When some people think of cosplayers—the enthusiastic fans of comics, movies, and TV shows who show up at conventions decked out in incredibly detailed recreations of their favorite characters' looks—they tend to think of nerdy white guys in haphazardly put together ensembles.
As anyone who's ever spent any time at a large con will tell you, though, the reality of the cosplaying community is much different. There are plenty of black and brown cosplayers out there proving, thread by thread, that nerdiness and fantasy-inspired fashion is, in fact, rated E for everyone.
For the past few years, in celebration of Black History Month, black cosplayers have gathered around the hashtag #28DaysOfBlackCosplay to show off their looks. Speaking to Black Girl Nerds, the members of Chocolate Covered Cosplay, an LA-based cosplaying group, explained what cosplay means to them artistically and how cosplaying as women of color in particular was a powerful form of personal expression in spaces that are traditionally thought of as belonging to white people.
"The bullying and the gate-keeping is what I hate most," C3 member Angel Tenshi said. "We are all nerds; we should just enjoy our fandoms. I have Captain America’s symbol tattooed on my body, and people still come up to me and to try to quiz me on my knowledge of Captain America."
Ashi_Chan, another C3 cosplayer added that oftentimes, she's forced to deal with other fans referring to her cosplay as the "black" version of a character in a way that challenges the authenticity of her costumes. Conversely, she said, there are rarely critiques of non-black cosplayers who decide to color their skin to more closely look like a particular character.
"I have to explain why Blackface is wrong," Ashi_Chan said. "There is very little intersectionality of race and culture. And that sucks."
Looking at the 2017 class of #28DaysOfBlackCosplay shows that the members of C3 aren't the only people out there fighting to make cosplaying more inclusive: