Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Nerdbot Cosplay Spotlight: MzzSkittles

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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.

When you fall into the world of cosplay you must remember to never limit yourself to just cosplay. If you enjoy gaming, game. If you have organizational skills and want to be a part of a group or project, don’t hesitate reaching out. It is an honor to introduce a Virginia cosplayer who incorporates her interests and is a part of “a social community dedicated to the Black Geek Culture Experience”. Presenting, MzzSkittles!

Please introduce yourself to the readers.

My name is Tiffany “MzzSkittles”. I am a 32-year-old, Northern Virginia resident, Graphic Designer, Artist, Cosplayer and Co-Founder of Urban Anime Lounge. I love to dabble in a bit of everything related to nerd culture, from anime, video games, comics, cosplay, art and more. 

Yoruichi Shihōin from Bleach, Photo: @joseizquierdophotography

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

I would define cosplay as the human embodiment of fictional characters. Believe it or not my favorite part of cosplay is not making the cosplay but attending the conventions. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating my cosplays but the best part is going to conventions and hanging out with some of my closest friends who live so far away. I don’t really have any principles of cosplay other than to give it 100% and have fun while doing it. 

What has been one of the coolest things to come from cosplaying?

The coolest thing, for me, that has come from cosplaying is being able to use it as a medium to express my creativity. While I do find solace in drawing, painting and graphic design; making cosplays has become a passion and therapeutic. Even though I am an introvert, I really enjoy the friends and acquaintances that I’m making along the way. 

Sailor Storm, original mashup of Sailor Moon and Storm (X-Men), Photo @eyesofh_photography

Do you use a photographer or do you do your own photography? Were there any bad experiences from past photographers? Do you have any suggestions for photographers to make their models more comfortable with them?

I have used a few photographers but I also take my own pictures as well. I cannot say I’ve had bad experiences with any of the photographers that I’ve used; however I do have suggestions. Some of the best photographers that I’ve worked with are the ones that give directions. Speaking on a personal level taking a selfie is much different than standing in front of a photographer in full cosplay and not knowing what to do. Of course, you can always do poses that a character typically does; however, when it comes to lighting, positioning and angles, the photographer should know what looks best when being photographed.

Erza Scarlet (Flame Empress Armor) from Fairy Tail, Photo: @rrimages2

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

As a POC cosplayer I have experienced a few challenges but not as many as my counterparts only because I haven’t reached a certain level of visibility. I do get racist comments in regards to characters that I’ve cosplayed that are not African-American and I’m sure that any POC cosplayer will tell you the same. I know that I try to ignore negative comments or delete them from my social media because regardless of what they say I’m going to cosplay my way. But I want to be clear, the comments are very upsetting to say the least, but for some I know these comments are traumatizing and when I do cosplay certain characters in the back of my mind there’s always that thought once I post this, “what are they going to say?”. I also think POC cosplayers struggle with exposure, there are so many cosplay feature pages on social media that rarely feature POC cosplayers and if they do feature them they’re usually a character that has brown/black skin.  

Vixen from DC Comics, Photographer: @bishop331

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

I encourage my fellow POC cosplayers to always love the skin they’re in. Always cosplay whoever you want and however you want to because at the end of the day cosplay is all about how you feel. How does your love for that character make you feel?! How do you feel when you embody who they are supposed to be?! And if you’re just getting started as a cosplayer, you don’t have to always be Storm, Bishop, Princess Tiana, Miles Morales: Spiderman, Nubia or Yoruichi. While all of these characters are amazing you can be ANYONE. And that’s what cosplay is all about, NOT perfection or accuracy! 

Genderbent Jafar from Aladdin, Photo: @eyesofh_photography

What are your thoughts on the cosplay communities and the world of cosplay today compared to when you first started? How would you describe the cosplay community as a whole?

The cosplay community as a whole has been very good to me, I will say that. Although, it might be because I didn’t have any expectations. Before becoming a cosplayer I had no idea that some of the issues of the world extended into cosplay since the characters are fictional but I guess it should have been expected. Of course with everything good, comes the bad. I do feel there is a certain divide between “celebrity” and “lesser known” in the community. I know when I started cosplay I never expected to receive the amount of exposure that I have thus far and even with that it doesn’t change who I am. The amount of followers I have doesn’t stop me from having a conversation with people, cosplayer or otherwise. I still have a job, I still have friends outside the community, I still have to run a business, so I don’t think I’ll ever want to become inaccessible. I also feel a divide because the POC community is very small in comparison to the cosplay community as a whole. So, I actually don’t know that many cosplayers outside of the POC community which is really unfortunate because I know that I share and speak to everyone but I think this speaks to my exposure issue mentioned earlier.

Mileena from Mortal Kombat X

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

I would like the cosplay community to be more inclusive. I believe “celebrity” cosplayers and conventions can help with this. In the future, I would love to see more POC cosplayers supported outside our community, as well as LGBTQ+. Headlining at conventions, featured on social media pages (not just 24 hour stories) and nerd culture platforms like this, frequently. I have come across some ridiculous creatives that don’t get the exposure they deserve. 

Definitely show MzzSkittles some love on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. She also has a Ko-Fi account that you can send funds to for her future cosplay endeavors. Definitely check out Urban Anime Lounge, “a social community dedicated to the Black Geek Culture Experience including anime, manga, comics, cosplay and much more.”

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