Monday, September 21, 2020

Nerdbot Cosplay Spotlight: BAMF Cosplay

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Stephanie Sandmeier
Cosplayer, Host of Nerdbot's "What's Better" & "Foodie Function", cast-member of MyxTV's "The Doll Life", fashion show coordinator for Anime Pasadena and usual front-desk chick for Nerd Knights. I like cute things, love disney and dinosaurs, writer and actor.

Bad-ass Magnificent Female, or BAMF, is a strong independent woman in Los Angeles who pursues her happiness and embraces who she is. I’m very happy to introduce to you: Kylee aka BAMF.

Please introduce yourself to the readers.

Hello, My name is Kylee and I have been cosplaying for about 3 years now. I’m a Special Effects and Beauty Makeup Artist and Esthetician. I have my BA in Digital and Video Film Production and my AA in Film Studies. I love being a part of something bigger than myself and that’s one of the biggest thrills I get on set.

I also work as a princess performer singing at parties and events along with face painting. In general, I like to encourage others’ hidden creative energy and help people understand the why when it comes to the care and health of their skin.

How would you define cosplay? What is your favorite part of it? What are your principles of cosplay?

I define cosplay as taking the likeness of a character that resonates with you and translating that into the real world. Having a performers background this also appeals to me because of the theatrics of how you present the character. My principles of cosplay would be to have fun, be respectful, and allow yourself to put a spin on something. You don’t always have to be cookie-cutter when it comes to how you want to cosplay. Don’t stress out about it because at its core it’s supposed to be fun.

How do you store your costumes? Any advice on what is the best method?

I try to store my costume in a costume protector with all the items (accessories, wigs, etc) close by. It just makes things organized and helps me know where to find them for a convention or an event. I put a plastic bag on the wigs so they don’t get too dusty and to protect the style since I live in a small studio and if we are not careful things can get knocked around and damaged easily.

What are your top 3 cosplay costumes and why?

That’s a really tough question because I have so many great memories with all of my cosplays….my top three cosplays would have to be…

Tiana because it was the first character I saw who represented me and the possibility that I could portray a princess at Disneyland (one of many varied life goals). I work hard for everything I have and I also relate to the struggle of balance – which I am being more aware of – and making steps to not be such a workaholic. 

The second character that means a lot to me would be when me and my friends did a Jedi princess mashup and I (through the encouragement of them) was Master Jedi Ariel. I was nervous to wear it out because I was worried about what others would think. I didn’t want to confuse little girls at the convention if they saw me, and I guess I feared negative backlash – which of course now 3 years later is silly – but it’s a very real internal struggle as a Disney loving nerd who is also an African American. 

The third character I really had a lot of fun with was Tia Dalma / Calypso from Pirates of the Caribbean. She is so fun to play because of how smart, quick witted, and powerful she is. I really love getting into the character and asking anyone if they’ve seen Jack Sparrow or Davy Jones. This character also gave me a reason to dive a little more into my effects makeup to blacken my teeth and add her markings to complete the look.

How do you go about choosing characters? How do you go about getting into character? What’s the process you go through?

I chose characters in a few ways: either a character I’ve always loved, a character that I’ve never seen but feel a connection to and I dive deep into their backstory, or someone who I find very fun. Yes, sometimes all three are incorporated at the same time. I like picking characters who I feel are very strong and have a badass way about them. Sometimes these characters embody something within myself I want to exemplify or exaggerate. An attitude, how they walk, how they talk, and how they carry themselves are all attributed to how I become these characters.

As a POC cosplayer have you experienced any challenges? How did you overcome these challenges?

As I mentioned before, there are challenges being a person of color in the cosplay community. What was enlightening for me was some of those boundaries I was putting on myself. The Jedi Ariel cosplay was a huge hit and a little girl did come up to me and just saw me as Ariel. She came up to me, embraced me, told me she loved my movie. She wasn’t confused about my skin color and that was a truly light-bulb moment for me: in knowing that the narrow-mindedness that is often met with people of color is learned not inherent. Being an African American it may not look “cool” or be seen as serious if you do cosplay or show interest in some of these art platforms. It can be thought of as “With everything already staked up against you, you want to add THIS”. I understand that but I also challenge those notions with looking at the arts in general. It’s beautiful, vast, and there is no “right way” to go about it. This is just another link to the chain of creativity. It should be embraced, nurtured, and encouraged from a respectful and loving place.

How would you encourage fellow POC to cosplay characters they love?

I would encourage those who are afraid to cosplay to ask themselves, why? Then I would say DO IT!!! You can’t live your life in fear of what is unknown. It’s crippling and does not allow for any growth or happiness to take shape. Always do it from a place of love and respect, and know that there is a vast community of like-minded individuals who love dressing up like their heroes and we can’t wait to cheer you on. Most importantly, do it for yourself and because it makes you happy.

What changes do you hope to see within the community in the future?

I hope the conversations are ongoing as we continue to break down systemic biases that are apparent and that we as a community can keep growing and facilitate a safe environment that encourages and celebrates people of color dressing up and living their best life.

Show some love to Kylee on her Instagram accounts Here, Here and Here, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok: @bamf_425. 

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