It wasn’t that long ago that cosplaying as a whole was seen as something that only “losers” and the socially awkward. As social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and of course Reddit have expanded and taken over as some of the major outlets of conversation in our society, a lot of stigmas of old have started to change. People have found communities that embraced their love for paying homage to their favorite series and characters. (If you’re unfamiliar with cosplay, which is short for costume play, this Wiki article might help a bit).
It’s the reason why websites like this, dedicated to nerdom, blerdom and all aspects of entertainment exist.
Over the years, we’ve seen black participants in cosplay increase, leading up to what was a pleasant surprise on Reddit late last week.
Cameron is a firefighter from Birmingham, Alabama who cosplayed as a Shiny Bellossom, a rare special coloration of a grass Pokemon that made its debut in the Gold/Silver games, at Sakura-Con in Seattle, WA. When he posted his outfit on May 18, 2018, complete with a black and yellow pair of Retro Jordan 1s, his post took off, receiving almost 400 comments and over 15k upvotes (Reddit’s social currency so to speak). We reached out to Cameron to talk about his experiences at Sakura-Con, his love for the Pokemon series, cosplaying and what it has been like to get the attention he’s been receiving.
It’s no prob, I’m just glad that you reached out initially. This whole “attention” thing is a pretty new experience to me.
My name’s Cameron, I’m from and currently live in Alabama. To be more specific, I live in Birmingham, and have for most of my life. I’m currently a firefighter.
Cosplaying was a pipe dream up until last year. Hell, a lot of things were pipe dreams up until last year; last year was a very good year for me.This wasn’t my first time cosplaying, but it was my first time cosplaying in the PNW (Pacific Northwest)
What changed in the last year (that you don’t mind talking about) that opened up the opportunity to cosplay?
That firefighter thing was a huge change for me. I dropped out of college in 2013 due to a combination of it costing too much and not making any real progress in what I was majoring in at the time (Electrical Engineering for reference). My dad always told me that if the engineering thing didn’t work out, that I should try to be a firefighter like him, so that’s what I worked on in the time between dropping out and last year. What’s funny is that my dad retired from the department after 21 years, two weeks before I began recruit school; he joked that the department could only handle one of us at a time.
HELL no, I definitely didn’t see any of this attention coming. I don’t know if I just posted the pics at the right time, or if people really like my cosplay that much, but that was completely unexpected.No other PMs, but plenty of positive attention though. On Reddit, Imgur, and Facebook of all places. Facebook was the most shocking tbh
What was it about the Facebook comments that surprised you the most?
The same thing that surprised me about the Reddit and Imgur comments: the volume and how overwhelmingly positive they were. About a week after the convention, I did what everyone else does when they’re apart of an anime convention’s Facebook: ask if anyone took pictures of me. So I added a couple of pictures, then went to sleep. I woke up the next day, and my single comment was flooded with people complimenting my cosplay, posting pictures that we took together, and lamenting that they didn’t get to get in a picture with me. And I’m just like “all this attention for one guy dressed as an obscure Pokemon?”For someone that’s working to overcome self confidence issues, it was a shock, but a positive shock. A similar shock was administered when my reddit post blew up; and now I’m here giving an interview about it. It be like that sometimes lol
Yeah, believe it or not, Bellossom is actually my favorite Pokémon. I can’t explain why, since it’s not particularly good or even very memorable, it just is. I think what really sold me on the idea was realizing it was actually an attainable goal. I did my research and found someone who was willing to commission the outfit for me. That, and I had enough people convince me that I wouldn’t look bad while in the outfit. As they said “you work out all the time, at least show it off a little bit”.For some strange reason though, I’m supremely confident when I’m cosplaying as Bellossom. I’m still working on maintaining that confidence in my everyday life, but I’d like to think that I’m doing better now than I have been up until this point.
Yeah, first time at SakuraCon, and it was by far the biggest con that I’ve ever been to. My first con was Hamacon 7 (2016) in Huntsville, AL, then I went to KamiCon 9 and X (2017 and 2018) in Birmingham, AL. KamiCon X was the largest con that I had gone to, then SakuraCon came through and crushed all the buildings.
What was the biggest difference (other than size maybe) between the cons you attended in Huntsville and Birmingham vs. Sakura-Con? Do you think we will see these types of events grow in our state?
