Cosplay

Cosplayer Convos: Supporting Strong Friends The Way That They Support You

I'm working with a new concept here. A series of blog posts and interviews that I will call Cosplayer Convos.

I enjoy cosplay. I admire cosplayers. But I think we forget that the person behind the cosplay is...a person. We see them at conventions and follow them on social media and sometimes forget that these glorified humans are just...human. I believe that by sitting down and talking to them, we can all learn something new.

Thus, I present to you: Cosplayer Convos

So, What Is a Strong Friend?

You know who they are. They are that go to person on social media. They always know what to say. Or they're someone you consider to be an IRL (in real life) friend. They don't give a crap how your homophobic uncle feels about "that lifestyle" (this is not going to be the first time I go in on your uncle, #sorrynotsorry) they're going to fight the good fight anyway

Our strong friends save the day, without breaking a sweat or shedding a tear

Tip: if you don’t wanna be perceived as toxic, then DON’T BE TOXIC. You don’t get rid of the label by sheer willpower,...

Posted by Briana Lawrence on Thursday, November 29, 2018

But, where do our strong friends go when they need a strong friend? Who do they have when they need advice? Where is a shoulder when they need to cry?

I'm holding myself accountable, as I am the friend who is often in need. I have benefited from having strong friends swoop in and rebuild me, time and time again. As someone who was still building their support system, I was extremely thankful.

BUT...was I asking them how their day was going? Was I even calling them just to have fun or was I just expecting them to appear when my life was falling apart? Was I only prepared to tag them on Facebook when arguing social justice issues, like I was summoning a Pokemon with a higher CP than my own?

When I think of a strong friend, or just a strong person in general, my mind goes to one person. One of the strongest people I know is our fearless leader, owner, and admin of Geeky Girl Guide, Leslie. Remember that time she announced on the podcast that if you are being harassed and need someone, she's your girl? Yeah, she's the bomb. She has told people she will feast on their cracklings before. And dammit, she means it. Don't mess with her.

She's got an amazing heart and will defend you to the end. As I often am scared, short, and not the least bit intimidating, I admire her strength and her ability to always push back and to speak up for what is right. Leslie does not give a red cent f#$k what you think about her.

And wrapped in all of that strength is a human being, who is just as deserving of someone willing to tear someone apart for her as she is for others. Leslie deals with life just as much as my emotional ass does. And she deserves the support that she gives to all of us

This post is about Briana of Brichibi Cosplays, but I'm dedicating this post to Leslie. Leslie: You are strong, you are seen, and you are appreciated. Never stop being you <3

Briana: The Strongest Woman You Will Ever Meet

Briana is a cosplayer that I've admired for years. Not just the ability to rock amazing cosplays (I think my favorite is a toss-up between Tiana and Wonder Woman) but to take up space in a way I hadn't seen before. Here she stood. Black. Fat. Queer. And magical.

Briana (Brichibi Cosplays) receiving a smooch from her longtime partner and talented seamstress, Jessica (Snow Cosplays)

Alongside the love of her life and longtime partner, Jessica (who is an amazing seamstress by the way) Briana seemed to have it all. But in spite of her successes, hateful people saw her and did what they did best. For every positive thought we had for Briana, there were 20 more people who were angrily typing on their keyboards letting us know in all caps how they couldn't stand her.

Briana was always overcoming. For every hateful comment, she had an equally positive one. It was always in a perfect way to shut them down. "She's got to be the strongest woman I will ever meet." I often thought to myself

There was something I didn't realize that was going on behind these posts. While I was reading them in real time, I was putting myself down thinking of how I would be "too sensitive" to deal with this if it was directed at me. I remember thinking Briana was so strong.

"I responded to every comment," Briana says about her social media posts at the beginning of her cosplay journey. I remembered this about her. I read them and admired for her being so strong despite the ongoing homophobic, fatphobic, and downright racist comments she received. Sooooo strong, and yet...

When her partner, Jessica, came home earlier that day, she noticed that Briana had been responding to each and every comment on Tumblr and told her to turn anonymous comments off. "I was like, 'I can't do that, I have to show people that if you get bullied, there's a person who can stand up and deal with it'," Briana describes of that day.

