Last time we were here, Nadia added to our “My Curves, My Journey” series with her story of loving herself fully!
Our “My Curves, My Journey” series was created as a way for us women to share our journey into finding ourselves. As I am on this journey of personal growth and learning to better love myself, I felt the need to create a space for our community to share those stories. Depending on where we are in our individual journeys we may just need to hear someone else’s story to help us move our along and so with this series I hope to encourage us to share with each other.
What has been one of your most pivotal moments on your journey to loving yourself and owning who you are?
Can you remember what that felt like? Join us every week as we learn about each other’s journeys to self-love.
My Curves, My Journey: TaLynn on Living, Learning, and Loving Herself Through Cosplay
I’m not a fashionista. Never have been. I can trace the roots back to my childhood. My closest sibling was my brother, so I was made aware quite early of the different behaviors our clothing allowed. My clothing was meant to be clean and pretty while his was allowed to be dirty and worn. Once the difference in expectations became apparent, I stopped wearing “girl” clothes. I wanted the freedom that my brother seemed to have while wearing his clothing.
And it worked. When I wore jeans, high-top sneakers, sweatshirts, and athletic clothing, I was allowed to play tackle football, explore the creek and sewers. I could come home with ripped pants and dirty shirts with little to know repercussions. All my clothing became “play clothes,” except for a few dresses which I only wore on special occasions.
Then puberty hit, and I received a new list of reasons to seek invisibility. Between classmates suddenly changing from friends to predators and bullies, to attempts to conform despite not fitting the acceptable demographic, I seemed to want the impossible: to be seen as a peer, not a target. Like many who came before, I failed in my mission. I tried to hide in plain sight and just ended up off to the side. A somewhat acknowledged presence who wanted nothing more than to escape that orbit and figure out who she wanted to be.
A part of me wanted to be pretty. I saw the supposed benefits of male attention. People would constantly ask me to validate my existence through a boyfriend, and I wasn’t able to do that because I’d also been taught in a multitude of ways that pretty hurts. My attractive friends dealt with unwanted attention from men of all ages. Their every action sexualized despite the lack of intent. Men would watch them, waiting for an opportunity to attack; I recognized that attractiveness meant vulnerability and I didn’t want that for myself.
So, instead, I continued dressing like I had as a kid – sweatpants, jeans, oversized t-shirts. The few times I did glam up, I felt like I’d lost control of my autonomy. Men would invade my space and graft who they wanted me to be onto me. Attempts to assert my personhood were met with disdain, emotional, and sometimes physical violence. Femininity became a costume, a persona I’d adopt for specific goals.
All that changed with cosplay.
I didn’t know it was cosplay when I started doing it. What I did know was that dressing up gave me the space I needed to experiment with my look. To be more daring with my clothing choices. It was like I could bring out the secret me that I didn’t think was acceptable. And let’s be real, it isn’t. But between cosplay and personal growth, I feel better able to manage my space and the people in it. I went from someone who avoided patterns, skirts, dresses, and basic colors to someone who will incorporate multiple patterns in one outfit. I went from blue hair to green hair to purple hair to shaved head after years of wearing a relaxed bob or ponytail. I now own too many corsets (as if that’s possible) and feel little to no shame in showing my skin or my shape. I no longer feel as though I have to wear heels to conform. I wear the footwear I like and feels good because feeling good is a requirement for me to like my shoes.
I gained body confidence. – where before I believed that I was too much of everything: too fat, too round, too busty, too brown, cosplay helped me stop worrying about it. I learned to appreciate my body and continue to work to reject messaging that tells me my physicality is problematic or unacceptable. I am no longer anyone’s secret. I am who I am, “thick” waist, “flat” ass, and all.
I learned how fashion can help me express the different aspects of myself, the parts that not everyone needs to understand, but I need to show. I could be wild, audacious, fun, carefree, joyful, rageful, intense, scary…I can use fashion to speak to and express all of me.
Through wigs, makeup, clothing, contacts…I am brave enough to buy the funky colors and fabrics that I suspected wouldn’t fly in the office. I wear tight clothes, revealing clothes. I take risks with my look. Before, I’d feel the need to ask what people thought about a piece of clothing; now, if I like it and it fits well, I buy it. There is less doubt about my preferences. Now I rock what I like and the longer I set my creative clothing fiend free, the more eclectic and fun my normal wardrobe becomes. I love the fun that comes with playing with my look, which is a huge part of cosplay.
Don’t get it twisted, my experience with cosplay isn’t the norm. There is a huge vein of toxicity in the culture that I had to divorce myself from to thrive. As with most things, whiteness, thinness, and youthfulness are prioritized in this culture. Being none of these things means that I am often invisible unless I create a space for myself, which I continually do. Appreciating myself as I am is a continual process, but the more I do it, the better I become at it.
Cosplay helped me understand what it was to appreciate, love, and accept myself as I am. It helped me learn to have fun with myself through hair, makeup, and fashion. I learned better strategies to protect myself from body shaming and self-doubt. I felt my confidence and conviction to express who I am flourish over time with my pursuit of this hobby.
Through cosplay, I have grown to become the me I want to be, and I encourage anyone who is interested in cosplay to try it out. It’s both easier and harder than it seems, but it’s a fun way to play with your look and learn all the ways you can appreciate who you are. If you are willing to be honest with yourself, reflect, learn, and grow, cosplay reveals physical and emotional nuances that everyday life distracts you from noticing. Cosplay is also a pathway to learn about self-love and self-care.
There’s an art to dressing up. There’s an art to loving yourself. Cosplay was a strong part of helping me learn how to do both.
Thank you so much TaLynn for sharing your journey about how much cosplay has helped you through!
TaLynn Kel is a writer and cosplayer in Atlanta, GA. Her book, Breaking Normal, is a compilation of 2016 essays talking about her fat, Black, femme geek life and can be found on Amazon. She has also been a guest writer for Black Girl Nerds, The Establishment, Huffington Post, AlterNet, and Everyday Feminism. You can support her work by following her on her site, Breaking Normal, her social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Medium and Tumblr. You can also either become a patron or contribute to her Paypal.
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