Why I Cosplay

If, on November 16, you had walked into the UCF Student Union, you may have seen some weird things — namely, a bunch of people in costumes and wigs milling about the second floor, or even ordering food at Panda Express. You may have thought, “What are they doing?” or “Who are they?” 

Well, I was one of “them." On November 16, Anime Spot UCF held its first-ever Day of Cosplay: an event dedicated to the art and hobby of dressing up as characters from movies, TV shows, books and comics. We had panels of cosplay experts to talk about different aspects of the art, activities for attendants to bond and have fun and a contest where the top prize was a Nintendo Switch. Attendees weren’t just from UCF either, with many families and former students attending. It was a blast of a time, and I told anyone who would listen (to a girl dressed like a blue demon) that they should come! I can’t wait to do it next year. 

It’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t know what cosplay was; I’ve been making my own costumes in some form since I was about ten. I thrifted a Mad Hatter costume, and it was all over. Costumes are a family affair for the Beaulieu clan. My dad taught me how to sew and my mom taught me how to build a costume from found objects and thrifted clothes. As a family, we started Disneybounding — wearing clothes that suggest Disney characters but aren’t actually costumes. Just to name a few, we’ve done princesses, pirates, Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Big Hero 6 and The Emperor’s New Groove. When I got to high school, this passion for Halloween and costumes was only fed by Disneybounding, and I wanted to do it the whole year ‘round. So I set my sights on Pensacon.

Pensacon is a convention held in Pensacola (about an hour away from where I live) in February. And last year, I finally convinced my parents to take us. My sister and I roped her boyfriend into dressing up with us as characters from She-Ra: The Princesses of Power, and the next day I debuted my pet project: Jester. Jester Lavorre is a character from a web series called Critical Role, where “a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors” play Dungeons & Dragons. I started watching the show about a year ago, and I knew as soon as I saw the fun-loving, blue cleric that I needed to dress up as her. The project involved a ton of things I had little to no experience with: wigs, dyeing fabric, sewing and body paint. But I threw myself into the project, and the prototype was born and shown off at Pensacon. It was a great experience — people had only seen one other Crit Role cosplayer at the convention, and five or six people asked to take a picture with me. I was even interviewed for a local podcast! I didn’t know it at the time, but I wasn’t done with Jester quite yet. 

Almost eight months later, I dug out the blue paint and the corset to give Jester a second try for Day of Cosplay. At first, I was dead-set on winning the first prize of the Nintendo Switch, but as I started to work on the costume more often, winning completely left my mind. I wanted to be Jester, to look as cool as her and to be as strong and capable. And, in a way, hand-dyeing lace and making it into a paneled skirt was a way to do that. When my best friend helped me repaint the giant lollipop a day before the event, it wasn’t an epic quest of taking down monsters, but it definitely resembled it. When I was at a panel the next day, talking with amazing women who cosplay vintage DC characters, I realized that their experiences had been just the same as mine. I realized why we cosplay: not only have we made something extraordinary — when we wear it, it brings us self-esteem and happiness. When people who’ve never even seen the show tell me I look awesome, it’s a confidence boost. When a girl I’ve never met offers to help me with my makeup in the bathroom, it’s a community. And when I look in the mirror and see Jester, I see a version of myself—one that I am so, so proud of. 

Image: 1, all photos were provided by the author.