Jessica persisted, pointing out that she had been on Tumblr all day responding to comments. She again told Briana she should turn anonymous comments off. Almost instantly, Briana felt a sense of relief. "It was this moment of 'oh my God, I'm allowed to walk away'."

Waiting To Exhale: Are Your Strong Friends Holding Their Breath?

"I don't think people realize that the strong friend doesn't usually start out as being strong." Briana says

"I'm very vocal about different issues and I write about them and it's really great. But people don't understand how much that weighs down on you because most of us are pulling from personal experiences."

One thing we talked about is this iconic scene from Waiting to Exhale. Yes, that one. Where Angela Basset's character Bernie burns the car of her cheating husband. It's a pretty memorable scene that left many people saying the 90's equivalent catchphrase of YASSSSS QUEEN.

Briana brings up a great point about this scene. "Everyone talks about how she burnt the car and its badass but before that, she sat in her room and cried and even after [that scene] she cried some more. That comes with the territory of being the strong friend..."

Forgetting that our strong friends have feelings and pain behind that strength is doing them a disservice. We believe tears and strength cannot coexist. That's the trap we fall into, believing our strong friends are exempt from the pain they're always saving us from.

Too Strong and Too Soft: A Confusing and Frustrating Paradox

Lesson of 2018 ??????

Posted by Briana Lawrence on Sunday, December 23, 2018

"It's so frustrating because they don't want us to be vulnerable, but they don't want us to be too strong either," Briana says

I can definitely see what she means by this. It's almost like we expect our strong friends to be strong within our parameters. It's like we tell them, you need to be strong, but in a way that is beneficial to me and this has to change.

"With the strong friend title they forget about the friend part," Briana says "And just focus on the strength part."

While this paradox can present itself in times of support, it can also present itself when your strong friend is being outspoken. Once they hit a nerve with someone, they're expected to pull back.

"I thought our friendship could withstand [inset topic]" is something that Briana often hears. Because she's often outspoken on these issues that often affect her personally, there seems to be this unspoken soft spot she hits with people. "I thought our friendship could withstand this" often translates to "I love it when you speak out, just not about me"

They're telling their strong friend on the surface that they hope their friendship could withstand differing politics, subtle racist tweets, and separating their friend from their sexuality. But what they're really saying is "I thought our friendship could stay beneficial to me and not disrupt my beliefs."

Whatever the case, this is exhausting. Whether the lack of support comes from not having the space to be vulnerable or only being heard under certain terms, we have to do better for our strong friends.

How to Support Your Strong Friends

It was difficult for Briana to be vulnerable, even just on social media. When expressing her feelings on Facebook, she got responses from people who said: "I don't know how to talk to you because you're so strong" (<----see, there's that saying again).

Briana describes how one of her friends showed how to be supportive in the right way "She was like 'I know you're busy and I'm busy but whenever you're free we can get together and watch anime'...that's all I wanted!"

It's not always about having the right advice or cuddling them when they cry. Sometimes your strong friend doesn't need advice or cuddles. Sometimes they just need a distraction, a neutral zone that they can build themselves up again. And that's ok.

"Don't just check on us when we're suffering...also be there when we're having a good day." Briana brings up a really good point about not just being there in trials or triumph, but in those boring in-between moments as well. Invite them to lunch when nothing particularly exciting is going on. Ask them how they're holding up just because it's Wednesday. Draw them a picture because you know it will cheer them up.

"I Shouldn't Have to Defend Myself From YOUR Friends": A Quiz

Small rant before we get to the quiz. One of my biggest peeves about Facebook is going through hoops to keep all of my content limited to only the people I want to see it. While I've made attempts at putting stricter privacy setting such as "Friends Only", by some small loophole, a status you make could still be seen by your friends Racist Uncle Twice Removed.

Briana said something that was really impactful, especially in regards to Facebook.

"I shouldn't have to defend myself from your friends"

Grab your pencils guys, this is your Quinzel Quiz of the day

Your strong friend posts something that your Racist Uncle sees (cause the way Facebook sets up mutuals, it happens). Racist Uncle does what he does best, which means sending a profoundly hateful and misspelled lashing to your strong friend.

