Cosplayers live various lives; some are accountants, counselors, actors, the list goes on. Our guest is a costume and fashion designer, podcast host, cosplayer, and an amazing woman. From being her model to showcasing her at conventions, I am happy to present the talented Shana Mostella.
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I am Shana Mostella, I make my own cosplays, design and make my own custom fashion pieces. I have been cosplaying for about ten years now but I have been sewing all my life. Sewing and crafting are my true passions!
How did you decide on becoming a fashion designer?
It’s kind of funny where my love of fashion came from and how I really got into it. It was because of my love of anime and Japanese culture! Growing up, I had a very strict upbringing. I was an only child raised by a single mother. I wasn’t allowed to go out and be with friends.
When I found anime and Japanese culture, it was like an escape from my sheltered life. The anime characters and what they were wearing inspired me. I wanted to look like them. My favorite styles were Gothic Lolita and Visual Kei. At the time, there wasn’t anything like it here in America. No real Japanese culture fashion stores or anything. Even if there were, I wasn’t allowed to wear anything that was considered gothic or “strange”. So I bought my first sewing machine and started to practice making clothes.
After college, I gained more confidence in my skill and decided to make my first fashion line. I called it “Candy Bats”. It was something I had only dreamed of before. I made ten full outfits, found models and hosted my first fashion show. From that point on, I was unstoppable and it felt incredible!
How would you describe your fashion style and line?
I started my first fashion line with Visual Kei and Gothic Lolita styles. My first line, Candy Bats, had major punk rock vibes. Through the years, my line has not only changed names but has also evolved into a more marketable product. Candy Bats symbolized my childhood escape from my sheltered life. It was my rebellious way of standing up to all of the restrictions I had growing up. Mostella Couture is what my line is today. I still keep some of those same gothic and punk-ish elements. It is edgy, dark and glamorous.
What has been one of the coolest things to come from cosplaying?
The coolest thing that has come from cosplaying, was being at the red carpet premiere event for the Avengers: End Game movie. I got invited to the event to show up as Shuri, from the Black Panther movie. Like all the cosplay I have, Shuri was another one that I made from scratch. To be invited to the red carpet event because someone recognized my skill as a cosplayer was a great feeling. Not only did I get to wear one of my favorite cosplays, I got to personally meet the actress who played Shuri in the movie. It was something I will never forget. It is something I will always be proud of. I know I worked hard for it. I didn’t have a friend who, “hooked me up.”
What are your favorite and least favorite cosplays?
My favorite cosplays are definitely the ones I put the most time and passion into creating. Machiko from the Predator comic book series, Falcon from Captain America, Shuri from Black Panther and Alien Girl from the Alien movies. My least favorite cosplays are ones that I have to wear high heels for. I’m not very good at walking in heels especially if I have to walk the convention floor all day. Regardless, I always like to give it my best when debuting a cosplay at a convention.
What is your primary method of funding your projects?
My primary method of funding my projects, cosplay crafting or making original fashion pieces, comes out of pocket. Luckily for me, I always have materials in my house that I can recycle from household items. As a crafter, I can never throw anything away. I know some of my fellow crafters out there can relate!
Have you learned more about yourself since you started cosplaying? If you have, what did you learn?
I learn something new every time I go to a convention from the cosplayers who attend. I meet all kinds of talented people who also make their own cosplay and I learn so much about the different ways and different materials they used. Cosplayers are so resourceful. I learn so many ways to make armor pieces, accessories and props. There is an endless pool of knowledge and tips that I may have never heard of before.
As a POC cosplayer have you experienced any challenges? How did you overcome these challenges?
As a POC, regardless of how well my cosplay was made, nobody cared because I isn’t the proper race the character is. Cosplay photographers don’t want to work with me because I don’t fit in their portfolio as a POC. I’ve even been told, “Okay, I’ll shoot you but I’m not going to post it on my page”.
Regardless if I am the first to cosplay a character, the best one to cosplay that character, the only one to cosplay that character, I’m never given credit for it. As soon as a non-black person cosplays the same characters I have, those people will start trending on social media. It can be super discouraging to say the least. Unfortunately, I can never overcome being black. My skin tone, my race is something that will never go away. As long as the cosplay community continues to discriminate against people of color, these are the things that we have to deal with.
Even with all the discrimination against me as a black cosplayer, I never stop pushing forward. Cosplaying and making cosplay is one of my passions. I love doing it and I will never stop doing what I love.
How would you encourage fellow POC to cosplay characters they love?
By continuing to cosplay characters that I love at conventions and posting my cosplays on social media, I hope to encourage other POC to keep doing what they love as well. Act as if what you do makes a difference. If we go silent, our oppressors win. I want others to know that they are not alone and that we do have a support group.
What changes do you hope to see within the community in the future?
I hope that one day we can all cosplay the characters we love without getting hate as a response. I hope that more people of color will come out of the shadows and show their talents and not be afraid to post their cosplay on social media. I hope people of color can one day walk the convention floor and show off how amazing they are. I hope more cosplay photographers post more POC on their social media as a part of their portfolios and give us a chance to shine. I want to see more POC trending and going viral for the same cosplay non-POC do all the time. I want to just be called a Cosplayer, not a black cosplayer or POC. Just simply a cosplayer. We shouldn’t have to wait until black history month (February) or a tragedy to be noticed.