Throughout my time as part of THE MAGIC RAIN team, I had the opportunity to interview various talented cosplayers from around the world such as 瑩Ying, Stella Chuu, and many more! Oftentimes, most cosplayers that I’ve talked to, be it through an interview, observation or in a conversation, they’d mention on how they want to succeed when it comes to their cosplay journey. And that for me, raised a question: just what exactly do they mean by succeeding? Only two answers came to mind:
- Recognition and fame from the local ACG community (or even international) through the number of Facebook likes, followers, etc.
- Satisfaction with one’s own skill and competence.
Most cosplayers in our local community these days seem to have the mindset that by becoming famous within the community, it shows the level of success they’ve achieved. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine if you feel that you want to be recognized for your work and I totally understand that we should recognise the local talents within our community and support them wholeheartedly.
So now the question is: Why do people want to become popular?
Popularity for all its glamour actually comes with a price to pay. No one in the world becomes popular and gains a loyal following with a snap of the fingers. Most popular cosplayers you see actually worked really, really hard to get to where they are today and their fame is due to all the blood, sweat, and tears that they’ve put in. Other than cosplaying, they have to produce merchandises to sell, make costumes and props, interact with fans, go for events, etc and most of them would have probably been in the community for many years! All of this is not easy to do especially if you have a full-time job outside of cosplay.
On the other hand, once you’ve started to pursue a life as a professional cosplayer, you have much more to think about other than making costumes, photoshoots and events. If you manage to get yourself a sponsor, you’ll then have to worry about certain statistics as the number of likes you acquire is equal to the return on investment (ROI) in the eyes of your sponsors. If you’re not sure what ROI means, it’s basically the benefits (be it monetary or marketing-wise) the sponsor receives for investing in you and your talents. For some, the number of likes they receive may actually be their income for that month. This may eventually become overwhelming for some as you’ll be buried under immense pressure to do well and if you don’t, it may be possible that you’ll lose the chance of advancing your career.
Despite all these difficulties, just how are the top cosplayers in our country doing it? What exactly drives and motivates all these great cosplayers? It all comes down to the passion and love they have for cosplaying, which to them overweighs the cons of being a professional cosplayer. And I really admire them for that as this career path isn’t the easiest to succeed in. It’s great that more and more people are opting to become full-time cosplayers as this career is still a minority in Malaysia.
However, what I feel is wrong is when cosplayers become driven by the want for popularity and profit to the point where they forget their passion for cosplaying. For example, instead of wanting to represent the character they’re cosplaying because they love them, they do for example, mainstream characters just for the sake of catering to the public’s taste. This is what irks me the most as cosplay, to many people’s eyes is a form of art where people dress up as their favourite character to show other people why this character is so great. By cosplaying certain characters (especially if they don’t know the character well) just for the sake of following the trend or for popularity is frankly an insult to both the character and other cosplayers or fans who genuinely love them.
If you don’t really know the character well but still want to cosplay it, at least conduct some research to see how the character is like. What is it about that character that makes it stand out to people’s eyes? Putting in some effort to actually know the character you’re cosplaying will make a huge difference honestly. People love it when their favourite character comes to life. Don’t be afraid to cosplay characters that are lesser-known too, who knows – you might even inspire others to watch the anime series if the character attracts them!
So think really hard about why exactly do you want to become popular. Is it just for the sake of stroking your ego? Or do you want to share with others your love and passion for cosplay? Even though by becoming popular you get attention in the form of presents, comments, etc, you’ll lose things in the process too like your privacy, time, etc. If you’re trying your best to become a professional cosplayer, I’m not trying to dissuade you, but there are a lot of things to factor in and at the end of the day, it is up to you to decide on what you want to do.
Just remember that the number of Facebook likes you have on your posts and photos will not bring you satisfaction and it does not show how successful you are, it is the people that you surround yourself with and how you feel about yourself.