If you’ve spent any amount of time on Twitter or other social media this month, you may have noticed the hashtag 28DaysofBlackCosplay.
Maybe you’re wondering what the hashtag is all about. Maybe you’re wondering why black cosplayers need an entire month to themselves. Maybe you aren’t completely aware of the challenges, obstacles, and downright abuse black cosplayers face on a regular basis as they practice a celebrated form of fandom-related self-expression.
#28DaysofBlackCosplay was created five years ago by cosplayer Chaka Cumberbatch-Tinsley, aka @princessology. In an article for Essence by Briana Lawrence, the hashtag creator said #28Days is about “visiblity, representation and celebration.”
The month-long event was designed to call attention to the fact that black cosplayers do exist. You’d be surprised how many geeks, cosplayers, and convention organizers — not to mention the media — like to pretend they don’t.
And when black geeks are brave and bold enough to let their cosplay flags fly, they’re often met, at best, with indifference, criticism, and condescension or, at worst, gatekeeping, harassment, and racism.
#28DaysofBlackCosplay presents a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with talented black cosplayers, share and follow them on social media, request to see them at your favorite convention or event, and become more aware of how to support them.
Krystina Arielle-Tigner is a seasoned cosplayer who has forged a memorable career with her signature looks, including her Nubia, Storm, Misty Knight, Hamilton, Ironheart, and Star Trek cosplays. She was recently featured on PopSugar’s list of 16 Black Cosplay Queens.
Krystina is a host on Nerd Talk Live, plays Orisha on Sirens of the Realms, Bearah Pawcett on Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role: Honey Heist 3, and Rawr Gardless on Saving Throw. She’s also fearless when it comes to calling out racism, sexism, and toxic fan behavior.
I asked Krystina to walk me through the basics of #28DaysofCosplay and give me her perspective on the hashtag and the struggles black cosplayers face. I’m grateful she took the time to share her experience with No Man’s Land readers.
For those who are unfamiliar, what is the purpose of #28DayofBlackCosplay?
28 Days of Cosplay began as a hashtag on Twitter started by @princessology. It started as a way to raise awareness of the many black cosplayers that are underrepresented throughout the year. Many cosplay pages, you have to scroll for at least a full page to see even one cosplayer of color. It’s unfortunate but it’s true. 28 Days of Cosplay is a way to showcase our talent so that people can see that we are here, we are just as talented as white cosplayers, and deserve to be promoted just as much on merit.
What are some of the specific challenges black cosplayers face?
As a black cosplayer, I am immediately faced with the fact that people have this need to quantify my cosplay as “black cosplay.” I am a proud black woman but it is used by many people to try and diminish the work that I do. In the same way that people would hurl the word “articulate” and act surprised that I speak clearly.
I have had plenty of conventions where photographers ignored me and refused to shoot with me in what are now some of my most recognizable looks. Thanks to friends, like Alicia Marie Body, Utahime Cosplay, and Hendoart, who have gone out of their way to convince photographers shooting me wasn’t a waste of their time.
Not to mention the numerous photographers that claim they don’t know how to light me properly when photography is a study of light. And, most of all, the harassment and hate messages. People calling me “N-word Supergirl” or claiming that I can’t be a certain hero because I’m black.
Something I say quite often is that if your biggest problem with me cosplaying a flying alien that shoots lasers from her eyes is the skin color, then your problem is bigger than me.
You’ve been pretty vocal when you’ve been subjected to clueless and/or racist comments, behavior, and harassment. Have you had to deal with a lot of pushback because of that?
Surprisingly, as I’ve always been vocal about my feelings and have tried to always remain authentic, there hasn’t been as much pushback. Probably because most people know I have a zero tolerance policy for disrespect and nonsense.
What can the geek community do to support black cosplayers this month and year round?
What the geek community can do to support us is to do just that … support us. Stop sharing the same cosplayers because they have a large follower count. Help others get to that place by promoting their work. Most of these cosplay share pages would have no content without cosplayers, so in refusing to showcase black cosplayers, they are proverbially cutting off their own nose to spite their face.
Don’t wait until Black History Month and then pretend to be an ally. Use your platform year round. Introduce yourself to new talent. Go compliment that cosplayer you are admiring from a distance at the con. Be welcoming and supportive.
Would you like to give a shoutout to some cosplayers you admire who deserve more visibility?
There are so many cosplayers that I truly love. I’ll shoutout some Instagram handles and if I miss your name, please charge it to my head and not my heart.
And so many more.
If you Google Quirktastic, they have a comprehensive list of over 500 cosplayers of color to support and follow. It is an amazing resource. So when conventions say they don’t know of any black cosplayers and that’s why they don’t book them, pull that list up.
How does it feel to be included in PopSugar’s list of 16 Black Cosplay Queens?
Being included in the PopSugar article caught me off guard. I didn’t know anything about it until it was released and it was such an honor to be listed next to so many cosplayers that I admire. That’s also another great resource of cosplayers to follow, btw!
Is there anything else you’d like to say on this subject?
I think it’s important to remember that people are people and talent is talent. Asking to be recognized for your hard work is not being greedy. It’s just asking for the minimum. Stop making us jump through hoops and expecting us to be OK with that. We know we deserve better and in order for us to achieve that, we need the people in positions of power and those with access to do better.