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Why Cosplay boosts our confidence and gives a sense of belonging

Sisters and Comic Con attendees Rebecca and Claudia tell Susan Hornik that embracing their inner nerd and playing dress up is great for their self esteem 

Why Cosplay boosts our confidence and gives a sense of belonging
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It's no wonder British sisters Rebecca and Claudia King were inspired to try Cosplay -— dressing up as popular sci fi characters has boosted their self confidence and artistry and given them endless reasons to smile!

"I love having a really interesting creative outlet," enthused Rebecca at San Diego's recent Comic Con, a four day confab that attracts over 120,000 fans who love geek culture in all its forms (TV, film, comic books and more). 

"When I was younger, I was a big bookworm and used to do quite a bit of writing. Now that I am a lawyer, I spend all day reading and writing documents. It gets a bit too wordy at times! So finding something that was sort of practical and allowed me to express myself was really lovely."

Rebecca has been engaged in cosplay for the past five years and has loved meeting with fellow fans. 

Playing dress up boosts Rebecca's self esteem
Playing dress up at events like Comic Con helps boost Rebecca's self esteem

"It's been wonderful to attend Comic Cons, as cosplay really adds something to the convention experience, versus just wearing a regular T-shirt. Immediately, you get something to talk about your favorite television shows and movies with tons of people, who come up to you and want to chat about the character you are dressed up as. It's great fun!" 

Cosplay continues to boost Rebecca's self esteem, she says.

"When you've put on a costume, you suddenly are more confident as it's not you– you are slipping into another person. I love making other people smile, especially doing something a little bit niche like this character," explains Rebecca, who is happy to show attendees the elaborate costume she put together for the Star Wars alien character, Madam Garsa Fwip, (played by Jennifer Beals) in The Book of Boba FettDisney + series. 

"When people see me and it's one of their favorites and they actually recognize me, it's the best thing ever! I just had a gal come up to me and say, 'OMG Madam! I wish you hadn't died!' And I said 'me too, we need more of these outfits!' she quipped. 

"But even if people don't recognize an outfit I am wearing, they will come up to me and say, 'you look cool!' and that makes me feel good too."  "I love dressing up as the Twi'lek species, I've worn four or five costumes of this kind of alien. They're dancers, often very small characters, in the background, that are not too much a big part of the show. And then when they released a photo of Jennifer as the Madam for this series, I thought, 'Wow! She is playing such a cool character! And she's playing a Twi'lek that doesn't require me to do body paint!"

Rebecca's outfit showcases her love of design and actually took a year to put it together. 

Rebecca's attention to detail showcases her love of design.
Rebecca's outfit showcases her love of design and took a year to put together.

"A lot of the components such as the fabric on the skirt that was from a fabrics company in the U.S. And although they do ship to the UK it costs a lot, as there are customs charges. So it took me six months to get my hands on it, because I shipped it to family in the U.S. and picked it up when I went to visit them."

Rebecca also enjoys being part of Lucas Film-affiliated charities, like The Rebel Legion and Mandalorian Mercs. "We do children's hospital visits, and premieres; it's a pretty nice community. I've even inspired my younger sister, Claudia, to do cosplay and participate with me too!"

For Claudia, Cosplay was the perfect way to connect and spend more time with her beloved sister. 

"We love nerding out together and started coming together to the Star Wars Celebration event and then the various comic cons," added Claudia, who was dressed as classic DC Comics villain Harley Quinn. "I saw that Rebecca really got into the cosplay world because she's very talented at sewing, and since she loves doing it so much, I got into it too! It's so interesting to be able to hide yourself for a little while and become someone else!"

Cosplay boosts Claudia's confidence
Cosplay boosts Claudia's confidence

Claudia loves how dressing up as amazing "badass" characters makes for a truly unique way to meet new people. 

"Part of what's great about cosplay is that it's a visual way of seeing who is interested in the same things as you. My costume gives them the confidence to come up to me, and vice versa, as well! They really appreciate the work that has been done on the outfit!"

Claudia continued: "People love Harley; she always has a group of guys around her, and is fearless and funny! And she always looks great! So wearing her costumes really makes me feel empowered and has led to some really wonderful conversations."

Claudia loves dressing up as 'badass' characters like Harley Quinn.
Claudia loves dressing up as 'badass' characters like Harley Quinn.

Both sisters are enthusiastic when the event's attendees want to know more about what they are wearing and get excited to hear all the details.

 "Whether they are little kids or an older person it doesn't matter– they are all interested in your fandom, your character's culture, and you want to know about their community," said Claudia. "We can nerd out about it together and take photos of each other!"

Dressing up as their favorite superheroes and characters can increase communication, noted Nancy Wang Yuen, sociologist and author of "Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism."

"Cosplay helps cosplayers find other fans and creates a subculture in which members can feel connected, whether in person at conventions or online through social media."

Cosplay can be especially meaningful for people of color to transcend racist perceptions by portraying their favorite superheroes and characters, said Yuen.

"During Comic-con, I met Ethan Macias, a 14-year old Filipino American whose love for superheroes was evidenced by his head-to-toe Spiderman costume and expert knowledge. Ethan told me, 'I like dressing up with a mask because it doesn't matter what ethnicity you are. People don't ask me whether I'm Mexican or whatever.' 

"Cosplay allows you to express your passion for various fandoms…You are now having a bonding moment with someone with similar interests, and you have this hundreds of times a day at a convention," said Bernie Bragman, founder of XLE Productions, a special events company which often throws cosplay parties. 

"The feelings of confidence this breeds is not unlike what we all (hopefully) experienced in school at some point when we met people with similar interests and formed early friendships or joined clubs. We found our people, we felt seen and heard and appreciated. Cosplaying makes you a member of a club of millions worldwide. At any convention you go to, you'll meet other people like you and you have an underlying building block for bonding."

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