By Trinity King ’24
Ever since I was a child, I have always been obsessed with TV shows, movies, and books. I loved fantasy in particular, because it allowed me to escape into realities unlike mine, and unicorns and dragons are just really cool. Growing up in a city with several conventions certainly didn’t help me leave all those stories and nerdy stuff behind. I don’t remember the exact first time I saw cosplay, but there are several conventions in my city, and one of them has a huge 2 ½ hour long parade with floats and cosplayers from all genres. It is completely free to the public, but in order to get good spots you have to get up super early. I remember going a couple times as a kid, and it was really cool to see everyone’s creativity and expertise on their costume pieces.
The first year I went into the events for this convention, I borrowed a friend’s badge and my family, friends, and I walked around the hotels for hours looking at all the people, vendor’s halls, and events. I loved every minute of it, from meeting cool artists, freaking out meeting one of the My Little Pony comic artists, and getting a lot of fan art to plaster my walls with. Ever since, I have attended every annual running of this convention, called DragonCon.
Slowly, I dragged all of my friends along and it became a yearly weekend party with lots of chaos, makeup, and last-minute costume shopping. It was the highlight of my year; being able to goof off with my friends and strangers while fangirling and compulsively purchasing art. This year would have marked my fifth or sixth year attending, and part of what made it special was cosplay. Cosplay is personifying a character through embodying their personality and clothing.
My friends and I would meticulously plan for each day, scheduling who wanted to go to which panels, when to nerd out and meet celebrities, and what cosplays to wear that day. We would plan to wake up at dawn, inevitably wake up around 8:45 AM, and hurriedly eat food and throw makeup on in a blur to take a half-assed photoshoot before piling in the car like clowns and arriving at the convention spaces. Our group cosplays were always fun, especially the more people we persuaded into coming. We all got so many compliments, ran into other fans, and took photos with other people in cosplays from the same fandoms.
I love conventions because they give me an excuse to wear a Rapunzel costume with a matching set of ears and tail as a grown ass adult without getting too many strange looks. It is so liberating to be able to escape into the role of a character one admires. I get to stand out to others while still being a stranger, connect with unfamiliar faces just from a shared interest/hobby, and nerd out over other people’s creations. Some of my favorite creative cosplay moments I’ve seen was Beaker from the Muppets dressed in full war gear, the snow queen from Narnia taking badass photos, and a huge conga line of Deadpools jamming out to someone’s loudspeaker. Where else would you see that?
Interactions while in cosplay are just the coolest thing. I’ve seen many battles against sworn enemies, huge photoshoots between total strangers in the same genre costumes, and children’s faces lighting up as their idols walk up and greet them. Seeing how excited people get (including me) is a big part of why I enjoy it so much. I remember last year was my first-time dressing as Wonder Woman, and I was a little nervous because it was different from what I would normally wear. But as me and my friends rushed out of a hotel to head to the next panel, a man spotted me and asked if I could take a photo with two young children. They seemed excited to see me, and I wish I had the photo because it made them and myself so happy. I loved every minute of taking that photo because I knew it was special for the kids to see me dressed as such a strong, bold character.
Many people might have (and did) say that my cosplay was a little too revealing. And honestly, it got to me. But then I remembered why people cosplay. It is not for attention as some outsiders believe, but because I feel confident in being such a badass character. I dress the way I do because I feel confident in my body in that outfit; it empowers me to be someone who I respect. Cosplay is about having fun, being with other nerds, personifying characters I admire, and seeing other people enjoy what I’m doing.
Many people believe that cosplay is super weird, and it has no benefit. They’re not wrong that it is weird, but to me, weird is not always a bad characteristic to possess. I’m weird as hell, but in the words of Luna Lovegood, “I am just as sane as the rest of you, for the most part.” The cosplay community and conventions may be perceived as weird, unprofessional, and unnecessary, but they have a huge positive benefit for the participants, businesses, the local economy, and charities. Conventions generate thousands of dollars for charity every year and support the cities they are hosted in by boosting their economy. By paying for hotels, restaurants, travel, and merchandise, the guests spend loads of money on businesses big and small. In 2015, DragonCon added around $65 million dollars to the Atlanta economy. While smaller conventions don’t generate nearly as much revenue, they still make a direct impact by helping cities and charities. In 2019, FWA’s attendees raised $50,000 dollars to donate to the Animal Park at the Conservator’s center, a park that educates about and cares for endangered species. These cities, charities, and businesses rely on conventions in order to stay well-funded and open, especially the smaller ones.
Going to conventions and cosplaying also shouldn’t be perceived as unprofessional or strictly for older audiences. Both are hobbies that allow people like me to take a break from the stressors in my life while hanging out with friends and meeting new people. Everyone has hobbies, and both are just hobbies that allow me to be creative through making art and designing and wearing cosplays, all while enjoying the positive chaos of conventions.
Many conventions are child friendly, and heavily encourage younger audiences to attend. Going to conventions as a child is like going to Disney World on steroids. I got to meet several of my character idols in person, meet other people who nerded out over the same things, and see all sorts of amazing art. I am so grateful to have gone to conventions as a child, they were so magical and really boosted my confidence in myself. They assured me that there was nothing wrong with my hobbies, and to pursue what made me happy. Cosplay and conventions are such a huge part of my life because they inspire me to keep on pursuing what makes me passionate, while making strangers happy along the way.