Geek fandoms are about being accepted and embraced for your quirks, but Chelsea Medua didn't always find that in the online cosplayer community.
"I follow many cosplayers on the Internet who I see at times get crude comments and remarks for just being black," she told the Daily Dot.
Chaka Cumberbatch says it more bluntly in an XOJane article titled I'm a Black Female Cosplayer And Some People Hate It: "In person, nobody has the balls to say a word about whether or not they think darker-skinned people should cosplay lighter skinned characters." When she dressed as Venus from Sailor Moon, she was reblogged as an example of black cosplayers "doing it right, as if 9 times out of 10, black cosplayers were doing it wrong." Nastier online comments followed. The experience, she said, scared one of her Indian friends away from trying anything similar.
But then again, it's not like most comics are overflowing with visible, well-represented dark-skinned characters.
Stumble into any subculture and you'd be remiss to assume it's anything but diverse. At the same time, it's widely known that online geekdoms aren't always inviting to women and minority fans. Either way, Chelsea stresses that she started Cosplaying While Black mainly as a positive inspiration, an annoyance-free space for fans of color to share the fruits of their labor.
"The site exists to inspire black cosplayers, to not make them feel alone in the community, or feel discouraged from cosplaying," she says. "The blog does not exist to prove anything to white people, to shame white people, or anything like that."
Bottom line: everyone should feel at home doing what makes them happy. Below are some lovingly crafted costumes on her site.