This month marks 18 years that I've been cosplaying. Let me take this opportunity to share my journey with you all and give you the knowledge and experience I've had over the years.
I grew up in foster care and I never really fit in. I always felt like there was just something so intrinsically wrong with me all the time and that my life would be spent as a perpetual outsider. I still have these thoughts now from time to time, it's a hard thing to shake. I love being a nerd. I have always loved being a nerd. As a child who started wearing glasses at the age of two and leg braces at 18 months, there was no chance of me being a "cool" or "popular" kid. I never wanted to be either. I just wanted friends who were into the same things as me.
My birthday happens to be on Halloween (trust me it sounds cooler than it is) and when I was turning 14 my foster father agreed to buy me the materials to make my first costume as my birthday present. Sorry to say, I don't have photos of it. It was Sailor Mercury from Sailor Moon. It was awful and I knew no one would know who I was, but I was just so happy to be this character that I loved. My uncle took me to my first convention (Demicon 1999) and the rest is what it became. A marvelous journey. Not to say that there hasn't been a lot of bumps along the way. In 2004 I worked my first anime job. I just kept working and working and now I've worked with so many amazing anime and video game companies.
We all start somewhere. You, me, everyone. Being self taught, my journey was very slow to start. I moved to NYC in 2008 and was able to watch my friends who were going to FIT as they worked and learned a lot. One of the reasons I try so hard to share my knowledge with you is because I learned this way and I want you guys to be able to level up too. The community grows when we all grow. We all get better. We all learn new things.
I spent a couple years of my life really jealous and angry. Policed how people should cosplay and what they could cosplay. Spent a lot of time on sites that were dedicated to dragging other cosplayers down. You know where it got me? Nowhere. My work suffered. I was miserable. The moment I decided enough was enough and that other peoples business was not my own, my work improved exponentially.
There are no rules in cosplay. There's no right or wrong way. I don't know who you are or why you cosplay. I don't care if you know your character. I don't care if you are doing it for money. Your motives are none of my business and do not effect me or my hobby. I spent a lot of time avoiding characters I loved because I was worried I was the wrong body type or not pretty enough. Eventually you realize that it really doesn't matter and you should do what you want. It's a huge part of why I've decided to no longer cater to being "boob accurate." I love being a flat lady and I have no shame in it.
I've been afforded amazing opportunities in my life because of cosplay. I got to do a Windows Phone commercial about cosplay, an episode of Subcultures and this year Syfy's Cosplay Melee. I know I'm not really active here, but thank you everyone who's supported me over the years. The people who followed me on Coscom. DeviantART. Here. All of you.
I hope if there is anything I can leave you with that would put you on the right track, it's this: The only difference between a novice and a master is time, patience and education. Anyone can achieve that. Anyone. Don't let anyone hold you back. Ten years from now, will you be looking at yourself thinking "man I wish I hadn't cosplayed that character that I really liked for X reasons." No.
We grow. We get better. Spend more time lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. Give when you can, even if it's just knowledge and experience. Every talent you have is a marketable skill. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
Through cosplay, I found my place and I found my people. Don't let anything else get in the way of finding yourself and where you belong.
That's all. Have a great Halloween!