(Photographer: Chelsea Baucom

Before many knew me as Jazmine of PBN, I went under my cosplay and internet alias as Moco Latte Cosplay. Anime and manga has always had a significant presence in my life. As an awkward child, I took great pleasure in engrossing myself in sci-fi and fantasy. Dealing with the many trials and tribulations you go through as a child trying to find your place in the world, it was a way for me to escape from all of stress. I admired the characters I would watch on screen. I felt as if I could relate to them in a lot of ways to the point that I wanted to be them. Along with that, the internet was on the rise, and my hours of watching anime and reading manga translated into hours on the internet. 2004 was an important year in my life. It was in that year that I discovered cosplay. My mom took me to my first anime convention, and it opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed. The sight of so many fictional characters I loved coming to life was exciting and overwhelming. However, I knew one thing for sure after going to my first convention. I knew that I had to find some way to become a part of the scene.

Of course, like any teenager, money was very limited. I had no source of income and only my parents to rely on for the things that I wanted. During my junior year of high school, I moved to Texas and a local convention was coming up in the summer. I knew for sure that I would do anything to make sure I could attend. I saved up money for a badge, and sold some of my anime DVDs and manga to afford a cosplay to buy. I was so excited to experience a full weekend of an anime convention for the first time. I stayed with my brother and his friends at the convention hotel. I slept on the floor due to bed space being unavailable. But like all crazy young kids at a con, I was mostly not unfazed by it. I was just happy to be there. Seeing so many people cosplay; making new friends. My cosplay was by no means extravagant or awesome. I cosplayed Natsuo from Loveless. I bought a cheap wig on eBay and bought the sailor top online. I used a pair of black pants from my closet. I didn’t even have any contacts. That was my first real convention and cosplay experience. So what lead to the burn out you ask? I’ll get to that.

(Photographer: Apeture Ashley)

After my first con, I spent a lot of time building my cosplay supplies. I got a sewing machine and accumulated fabrics and patterns. I spent endless nights and amounts of time developing my skills, and even dabbled in cosplay contests. I’ll never forget the high that I felt winning my first award. I was slowly being introduced to a different side of cosplay. The photo shoots, craftsmanship, and attention…I had never felt anything like that. In all honesty, I was looking for validation through cosplay. I found something that I was talented at, and I fed off the compliments and feedback I was getting for it. With that came a sense of pressure to be great. not for myself, but for others as well. 

I began to create deadlines for myself, getting stressed out about having pieces ready for contests. Things like that were putting a strain on my friendships. Particularly with my best friend and cosplay partner at the time. Cosplay wasn’t fun anymore. It was becoming more than a hobby for me. It was like a job, but a job I wasn’t even getting paid for. Conventions went from just being chill weekends, to hectic schedules. Waking up early for judging, photo shoot times slots, sitting in the contest all day on Saturdays of each convention. I was missing out on so much and didn’t even realize it. I was becoming jaded by something that didn’t even matter. The trophies and medals didn’t even matter, because at the end of the day, these things were just taking up space and collecting dust in my room. It’s not like they were making a significant impact on my life.

(Photographer: Aperture Ashley)

It wasn’t about working with other creatives to create amazing, beautiful content bringing characters to life through real scenery and shots. It was turning into creepy photographers with their own gross agendas, or getting in their feelings when you didn’t like them romantically (yes, I said it). It became a community of individuals thriving off fame and notoriety. Instead of everyone enjoying each other’s company, it became about who had the best costumes and the most followers. If you didn’t have either, then no one wanted to give you the time of day, because why talk to you, or be friends with you if you’re not important. It’s about what you can do for them. A community bringing in negative, toxic things (racism, sexism, misogyny) into our community. It all gets so frustrating to the point you need to separate yourself from such a community.

Not only was cosplay becoming more of a job I had to force myself to do, cosplay is a great financial burden. Cosplay is an expensive hobby to have and is a luxury. Instead of taking, you know, real vacations…I was focusing all my extra funds into cosplay. I’ve made a total of 50+ costumes in my ten years of involvement in the cosplay community. I can assure you that that adds up to probably around $5,000+ of funds spent over the ten years I’ve made cosplays. That includes cosplays I’ve made for myself and others. Looking back, I don’t regret the cosplays I made. I’ve gained so many skills from creating of them. But I wish I would have invested some of the money in traveling, investments, things that mean something in the long term.

(Photographer: A.L.P Photography)

For those many reasons, I chose to take a break from cosplay. Over the years I’ve exhausted myself to the point where conventions became a routine and lost the magic I once felt. I want cosplay to feel like a hobby again. I want to regain the passion and excitement I felt about cosplay. However, I will find it in my own time. No one can force that fire back into me. It’s okay to take a break from something if it becomes too much for you. Whether it be cosplay or anything else you take enjoyment from.