DS: How did you get into anime?
L: My mom is absolutely responsible for the blerd you see today. She’s a little bit of everything. Pc gaming, Anime, sci-fi, movie buff, trivia nerd, game show connesieur. My brother and I picked up her love for anime and video games, and my sister, her love for sci-fi. We used to come home from school and marathon Tenchi, Yuyu Hakusho, Big O and Mobile Suit Gundam. Saturdays were the best because we were allowed to stay up for Toonami. My mom and I actually still watch anime together almost every Saturday, and she is always helping me with my cosplay.
DS: Have you ever received backlash for the characters you’ve cosplayed? How have you dealt with it?
L: I learned the hard way that everyone doesn’t believe in cosplay for all. When I wore Chun Li to Colossalcon 2017, the reception was all good. I was high on accolades after going years in cosplay being unnoticed. While its true that we cosplay for ourselves, as my good friend put it, if we didnt want someone to see us, we wouldnt cosplay. But when I got my professional photos back (which I loved) and posted them to the internet, that’s when I learned about the things people didn’t say to me at cons. My picture had been reposted by several inclusive cosplay sharing pages, and it attracted a lot of support….and a lot of trolls. I was getting comments like “chubby li” “chun cheeseburger” and “chun lipo”. For the first time, I was not only being cyber bullied because of my weight, but also because I was black. Someone literally commented that it was a shame that their favorite character had been reduced to “a fat black chick in a blue tee shirt that is too tight”.
Honestly, it tore me down. Never before had I experienced that kind of blatant disrespect. The first time always hurts the worst because you don’t know what to do or what to expect. It’s a double edged sword, but I have grown a thicker skin since that event. It’s a reality and a certainty that people are going to attack my cosplay because im fat AND black. So how do I handle it now? I make more cosplay, and I cosplay whatever I want, and post it for the trolls to see. I don’t respond, my block hand is too strong for that. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t hurt, because I work hard like everyone else, but I give myself one hour. If I’m still mad after an hour, at that point, I am trolling myself. The people who support me and love my content are way louder than the ones who don’t.
DS: Who is your favorite character to cosplay?
L: Picking a favorite cosplay is so hard!!! Chun-Li is the one that started me having an identity as a cosplayer. I also feel the best when I am wearing Sailor Melanin. I’m most comfortable as Yuna from Final Fantasy 10…..gah!!! This is every cosplayer’s plight!!
DS: What do you foresee in the future with anime and black community? For example the fandom, storylines, animators etc.
L: In the future, I truly believe that there will be more representation in anime, not because the big name animators will allow for diversity, but because independent animators and media companies like Netflix and Hulu will make space for black and brown animators. If I’m honest, I don’t foresee much of that coming straight from Japan, but I’m hopeful that the current trend in small animation companies and streaming services will continue to let these new and diverse ideas produce rich content for people like us.