka cosplay daughter), has recently discovered the joy of 1980s rock. (Another post incoming eventually about her badass Motley Crue cosplay). She wanted to come too- and why not? Clearly, though, we would need appropriate attire.

What’s the point of doing something slightly ridiculous for your birthday if you wear boring clothes? (Ok, many people would, and did, wear appropriate and even classy outfits to the concert. Chess did. But she’s not a COSPLAY MOM.)  I decided that I would make……..the jacket from Desperately Seeking Susan. 

Haven’t seen it? As of Sept 2019, it was on Amazon Prime. Recommended! Super fun, circa 1985. And the jacket is both amazing, and a key plot point!  The costumers made at least two of these, (see photo below) one for Madonna and one for Rosanna Arquette. The one worn by Madonna in the film – and in her video for “Get Into the Groove,” sold at auction in 2016 for $70,000. (!)

Anyway, here I go. I do NOT have the sewing skills to try and tailor a jacket from the ground up, especially with the time constraints (and fighting terrible migraines- a joyful benefit of approaching menopause). It was a really rough summer, but I was DETERMINED to make this jacket.

I decided to the thrift shop and upcycle. (Thrift shops. Where would cosplayers be without thrift shops?- we sometimes say that the Macklemore song “Thrift Shop” is the cosplay anthem). I was also lucky that Kiogenic has moved back home, and was available for consultation and advice regularly! (Since going off to college in art and costuming, she has much better, and wider skills than I).

Step 1: Find a jacket that has the right general profile, and FITS.

In the first store I go to, I strike gold: the PERFECT jacket. I have wide shoulders, so finding a jacket that fits across the shoulders is hard. This fits, and while it’s not exactly the right color, that’s why we have RIT dye!

This will work- and IT COST $2!

Step 2: Tone that green down a bit and hack away

The canonical jacket is not only more olive but had gold flecks. Kiogenic was pretty sure she could get the gold effect with an airbrush, and time, but time was short. I cut off the collar and the flaps for the pockets (this gave me fabric scraps for testing the concentration and timing of the dye). I also needed to cut and hem the bottom for the tuxedo points in front and back.

This left me with a good base for adding all of the fancy extras that make the jacket amazing.

Step 3: The collar and cuffs

The auction site actually has the best and most details reference photos. Kiogenic also watched the film (she hadn’t seen it) to get a good look at the details. The collar and cuffs seem to be a brocade lining that doesn’t line the whole jacket, just as a strip along the tuxedo collar and cuffs. It’s got texture in swirls and arabesques. This fabric was going to be impossible to find exactly

Looking around the internet (I’m not the only one out there desperately seeking to make the jacket), I see that many other folks cheat, or make do with tiger stripes. Here’s an example that someone else made:

Credit to “Q is for Quilter”: she made this for her daughter.

Props to her for the gold in the weave on the fabric (and the fact that she made the jacket from the ground up!), but I wasn’t loving the tiger stripe look. I spent probably entirely too long looking at brocade to buy online. I found some, which had the right gold base and similar patterning, but would need some amendment ($8 on EBay). Kiogenic suggested fabric paint- and NOT a fabric marker. I painted with a brush.

I used newspaper to pattern the right shapes for the cuff and collar pieces, cut them out of the brocade and got to work. The silver needed to be covered in black.

This would get me very close to the original, and closer than a tiger stripe pattern. Once these pieces were done, I fired up Peggy (my trusty 1960’s vintage machine) and sewed the pieces on. That got me to here:

Step 4: The iconic pyramid on the back

Ok, so now the fun begins. time to take on the image on the back- which is the pyramid, eye, and slogan from the back of a dollar bill- only in 1980’s gold lame and embroidery. On inspection, I see that the pyramid and eye are outlined in red. I decided to applique the lame on the red for stability and to get that outline.

YIKES. Lame is a pain in the ass! It frays like a mofo. Ok, now using glue.

Once the lame was glued on, I dug out my embroidery skills, learned, oh, 40 years ago from my mother, and hand-embroidered the details. (Thanks mom!)

I cut the pieces out and then, again, glued them to the jacket.

Gluing these pieces to the jacket wasn’t laziness- Since I wasn’t building it from scratch, if I had sewed these on, I would have had to sew through the lining, and that would have made it hang funny.

Here we are before I add the extra embroidery details:

And now the ribbon. I am TERRIBLE at hand lettering. Thank goodness that Kiogenic is AMAZING at it. She lettered the slogan on the ribbon and I attached that. Now we are T-20 hours before the plane leaves for Las Vegas. I thought I was going to sew sequins around the ribbon, but Kiogenic swears that it’s a brocade trim. Crap. So I try to bust out an embroidery outline.

This is one of the two things I’m NOT happy about with this jacket. Before I wear it again, I’m going to pick it out and go with the sequin idea.

(You don’t get a close-up photo of that. I’m going to fix it.)


TA-DA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ready to rock out at the Def Leppard concert!

I need to redo the outline of the ribbon and add some interfacing at the tip on the back, but really? In and amongst the health issues I’ve had? I’m pretty happy.

For the record, Kiogenic basically cosplayed Blondie / Debbie Harry for the concert:

As always, significantly cooler than I am. : )

We, all three of us, had a GREAT time.  And I WILL wear this jacket again!

Cosplaymom, Word Witch, High Priestess and ANGRY QUEEN

This is the story of how, in the last six months, I received the titles of Word Witch and High Priestess, while myself adding Angry Queen to my self-identified title of “Cosplaymom.”

