I still remember getting ready for my first convention: putting on my blonde wig, applying loads of eyeliner, and wheeling out the door. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the car window and did not see the girl I see everyday. I saw Misa Amane, the blonde leading lady of the popular anime Death Note, but I couldn’t help but wonder if others would see the same. As I entered the doors to the hotel, any fear I had was dismissed in an instant, as I was greeted with smiles, hugs, and shouts of “Misa!” so often that I responded to it almost as quickly as to my own name.
In my own experiences, I have also found that the cosplay community is also quite welcoming to those with physical disabilities, like myself, and anyone willing to put in their best effort to bring their favorite characters to life. When choosing a character to portray, I rarely let the fact that I use a wheelchair influence my choices. To me, a wheelchair is something as mundane as hair color yet as dynamic as an over-sized sword. The only character with a physical disability that I have ever cosplayed is Barbara Gordon AKA Oracle from Birds of Prey. It was awesome to portray her, as both a fan of her character and fellow woman who doesn’t let not being able to walk keep her from kicking butt. I would love to see more characters who use wheelchairs in video games and the media, where the focus is on the things they do rather than zooming in on their medical condition.
The thing that inspires me the most is all of the happiness that comes from cosplaying. The happiness of putting on a wig and having a blast posing for photos. The happiness of all the smiles that go along with recognizing one’s favorite character. The happiness of sharing my costumes with the world and meeting so many wonderful people. I cosplay for those around me just as much as I cosplay for myself. For the people who inspire me and give me a million reasons to smile. Being able to bring joy to others, while doing something I love, is the greatest gift I could ever ask for.
So for anyone who has ever wanted to cosplay but has chosen not to, due to race, body shape, or disability, I want you to try it at least once. And please, have fun. Be creative! Turn a wheelchair into a powerful mech or a cane into an ancient walking stick passed down from your elven ancestors. Put your fears and insecurities aside, and let your passion for the things you enjoy override any doubt you may have. Love what you do, and the world will love you!