I've been very fortunate in receiving several kind and humbling messages from fellow cosplayers recently, and they've given me a lot to think about in terms of encouragement and confidence in this crazy hobby.
Within the last year or so, I've been working a lot on "transformation"; changing myself with body language, makeup, and prosthetic work to fit characters that look nothing like how I normally do. I'll usually run into at least one person who doesn't recognize me at a con, which is so much fun!, and it's even gone all the way to Reddit arguments as to whether or not I'm a girl or man! Many of the messages I've been receiving and answering have talked about how my ability (which is honestly mediocre at best) to change how I look for cosplay has encouraged and inspired them to attempt characters they feel don't suit them physically, and I can't even BEGIN to tell you how awesome and exciting it is to hear that!!
The hobby has always tried to share the positive message of, "Cosplay who YOU want!", but unfortunately, it's also fairly common for those same people who follow that advise to be chastised for it. And why? For trivial things; because they don't fit a certain trait, characteristic, or stature. And that can be INCREDIBLY deflating for a cosplayer, and in the end it makes many people shy away from their favorite characters that they'd love to cosplay, but feel as though they can't-- without first putting on a bullet-proof vest. It's sad, it's unfair, and it's the complete opposite of what this hobby and its community should be doing.
To me, cosplay is about representing characters that mean something to me. It's about finding a way to share those reasons, those influences, and those experiences with other people so that they'll love him or her, too. It's about making people laugh, about bringing back nostalgia, and about trying my best to learn new techniques, tell stories, and set a positive example.
Outside of cosplay, I'm incredibly shy. I have severe anxiety and I don't do much outside the house. But when I go to conventions, I feel freed and enthusiastic! I don't mind making a fool out of myself to make someone smile, and I'm able to combat my panic attacks and health problems with much more efficiency. And the thing is, I can't explain to you why. I'm not a different person when I cosplay, I'm just more comfortable person. When I first started cosplaying (and several years into it, in fact) I used to be terrified of negative comments. They'd strike me deep and my brain wouldn't let them go. But I've learned to set that aside and focus on what's in MY control, and that's doing my best. I've never created anything that I thought to be perfect, but I'm always satisfied with what I was able to accomplish, even if unfinished or flawed. So what I don't have a pointy nose... I'll just make one! So what if I look too young... there's makeup! It doesn't matter anymore if I'm too short or too wide or too pale or the wrong gender, ethnicity, or species! I try my hardest. I "make it work". I take joy in becoming something that I'm not. That's what cosplay means to me. It's different for everyone; some love the contests, the photos, the designs, the craftsmanship, the roleplaying. But, for me, its about paying homage to an arrogant drunk with good intentions, an uncool dweeb, a sympathetic old man, a confident woman, a zany villain, a terrified child who's forced to save the world, and someone that, for whatever reason, I love. And it's something that YOU can do, too!
You CAN do it. There's no trick or secret! It just takes time, practice, and drive. But trust me, if a lazy gal like me can do it, then so can you!! I still feel insecure when I'm criticized, and I still even feel embarrassed sometimes by posing as some of my zanier characters, but I wouldn't change a thing! And if there's anything that I hope I can share and encourage others to do, it'd be this--
Don't be afraid of mistakes.
Don't be afraid of ridicule.
Don't be afraid of being ridiculous.
Don't be afraid of humor.
Don't be afraid of being ugly.
Cosplay who you love, and who you want.
And be fearless. <3