In the last year, I have had the excellent fortune to embark on two new adventures: first, I agreed to start volunteering with our local ComicCon- Visioncon.  I do a lot of writing for them, and I share many excellent memes on the Facebook page! 

2020 banner

2020 will be our “critical” 30th anniversary

I’m part of the Marketing team, and we are, to be not humble at all, pretty badass, and have non-traditional titles. I am, ahem, the “Word Witch.” I write the things.

I also get to help judge the cosplay competition (an experience that I’ll write more about in a different post) and see the inner workings of an all-volunteer con that gives all of its proceeds to charity. Yes, it’s like the proverbial sausage (you don’t want to know how it’s made, but It’s DELICIOUS).

Visioncon 2019

If you can, you should absolutely come to Visioncon 2020. We are in Springfield, Missouri and the con has gaming, vendors, a wide array of panels and cosplay. Like the FB page too (I linked above)- as the con gets closer, we run all kinds of promotions for discounts on weekend passes.

Anyway, that was work, but also super fun! In the meantime, I also was honored to have a stellar group of students at my university ask me to be the faculty advisor for the newly formed Cosplay Club, the Drury Cosplay Club:

drury cosplay

The University mascot is the Panther, so…

The members, being creative types, did not give the officers in the club “standard” officer names like “President,” etc. Instead they opted for such titles as “Mistress of Money” for treasurer, etc. Therefore, it was decided that instead of “Faculty Advisor,” I would be “High Priestess.”

Works for me! As I said, I find my work with the club to be a perfect and lovely fit with my desire to help young people develop their creativity in a Cosplaymom kind of way. They’re a great group and indeed came to Visioncon as a club.

The club decided to develop a group cosplay idea, and settled on “Warrior Disney Princesses,” choosing to go for the standard princesses, but understood as badass, strong and even dangerous figures. They worked on the costumes through the spring semester:


and by Visioncon, we were ready.  Here you see warrior Ariel, with her trident and warrior Belle. (Please note she is wearing the Beast as a PELT. Which we all thought was AMAZING.)


I was a version of the Evil Queen from Snow White. But not Evil to Princesses. In keeping with the feminist feeling here, I was an ANGRY Queen. I would NEVER hurt a princess, I was ANGRY at anyone who would hurt a princess, and I would go after any one, and any man who did. I was particularly angry at men who assaulted young women. I had a box for body parts, yes, but I didn’t keep hearts in there if you know what I mean……

What was great is that at Visioncon we ran into two other young women who had the same idea of Warrior Princesses! Great minds think alike.


All in all, a wonderfully successful, creative and fulfilling spring.  I am very much looking forward to working with these young people, and the Visioncon crew again this year, and will undoubtedly have more to share.

In the meantime, I revel in my new titles and will aspire to the heights of Word Witch and High Priestess of Cosplay.



By cosplaymom

Cosplay and Assault-Allies and Enablers

I’m getting ready to head into the first day of Visioncon 2019 , the biggest and best regional Comic-Con in my area (and I don’t just say that because I’m on staff!).

From my hotel room, I can see cosplayers walking in, and I am STOKED to go in and see the cosplayers, and all the fans, the amazing JEWEL STAITE is our guest of honor *browncoat fangirl scream*  


and the Cosplay Club of the university where I work is doing a group cosplay of “Disney Warrior Princesses.” (More on that later). Also, today I am rocking my new 40th anniversary Alien Stompers (replica Ripley kicks from my favorite film EVER, Aliens) 

But as I sit here, I’m worried, as ever, about the possibility of assault at the con.

Have you all seen the story of Cosplayer Elora Kay?

Cosplay Assault

I’ve linked to her whole story above, but she his this visual evidence of this person assaulting her. She had multiple witnesses to his assault, her rejection of his advances and his continued manhandling of her, and also had multiple other reports from other women that he did the same to them.




She had to file a police report. AND NOTHING WAS DONE.

So, first, folks. Let’s put some pressure on StarFest in Denver. in particular and the culture, in general, to put a stop to excusing this behavior. What we need are allies. ESPECIALLY MALE ALLIES. And we can start, all of us with two really big steps.

  1. Stop excusing the bad actors. With “well, he was drunk.” or “Boys will be boys” or “It’s just locker room talk.” or  “she was asking for it” or “she shouldn’t have worn that” or whatever bullshit you tell yourself and your bros to make it ok.

2.  and. AND (this is really important) CELEBRATE THE ALLIES.

So I want to do that, right away.  First, a Mexican example.

Y’all know I study cosplay here in the U.S. and in Mexico. In Mexico, a blogger, vlogger, artist and commentator El Jagr, who works with Mena on a couple of YouTube channels and at cons like Mexico city’s La Mole (where I met him) to talk about popular culture, cosplay and comics. He’s great, his content is in Spanish, but if you’re Spanish speaking, I highly recommend him.

He’s also an ALLY. He has a series of videos in which he calls out the kind of toxic machismo that treats women as objects and figures them as dolls to be manipulated and manhandled.  He also, in these videos, offers empowering messages to female cosplayers about their rights to not HAVE to put up with that bullshit, no matter what prevailing cultural norms might tell them. This is good an important messaging and I am here to give a BIG ass APLAUSO TO El Jagr.

(if you’re Spanish-speaking, consider checking out his zombie-hunting superheroine Fatima as well)


Ok, and back to Visioncon and the Allies that I’m so lucky to have close to home. I’m lucky to be married to the best one ever.

