The cosplay community is diverse and colorful, full of people of all backgrounds, professions, and fandoms. Unfortunately, as of late, the community has been at differing opinions on how to deal with cosplayers who choose to use blackface in their cosplays. Now, the common reason these blackface cosplayers give as to why they choose to use this systematically racist makeup is for the sake of “accuracy.” However, using a racist form of theatrical expression that is steeped in historical oppression is not needed to put on a cosplay. You can be “accurate” without using people’s race and human skin tone (people are seriously trying to compare Blackface to painting your skin blue/magenta/emerald) as a costume or accessory. One cosplayer has joined in standing up against blackface in society, and I had the opportunity to interview DeLa Doll.
Favorite Quote: “Dan Nicky Your Bobbies”
What do you do? I’m a writer and cosplayer, currently in school majoring in General Education with a minor English Lit (and a bunch of education, art, and communications credits because I love everything and have changed my major more times than you can count on a single hand).
Black Nerd Problems: Please tell us a bit about yourself!
DeLa Doll: I’m a huge fucking dork who likes to research and learn about literally any and everything for fun. I really really like Prince and Nirvana. My favorite anime is called Red Garden and I’ve only met one other person who has even heard of it. Hipster status on fucking fleek. I also do the same shit pretty much everyone else does, especially in the cosplay community: Gaming, reading, watching movies, spending too much money on cosplay and art supplies, making cosplay, wearing cosplay, talking about cosplay…yeah. I attend cons and hang out with my friends and stuff like anyone else. I recently decided to go in a more serious direction with my cosplay stuff, so we’ll see where that takes me.
It kind of cracks me up how some people think I’m this super serious, sensitive, uptight person just because I like to discuss topics pertaining to “social justice.” I’m usually just laughing at stupid memes or engaging in one of my hobbies. Sometimes even both at once.
BNP: You recently came forward to discuss the unsettling number of cosplayers in the community who believe sporting blackface is acceptable in any circumstances. How would you describe your journey in deciding to discuss the issue?
DeLa Doll: Basically, it just kept coming up, so I kept reading more about it and learning why it was wrong. It made me uncomfortable the first time I realized it was even a common thing. I knew about the history of blackface (and yellowface, and redface) prior to getting into cosplay, so the first time I encountered it within the community, I was immediately reminded of that history, as well as more recent examples. It got to a point where I felt compelled to make a public statement about it. My initial stance on the issue was “Just ignore them. They’re doing it for attention so if we don’t give them any, they’ll go away.”
But ignoring things rarely helps most problems go away (unless it comes to banning trolls), and I decided that maybe actually addressing the topic would be more effective than pretending not to see it. You can’t always look the other way.
BNP: Do you feel the community has the ability and desire to make moves in discussing racism in the community and taking the appropriate steps to make these environments fun and safe for everyone?
DeLa Doll: Of course I do! Especially after seeing all the support and understanding that came from members of the community after my article went viral. If I didn’t have hope, I wouldn’t bother speaking up at all. I just wish more people would join in. I feel like some people, including more prominent cosplayers, are afraid to say anything because they don’t want to isolate fans. For me, if you’re afraid to address this topic or feel it’s not an important one, then I’m really not afraid to lose you as a fan.
We all love saying “cosplay is for everyone,” but until we get to a point where we stop excusing shitty behaviors that make the community less welcoming, then aren’t really practicing what we preach. That goes for body shaming. That goes for sexism. That goes for racism. I feel like sometimes people only talk about things that they feel directly affect them, and you can’t be that way when pushing for acceptance. If you’re gonna speak up against body shaming, you gotta speak up against sexism and racism. If you’re gonna speak up against sexism, you gotta speak up against body shaming and racism. You get the idea. It’s not about every man for himself, it’s about making it as comfortable as possible for all.
My journey wasn’t really a journey so much as just…this is how I’ve always been. Even when I was a quiet awkward dork in grade school, I could find my words when it came time to speak up about things that were controversial. Whenever I’m made aware of something, in this case, the “something” being issues surrounding racism and blackface in the cosplay community, I want to know more about it and then speak up on it when I feel moved to.
BNP: What does cosplay mean personally for you?
DeLa Doll: It’s fun as fuck. It’s like all my favorite things rolled into one super-hobby. Artistic expression, which I know sounds cliche as hell but it’s true. I get to utilize so many different skills and experiment with different mediums to create something I’m proud to wear and show the world. Cosplay shouldn’t be something that’s used to hurt or harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
BNP: What are your final thoughts on being an inspiration in the cosplay community?
DeLa Doll: It’s honestly really weird to refer to myself as an inspiration. I’m happy that my article inspired and resonated with so many people, though. I didn’t write it to shame anyone or get some sort of petty “revenge.” I felt moved to bring attention to the topic because it has come up so much, and I wanted to use my voice to speak up about it. I also like to write about my personal experiences as a way to express myself and relate to others who may be going through something similar. If anything I do helps someone else, I’m happy.
Photography Credit: Figments Media | Blackcreek Photography | Running Mouth Entertainment