I spent last weekend wandering the halls of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as press for the 7th annual Awesome-Con. If you’ve never been to a con before, let me tell you- it’s fangirl city! And as someone who’s dabbled a little in cosplay before, I knew one panel I’d hit up was Being a Professional Cosplayer at Awesome-Con. Guys: sure it’s cool, and yes, it’s a real job, but… it’s also not what you think!”
One of my favorite parts of being a fangirl is attending a good Con. I love the D23 Expo and cannot wait to attend it later this summer.
Awesome-Con in Washington, DC is quickly becoming a spring-time staple for me- and not just because I don’t have to travel too far to get there!
Celebrating its 7th year in DC, Awesome-Con has something for fans of pretty much everything!
If you’re a fangirl, you’ll probably find your people at Awesome-Con.
DMV peeps: go ahead and mark your calendar for next year. Awesome-Con comes back on May 1-3, 2020.
When the schedule came out I was intrigued to see a Professional Cosplay panel – and even more excited to discover that a friend of a very good friend was speaking on it.
Professional Cosplayer can be – like- a real job? Pay your bills and everything kind of gig?
Tell me more…
Being a Professional Cosplayer At Awesome-Con (It’s Not What You Think!)
I felt a bit sheepish as I was sitting through this panel because I’d never considered this as a professional thing. And as a content creator who’s basically doing the same creative hustle, I should have known better!
But I walked into the room thinking that cosplay was a hobby. Sure- a super time-consuming hobby.
A hobby and an obsession? Yes. I’ve known enough cosplayers to know just how much work and passion goes into creating their characters.
But a full-time profession? It had honestly never crossed my mind. That completely changed when sitting in the panel “Being a Professional Cosplayer” hosted by Maki Roll, Lua Stardust, Maweezy and Mikal Mosley.
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How Do You Become a Professional Cosplayer?
As Mikal pointed out, there’s not a clear path to this profession. His path to professional cosplayer started when he was a teacher.
Mikal credits one of his students calling him out after a “follow your dreams!” speech. When the kid said, but YOU’RE not- oh, snap!
“That same day I put in my resignation. And from that point forward I decided that’s what I was going to do,” Mikal told us.
“Since professional cosplay is still really new as a profession, there’s no real roadmap. You don’t go to college, finish in 4 years, do an internship, and boom! You’re a professional cosplayer.”
It’s a lot of trial and error. But he credits making the mental switch to deciding this was what he wanted to do as a profession as his first big step. In addition to professional cosplay jobs at Cons and appearances, he creates costumes for clients that include the WWE and NFL.
The other panelists had varied experiences on how they started, but they all seemed to have a similar thread in that this isn’t the only job they hold right now. Maweezy is a full-time nurse, Maki Roll works at a comic book shop (a gig that cosplay helped her land) and Lua Stardust is also a model.
As a content creator in the blogging space, I totally felt this. Ideally, we’d have one job, one stream of income, and we’d be killing it- living that dream!
But the reality is that most of us have our hands in different games, all hoping that it adds up to a full house. Or at least a mortgage payment every month. Ahem.
The hustle as a professional cosplayer is REAL, yo! This is not just a dress up and have fun kind of job (I mean, that’s part of it!). But there’s real work, talent, and creativity (plus a lot of connections and maybe a little luck) that combine to make this a legit profession.
Most of us in the fandom don’t see all that. We’re just admiring the finished product. I learned through this panel that behind every professional cosplayer there are buckets of sweat, tears and cuss words that we never see/hear.
(Okay, so I would have cuss words- I’m not sure about everyone else!)
What Are the Pros and Cons To Being a Professional Cosplayer?
Like any job, there are going to be things you hate and the things you love about being a professional cosplayer.
- You get to dress in costume for a living. How great is THAT?!
- It’s a creative outlet to do whatever you want, wear whatever you want.
- Get to meet some really cool people
- Travel opportunities. Can get to go all over the world- and someone else pays for it.
- Sometimes you make a costume because you have to, not because you want to.
- Prepping for conventions takes a lot out of you, financially as well as time and emotion.
- You can get burned out- but you can’t stop because this is your livelihood.
Also, there can be a lot of this going on:
What resonated with me and what I feel like has to be the biggest challenge is what Maki (Rocket Racoon) had to say about being taken seriously.
There’s a real challenge when negotiating fees and contracts with cons who see the professional cosplayers more as “fillers” to their space rather than true talent.
Can you imagine a con without a cosplay presence? I can’t – and I believe there are fans that come specifically to see the professionals do their thing. That has value to the con and does need to be compensated accordingly.
They love what they do, but the time and talent that goes into these looks is a full-time job.
Be sure to follow these great folks on Instagram because you never know where they will end up next!
Favorite Cosplays from 2019 Awesome-Con
I love a good theme and a good costume and I’ve had years of creating costumes for runDisney races. Totally NOT the same as these pros, but fun none-the-less!
I love the creativity and cleverness that come together when a fandom must be represented!
The cosplayers at the 2019 Awesome-Con outdid themselves when it came to details.
Here are a few of my favorite cosplays from the 2019 Awesome-Con.
And the Awesome-Con Parent of the Year award (not a real thing, I made that up) goes to the Dad who created this min-Westley costume – and got his kiddo to ask a question of Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride panel.
Cary couldn’t stand the cuteness and brought the boy on stage and we all melted and gave a collective awwww!
Patty Holliday is a movie critic, writer, and podcaster living in the Washington, DC area. Her goal is to bridge the gap between casual fandom and picky critic with parent movie and television reviews.