But also, though many female cosplayers sent me the link to Elora Kay’s story, the admin to my local Costuming Guild, a cosplayer whose cosplay name is Flash Dixon also posted it in the guild’s Facebook page. And he posted it with this message, verbatim:

Just so everyone knows, if this ever happens to you and I’m nearby, shout out to me. This is utterly unacceptable and I will end it. I’m old, I fight dirty, and I’m not afraid of prison.”

other comments from male members of the group then included, “We got a tarp and shovel should it be needed. Totally unacceptable” and “I’ll help. Just point me in the direction. A few ‘fu-hok’ peeps may want to assist”.
God bless these men. I love them. No excuses. Don’t do this. Don’t excuse other men. We don’t need you to beat them up, necessarily, but the key word here is UNACCEPTABLE.
Folks, everyone, everywhere, cosplay isn’t consent, and sexual assault is always unacceptable. As con season begins, no one should accept it.
Ostracize the ones who do it and the ones who excuse it. Celebrate the allies who shut it down.
thank you.

What I Learned at La Mole: Captain America and U.S.-Mexico Relations

I was lucky enough to go to La Mole Comic Con in Mexico City again last week.  It’s Mexico’s biggest fandom event and to me, at least, it looked bigger than ever. It was packed. 


There were times when we could all barely move for the crowd of fans thronging the Centro de Convenciones Citibanamex.  Which was GREAT!

The center was also filled with cosplayers, rocking amazing looks, from superheroes to zombies. (Even the chihuahuas were in cosplay):


One thing that surprised me, however, was exactly how many Captain Americas I saw. There were nearly as many Captain Americas as there were Spidermen/Spider Gwen.

(I sat next to this perfect couple for the cosplay competition)


Spiderman and the recent movie Into the Spider-Verse have done a great job of promoting how “anyone can be behind the mask.” \

Spiderman (and the spider-verse) are a fan and superhero identity that encourage wide participation.

But Captain America? He’s so…….AMERICAN (and here I mean specifically U.S. of American).  As the official Marvel site says: “World War II hero Steve Rogers fights for American ideals as one of the world’s mightiest heroes.” Cap’s whole uniform and supersuit is an American Flag motif and his original incarnation even wore a capital “A” on his head.

I’ll be honest, given the treatment of Mexico, Mexicans and Latin Americans in general by the current presidential administration of the U.S.

-(not sure what I’m talking about?, check this out)-

I would have thought that Mexican fans would be frankly a lot more mad at the United States, and mad enough to not want to wear our colors.

Recent polling by Mexican firms indicates that for the first time ever, a majority of Mexicans hold negative views of the United States:

“two in three Mexicans (65%) express an unfavorable view of the United States, while just three in ten (30%) have a favorable view. This represents a stunning reversal of opinon from 2015, when the two in three (66%) had a favorable view of the United States and three in ten (29%) had unfavorable views. 

And I don’t blame them. My day job as a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies has given me a front-row seat to the deterioration of U.S-Mexico relations. I cringe daily at the bile, hate and outright lies that come from our Republican elected officials about Mexico, I cry for the children separated at the border from their parents, and I rage against the stupidity and idiocy of the idea of a wall. Frankly, the last two years have been a struggle for me against depression and fatalism.

I’m ashamed of the U.S. policy toward Mexico and Mexicans. So I wanted to understand why Captain America was still so popular. So I asked, and these two cosplayers were nice enough to talk about it with me:

IMG_0939 (1)

So I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t get the Cap on the left’s name (hit me up if you see this!) but the WWII vintage Cap on the right is Captain Pete Solo. The former, a citizen of Mexico and the latter, a Chicano cosplayer from San Antonio, Texas.

What these two guys had to say made a lot of sense to me, and gave me hope in general. I asked them why, when they agree that our current president Trump is a nightmare (Pete used a much stronger word), why they would choose Captain America.

Their answer? Because Trump and the GOP don’t represent the America they admire. Steve Rogers does.

Both cosplayers, U.S. and Mexican, said that they had loved Rogers and Captain America since they were children. They admire Steve Rogers as the “Classic Good Guy/Boy Scout”- an example of American values of justice, fairness, and honor.

For these Captain America cosplayers, the superhero is an example of traditional U.S. values, those that we could all feel good about. This, of course, is how Marvel also describes Captain America.

Cap represents an America that hadn’t yet gone to the dark side (as Dick Cheney famously announced that we had to do after 9/11). Captain America is symbolic of the U.S. as the good guy: a nation that doesn’t torture- an America that protects innocents instead of locking them in cages.

(Cap’s main weapon is a shield- inherently protective and sheltering, as I would like strong men to be. His is not a toxically masculine figure, but a good man, a paragon of positive masculinity. He is a knight- ready to defend others. For a perceptive discussion on this, I recommend this piece).

Steve Rogers, like the Statue of Liberty, is a symbol of truth and justice, and as such, represents the America that we were, and can be again.

The fact that Mexican and Mexican-American cosplayers can still see that America is a blessing.

That they are willing to still embrace us through those core values that have been so trampled of late is generous, and I hope, perceptive.

The Captain America cosplayers of La Mole gave me hope: hope that we can return to the values that I grew up with as a child. Hope that we can move away from the anger and hatred of so much of the current environment.

Because the America of truth and justice is still here. Good men and women exist and are fighting to protect the weak and take care of others. As Captain Pete told me, Chris Evans, who plays the current film incarnation of Captain America, is a good example. His public discourse and positions oppose anti-immigrant and racist policies. He is, as a public figure, fighting just like his on-screen character.

Evans tweet

One example. I recommend him on Twitter, where is profile photo, incidentally, is of him visiting troops deployed abroad.

We need to emulate both of them- superhero and actor. Captain Pete told me that one of the things he likes about Cap is his “Never Say Die-Never Give Up” attitude. I think we need to remember that and act in the same way.

We may not have vibranium shields like Cap, but we can prevail.


I’m getting ready to start my next cosplay (to go with the group cosplay of the University club I sponsor). So I really should maybe come clean about my last cosplay: Zombiemom.

Zombie mom

With Kiogenic at commercial shoot for Visioncon

I did this twice- but each time Kiogenic came home from college to do my makeup. The above is for a commercial shoot for the con that I volunteer for: Visioncon.  (Preregistration going on now!) Below, my premiere as a zombie in my town’s annual Thriller dance:

zombie mom 2

“Zombie Housewife”

In both cases I thought WAY too much about my costume (which I did make). So in honor of that, I present an overthinker’s guide to Zombie Cosplay!


Want to be a zombie? You’d better get started on a costume.  It’s surprisingly complicated to do well.

It’s true that some people phone it in by taking a few old things and ripping them up.  But you’ll want yours to be better than that! To produce the best possible and most detailed outfit for this event, we recommend that you look at reference photos, watch the Thriller film, and then consider the following:

  1. What’s your backstory?

This is important.  You have to have somewhere to start, and you’re going to sell it better if you have a clear idea of who you were, pre-zombie, and who you are now, as a member of the walking dead. Are you a mechanic? A waitress? Which direction were you attacked from?  Where were you injured? Are you a fresh zombie, or have you been zombified for some time now?  Do you still have any residual memories of being human?  Do you still carry with you any sadness or angst from your zombification?[1]

Choose rips, tears, props and haunted facial expressions appropriately.

-Tear your clothes thinking of the direction from which you were attacked.

-Remember that zombies also catch their clothes on nails, corners and other obstructions.

-Plan to use make-up in a logical way to match the damage to your clothes e.g.: if you were attacked from the left, your injuries should be on the left.

-Props can add a great deal to your story: if you were a mother, consider a maimed baby doll, a mechanic could carry weaponized wrench.

  1. What color blood?

You’re going to have to think about blood more than you might have in the past.

-Now, if you are a super-fresh zombie, the blood will be a brighter red as the oxidation process begins with the iron in your hemoglobin being exposed to the oxygen in the air. Pro-tip: fresh blood is also sometimes pinkish in color!  We recommend craft acrylic paint in “deep red” for fresh blood. Diluting with water will give you a pinker tone. Adding corn syrup will also keep the blood sticky and give you a nice, “fresh” effect.[2]

-If, in your story, you are a very recent convert to the zombie life, go brighter red.  If, however, you have been walking dead for some time, you will want the blood on your costume to be darker in color.  The oxidation process turns dried blood a rusty-brown that can be achieved with three parts deep red acrylic paint to one part burnt umber and one part black.  Pro tip: acrylics will dry completely and be less messy-just like real blood!

-Finally, consult with the rest of the dance corps. In the original Thriller film, the zombies actually “bled” black- perhaps the effect of having been underground, the aging of embalming fluids or an alien infection that reanimated the corpses. Will you all go for red human blood or black?  It’s important to maintain consistency![3]

  1.  How much dirt?

This is a related question of freshness.

-If, for example, you are a relatively recent zombie, you probably don’t need to add much dirt.  Dinginess that suggests bodily fluids, however, is a good way to add texture and depth to the effect. Brew some very strong black tea and put it in a spray bottle. Spray around your rips and injured areas, as well as in likely places where you might be seeping.[4]

-If you are going for an old corpse: either one who has been a zombie for some time or as in the Thriller video, is coming from the grave, it can be best to bury your costume in your backyard for a week. You’ll want to either water it while it’s underground or let the rain (if you’re lucky) seep in.  Dig it up and don’t’ wash it. You’ll look like you climbed out of a cemetery.  This tip is also perfect for people who don’t actually want to make friends or hook up while in costume.[5]

  1. Can you dance and/or move? 

In your frenzy to create the perfect look, don’t forget that you need to wear this costume.  Try it on. Squat. Wave your arms.

-If you will be rocking your best Thriller Dance, do a rehearsal of the dance in your backyard (your neighbors will love this). While zombies are not notoriously agile, remember that Michael Jackson is looking down on you and would love to see you get your zombie boogie on!

-If you are just going to pub crawl, worry less about binding or lack of motion. In fact, if you can’t move your left arm, this will add to the effect!

  1.  Make-up for blood, decomposition, and injuries

This can be tough if you aren’t a pro.  If you don’t want to spend the cash to have a local make-up artist give you extensive facial prosthetics, consider going “fresh zombie.”  You’ll need less makeup (no decomposition). As a bonus, you’ll still look hot if you are hoping to meet that special zombie someone, or just get lucky after the event.

zombie mom 3

With my dear, undead, friend Val.

Good luck and have fun being undead!!!!

[1] How does it FEEL to be undead?

[2] Fresh, sticky blood will also get all over EVERYTHING. Your house. Your car. Anyone you touch. Be ready to explain to officers who might pull you over.

[3] Don’t listen to haters who say you are overthinking.  You’re there to SELL the performance!

[4] Bodies seep even when alive. Dead bodies seep more.

[5] You’re going to smell like a dead body. Great for accuracy of effect. Not great for attracting a date.


Faces of Cosplay: Tranquil Ashes

Remember to Listen: Cosplay, Racebending, Racefacing and Privilege

As a professor and as a blogger, I’ve written a lot about gender-bending, gender-blending, and crossplay.  I am, in the day job, a scholar of Gender Studies and the mother of a queer cosplayer, I have felt that I can offer a genuine and even valuable perspective on these phenomena.

