I came across Shayla on Instagram looking for awesome cosplay and was not disappointed when I saw her Fallout video game cosplay photos. Only someone with some serious #blackgirlmagic could jump out a vault this fly! Enjoy this interview! -Carrie
Black Nerd Problems: Please tell us a bit about yourself! How long have you been in the cosplay game?
BBG: I’m originally from Fort Carson, Colorado but being a military brat and having many homes in different states, I claim San Antonio, Texas as my home since this is the place we have finally settled in. I am an animation and graphic design student who works part-time as a receptionist. I’m working on becoming a full-time cosplay model at the moment. I started cosplaying when I was 16 but took a break for 4 years.
BNP: Your husband is not only your go-to photographer but an editor as well, how convenient is that? You two even couple cosplay together, right? Were anime and things of a nerdy nature something that you two met and bonded through?
BBG: It’s very convenient! I can always check on the progress of the photos at my convenience, and I can schedule a photoshoot on the spot whether it’s that very day or the next morning. Yes, we do cosplay together! In fact, our cosplay team is known as JayShay Cosplay. It was because of anime that we met each other. We sat across from each other in senior year during English. I just so happened to be drawing Sakura from Naruto. He saw it and asked me if I liked anime. Our nerdy traits are something we always bond through whether it’s anime, comics, or gaming.
BNP: Gender-bent cosplay is a favorite of mine. How did you come to the “Aqua Lass” gender-bent Kaldur idea?
BBG: I wanted to cosplay a character that allowed me to take advantage of my beautiful melanin. Aqualad is actually my favorite character from Young Justice and I knew that I could totally work the hell out of it. I was completely convinced once I saw Tumblr Artist Nacholumpia’s fanart.
BNP: So it looks like you are pretty hands-on with the entire process — buying fabric and putting your costumes together with help on your sewing machine. Are you self-taught or have you taken classes?
BBG: I have taken only one class in high school as an elective. The rest is self-taught!
BNP: I LOVE DOGS. So the dog that you’ve taken photos of within your Fallout 4 photos is your dog? Your service dog? Do you mind elaborating on that? Also, what did you make your PIP-BOY out of?
BBG: Yup that’s my baby, Dean! (Yes, I named him after Dean Winchester!) Technically he is my husband’s, Jonathan, service dog but I’m the actual owner. After my husband (and I as well) got out of the Air Force, he needed a service dog for his PTSD. So we decided to have Dean trained and certified. Jonathan made my PIP-BOY for me! He crafted it out of craft foam.
BNP: And you’re also an artist (I love the gifs and Spice your OC from Big Hero 6!) What is the best thing about digital art and using the Internet as a platform to show it? Also: is Shiro from Voltron your newest Fictional Bae or nah?
Dear god help me ????❤️ pic.twitter.com/maZ9ypQloH
— QueenBBG (@BBG4ya) July 1, 2016
BNP: As an art form what does cosplay bring to your life? What do you love about it?
BBG: Cosplay lets me explore another medium of creativity. It has allowed me to love myself once again and fulfill one of my childhood dreams of being a model. I LOOOOVE seeing the variety of cosplay from others. Their craftsmanship always amuses me, like “Get Ready with me Make Up” vids. It’s like art coming to life being able to see its beauty in person.
BNP: Any memorable stories while in cosplay?
BBG: I remember the first time I cosplayed. It was my first con and I went as Terra from Teen Titans with my dad. I met one of my long time deviantart friends there. She was dressed as Raven. I remember her telling me that I looked like I was getting ready to kick her butt when we first made eye contact. LOL. A couple of years later I discovered that very cosplay on a cosplay forum and saw 2 comments saying “Terra got a tan” and “Terra is dark”. I kinda felt hurt that people were commenting on my skin and not the cosplay itself.
BNP: Can you elaborate on why those comments that focused on your skin color vs the cosplay hurt? What did you do to move past it? Why are comments like that detrimental to cosplayers of color?
BBG: Those comments were kind of a reminder that I was a Black girl cosplaying a white character and how the Internet didn’t appreciate people cosplaying characters that didn’t fit their skin or size. I was reminded that racism was still out there but now it was in a place I use as a comfort zone. I moved past it by focusing on creating more characters like me. Getting back into the cosplay game, I realize I wanted to represent for the Black nerds and otakus out there. (I want to be on that Jessica Nigri status.) Like “Hey Black cosplayers exist and we can be just as good as non-POC cosplayers!” I want to basically bury those negative comments with good comments and prove to the nerd world that our skin color makes no difference.
BNP: Lastly — what future cons are you attending?
BBG: I’m really really hoping to attend Otakon since it was my first convention and this year is the last year it will be held in Maryland. But if not, I know San Japan for sure since it is in my hometown. I have my list of conventions I’m attending on my cosplay page.