Once upon a time I had a friend. That friend was quickly becoming popular in the cosplay community as a whole. She was (and is) a good seamstress. She attracted the attention of other popular and/or talented cosplayers. A big part of me was jealous. I felt left behind. I had only been sewing for a couple of years at that point, so to watch my closest friend’s career take off was difficult for me and my low self-esteem.
At one point I was accused of accusing her of only making friends with popular and/or talented cosplayers. It was years ago. I don’t remember what I said. But I do remember that I felt that way. I’ve since come to realize, however slowly, that it may look like elitism, but it isn’t. It’s truly friendship.
I began to realize this when I was accepted into Meru’s Seven Stakes group for Katsucon 2013. Though I hadn’t personally been chosen to be in the group (they were looking for a seventh girl and I happened to be going to Katsu and I’m only a huge Umineko fan y’know) the fact that I was accepted so lovingly was incredibly reassuring in a lot of ways. Among other things, it said to me that I was good enough to cosplay with a group of girls I’d admired for years – and that was huge.
In August of that same year, Sparkle Pipsi messaged me and asked if I would join her Love Live group. I was so moved and excited and touched and honored in a way I’d never felt. The ultimate “senpai noticed me” moment (well, until Sushio posted me on Twitter, but you can’t really compare the two). And I got to cosplay not only with a whole other group of girls I admired, but for the first time ever I was part of a complete group. We had all nine girls. I think we were the first American cosplayers to accomplish this. It’s something I’ll always be proud of.
You see this here? This doesn’t just happen because you will it.
It happens when you get nine girls who are competent enough to sew their own costumes. Nine girls who can afford the materials and the convention costs. Nine girls who can to admit when they need help, and kind enough to give it when needed. Nine girls who are too mature to cause drama or sever friendships over a costume. Nine girls who want to make a dream happen.
Have I actively sought to become friends with cosplayers I admire? Absolutely. I think that’s natural… to want senpai to notice you, at least, and if you become friends that’s all the better. It’s not necessarily because they are good cosplayers. All cosplayers I follow, I follow for two reasons – first, because I like their costumes, and second, because they come across as being a rad person. When I seek to befriend someone I admire, it’s not because I want their knowledge or fame or influence or WHATEVER. I just want to know them and be their friend. Because they seem like someone I’d want to be friends with. That, and nothing more. If other things come of it? Super rad. If not? You can’t have too many friends.
Though this post may come across as me simply being defensive, I don’t mean it that way. I’ve come almost full circle – I was the girl on the outside and I earned my way inside. I know what it’s like to be both, now. I’ve heard friends say other friends have said that I only like people who are good at cosplay. Then I have other friends saying that you have to “buy your way” into a cosplay group. Neither of those apply to me – so maybe I am a little defensive. That friend I mentioned earlier? I now know how she felt when she heard I was saying those sorts of things.
Like I said – almost full circle. Almost – I’m not senpai enough to really begin including others, but I’m sure I’ll get there. And my attitude then will be the same as it is now:
I don’t make friends based on their cosplay skills. While my social circle is largely cosplayers – that’s naturally going to happen when you plan your calendar around conventions – I have plenty of friends who aren’t cosplayers, or who don’t even attend conventions at all. But if I’m going to form a group, you can be damn sure the first people I’m going to pick from are my friends. I’m going to pick people I’m going to have fun with, but I’m also going to pick the people I think are reliable. This may seem elitist to outsiders, but I assure you, these decisions don’t come from a place of elitism. They come from a group leader’s desire to create the best possible formula for a successful cosplay group. It’s not a desire to exclude anybody – it’s simple logic. Want to be on the inside looking out? Look within. It starts with you. I put in my time and earned the few opportunities I get. You have to do the same.
That friend I mentioned earlier? I apologized to her. We’re friends again.
I grew up. I’ll only keep growing.