I say this, but I have to also note two really important things:

  1. It’s absolutely imperative for me to remember that I am sometimes, often or occasionally WRONG. My personal experience or even experience in my family is not representative of a whole group.
  2. Because I DON’T know everything, because I don’t live the lives of all the cosplayers, it’s that much more important for me to listen to them and really hear what they are saying about their practice and their experience.

I’ve been thinking about this in the last few days. There is a renewed interest and debate that I’m seeing in various places on the internet on the practice of racebending. Let me say at the outset, please, that I am not an expert on this in any way, and as a white woman, I am aware that I do not understand the position or experience of people of color. But I’d like to learn more. So I’m thinking out loud here not so much about POC cosplaying white characters as I am in the other direction: white cosplayers cosplaying characters of color.

This debate has really taken off in regards to a Ukranian cosplayer: Pugoffka who came under fire for racefacing and doubled down on her privilege and assertion that it was right in an essay she posted on her Facebook page:

I want to wade in on that debate. I welcome your comments on this. Teach me things. Share your experience if you like.  I will listen. Here we go.

So What is Racebending?

Just as genderbending is the practice of presenting a character as a different gender from the canonical version (e.g.: Femme Joker or Male Harley Quinn), racebending is the practice of performing a character with the appearance of that of a different racial or ethnic group.  So in this case, perhaps an African American cosplayer performs Wonder Woman, or here is an example of a favorite cosplayer of mine, the U.S. based Tranquil Ashes cosplaying, racebending (and genderbending) the Japanese character Akuma.

I can see how the ability and freedom to cosplay characters of a different race are of great importance to cosplayers of color because their options are so much more limited than white cosplayers.  Many of us who study cosplay and the fandoms talk about “affective resonance.” Affective resonance is that concept of how we as individuals see ourselves (either as we are or who we want to be) in a fictional character. We want to be strong and badass, or sexy and desirable, or smart and effective. We feel a resonance with the character as presented, an emotional or affective resonance.

That’s what leads many of us to cosplay.  My first cosplay was of a smuggler-pirate- it is a chance for me to be the bad girl that my every day, eager-to-please self shies away from. I also think Storm from the X-Men is fascinating and an aspirational ideal of a powerful female superhero who overcomes trauma.

So I, personally, think it makes perfect sense for cosplayers of color to racebend characters like in the examples above, to maintain their identity and show how it works with that of the character they are playing. But I don’t think I would ever racebend Storm, because I don’t understand what that would mean to cosplayers of color, and I’d rather err on the side of respect for experiences I don’t have the background to understand.

So What About White Cosplayers Who Want to Cosplay Characters of Color?

This is a question that I’ve been thinking about basically since the Black Panther movie came out. What would it mean if a white kid wanted to cosplay the King of Wakanda?  I really didn’t know and didn’t presume to know.  The phenomenon that is the success of that film is something I can’t understand the importance of fully- because I am not part of the group to whom it means the most.

So I’ve been sitting back and listening.

What I’ve read and heard is:

  1. While racebending characters of color is ok for some, (AS LONG AS YOU DON’T CHANGE YOUR SKIN TONE), it bothers other people of color.
  2. It’s just really NEVER ok to change your skin tone with makeup (Doing blackface or Asian face, etc.) This is called “Racefacing” and is highly offensive.

Let me expand.

Point #1: It May Be Ok, But Some Will Still Be Offended

In a piece in the LA Times,  they interviewed Mike Le, from, who discusses the position of superheroes as figures that supersede individuality and stand as avatars of our ideals. Because of this, he says it’s not the canon (and the canonical race) of the character that’s important.   He does not see the need to “stick to canon” in race (so, you don’t NEED to cosplay Superman as white because he’s canonically white) any more than the President of the United States can’t be Asian because no President (yet) has ever been of Asian descent.

This makes sense to me. It embraces the idea of affective resonance (which is such a powerful way for people to explore identity and worth, and representation.). So this opinion is that it would be ok for a                 white girl to cosplay Shuri from Black Panther…..if she was very, very careful. No tribal markings. And not, under any circumstances, blackface.

Full disclosure, long before I knew enough about Avatar the Last Airbender or cosplay to think this through, Kiogenic cosplayed Katara.

Cosplay daughter as Katara in like….2012?

I think we would both make a different decision now.


Ok, whether any of us want to recognize it or not WHITE PRIVILEGE IS A REAL THING.  If you don’t believe that after all the shootings, the rise of Nazism in the U.S. and the way white folks use 911 as customer service, I don’t have the space to debate it with you right here. Please go read:  this,  or this,  or this, or this. 

We are privileged, and we need to acknowledge that. This means that our INTENT doesn’t matter. The EFFECT does.  Cosplayer of color Sophia Bravo puts it this way: 

“The problem with white cosplayers taking on characters of color is that even though the characters we all love live in a world separate from ours, we don’t. We as fans of all races still have to live with long histories of racial tension and trauma as well as other forms of injustice in this society. When white cosplayers dress as characters of color, they are reinforcing (Unintentionally! Yes, you don’t have to step on someone’s foot on purpose for it to hurt) a long history of Hollywood’s exclusion of people of color. The trouble of it all is that race and skin color simply are not costumes and paint fans of color can take off anytime they want.

When white cosplayers dress as characters of color, the clock strikes midnight and they can take off their costume and go back to the lily-whiteness that protects their lives. They can decide who else they’d love to cosplay, because Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Wonder Woman, all of the Doctors and their companions, and so many other fandom icons look like them already.”

So you can do this, but be aware that you might be offending some people, whose experiences you should defer to.


And here I’m not talking about anyone wanting to cosplay Gamora.

Painting yourself green is DIFFERENT.  There isn’t a long global history or contemporary problem with the repression and enslavement of GREEN people. You’re not going to be appropriating anyone’s experience, or misunderstanding anyone’s background if you paint yourself green, or blue, etc.

That’s not true of racefacing: using makeup to look like a different race.  There is a whole history of this practice that white folks have the privilege of ignoring, but people of color have to live with.  As Cosplayer WifufuxBelle notes, racefacing “has been used to further the marginalization of black people, to limit roles from PoC in Hollywood, and lately to profit off blackness.” And this isn’t just about people of African descent. Yellowfacing is just as much a problem and has been for a long time.

“In a world where black people are killed due to a fear of our skintone” WifufuxBelle says “it is salt in injury to wear it for a [photo]shoot.”

We’re talking about centuries of murder, rape, subjugation, and oppression. Why would you want to add salt in those wounds? And really, frankly, how little empathy do you demonstrate by refusing to even hear these objections and listen to them?

Back to My Original Thought: For the Love of Pete, LISTEN

So back to the Ukranian cosplayer.  Here is part of her statement (which I’m copying verbatim with no points off for English not being her first language):

“Whenever a cosplayer uses different greasepaints, wigs, contact lenses etc to match the character’s appearance he or she does it because of great appreciation and love for the character but not for deriding this character or someone else. For those who accuses me in racism. Rasism – is the belief in the superiority of one race over another. In what way a portrait of a girl with cosplay makeup fits in this belief? Cosplay is all about love of the character. Also I’ve mentioned in post that I will ban any negative comments.Till now I haven’t ban anyone and I’ve heard all of your oppositions. My page for me place with positive things, rainbow and unicorns XD I don’t like when people use my page for their discussions and bear negative.”


Pugoffka is here arguing for affective resonance:  “love of the character.” I get that. But she is also resolutely refusing to read, listen to or acknowledge the flood of comments answering the question that she pretends to pose: “in what way a portrait of a girl with cosplay makeup fits in this belief?” – here referring to racial superiority.

Lots of people (including myself) made an effort to explain on her page to help her understand about privilege and more importantly STRUCTURAL racism.  But as she herself notes, she “doesn’t like negative comments” and only listens to rainbows and unicorns. Sigh.

I get that white privilege (like all privilege) can be hard to see and harder to accept for oneself.  I’d like everyone to give it a try, though. Please.

Racebending, Racefacing, Cultural Appropriation

The debate on racebending and racefacing is similar to the one on cultural appropriation (which white folks are only forced to think about at Halloween, and PoC all the time).  And the same rules, I think, apply.

No, black people are not committing cultural appropriation when they dress like white people. Cultural appropriation has two key components:

  1. An unequal power dynamic
  2. Lack of permission

The group with more power appropriates. Period.  The group with less power is forced to conform out of necessity, generally.  The group with more power generally WANTS everyone to look like them (i.e. permission) and actually has the power to prevent other groups from stealing their cultural products. The group with less power has no ability to hold things to themselves or keep more powerful people from appropriating their culture.

Be Excellent to Each Other and Listen

And because one of the things I love most about cosplay is the way that it has the very real possibility of being supportive and empowering for ALL people, I would like everyone to think about having empathy and sympathy for our fellow cosplayers:

Cosplayer of color DelaDoll:

Look at it this way: If I attempt to toss you a ball and it ends up hitting you in the face, it will still hurt you, and I still hit you in the face, even though I didn’t mean to. Rather than me growing indignant and laughing off any reaction you may have, the right thing for me to do would be to apologize and be more careful next time. The same rule applies when it comes to the issue of blackface in cosplay, as it does with anything else in life.”

Faces of Cosplay: Labinak and Mangoloo Cosplay

In July of last year, I was in RTX with Kiogenic. It was her senior trip.  I had registered for the convention, but never actually went in- the line to pick up badges was CRAZY, and I had too much fun talking to cosplayers in line.

(It was a lesson: cosplayers are super happy to be interviewed when they are stuck in line! I used this lesson in Mexico as well: equally true!)

As I worked my way down the miles-long, winding, cast of thousands waiting to register, I was struck by the amazing cosplay of these two:


Labinak and Mangoloo Borderlands RWBY cosplay at RTX 2017

This cosplay was exquisitely made, ultra-detailed and eye-catchingly different. A beautiful example of creative cosplay, in this case, of melding two franchises.  The young woman on the right, Mangoloo was the artist in this case, and was kind enough to talk to me about her enthusiasm and process.

I’m grateful, as her willingness to share was also extremely useful in the academic cosplay work that I’ve completed since as well! Therefore, I hope she’ll forgive me for this profile taking so long to post.

Name:  Mangoloo

Age:  24 years old

Do you have a “day” job?: I definitely do!

How long have you been cosplaying?: I’ve been cosplaying for about 5 years now.

What’s your home base? :I’m based in Vienna, VA.

How do you choose your characters? What appeals to you about them? Do you identify with or aspire to be like them?:

There are many different factors that I consider when choosing a character to cosplay. A big factor is if I can relate to the character. For instance, Ruby from RWBY – I can easily relate to her sweet derpy personality.

RWBY collage


I also look into the design – I particularly like challenges so I tend to choose more difficult cosplays, for instance, Final Fantasy’s Serah Farron. Overall my love for the character is what motivates me to make the cosplay for it. I think more often I identify with my character because I spend so much time doing character studies and trying to get into the head of the character so I can accurately roleplay as them by the time the cosplay is done.

