There is no force more powerful than the heart within the black woman. She is strong yet gentle. She is both wise and innocent. It is her guidance which drives the advancement of generations. She is the Superwoman.
Her voice is the panel. Her stories draft the art. There can never be an ending when she prompts the start. After all, what mortal can be more creative than the goddesses who bring forth new life. With this series, we, at Konkret Comics, will honor, highlight, and herald the great Queens of Blerdom.
To begin this Superwoman Series, I had the privilege of interviewing the Cosplay Queen, Leairis Cross. This is Leairis's story.
JE: I can recall being a child and pretending to be the characters from my favorite television shows and cartoons. I’m sure most people can relate. Were you the type of child who loved playing pretend and dress up? If so, was that the foundation of your love for Cosplay?
LC: I think that I was a nerd at a very early age. Watching power rangers as a child I remember thinking to myself how much I wanted to be the pink ranger and always pretending to be her when I played with other kids. This definitely helped form my love of cosplay, being able to be these characters that I looked up to either as a child or even now instills me with a level of confidence that I haven’t found anywhere else.
JE: What was the first character that you officially cosplayed? What was that experience like for you? Did it come naturally or was there an adjustment period?
LC: My first cosplay was an Eevee (Pokemon character) that I threw together for a con. It was soooo wanky and it was falling apart and it was a mess but I still rocked it as best I could. It definitely takes a while to get to a place where you think your costume is “good,” but in all honesty, that's a relative term anyway so who cares. If you like it that's what matters!
JE: Did you have any examples of black female cosplayers, famous or not, when you were growing up?
LC: I did a lot of cosplay burlesque when I was younger and while I was doing it I met a woman names Anita Banks. She had been in the industry for a long time before I came around and she filled the role of the “drag mom” “burlesque mom” basically overall mother figure for the community. She helped me and so many others in my area embrace what we were doing and own it and I’m truly thankful for that. Also seeing a woman her age up there just being sexy and owning it helped me see the beauty in myself.
JE: Historically, there hasn’t been a lot of media representation for black women in science fiction and fantasy categories. Do you think this fact has served as a barrier for black women in Cosplay?
LC: I definitely think that it has, but it shouldn’t. We can be anything we wanna be, I was megaman a couple months ago and people loved it. That being said though the best thing we can do to give more black characters to cosplay is to go out there and make them. Create the characters you wanna see and then cosplay them! I love what you guys and other indie companies are doing, creating things that you wanna see out there. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you, make the characters you wanna see.
Leairis cosplaying as Konkret Comics' character, Kosmosa.
JE: There are people who believe that, regarding accuracy in Cosplay, people should be allowed to include makeup or skin coloring to mimic a character’s skin color. Should race be a factor in cosplay, and as a black woman, how do you reconcile this with the threat of blackface or any other form of offensive racial mockery?
LC: Don’t do blackface. Don’t do brownface. Don’t do white face. Don’t do anything face. If you wanna cosplay a character just do it. They are fictional and there are literally millions of versions of them on the internet. Be black megaman, be Asian Thor, do what you do but don’t paint yourself to do it.
JE: So, I recently saw a post where a Cosplayer was being criticized for portraying Homelander of Amazon’s hit series, The Boys. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the show, but Homelander makes some very questionable choices in this past season. Do you feel that a character’s morality should be taken into consideration when choosing to Cosplay them?
LC: I’ll be real Homelander is a dream cosplay for me. I don’t take on a character's politics when I cosplay them. There are Red Skull cosplayers out there! Honestly at the end of the day if I wanted to stick it to Homelander I think taking sexy pics as a black female version of him would really hit him where it hurts.
JE: I know one of the best aspects of belonging to any artistic community is the fellowship of like-minded people and the potential for mentorship and guidance. Have you felt accepted by the Cosplay Community in general? How have you presented yourself as a Cosplay mentor/example for others?
LC: One of the biggest things I try to do is woman crush Wednesdays. Every week I try to get out there and find other cosplayers and lift them up because I know how good it feels anytime anyone does that for me. On top of that if anyone comes to me asking questions I am always willing to help out in any way I can. For me one of the biggest things I’ve done is help women embrace their sexuality. To own it and know that it can’t be taken from them. I know I was deathly scared of my body for a long time based on garbage I had heard from other people and it took me a long time to get past it, hell I’m honestly still not out of the woods. But if I can help make that process easier for other women then I’m happy to do it.
JE: Seeing that, like most industries in the New Millennium, Cosplay is a social media dominated artform, how do you deal with the trolls?
LC: Don’t. They want you to deal with them. They want you to acknowledge them. They don’t care about the cosplay or anything else, they are bored in a basement and want to see that they matter. Don’t let them. Don’t even block them cause then they will make another account and come back. Restrict them. They won’t even know that their comments are just flying into an empty void and it will drive them nuts.
JE: From your social media, I’ve noticed that you’re a truly gifted illustrator. How has that skill been helpful in crafting and developing the costumes for your Cosplay?
LC: I try to draw out designs for all my cosplay builds. The princess Mononoke I am working on right now I started by doing a full drawing of so that I can look at her throughout the process and know exactly what I want the end results to be.
JE: You’re a beautiful woman who isn’t afraid to embrace sensuality in your Cosplay. From a feminist perspective, how are you able to walk that line between confidently owning your sex appeal and not allowing yourself to be objectified by others?
LC: I don’t worry about being objectified. My body is mine and I put it out there on my terms. Whatever people do past that is on them. It fits in with what I said about trolls earlier, I’m not going to let anyone have control over my mind or body.