One of the most infuriating things I hear (mostly at my day job) is "Quinzel you STILL go to comic book conventions? You STILL play video games? You STILL dress up?
Yes. Yes. and, in case this is your first time to the blog, yes?
There was a time when I was much, much younger (I'm talking high school-ish age here) where I worked hard to cover my nerd flag as much as possible, lest I'd be called out and embarrassed for it.
Fast forward to today, I let that go a LONG time ago. Once I accepted who I was, the comments bothered me a lot less. I am taking the time to do something that makes me happy. And that isn't making fun of other people's interests, Carol.
The comments still come through. On top of that, we put a HUGE emphasis on turning 30 years old and what it means. We cry and cry in our last moments of 29 like 30 really changes things.
I am a firm believer that 30 is not the mile marker for all of your life's accomplishments. 30 is only the beginning.
That is one big reason why I really connected with Erica (Suga Bear Co) because it was so refreshing to meet someone so unbothered by age. Not only is she unbothered but, as I stated earlier, this is only the beginning of many new adventures for her.
"The biggest piece of advice I can give a cosplayer over 30 is don't be afraid to be you." Erica says "If cosplaying is something you have always wanted to do, make it a bucket list item and get it out of the way. Age only means something if you decide it means something. It doesn't have to cost a ton of money or be exactly perfect. Get out of your head and just do it."
Erica is a cosplayer and talented seamstress. Known by Suga Bear Co, she's got a lot of life under her belt. That isn't to say age. I think one thing people get intimidated about starting to cosplay later in life is because they feel as though it strays away from the current life path that you've built.
Erica is living proof that at any point in life, you can press restart. She isn't just carelessly starting and stopping things, she's an inspiration that, at any point, you can redefine yourself and your goals. And this has earned her a fulfilled life.
She received her associate's degree at 30, her bachelor's at 32 and her master's at 36. If this isn't proof that your life isn't over at 30, I don't know what is.
Erica had always loved fashion and initially wanted to be a fashion designer when she was younger. But unlike the notion that says you must decide what you want to do by the time you turn 18, Erica took the time to explore different career and degree options. Along with that, she worked full time, went to school full time, and also was raising a child.
Cosplay didn't come easy for this hardworking gal. She couldn't attend conventions at first because she couldn't get the time off work. She had worked in operations in hotels where weekend shifts were required. Instead of giving up on cosplay altogether, she fit it in by dressing up for birthday parties and special occasions.
"My first con experience was at C2E2 2018." Erica says "Sounds weird since I've been a cosplayer for 13 years, but between job schedules and cost, it was not a priority. I made it a priority last years and I'm glad I did. I got to see what he hype was about and how extravagant the cosplays really could be. I was able to attend the panels for plus size cosplay and Costumers with a Cause. I think I did about 20,000 steps per day and of course, was extremely tired. I even did a costume change one of the days. That experience also let me know that I didn't need to go to any con for an entire weekend unless there are things I'm participating in each day."
Since then, she has also attended (and judged cosplay at) Toys and Cosplaycon as well as both years of Wakandacon. Wakandacon is where we initially met and I wanted to know if she loved it as much as I had.
"I have loved my experiences at Wakandacon because we weren't the afterthought. People are looking to photograph you and talk with you, interview you, respect you, because the con is about you and your tribe and how we interact. I have met some wonderful people and I hear people every time tell me how I've inspired them by something I said at a panel. You don't really get that at bigger cons where there is no real focus and you're in a crowd of people who may not be so welcoming."
As amazing and strong as Erica is, that doesn't mean that she doesn't recognize that there can be negativity in the cosplay world. Not just toward age, but size and race as well
"Some of the negative comments I've seen towards other cosplayers is that they are too dark to play a character or said character isn't Black, so you have to do someone else. I've seen people tell some of my cosplay kids that they ruined a character for them because they didn't feel they were perfect or that they were too fat to be certain characters. I've seen people be called the n-word version or ghetto version of a character."
Erica recognizes that it can be hard for new cosplayers to deal with that level of negativity “If I had gotten into cosplay when I was younger, I would have gotten out of it” She says, but then smiles and tells me “I’m secure in myself that I’m gonna check em and keep it moving...I don’t give them what they’re looking for…”
The positive side of growing with age is that you also grow out of f*cks to give. However, there is one negative aspect that we haven't covered, and it isn't what people think of you.
Spoiler alert: its money
I can attest that the biggest thing that prevents me from going to more cons and donning myself in more cosplays is money. More than what people say, cause what even are words, money, it seems, will snatch your dreams a lot faster than hurtful words can.
"Money is a challenge in cosplay because even the cheapest cosplay will still probably cost you at least $20 if you can get it all through the thrift. Let's also add in any make-up needs, wig or hair needs, shoes or boot covers, accessories, etc. Then add in the cost of actually attending cons. Because I am now on panels, my costs have started to be covered a bit (for some cons), but before that started, I had to pay for my tickets, hotels if necessary, parking, gas, etc. I also cosplay with my kid, so there's the added cost of all of that stuff for him as well. "
To deal with these burdens we learn, with age, that self-care is key. I get being busy, but it's inspiring to know that with how busy Erica is, she still prioritizes the importance of self-care. Also, have I mentioned that she is a trained therapist who is starting Group Cosplay Therapy?:
" Self-care is a must for me. Being a therapist, I teach self-care to my clients so that they know that this is a need and not a want. I also teach them what self-care all includes because many people think it's massages, bubble baths, and shopping sprees. Self-care is also spending time doing things you love and with people you love. Cosplay is definitely a self-care, both making it and wearing it at the con or other events. Sewing, dancing, drawing, painting, and listening to music are also part of my self-care routine. Spending quality time with my kids watching our favorite anime or movies is also huge. Hanging out with my friends and family is always a fun time."
Erica proves that with everything you have to balance, school, kids, full-time job, that cosplay is possible if you want it to be possible. Just take the strength you have used in all of your other life situations and apply it to something you would have fun doing
Push yourself out of your comfort zone (and other peoples comfort zones) and shine
Are you a cosplayer over 30? What challenges have you experienced? What are some of the most fun or amazing experiences that you have had with cosplay? Tell us all about it in the comments section below