Do you have a signature or favorite cosplay?:

I think most people know me from my RWBY Ruby Rose cosplay. Although if I personally had to choose a favorite – I can’t say that I necessarily have one because I love all my cosplays differently. Each cosplay came with different challenges that I had to figure out how to overcome and new techniques that I had to learn. I am proud of the outcome of all my cosplays; therefore, each cosplay has a special place in my heart.

Mangoloo Aliens

Do you make, or buy your cosplays?:

Primarily I make my cosplays because I enjoy the challenge. Although I have bought/modified a few more causal ones.

What’s the best things someone has said to you about your cosplay? What’s the worst?:

The best thing someone could say about my cosplay is complimenting my detail work. I take huge pride in the small details. As for the worst – I would say if someone makes a comment that isn’t constructive. I am all for constructive criticism.


Can you elaborate on the “character studies” you do? What does that consist of?
Character studies consist of anything from memorizing quotes, learning the backstory, learning speech patterns, etc – essentially anything to help me get to know the character better so that I can better get into the head of the character when I go and roleplay as them.
Check out Mangoloo’s amazing work on her Facebook PageTumblr, and consider booking them by emailing:
Labinak and Mangoloo

Sexy Cosplay, Nerdlesque and Men’s “Right to Sex”: Time to Move Past the Karate Kid

Crazy days, friends.  The President is an admitted sexual predator.  There are open debates about whether women should be “redistributed” to provide more sex to more women. But at the same time, there are now feminine Star Wars heroes to choose from, and women are finally getting some much needed, much-deserved justice on matters of abuse and assault.

Incel, The Misogynist Ideology that Inspired the Deadly Toronto Attack.” (Vox)

Blizzard Wants its Diverse Fans to Feel ‘Equally Represented’ by Overwatch’s Heroes“- (Polygon)

Nerdlesque and Body Positive Cosplay.” – (The Geek Anthropologist)

The Redistribution of Sex” – (The New York Times)

…..and finally, “Anyone want to cosplay Overwatch Playboy Bunnies with me?” – (one of the cosplay groups I belong to)

I don’t think it’s too much to say that this is a singular moment in U.S. cultural history.

The headlines above describe the edges of a phenomenon in which women increasingly reject Judith Butler’s “law” of society, and stretch out to make choices that push against multiple canons, societal expectations and collective fantasies.

These events and thoughts, these increasingly violent and entrenched positions have recently led me to believe that there is something really important going on in geekdom, something that could show us the way to how we can get through this moment of gender trouble as a nation.

My Two Cents on What’s Going On

I’ll explain. Let me start from an early essay from Cracked, one of the most perceptive pieces that I had read in quite a while. In 2012, I read this article from David Wong: “Five Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.”

In the essay, as it states, Wong lays out how men are 1. Taught that they are owed a hot girl, 2. Are trained to see women as decorative, 3. They think that women conspire with their penises to ruin them, 4. They feel like their manhood (of the 300 kind was stolen, and 5. They feel powerless because of all of the above.

I don’t agree with everything in this piece, but much of it rings very true. It’s the author’s attempt to explain why, even though men hold most, if not all of the economic and political power, “no amount of male domination will ever be enough, why no level of control or privilege or female submission will ever satisfy us. We can put you under a burqa, we can force you out of the workplace — it won’t matter. You’re still all we think about, and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it.” This, Wong writes, explains the rage.

It’s a convincing take on the problem described in the headlines above.

Incels apparently believe they are owed a “hot” woman, believe that women have all the power in society and are filled with violent rage at their lack of power.

And when they are thwarted, and cannot treat women as toys, objects or decorations, they snap and start killing them.

This has got to stop.

We have to stop teaching men that there’s only one way to be a man and it involves big muscles, violence, and treating women like trophies.

so, as I often do, I think cosplay, gaming culture and the fandoms have something to teach us about sexuality, gender, identity and the possibilities of what the world COULD look like, if we could break free of a Karate Kid/Donald Trump kind of world view.

Back to Overwatch: What Can Cosplay Teach Us?

Kiogenic, my daughter, plays Overwatch. Her favorite character is Tracer- a strong, short-haired, fierce lesbian who is as sassy as she is brave.  This is the beauty of Overwatch, as noted above, the game was designed by the people who brought us World of Warcraft, men who realized that women appreciated characters who didn’t just walk around in bikinis. Here is one of the creators reflecting on the decsion to create non-sexualized characters for Overwatch:

“”We’ve heard [from] our female employees and … even my daughter tools me out about it,” he said. “We were looking at old Warcraft stuff on YouTube, a cinematic … and my daughter is like, ‘Why are they all in swimsuits?’ And I’m like ‘Ugh, I don’t know, honey.’

So there are LOTS of choices of representation in Overwatch, the cast list is extensive:

There are lots of different choices for women who want to cosplay or play as non-sexualized and strong women.

Which, frankly, is why I was so confused when I saw the call for Playboy Bunny/Overwatch cosplayers on my Facebook thread.  Didn’t, (I thought), the decision to overtly sexualize the Overwatch players completely undercut the idea behind creating them as non-sexual?

What I’ve decided is…. actually, NO.

While we definitely have a lot of work to do in the representation of women (and men) in society to allow for different types of expression, the “Playboy Bunny” Overwatch characters were examples of women’s agency: their ability, through cosplay, to explore whatever sides of their identity they would like to.

Women, and men, in cosplay, can cosplay, crossplay, gender-bend or make up new and sexually adventurous versions of characters to express and explore their own sexualities freely, and in a healthy way that doesn’t resort to hurting others.

