Hometown: Clarksville, Tennessee

Occupation: Cosplayer

Favorite Southern saying: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

What does it mean to be a contemporary Southern woman?

From a cosplay perspective, I think being a women in general has changed a lot in my lifetime. I live in the Bible belt, and I was raised wearing dresses and Sunday vests for church. When I first started cosplaying, I always picked the dressy characters—ball gowns, princess, stuff like that—but then I started transitioning over the past few years into the strong female characters, like Supergirl or Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist.

I even started doing characters that younger me would never have imagined, such as male characters. I one hundred percent identify as a female and was raised as a girly-girl, but just having the freedom now to be able to cosplay characters outside of my gender, to experiment with the makeup and costumes, and to not be limited to certain types of characters is so much fun.

What is your inspiration?

I was a drama club nerd, so I’ve always loved performing, costuming, and doing stage makeup. I started going to conventions in high school, already a big fan of animes and fandoms like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings at that age. Originally I went to conventions to meet actors, and I would just wear t-shirts that were fandom related, but then I saw all these people in incredible costumes and thought: “I want to do that!” It’s just so much fun to get into character and do the makeup, having my theatre background.

What is the most rewarding part?

I love it when people at conventions run up to me and ask for a picture. It’s nice to see that someone else likes the character too and that they think I’ve done the character justice.

I meet all sorts of people and I’ve made so many friends from going to conventions. You start to see a lot of the same people at these conventions in the south, but it takes a while to recognize where you know them from because they constantly their appearance for their cosplays. I’ve made a lot of long lasting friendship, met some amazing photographers, and had great networking experiences.

What is the biggest challenge?

Cosplay does not equal consent. Sometimes people want to run up and hug me when I’m dressed as their favorite character, but I’m not a very touchy feely person. I’ve even had people start fixing parts of my costume before, when they didn’t ask me first. Cosplayers are people, not the character they are dressing up as. I’m a normal person like the fans who really like the character.

There are also members of the cosplay community who would rather tear other cosplayers down for things like their weight or gender. For me, cosplay is for everyone, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, what your weight is, or what your ethnicity is—if you like a character you should go out and cosplay that character.

In any field there exists the type of person who feels they are the elite standard, and if you’re not up on their tier you’re not a real member of the community. I don’t care if you go to Goodwill to piece together a costume—everyone starts somewhere.