Love All Cosplayers

Tolerance, Love, Freedom, Laughter, Creativity

Cosplay, Makeup, and the Issue with “Race”

This article recently got brought up and made a huge commotion all over social media.

This lovely cosplayer decided to cosplay one of her favourite characters from The Walking Dead. Sounds pretty normal, right? However, what isn’t the controversy is her decision to cosplay her favourite character, but cosplayed a character that was African-American. Her own skin complexion is white, so she did what most cosplayers do when putting on their costumes…her makeup.

She did her makeup to resemble that of the character, and African-American woman, and looking at it she did a fantastic job. However, there are people who are from the community and largely not from the cosplay community who are claiming that this act is racist.


“The moral of the story is that going in blackface is never OK unless you’ve been Iron Man.”

” it’s racist, plain and simple. blackface has too much negative history to be used, no matter the intention.
the character can be a costume! but their skin color can not.”

“Her heart may be in the right place, but knowing anything about history or what black face means to people of color (like the character she is portraying) she should know better. like others said, PoC don’t apply white makeup to our cosplay…we basically become “black(whoever we cosplay”…she would’ve been fine being “white Michonne”….the end

“Skin color isn’t necessary for cosplay, unless it’s an alien of some sort. Our ethnicity is not a costume, and there’s too much history on this to leave any sort of gray area. Her heart is in the right place, so I won’t call her a racist, but the blackface part of the costume is wrong. Period.”

But there is a notable divide in that there are others who claim that this is not racist, but a cosplayer wanting to honour her favourite character using makeup techniques.

“…and as far as this goes this is not really “blackface” this is costuming make-up.””

“White people didn’t freak out when the Wayans brothers dressed up as white girls in the movie White Chicks. How is this any different? I think it was tastefully done.”

“If anything this is what make-up artists do I respect her for doing this since I don’t have the guts to do this at all.”

“Not racist at all. If a black cosplayer can cosplay a white character and everyone thinks it’s awesome, then a white cosplayer should be able to cosplay a black character without a problem. No double standards! Cosplay is for EVERYONE and this is no more ‘wrong’ than any other makeup transformation. She loves the character and she did a good job. She’s awesome. And this is not ‘blackface’ it’s MAKEUP TRANSFORMATION”

“Seriously? What’s the difference between cosplaying a black character and a Japanese one or a girl cosplaying a male character and visa versa… Which happens all the time in cosplay…. I mean, the point of cosplaying is to become the character isn’t it?”

While there is definitely a fine line between “blackface” and “makeup transformation”, why is it that people are immediately jumping to the conclusion that this is blackface, or closely resembles it? More often than not, cosplayers are changing their skin colour to look like another character. Green for Gamora, blue for Nightcrawler. Cosplayers change their makeup techniques to resemble the anime characters who have notably Asian features in order to resemble the character. It is nothing new for cosplayers to do and not often something that all cosplayers think about when choosing a character.

“Should I change my skin colour to look like this character?”

A lot of times, the answer is “yes”. Because usually, the colour of the character’s skin has a lot of background and identity for the character. Take away Michonne’s African-American heritage, and who would she become? Certainly not our same Michonne? What about Gamora? Or Beast? Or Nightcrawler? Mystique?

What about Asian characters? People who cosplay as Ada Wong and are not Asian? Look at Yaya Han or Ivy Doomkitty, who have notably Asian features who cosplays characters who are notably Western like Catwoman (who is African-American in some renditions and Caucasian in others) or Ms. Marvel.

And sex! Cosplayers often change the appearance of their sex to crossplay. Females will painfully bind their chests to flatten them or stuff their panties to create a “bulge”. Males will wear support and use makeup and other strenuous techniques to have a lovely bust or corset for curves.

Cosplayers are not above and beyond these drastic changes to their image in order to achieve the perfect character. It is nothing new in the community.

It is important for our community to come together and not let race drive a wedge between us. If a dark-skinned cosplayer can cosplay a lighter skinned character or anyone can cosplay an Asian character (or mutants or aliens!), then it should be allowed for Caucasian cosplayers to cosplay dark-skinned or asian characters without backlash from the community. Sure we can not help non-members who do not understand the cosplay world, but that does not mean that we can not support one another.

What IS racism in our community then? What makes a cosplayer racist? Is it his/her makeup? Or behaviour towards others?

I think right now the issues revolving around racism is at an all-time high in the United States after the events that happened in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests are erupting all over the United States fighting for the protection, equality and rights of people of colour. We have a developed even more heightened sensitivity to these topics over the past year. Racism is not something that we should ignore, but it is also not something we should assume from everyone.

Leave a comment »