For each day in the Alabama cons, there was a definite start time, and end time (usually around 11 or midnight); for SakuraCon, there were various sections that lasted the entire duration of the convention. It was usually “free play” areas like the gaming rooms, anime theaters, and manga library… also, SakuraCon had a manga library. Anyway, you did mention size already, but I feel like it needs a special mention. KamiCon had around 8K people this past January, and SakuraCon 2017 tripled that figure. I’d love to see an Alabama convention do those kinds of numbers, but let’s be real: we gotta go to Georgia or Florida for attendance like that.One thing I did like about the Alabama conventions is that the panels and guests interested me more. I spent much of my SakuraCon time simply wandering around the convention hall, mingling with the other congoers, but I did a good bit of line-standing at the past two KamiCons in order to get signed TeamFourStar/Steven Universe memorabilia or to get into a Pokemon quiz panel.All that said, if we could get a Cosplay Chess thing going down here, that’d be clean.
It’s exactly what it says on the tin: a bunch of cosplayers take the part of chess pieces, and two people “control” them. When a piece is taken, they have a little “fight” and the taken piece loses said fight and exits the chess board.I’m pretty sure the chess game itself is scripted so that every piece gets a “fair” chance to do something in the game too. But it’s still enjoyable
What are some of your dream conventions or destinations?
Wow, I honestly haven’t even considered that before now. I definitely want to go to another SakuraCon for sure. I suppose DragonCon would be the most “attainable” long term convention attending goal that I have at the moment. That said, tt’d be nice to say that I made it to 3 PAX conventions in a single year.
Well I’m definitely big on Pokémon to a ridiculous degree. It lowkey borders on obsessive, but it’s something that I’ve enjoyed since childhood, and that didn’t change just because I got older.I enjoy anime as well, and I’ve picked up a few series after the recommendations of a few friends. I never had time (or money) to watch as much as some, and my “anime knowledge” is pretty lacking overall, but that’ll hopefully change going forward.
What anime series have you watched and which ones have your friends suggested to you?
It took me a while, but I finally jumped on the My Hero Academia bandwagon. If you can get past the blatant sexual overtones in the beginning of the show, Darling in the Franxx is nice as well. For the Moe Trash lovers, A Place Further Than the Universe is quality feel-good entertainment from start to finish.
How did you get into Pokemon and what do you love about it?
My dad bought me a Gameboy and Pokemon Yellow on Christmas ’98, and it was all downhill from there. As I got older, my enjoyment went from simply playing the game for the story, and trying (and failing) to “Catch ‘Em All”, to playing “competitively. I generally only play Smogon related Singles metagames, but the official format supported at Nintendo events is Doubles, which is drastically different in regards to optimal strategies. All of that is just a complex way of saying that Pokemon is srs business.Also, I collect way more Pokemon plush toys than I should.
Gen 2 is my favorite generation, and it’s not even close. Admittedly, a lot of that is nostalgia, but HGSS remains my favorite games in the series due to how they expanded and fixed where G/S/C fell short.My six favorites? Bellossom (duh), Mega Ampharos, Lucario, Volcarona, Porygon-Z, and Tapu Lele. This team has 0 competitive value, but I’m sure I could get one W with it.
LOL NO. I like to watch high leveled Pokémon players, but I’m not nearly good enough to place in a competition, in Smogon Singles or VGC.Speaking of high leveled Pokémon players, PokeaimMD actually shouted me out in one of his videos. He’s one of my favorites and he’s great for anyone who’s interested in learning about Smogon Singles.
I’ve never used that word specifically, but I pretty much fit the profile
Do you think that as the presence of or the acceptance of nerds and nerd culture within our community increases that we will see more cosplay out of young black people?
I really hope so. Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle in cosplaying is a lack of money, and youth and money are two things that rarely go together. At the very least, I hope to see more black people attending conventions, not just cosplaying. That’s one thing about SakuraCon (and Seattle in general), black people are few and far between up there. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I don’t think I stood out just because I was dressed as an obscure Pokemon.
That depends on what the reasons are. If you’re afraid of cosplaying because you think it won’t look good: everyone has to start somewhere, and you won’t be the worst looking person there. And even by some chance you are, exceedingly few people will care, let alone care enough to mock you for it (if that’s your fear).If you’re having issues going to conventions themselves: search Google to see if there are any near you, and check the dates for them. Many conventions take place in the same city around the same time every year, so if you missed one this year, chances are good that they’ll be around that time next year.If you’re unlucky enough to not live near any, many conventions have a Facebook or Twitter page. On those pages (particularly Facebook), you can ask around to see if anyone is willing enough to go in on a hotel with you, or if anyone is willing to include one more person to their convention plans. Hotels can be expensive, so people are often more than willing to include another person in their plans if it reduces costs.