Thoughts from A-Kon 28

-This entire weekend has just been me complaining about Yuri on Ice, making pterodactyl noises and non-sexual grunts and running away from my problems.--Said in the Hotel during A-Kon 28.png

It’s always surprising how I feel leaving convention. Sometimes I’m excited to get back on the road and return home and sometimes I never want the weekend to end. Here are the thoughts and feelings I had before, during and after A-Kon 28.

  • I for sure don’t mind the 4 hour drive so much when I get to take breaks.
  • Sometimes hotel breakfast is a trap.
    • No, seriously. Carlos and I were both super sick after hotel breakfast and we didn’t eat it again. And we all know how seriously I take hotel free breakfast so this was very disappointing to me.
  • There’s nothing quite like seeing your ex check into the same hotel you’re staying in.
    • Especially if you didn’t break up with that person on good terms.
      • No seriously, it was a huge emotional burden dealing with those feelings and seeing this person over and over again after such a painful break up was difficult to say delicately.
  • Gen Korean BBQ is still an amazing place.
    • And I get all the banchan since Carlos doesn’t like it.
  • Daiso is still the most magical place I’ve ever been to and they have fantastic candy.
    • No, really. I got 5 bags of apple gummies. Please send more apple gummies.
  • 85C may replace Mozart Bakery as my go-to place for breads.
    • Please don’t tell Mozart. I can’t have them know I cheated on them.
  • Bringing in stuff for a care package reminds me of how extra of a friend I am.
    • I made the boys (Carlos and Ricky) a mix-tape and badges for their service.
      • That’s right, reader. I made a damn mix-tape.
  • After the last few hotels rooms that gave me my own bedroom and bathroom, I’ve grown spoiled to that.
    • I’ve also grown spoiled to having a kitchen.
      • I love Carlos to death as a friend but I need my own bedroom.
        • He snores.
  • I found out about Adam West’s death while at Kirin Court with Carlos and it really messed me up for days.
  • So real talk, I hated A-Kon’s new layout.
    • Ft.Worth is not Dallas. Parking was a nightmare. Finding food was  nightmare and walking even a half a mile in costume while bound, padded, in a wig and in a heavy layered costume is a miserable sort of hell. And spreading it around 3 hotels made the organic fun of “falling” into a place out of the question. We had to plan everything because everything was blocks away. Nothing could be spontaneous. And all the things Carlos and I do, our traditions,  were so far away we could barely enjoy them. Normally 10-20 minute drives because 45 minutes to 1 hour long slogs across I-20. That really ruined some of my fun during this convention.
  • Less jokey panels are fun but interesting.
    • Normally, I’d never try a new panel at such a big con but it was important to me. 150 people saw me over 2 days and I’m proud of them. I got many compliments and people seemed engaged. Now I can workshop them better and be a better panelist. That’s how I grow.
  • It’s difficult being surrounded by media pieces you don’t like.
    • I still dislike YoI and it was everywhere. Literally. And it did upset me once or twice. But the hatred did dull after day 2 of seeing poorly-dressed Victors running around.
      • Fun fact though: I feel really tsundere about YoI because I should love this series and I did finish it but the fandom..god, the fandom hurts me.
  • Really this whole con was just about things that were popular: it was Zeitgeist the Convention.
    • Maybe that isn’t all bad.
  • The 90s Dance Music channel on Amazon Prime music was fire!
    • Nothing like Carlos and I dancing and singing to Barbie Girl.
      • Don’t judge us.
  • I do love cosplayers of all kinds, shapes and sizes but I’ll always rail against shake and go cosplay. Details are wonderful and they make me so happy as a fangirl and cosplayer. I do sometimes wish people cared a little more about these details sometimes but I’m from a different era of cosplay
  • I’m really shaken by the lack of routine we were able to have at this con with it being in Ft. Worth.
    • I’m still disappointed in this days later.
  • I’m upset I didn’t get my tea and cake after a good panel.
    • I did get ice cream, though.
  • I realize now having lived in San Antonio for some years that I seriously miss Taco Bueno and Chicken Express.
  • I’m disappointed in myself that I let people take my joy away.
  • However, Carlos did learn that you can easily melt my heart with a Rowlet.
    • No seriously, I freaked out over my sweet birb son.
  • I worry a lot about Carlos and I as friends.
    • We’re very different in nearly every way and sometimes I wonder why we’re friends and what can come of it. And then he’ll say “Let’s play DDR. I know you like that.” and I’m less worried.
  • Apparently, every Free! cosplayer was at the literal pool at convention.
    • I regret not visiting that pool.
  • I’m realizing that I’m not a huge fan of official merch and I much rather spend my money on original art pieces.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the few things Carlos and I can agree on so we literally watched that all weekend.
  • Sometimes, you wear so much highlighter that you get compliments about it.
    • No really, Carlos has never seen me with that much makeup on and I loved living my best Farrah Moan fantasy.
  • There’s nothing like meeting webcomic artists that you follow.
    • Special thank you to Rem of Devil’s Candy and Ru of Saint for Rent and letting me squee over them so much.
  • If a hand fetishist asks for your gloves, do not let him take them for free.
    • Try to auction them off for $50.
      • Then immediately take them off and feel dirty for the rest of the day.
  • Somehow, it’s impossible to run from the things you want to avoid. They will always find you.
  • Sometimes, being the bigger man isn’t rewarding but it’s necessary.
  • I do still love being able to come down from the stage and talk to people. Answering questions is amazing.