In this situation, do you:

A) Assume your strong friend will handle it because she's great at this kind of thing

B) Let your uncle know that he shouldn't talk to your friend that way and why, thus putting a protective barrier between your strong friend and your racist uncle who still needs help setting up his iPad

The answer is B. But often times what plays out is A. It goes back to the assumption that this strong friend has GOT IT because they are vocal from these issues, so why should this be any different?

That line of thinking isn't supportive to your strong friends. It's one thing to defend yourself from strangers, but having people that you consider friends who just leave you hanging puts strong friends in a position of not only having to fight their own battles but yours too. Next time this happens, tell your Racist Uncle to take a hike and buy him a dictionary for Christmas. Auto correct will thank you.

Final Thoughts

All I really want us to do is ask ourselves are we supporting our strong friends in a way that's equal into the way they support us? Are we giving them space to be vulnerable? Or are we contributing to a burnout?

I can't tell you the number of times that I faced something in my life that was really hard but didn't think of myself as a strong person because I faced it with tears streaming down my face. I get down on myself because I think both can't co-exist. But Briana reinforced for me that I can cry my eyes out for hours and still be strong.

Briana has lived a life of pain, loss, and frustration. But she has also chased her dreams, fell in love, and continues to influence and affect everyone she meets in a positive way.

Your strong friend is this beautiful, vulnerable individual who is a force to be reckoned with. They take their tears and often turn them into a shield, protecting others from the pain they've been through. Their voice is loud because they're often speaking for the timid and unheard.

To Briana, Leslie, and all of my strong friends.

You are wonderful

You are appreciated

You are heard

Cosplay on the Cheap: Naka Kon Panel with FullElven Cosplay

Something I love: seeing cosplayers at conventions, admiring their handiwork, and swearing to myself that I'm gonna give it a go

Something I hate: being too broke to try

What's that saying I used to hear growing up? "You can't have champagne dreams on a bologna budget"

When it came to trying my hand at cosplay, I was filled with "I could never" and "who is financing this cosplay?". But attending the panel Cosplay Accessibility: Cosplay on the Cheap at Naka Kon removed that roadblock of "I'm just too dang broke."

First Impressions

Running down the hall of the convention center, press badge flying in the wind, I made it just in time for the panel to start.

The first thing I notice is Jace, aka FullElven Cosplay, and they are just about to start. There's something...calming about the room. Which sends me in an unessacary panic. Do I have a spot on my face? Is my skirt hiked up around my waist from all that running?

Nah, this panel, as well as Jace, just gives off a chill atmosphere. Everything about this panel was amazingly well organized. There were slides created ahead of time, and Jace answered everyone's questions very well. It was done in a laid back, non-preformative matter, and I think that opened it up for so many people to feel comfortable asking at the end. So kudos to you for that, Jace!

There was also a wealth of information at this panel. Maybe I didn't know this info already because I'm not a seasoned cosplayer (unless you count the extensive plans I have in my head that I never execute). But by the end of the panel, I found cosplay builds A LOT less intimidating.

Here's just a few of the tips mentioned in the panel to make your cosplay cheaper

Foam smithing

You ever want to build an entire suit of armor but, you know, purchasing armour costs money and food is nessecary to survive? Cause...you need to obtain food with money...and armor costs...ok, ok, you're following me.

So Jace suggests either using foam or cardboard to build your armor. Both are really inexpensive and foam can take shape really well.

Sewing

I have very VERY basic sewing skills. I know enough to be dangerous with attaching a button or fixing a hem but that's about it, y'all. Some tips on sewing for those of us who need it:

  • It's much cheaper to just buy a sewing machine that's used and tune it up in lieu of buying a brand new one. I would not have even thought to look in a thrift shop for one, so I'm glad that was put out there.
  • There's also a way to get cheap sewing patterns (just wait for the sale, instead of buying at full price), but you can spend exactly $0.00 by using your own clothes and tracing them out to create your own pattern.
  • You can also get cheap sewing supplies at Walmart.

Speaking of sales, Jace let us in on a secret (might be widely known, but I get excited over saving money so it's like a juicy secret to me.)

Stack. Them. Coupons.

Joann's allows you to use multiple coupons online and in store. Sign up for their emails, download the Joannes store app, give them an offering at their doorstep and right there you've got several different coupon codes you can use on the same transaction.

With all that money you'll save at Joanns, you could buy me...idk candy or something

Lighting

I normally would steer clear of any cosplay with lighting because I lacked the skill as much as the funding. But how did I forget that fairy lights were a thing? Most of them even come with a battery pack so no electrical experience needed.

Jace mentioned that if you want to make the lights appear brighter, using regular foil as backing works amazingly well.

Recommendations

During the Q&A section a few questions came up and some GREAT recommendations

  • ELF makeup is just as good as expensive makeup and a LOT cheaper
  • An audience member recommended using Pros-Aid instead of Spirit Gum if you're alergic to latex. It's a medical grade adhesive.

Amazon and Ebay are cheap places to find cosplay supplies HOWEVER it varies from shop to shop. Quick Tip: read the reviews. Trust accordingly.

I asked a question myself about what brands are NOT recommended. They mentioned Maker Geeks was a no no. They even have an investigation with the Better Business Bureau so steer clear, guys!

Gush Post on FullElvenCosplay Incoming in 3...2...

I know this is about the panel but the panelist deserves quite a bit of praise. Any question about their expertise would be erased by looking at THIS

They built this costume and nothing else needs to be said because the level of craftsmanship, detail, and experience speaks for itself. Just take a stroll through FullElven Cosplay Facebook and IG pages for further evidence.

I'm also going to be giving their Twitch channel a follow. I could definitely get behind watching their cosplay builds after a long day.

Jace has an impressive skill set. You can see through their cosplays that it takes a lot of time and effort to create. It's also quite inspiring to know that you don't have to sacrifice craftsmanship just because you're working within a budget.

This was just a short version of what was discussed in Cosplay Accessibility: Cosplay on the Cheap. Wanna know all the tips and tricks we discussed to save you money? Here's a Google Drive link to the presentation that has all the tools you need. Now go forth, cosplay, and be thrifty!

Have any of you guys tried your hand at cosplay? How much do you typically spend? Do you find these tips helpful? Give us a shout in the comments section (and feel free to drop a pic of your cosplay too)

An Open Letter to Naka Kon 2019 Cosplay Contestants: Your Passion Gives Us Joy

Cosplay has got to be one of the most fun and exciting hobbies to have. After all, half of the word is "play". But I think we forget that cosplay is also an art form. It's something that you build and pour all of your time, efforts, and heart into. When you present the product of your blood, sweat, and tears to the world, it's extremely validating to be rewarded for it.

Being a friend and fan to many cosplayers, I've witnessed the stress, the con-cruch, the pain, and the tears leading up to cosplay contests. It's a lot of work to prepare for.

But let me tell you, there wasn't a single one of you that didn't put a smile on my face

Cosplayer IG: @diana.the.great , winner of Best Beginner Craftsmanship at Naka Kon 2019

If you were crying backstage, if you were stressed all week on your cosplay because it wouldn't be finished in time, if you ever felt you weren't good enough to compete in the first place...

I just want you to know, from where I'm sitting : I absolutely adore you

Cosplayer IG: @miss_pincushion, Winners of Best Master Overall at Naka Kon 2019

You give me, and everyone else in the audience for that matter, a totally new reason to smile. To fall away from the ever running list of adult responsibilities for a bit and soak in this fun and amazing artistry.

If you were nervous, its ok! If you didn't win an award, know that you (yes YOU) were recognized, not only for your hard work, but for the joy that you bring to all of us watching.

When you walked across the stage, I saw your eyes sparkle. That energy you gave off was contagious. It filled the room with an array of happieness.

We laughed with you. We clapped for you.

Cosplayer IG(s):
 @folxsam @ohneux@pixiebutts7 and @mephistopheleswaifu.art winners of Best Skit at Naka Kon 2019

When you bring our favorite characters to life, it sets off a chain reaction. Those of us watching are able to access those happy memories and smile.

Think about it this way, some of us in the audience haven't smiled in weeks or even months. Life has a way of bringing you down. But you, you amazing cosplayer you. You gave me, and everyone else, a chance to just be in the moment and enjoy it.

To my Naka Kon 2019 cosplay contestants, know that I was watching you and know that you set off a joy that will show light in a darker world. Thank you so much.

Never stop what you're doing

Cosplayer IG: @fullelven.cosplay