So there I was, surfing the internet, when I found a page that was using a rather old cosplay picture of my friends and I as their header. And when I say old, I mean old. 2004 old, in fact. Wow, have I really been cosplaying for that long?
I think, if you cosplay, you should definitely take a moment to look back at your first cosplay. It’s a great reminder to see how far you’ve come. Cosplay is always about having fun emulating the character of your choice, but it’s also a great way to see how you’ve changed and improved over time. I think people don’t realize that, when it comes to cosplay, everyone starts somewhere. Cosplay is a learning process and, over time, you learn different tricks and your skills improve. You become better at your craft as you do it more often.
For those of you who are just now getting into cosplay, I know it can feel intimidating going to a convention and seeing all of the “omg amazing” cosplayers out there. But the honest truth is that they all started somewhere. They all were, once upon a time, right where you are now. And here’s some photo evidence to prove it:
This was my first cosplay with my two friends, back at the first Anime Detour in 2004:
This is us doing Yu Yu Hakusho cosplay and my friend in the middle made the cosplay for me. This was the start of my cosplay journey.
This picture has special meaning to me when I stop and think about it. I first discovered cosplay at Anime Central back in 2002. I was really interested in doing it but quickly discovered how there are so few characters who look like me. Today, of course, I know that you can (and should) cosplay who you want, but back then I thought I needed to find that plus sized, black, female character.
Later, I discovered Yu Yu Hakusho and I fell in love with the series and with Kurama. The Hiei cosplay in the picture said she would make me the costume to match her. I remember putting the costume on in the bathroom and being nervous to walk out as this character who wasn’t black, who was skinny, and who was male (I even tried binding my chest which became a lost cause, back then I didn’t really know any good methods of doing so). Thanks to my friend’s encouragement (and my partner’s encouragement, who was cosplaying Gaara from Naruto), I walked out that door and never looked back.
We met the other Kurama cosplayer in the picture later during the convention. We ended up hanging out and becoming friends (we’re all still friends now). She ended up giving me some pretty hilarious, but solid advice, that I ended up sticking to for the rest of my cosplay days:
Be the best, big breasted, black Yoko Kurama that you can be.
There aren’t a lot of characters who I look like, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that I love the characters I cosplay, and it’s up to me to do the best I can in being that character. Instead of focusing on what I’m not, I needed to focus on what I was and embrace it. Cosplay isn’t about meeting requirements, but sharing your love for a certain character, doing your best, and having fun.
That’s why looking back at your first cosplay is so important. It’s your first step into this world. When I first looked at this picture I thought, “Oh. My. God.” But when I stopped to think about it I realized, wow, I’ve come a long way haven’t I? And so have my friends, we all have. This picture is proof of progress and growth. I’ve gone from one costume a year and one or two cons a year to several costumes and conventions all over the place. I really was the best, big breasted, black Yoko Kurama, and that keeps improving over time.
Here is a testament to what I’ve been saying: everyone starts somewhere, and after ten years, here is where my friends and I are now:
My latest cosplay: Neo Queen Serenity
My friends (the Hiei and human Kurama) cosplaying with two of their friends. You can find more work via Strange Land Costuming:
The human Kurama cosplayer is on the left while the Hiei cosplayer is on the right. Look how much has changed!
So please, always remember, that every cosplayer starts somewhere.
Extra Note: I’m not sure who did the art in my feature image, but it’s a picture I’ve seen all over the place online. If anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know!