I have so many feelings about this A-Kon. I cried in the parking lot for several minutes before driving away and my music choices after driving away didn’t help (I got KanshaBrothers and Wind back to back and I couldn’t help but be emotional, don’t judge me.). Normally the last day of con is a ceremony. There’s cake, there’s tea, there’s time with a friend I only see a few times a year. This time, he had to go to work and I had to drive back home. We didn’t get to live our traditions. We didn’t get to claim the time we had. I let my emotions get to me and that I’m not proud of. But for every moment of being annoyed by poor cosplay choices there were four or five that I loved being able to spend time with friends, fans and idols. A-Kon and conventions are my bread and butter. They’re my life. And I’m glad I went even if it was less than perfect.

Thank you for all of those that saw my panels, asked me questions, asked me for photos, let me take photos of you and all the delicious food I ate and all the fun memories I did make.

See you next year.

An African-American Otaku’s Cosplay Requiem

“If human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween.”  Douglas Coupland

When I was a little girl watching Sailor Moon while all the other kids wanted to be Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars or even Chibi Usa: I wanted to be Tuxedo Mask. I tell this story because I feel like it’s the best insight into who I am as a cosplayer. I was a born cosplayer. I was a theater kid, pageant baby and I love being in costume.  Being a cosplayer is one of the truest forms of self expression that I can think of. It’s my catharsis, my community and my love. I am also a small, chubby African-American woman.

Now, it’s important to mention a very important to mention that there are plenty of absolutely amazing black cosplayers and this is not a rant about diversity. This is just to provide some of my thoughts and experiences about being a tiny black otaku. I personally almost never let being black or a woman hold me down from attempting a costume or character. Roy Mustang? Sure, lemme polish my boots. Deidara? Let’s pick up a verbal tick, un! Castiel? I’ll go grab my wings. It’s never really bothered me that my skin tone didn’t match the characters.

When I was young in my cosplay career the issue of race and cosplay did bother me a lot. I hated being that one black insert name of character. I wanted to be judged based on my work. Not how good I looked for someone who was the wrong color for that character. I took a break from cosplay. From the somewhat institutionalized racism. From the somewhat misogyny and when I picked cosplay back up I had even fewer worries or concern about my race, height or gender.  I didn’t care that I was a tiny chocolate girl cosplaying a Doctor or the Riddler or Princess Unikitty. I was just me. I picked characters I liked and I had fun being them and I looked damn good: that’s what matters when it comes to cosplay.

I can count the times on my hand that race and gender have held me back from cosplaying a character. What goes into this choice? Mostly series canon. For instance I adore Scandinavia and the World and the rest of Humon’s work but if a character looks a certain way; it’s for a reason so it just seems somewhat inappropriate to me to fudge that. Axis Powers: Hetalia is another example: I love the series but I won’t cosplay it out in public outside of an event just because these are meant to be caricatures: the characters look this way for a reason and I despite being a very lovely lady do not look like France or Austria.

