“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.”
I saw that phrase on social media and was immediately riveted by it.
I find it so easy to go through the trials and tribulations of life and get sucked into the mundane and monotonous cycles of “How are you?”s and “Mother, may I?”s each day. But when I was younger, it was different.
Growing up, I loved to sing, dance (despite being rhythmically in sync, I by no means was a prima ballerina), and write. I even tried my hand at painting. I was a self-inspired jack of all trades, and trying my hand at so many things eventually led me to fall in love with cosplay.
Initially, I saw cosplay on the internet. I was honestly confused. Like, people actually make this stuff??
In shock and awe, I scrolled through Google for images of my favorite characters. My eyes widened more and more at the photos of young men and women in colorful armors and dresses. I remember thinking: “HOW CAN THEY LOOK LIKE THIS?”. I was enamored.
It was then that I set the goal to be a cosplayer.
While I was in high school, I was a potato of a child.
I had a few close friends that I held dear, and of course what held us together was anime. The series nearest to my heart was always Sailor Moon, but I managed to branch out. I remember reading Basara, Wedding Peach and Fushugi Yuugi in the library after classes. So when I discovered cosplay, my mind went wild.
“I CAN DRESS UP AS ANYONE! HOW DO I SEW? HOW ARE ZIPPERS EVEN ATTACHED TO CLOTHES?”
So many thoughts and questions arose, but they all excited me. Luckily for me, I had a friend who took me to my first ComicCon NYC in 2008! From there, it was all an amazing journey.
But something seemed to be missing for me. Every featured cosplayer at the parties, all the girls on big pages, and all the girls who had lines for signings out the door….didn’t look like me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love and respect a Jessica Nigri or a MomoKun, but I began to become disheartened. There were a few POC cosplayers who were lights in the dark for me such as KayBear and Sami Bess, but for every mildly popular POC cosplayer, were 10 more that weren’t. Honestly, it began to stress me out. I continued to ignore it, writing it off as me overthinking.
I launched my official cosplay page early in 2017. I picked the name Izzy Saeko because of a high school nickname and my love for Saeko Busujima from High School of the Dead.
My first cosplay was one that I heavily promoted on my page was my Chun-Li . It was a store bought Leg Avenue costume, but when I put it on I felt on top of the world.
My page began gaining a little growth and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. I asked other cosplayers that I knew how I could further promote and they suggested sending my photos to cosplay Instagram accounts and pages, and hope to get featured! I began the grind that all cosplayers, models, and artists know; I don’t think I have ever sent so many emails or DMs as I did in that week.
And before emailing, I scanned the pages and AGAIN, no POC cosplayers.
Being POC in any community is like being at a disadvantage it seems. In my short time as an active cosplayer with a Patreon, I experienced SUCH depression and mental stress.
In our communities, we all have to literally band together to push each other up and honestly, it’s beautiful because I love seeing my friends come together to share and promote each other!
But the fact that we had to make a POC/black girl magic page to promote AMAZINGLY TALENTED ARTISTS because they were NOT being featured elsewhere, makes my heart hurt.
The community that we love and give so much to is partly responsible for negative mental health in our men and women.
A huge example is when KayBear cosplayed as Mavis recently. This super popular, beautiful, and successful woman was told that, “Mavis isn’t black” and was called a n*gger several times.
Even when we break that glass ceiling, a few words make it seem like all of our work was for nothing.
I spend countless nights without sleep, sharing my photos in small groups for POC and sharing other men and women’s photos. It’s all about the grind and hard work, but even that seems to be undermined for our groups. There are HUNDREDS of amazing cosplayers who put their all into their works, and only have 100-200 likes on their pages and garner no attention at all.
Now I sit on the train at the smallest hours of the morning, running my hands through my tousle of black curls, eyes sewn shut, trying to avoid the mental cacophony of dollar signs flashing through my head.
It’s never enough. The money. The effort. Nothing.
I love this community so much. Honestly. But please remember that if you need to take a step back and reevaluate, that’s okay. I did. I shut down my Patreon a few months ago and stopped posting on my fan page for a bit.
I’m back in action now, but bet your bottom dollar that if I begin to feel that dread in my stomach again, I’ll pull back.
Things are harder for us, we know that. But protect yourself and come back stronger. I know, it’s hard.
Find time to repair. Make alterations and cut out the social commentary that
Focus on that childlike love you had for yourself and that ability to pick up anything, and dedicate yourself to it.
Pen and paper are free. They can’t charge you to dance. They can’t give you the option to pay now or bill you later to sing.
Find time to do what you love, and your life will gain a little more meaning than the day before.
It’ll all come full circle. I promise.