‘How can I become a successful cosplayer?’
‘Should I only cosplay someone if I have the right face and body for this character?’
‘How many likes do I need to get invited as a cosplay guest?’
‘What character should I cosplay to get noticed?’
‘Why do I get so few likes and comments. is my work not interesting?’
I see these questions pop up every day. As many of you know, I’m cosplaying now for quite some time – since 2003 to be exact. During all these years I saw the cosplay community grow, develop and change. When I started back in the day (I know I’m getting old), we were a small group of weird people who had fun dressing up in silly costumes two or three times a year. Today cosplay is a huge international community of passionate fans and artists. And while everything started out as a silly hobby, I noticed over time it got more competitive and therefore stressful. Now there is money to be made and fame to gain. More and more of us feel the need to create bigger and more elaborate costumes every year. We go all out, challenging ourselves, try out new things, spent more money and more time on our projects, just trying to find something that no one has done before. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging yourself to become a better artist – when I get messages on Facebook and YouTube of people afraid to cosplay because they don’t want to handle the stress or the bad comments if they cosplay something ‘they do not have the face or body for’ – I feel like I should say something.
At what point does cosplay stop being fun? I get the feeling that some people tend to forget what cosplay should be all about. Fun and celebration of a thing you love. And that’s all.
When I started with cosplay, I didn’t care if my lose threads were visible, if my wig was properly styled (well, it actually took years until I tried my first wig on, I only used my real hair) or if my costume looked any good at all. I did not have photoshoots, didn’t even show progress photos in the beginning. I uploaded my pictures online so my friends could see them and I didn’t care if I did not get any attention for my poorly made cosplays. And I still loved it. I signed up to Facebook in 2010, so for 7 years I did not had any likes, shares or comments. And I didn’t really care. All I had was a blog which I used to talk to other people stuck in their basement building costumes.
I do realize however that I am now part of the problem. I make my living with cosplay so I am sure many people see me as kind of a role model. Or more like they see me and think ‘Hey, she makes money dressing up’. The problem is that they do not see the long way it took me to get to this point. I still do it for fun. We make our income primarily showing other people how to create costumes. I enjoy creating something with my own hands, experimenting with new materials and techniques and challenging myself. Crafting calms me down, makes me happy and let’s me sleep well at night. I feel good when I make something with my hands. I do not earn money just because a lot of people know me. A lot of people know me because they can see that I am having fun building things and because they feel the same way about crafting and creating.
Naturally conventions are the perfect place to present a finished costume and grab some photos. Way more important however is, that conventions are the best place to meet new and old friends, chat, hang out and get some good food at the evening. Yes, I earn money with cosplay, but that’s not the reason, why I do it. It was never my goal and I would still build costumes even if nobody would BUY MY BOOKS! I want to have a good time, enjoy my life with my husband and dogs and have fun. Life is short. I wouldn’t cosplay for 14 years if my reasons were different.
It doesn’t have to be crafting as well. You can have a ton of fun dressing up in a bought costume, just because you like a character and want to hang out with people who feel the same way! There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I have a lot of friends who buy their cosplays, just to be able to goof around and enjoy themselves. Nobody says you’re required to make your own things to have fun. It’s just not the reason why I do it.
Yes, getting compliments and attention for your work and being talked about is nice, but it should not be the main motivation why we all do this. ‘Awesome costume!’ and a thumbs up feels good (as does every other dopamine boost), but isn’t it much more rewarding to finish a dress despite of you’ve never worked with a sewing machine? Don’t you prefer to successfully solder your very first LED circuit instead of getting a ‘thumbs up’ from a random person on the internet? And doesn’t it feel much better if a few of your friends cheer for you on stage instead of somebody you’ve never met before? At the end of the day, it’s your hobby and you creating something for yourself, not somebody else.
Why does it doesn’t matter if someone else made this awesome new character before you even had the chance? Why should you not create the same costume now? What changed? It’s not about being the first one and it’s not about making a better or inferior version of something. The world is huge and there will always be someone who made the same thing you wanted to do before. As long as you enjoy creating, all of this doesn’t matter.
You don’t need to look like Sailor Moon to dress up as Sailor Moon. You can have any skin tone, body shape or sex, as long as you have fun to portray her. Don’t compare yourself to others and set your own goals. You don’t need to create 10 costumes every year just because everybody on Facebook does it as well. You don’t have to cosplay a character from Overwatch just because it’s popular now. If you like a shiny armor from some kind of unknown Korean MMORPG grinder, then start crafting! As long as you have fun, just do it!
Cosplay should always be about yourself and your friends – always about your art and having fun. Don’t let anybody tell you how you should spent your time, which costume you should pick or how you should create a specific costume piece. And at the same time: Don’t be offended if somebody still does it. Sharing your work publicly means sharing it worldwide and to everybody. People who might like you and those that don’t. People with all kinds of different backgrounds and thoughts. Don’t take it personal. If you’re sure of the reasons behind your actions who are they to tell you otherwise? For every negative comment there are ten more people who like what you do but don’t write anything. Remember it’s easier for people to post their anger than their appreciation. That’s just human biology. Also people on the internet are anonymous. Whoever wrote that mean comment might just be an 8 year old boy who just hit puberty. And do you really care what this boy thinks?
Well, and finally I think I need to say: If you’re not having fun cosplaying – why force it? You don’t have to cosplay. At some point we are all tired, just want to play games or have other things to do in life. You have not failed anyone because you never became a ‘famous cosplayer‘. It might feel weird if everybody is crafting, posting amazing progress photos, go to conventions and finish one project after another. But have you ever attended a convention without a costume? It’s actually quite fun! I did it for the last two BlizzCons and I had a blast. Did you ever have time for all the things you always wanted to do, like safe money for a vacation? Actually, that’s pretty nice, too! For someone who makes her living with cosplay, I ‘only’ create around 2 – 4 costumes a year. I don’t do all nighters anymore and don’t try to hunt the next things no-one has done before. I want to pay my bills, but still have fun. I know this is a difficult balance to strike but we’re trying. I know I could easily do more, push myself harder and achieve more, but … why? I’m not happier because I have more likes, fans, followers or subscribers. Those are just numbers. I’m happy because I enjoy cosplay. I’m having a good time crafting, dressing up and sharing my passion with my husband and you, who reads all this nonsense that I write. For now I am totally happy with this and who knows what the future might bring. I’ll probably start writing bad teeny novels about smoking hot Corgi werewolves and get rich from the movie rights.