Spotlight on Black Cosplayers: An Interview with Cocoa Sugar, Patrick, and Carla

interview pt 1 cover image

Cover Photos taken by @boundlesperception and @poicianmedia

Here at Carbon Costume, we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. Justice must be served in the name of people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We see that racism pervades all aspects of life — including cosplay.

Cosplay is for everyone, and we must stop discrimination against cosplayers of color, especially black cosplayers. It is now time for black cosplayers, artists, photographers, and creators to take the spotlight. And we are going to continue to highlight their content in our articles, as well as increase the diversity in our costume guides, making sure we include black characters.

In this article, we’re going to amplify the voices of some black creatives: Cocoa Sugar Cosplay, Patrick aka Diamond Quality Cosplay, and Carla.


Please introduce yourselves!

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: Heya! I’m Maria aka Cocoasugarcosplay- I’m a cosplayer from central PA. I split my time between my day job in design and working on various cosplay projects. I’m a self-taught seamstress and I love working on the little details in each of my projects.

Diamond Quality Cosplay: Hi there! I’m Patrick, a 23 year old cosplayer from New Jersey. I’ve put together more cosplays than I can count and I’m always assembling a new group shoot.

Carla: I’m Carla. I consider myself a baby cosplayer cause I haven’t been to a lot of cons and only recently started doing minor props and armor things.

carla domino
Carla as Domino at NYCC

How did you get into cosplay?

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: My parents have a photo of me as a baby wearing a Batman costume, so I guess I’ve been cosplaying my whole life! I started seriously cosplaying in 2008. I’ve had a love of anime, comics, and fantasy for as long as I can remember. I’ve also been interested in the creative arts for just as long. Being able to combine those two loves is what I enjoy most about cosplaying.

Diamond Quality Cosplay: I first attended NYCC working for a vendor in high school. Seeing cosplay up close somehow made it feel more accessible. I decided to give it a shot, and I cosplayed for the first time the following year at the convention.

Carla: So I got into cosplaying with something as simple as dressing up for Halloween when I was probably about 19-20, but I more got the bug when I cosplayed for the first time at a Teen Wolf convention called Howlercon.


Do you have any cosplans, or are you working on any cosplays right now?

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: I do! Right now I’m working on a few, with two that I’ve announced publicly. Shiva from FFX, and bringing Sunset Dragon’s Capricorn design to life. I have a couple of others in the works that I’ll be announcing soon.

Diamond Quality Cosplay: Currently I’m putting together a bunch of cosplays for Pride Month. The idea is that I’ll cosplay LGBT+ characters and incorporate their respective Pride flags into their design.

Carla: My cosplans, COVID aside, is my final form of Punk Storm, 80s Zarya from Overwatch, Bayonetta, and Harley Quinn from Birds of Prey. Not working on any unless you consider me getting in shape so my stomach understands it is not allowed to manspread.

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Cocoa Sugar Cosplay as Anthy (photo by @fxdandy)

Which cosplay are you most proud of?

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: That’s a hard one! I think I’d have to say Hannah Alexander’s Tiana. It was my first time doing a cosplay that complex from scratch and I put a lot of love into it. It’s also my first award winning cosplay! I also like the way I feel when I wear it – I feel really classy and elegant.

Diamond Quality Cosplay: That would definitely be my cosplay of Baron Samedi from Smite. A lot of work went into making it, applying the makeup, and the photos came out great.

Carla: I am torn between my Okoye and King K Rool (Queen K Roolette). However, I am going to go with Okoye due to the fact that I made 98% of that it and it was very time consuming. I had to bring that beaded flap to work to finished it on time.

Carla as King K Rool (Queen K Roolette) with her friend Cass as Bowser

Now let’s get into the poignant questions. What does cosplaying while black mean to you?

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: It definitely isn’t easy. Unfortunately, just as black people face prejudice and racism in society at large, we experience the same hardships within the cosplay community. There’s a portion of the cosplay community that gatekeeps for ‘accuracy’ and lashes out at black cosplayers who cosplay non-black characters. Then there are those who still think it’s ok to use blackface. Even outside of those overtly racist acts, black cosplayers are less likely to be selected as cosplay guests, featured in publications, picked for cosplay groups – the list goes on. At the same time, being embraced by the black cosplay community and other allies has been a positive experience for me personally.

Diamond Quality Cosplay: On one hand, it means getting to partake in the wonderful and awesome black cosplay community. Cosplaying a nonblack character sometimes feels like putting your own spin on them, rather that matching them 1:1. On the other hand, it also means oftentimes facing heavier criticism and less recognition than white cosplayers.

Carla: I wish hearing the phrase “cosplaying while black” had more of a positive connotation, because sadly I immediately think of how it is hard to make it as a well known black cosplayer or even just get the props and validation of your hard work on social media. Yes, if you have a great following who support you it’s fun and amazing, but god forbid a company posts your pic on their social media and you’ll get your “xyz wasn’t black” or “it’s black xyz” which are the more PG things they can and will call you. This has happened to me when I cosplayed Michonne from The Waking Dead and their official Instagram posted my cosplay. Let’s just say you must have tough skin to read those.

patrick-spotlight
Diamond Quality Cosplay as Baron Samedi

How can the cosplay community do better in regards to black creators?

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: Educate yourself on the types of issues we face, and learn how you can be a true ally. Support and promote black cosplayers and request them as convention guests. Most importantly, speak up and defend us when you see people posting hateful comments.

Diamond Quality Cosplay: Part of doing better involves sharing and promoting black cosplayers, but it doesn’t end there. When you share them, make sure to moderate the comment section for racist behavior. Ask your favorite cons to invite black cosplayers. Stop blackfacing and call out others who do it. Stop referring to us as the “black” version of the character. When you invite us to group shoots, examine whether you’re inviting us because you like our work, or to fill the role of the only black character. This also extends to other cosplayers of color, as well as LGBT+, plus sized, and disabled cosplayers. We’re a colorful community, and everyone should be represented

Carla: The cosplay community can do better by not waiting until February or until a large movement is happening within the black community to post really great cosplays from black creators. They can be sure ensured that negativity is not welcomed or tolerated and that everyone has a right to cosplay no matter their skin or size. Cosplaying is for everyone, point blank period. If your ever dressed up for Halloween, guess what, you just experienced cosplaying!


Thank you so much for your time. Where can people find you?

Cocoa Sugar Cosplay: The best place to find me is on Instagram at @cocoasugarcosplay

Diamond Quality Cosplay: Instagram at Diamondqualitycosplay, Twitter at Diamondqualitycosplay, and Facebook at Diamond Quality Cosplay

Carla: You can see my cosplay page on Instagram at @Wakandantitan.


This is part 1 of a series. Meanwhile, here are more black cosplayers and creatives to follow: @cheycheykitty, @testpatterncosplay, @onyxsenpai_cosplay, @reviveyouredge, @otttrs, @jasonjaeger_, @chaarliieee, @steeveelution, @broadenurbrain

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About the Author

Mandy

Cosplayer, creative writer, cookie connoisseur. Pronouns: she/they.

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