James: Be who you want to be
Be whomever and whatever character you want to be in cosplay.
That was the advice of regional cosplayer and designer Josette James and international cosplay ambassador Yaya Han, as they sat on a panel at this year’s AnimeKon convention.
James, reigning champion of the local cosplay competition for the last two straight years and cosplayer for over 10 years, said other people could be a stumbling block to some prospective cosplay fans.
“That actually is a big issue here in the Caribbean. Size and skin colour in terms of cosplaying because there are a lot of people who feel if they don’t look like the character they can’t pull it off…
“When you go online and you see the hateful comments that people make, it is an issue and it is difficult. I am here to say if you love a character, go for it and do it. It doesn’t matter if your hair is blond, black or whatever, do it.
She was championed by Han, who is host of the SyFy Network’s Heroes of Cosplay show and a designer of hundreds of costumes, who said: “Everybody should cosplay, anybody should cosplay whatever the heck they want, absolutely. It doesn’t matter the skin colour, I’ve cosplayed Asian characters all the time. I cosplay tall characters all the time and I’m very short.”
Han said she tried never to grade cosplay, despite the reality show she leads about designing cosplay costumes.
“I do not grade cosplay ever. It’s interesting to me to see how people approach cosplay in different cultures. So I’ve learnt that in Barbados there is Crop-Over, there’s carnival in the surrounding countries, so you have a culture already that enjoys dressing up, that enjoys really being outgoing, that really is very exuberant and that is great for cosplay because that is what cosplay generally is. You dress up in cosplay for a day, you are not yourself for a day…,” she said.
Being able to relay her experiences, she said, is half the fun.
“I really like telling people this is what cosplay is like in the US, this is what cosplay is like in Japan, this is what cosplay is like in Europe, for people to understand better how they develop. For me to come to Barbados to see a growing cosplay community and to learn about the Caribbean groups, the magazines, that is really great for me because I can take this information back to the US and tell them, guess what, there is a growing community in Barbados. And people in the US are going to be like, what? People cosplay there? It’s fantastic because we all share the same thing,” said the woman who has played more than 250 characters.
She encouraged that cosplaying was a way to display love and appreciation of a character that was no different to wearing a shirt, hat or any other paraphernalia with that character’s image on it, or even buying the figurines.
“It’s just another way to show that you like something, that is why it doesn’t matter what you look like or if you look like the character. So don’t let people put you down,” she said adding that there was a similar challenge in the US. (LB)