Now you may be asking by now: Amanda, why don’t you care about race, height and gender when it comes to character depictions? Well, that’s a good and fair question. I do care. A lot. I’m a writer. If I make a character look a certain way; it’s for a reason. But I tend not to fret over things I can’t change. Costume work is amazing and make up has come a long way but I’m not going to suddenly become a fair-skinned male without a great deal of work done. I can augment aspects of myself but when they are too much I simply rather not. Now I don’t mind a hidden heel to make me somewhat taller than 5’1’’ and I’ll use shapewear to slim my profile but nothing’s changing the cafe color of my skin or the fact that once the shoes come off I am very very petite. And above all I mostly just don’t see an issue with it. Yes, Superman is a white male but if I put on that cape I can become Superman and not just a chocolate-colored Superman marauder. I put a lot of work into my costumes and I want people to see that work, that passion, that excitement; I don’t want people to just ask me why I chose a character that wasn’t of color.

In the early days of anime and comics: diversity was a legit concern. All heroes looked the same and there wasn’t much room for a female yet alone a female of color that wasn’t an exotic princess of a made up land or just an alternate darker-colored carbon copy of a classic hero. Diversity has absolutely changed for American comics and it’s never been easier to be LGBT, young, tall, short, out of shape or anything and still be a valid member of a recognizable franchise.

I am, however, primarily an otaku. Japan has not quite ridden the wave of diversity and it’s still somewhat difficult finding characters that well…look like me. But this goes beyond just looks: most characters I encountered didn’t sound like me, either. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post: I didn’t exactly have a very African-American upbringing. For instance when watching Static Shock as a young girl, I couldn’t relate to Virgil (Static Shock) and his urban, single-parent upbringing. I was a young girl living with two very loving and protective parents in a mostly upper-middle class fairly white but also very Vietnamese suburb of a large North Texas city. When it comes to cosplaying various anime and Japanese videos games my attitude has been mostly not to let it bother me as above mentioned: I can count the times on my hand where I’ve looked at my skin and said I probably shouldn’t cosplay that character. This also comes to mind in the question of “race-bending”. It’s a big thing in the cosplay and fandom world. What if Hermonie was black? What if Castiel was Hispanic? This has come out of the fandom world in direct response to the lack of diversity in cosplay and it’s sometimes still a contentious topic: it’s technically a non-canon depiction but amazing fan art and costumes have come out of different races being well-known characters so even if someone does a hell of a good job, it’s still to the fan world a non-canon outfit. I bring up race-bending because I have been asked more than once if any of my costumes are race-bent insert name of character here. And most of the time I’ll say no. Again, I’m not aiming to be a darker skinned version of a character: that character is who I am trying to be

Another key part of this little conversation is the backlash so many receive when it comes to bringing up questions of diversity in casting. Oh well that side character or other universe’s character is of some vague ethnicity. And to that I have one thing to say: I am a drama queen. If I cosplay someone. When I cosplay someone: I want to be recognized. I want to walk out onto the convention floor and immediately someone knows who I am. Not an alternate version of or a side character from. And not to say there aren’t some great side and alternate characters: (Young Avengers, anyone? ) but I personally don’t struggle much with looking at my skin and looking at a character on page or screen and recognizing and admitting the difference but still deciding to cosplay that character.

So now you may be asking Amanda, this is all lovely, but why rant on like this? Well, here’s why: I am a passionate cosplayer. I am also of color. Those two things should not hinder the other. Being black doesn’t mean I can’t be a nerd and being a cosplayer shouldn’t mean ignoring that I’m the wrong Pantone shade in comparison to most of the characters on the screen or page. 

Diversity matters and one of the first steps to making it a logical and real part of the world: we have to step up our game. Cosplayers of all size, gender, creed and race: we all have to step up. So don’t be afraid of what you look like. You might not look just like the character you want but that shouldn’t stop you. Cosplay is art. Cosplay is magic. Cosplay is what you make of it. So be unafraid. Look good. Show the world how wonderful you can be. Let me be your battle cry. And if you see me in costume: comment on my stitches not my skin color.