(Originally published on BlackGirlNerds.com)

What I’ve Learned: Looking Back On My First Year of Cosplay

Original article written by: Marjie Southerland

This year has been a whirlwind of experiences. I am sure I’m not alone when I say that I can’t believe it’s almost 2014. Looking back on 2013, I had to take a second to look back on my sudden and exciting leap into the cosplay universe.

April of this year I went to my first convention, something I had been wanting to do for a really long time. I never had the time or the money to make it happen, but this year I made sure nothing was going to stop me. I didn’t take this opportunity to dress up, but I was overwhelmed with excitement after seeing all the other cosplayers. I could not help but feel like I was missing out on some secret fun that was happening because I wasn’t in costume.

Since then I have learned a ton about this community and its members. I have this problem where I imagine people to be these larger than life beings. People that do things that I want to do or only dream of doing, I put them on pedestals. Not to be worshipped, but to look up to and aspire to be. What I forget to realize sometimes is that these are real people! With lives, loves, and problems just like me. This is something that became extremely apparent to me in the cosplay world. Cosplayers like Jay Justice and Tony R Ray who are just living life one day and one costume at a time. They are celebrities to me in a way, but are the most humble and kind HUMANS. Jay Justice was one of the first cosplayers I reached out to for advice when I first began. Not once did she make me feel less than or insignificant. She encouraged and welcomed me like the beautiful woman she is. When I met Tony at Wizard World, he totally embraced me and made me feel like a friend all weekend. How awesome that complete strangers can be so genuinely open. Thank you.

On the other side, like most communities things aren’t always peaches, roses, and sunshine. People say hurtful things, throw shade, and do crude things. Men and women violate and offend each other. People provide less than positive criticism for each other’s costumes. Internet memes, message boards, and social media in general create an anonymous and hostile environment for trolling, racism, and negativity. We can say, “can’t we all just get along”, but it’s easier said than done. The cosplay community is  not exclusive to this behavior, but it would be beautiful thing if we  could find a way to make ourselves exempt from or even intolerant of it. Like I said before, we are all human. We are all born, live, create, and die. Let’s just do it together without all the negativity. Just like we ignore those who heckle because they don’t understand why we do what we do, let us do the same to those who try to bring down the positivity from within.
What I have learned this past year is that you have to find and make the time to do the things you love. There were days that all I wanted to do was sew or shop for pieces for my costumes, but would feel too exhausted to move after getting home. On the days that I didn’t veg out on my couch and actually got up and did creative and productive things, I felt awesome! Even the times when I got frustrated with my sewing machine, cut something wrong, had to start all over, or couldn’t find what I was looking for, I still felt accomplished and productive. Cosplay has given me a positive outlet, especially during these dreary Chicago winter months.

Cosplay can get very expensive, but is extremely rewarding. I have not taken the time to add up how much I’ve spent on my costumes, but when I put them on I feel like a million bucks. No amount of money I spend even matters once I put on that costume and strut my stuff. When I look in the mirror or look at the photos that have been taken and think about all the hard work and time that went into putting my costume together, it doesn’t equate to a dollar amount. I love cosplay and I love how it makes me feel.
I am so excited for 2014! I’m excited to build my skills, meet new people, and learn more about this amazing world. My cosplay journey is far from over and I’m poised for every twist, turn and loop!


Marjie Southerland is an actor/singer/mover/shaker from New Jersey, living “The Dream” in Chicago,IL. Check out her website www.marjiesoutherland.com and ‘like’ her on facebook to stay posted on all of her adventures!