I think it’s GREAT that women don’t have to be confined by either the cage of puritanical “purity” OR the “sexualized decorative trophy.”  Again, I don’t know that women have that freedom everywhere, but I increasingly see it in cosplay.

What’s more, I see an open space for men to cosplay, crossplay or do nerdlesque- breaking out of that toxically limited box of Arnold Schartzenegger testosterone and Trumpian disdain for women.

As Geek Anthropologist Emma Louis Backe writes, “nerdlesque pushes back against pernicious sex myths within the geek community.” Nerdlesque, in which both men and women have the opportunity to perform sexy, burlesque-style performances of their cosplays (Femme Kylo Ren as striptease, for example).  Nerdlesque, as the New York Times, took note of above, is about breaking out of the vicious and damaging hetero-normative narrative about men and women that has framed geek culture for too long. This is the “adorkable misogyny” of Big Bang Theory.  The caricature of geeks as poorly socialized straight men eternally mystified by women hazards becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: a modest but vociferous circle of geek men seems to warily view the entrance of smart, beautiful, and strong women into the geek fold.”

This paradigm would insist that strong women are a danger to men’s power and position, and that non-ideal body types are not decorative enough to be accepted. This stereotype of course, is just nearly as damaging for men as it is for women. It also, of course, excludes queer and asexual cosplayers by framing everything within the nasty, sick anger-generating paradigm that teaches men to hate women.

Where Can We Go From Here?

If Wong is right, and our culture teaches men to hate women, we need to create better, healthier cultural models. Some of this is ongoing- in cosplay especially.

it’s no secret I’m a fan of cosplay as a way to build self-esteem, promote respect for others, celebrate creativity and help people grow. What I would like to see entertainment, economic and political leaders learn from the beautiful and brave artistic work of cosplayers.

Sex isn’t inherently bad.

Women can enjoy sex.

Men don’t have to be Spartan warriors.

Women don’t have to be barbie dolls.

Men do not HAVE to be ruled by their sexual drives

Women can be strong and smart

Everyone deserves to be safe and happy, everyone deserves to be respected.

All bodies are beautiful bodies.


Faces of Cosplay: William Herschel Moore

Greetings! Welcome back to “Faces of Cosplay!”

There was a little hiatus as Kiogenic and I wrote a book….(see the ad to the right!) but I haven’t forgotten about all the great cosplayers I’ve met and talked to. And I am still very committed to helping them showcase their work!

The further I get into cosplay, the more impressed I am with the ingenuity, creativity, and skill of all the cosplayers I know. So without further ado, here is William, who I met in Arkansas at the Arkansas Anime Festival, also known as A2F.

A2F is one of our favorite cons, it’s small, but not too small, friendly, well run and well-attended. The cosplayers we meet there (like Paul, who I’ve profiled before).

The last time we went to A2F (sadly, before Kiogenic ran off to college), I went to check on her in the line for cosplay contest pre-judging.  She had struggled to get into the newly made Yang gauntlets (a very tight fit), and now couldn’t take them off until after the cosplay competition.

These Yang gauntlets!

William, I remember, was walking up and down the super-long line of cosplayers, asking if anyone needed water- and then bringing it to them. So this is my best memory of William, in cosplay, a friendly, decent guy, a superhero for all the thirsty, tired cosplayers!

(side note: conventions that set prejudging appointments, instead of those long lines are better.)

Road Hog from Overwatch

Name:  William Herschel Moore

Day Job:  Game Master at Bolt NWA! An escape room in Bentonville Arkansas

Age: 22

Home Base: Lowell, Arkansas

Why do you cosplay?

It’s fun to be able to become some of my favorite characters and be recognized as those characters!

How long have you been cosplaying? 

I’ve been cosplaying since about 2010, which is crazy to think about now…. it doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing it for 7 years.

How do you choose what characters to cosplay?

Well, honestly I try to find larger characters. I try to fit them to my body type, luckily enough they are all characters I end up liking!

What’s your most famous, or best-known cosplay?

For the longest time, everyone knew me for my Choji Akamichi cosplay from Naruto, I’d say I cosplayed him exclusively for about…. 2 1/2 years?

Choji from Naruto

The more I look at my old Choji cosplay the more I realize it was literally just stuff I pulled from my closet. Aside from the shirt my dad and I made.

Do you make or buy your costumes?

Both actually. I order some pieces online and alter them as well as having help from others when it comes to making stuff. A vast majority of my cosplays are thanks to my friends that have helped me make them. I can’t take the credit for my cosplays.

As Mario (right) with Luigi from Kingdom Hearts Mario and Luigi

What advice do you have for other cosplayers? Especially new cosplayers?

I guess my advice should go hand in hand with what I just said. Never be afraid to ask others for help. You’ll always find people willing to help out and teach you a new way to do things! Who knows, maybe someday someone will come to you asking for help and you can teach them!

What the best thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?
There was one gentleman at a local convention that came up to me and told me that he and his wife always look forward to the cosplays I come up with and loves seeing my updates on his feed. He told me he came to one convention for a day just to see my newest cosplay at the time!

Tombstone Taric from League of Legends

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

The worst thing I’ve had said to me was because I’m larger, I’ll never get any attention as a cosplayer and that I should just do myself a favor and stop cosplaying all together before something bad happens to me haha. Well, I kept cosplaying and nothing has happened yet!

Do you attend conventions? Do you have a favorite?

Yes, I attend conventions, though lately the number of cons per year has dwindled, due to adulting constantly. Hooray for bills. Can’t really say I have a favorite haha. I love all the conventions I go to equally! Most of the time I go to see my friends and Con family more than anything else.

I interviewed William via Facebook messenger. You can check out his work at