February is coming to an end, but this month has shone a bright light on some incredibly talented cosplayers! One of these is Cree Michelle Rogers, aka Brown Suga Outlaw of the Usual Rangers 5. She challenged herself to a character a day for #28DaysofBlackCosplay and absolutely killed it.
We talked to Rogers about what inspired her to cosplay, why she loves it, and some changes she'd like to see in the cosplay community.
BC: How long have you been cosplaying? What interested you in cosplaying?
I have been cosplaying officially for going on three years with my cosplay group the Usual Rangers 5! We've been touring conventions lately as guest cosplayers and were even featured on the February issue of the Washington Post Magazine! Interestingly enough, as a full-time actress, I am a professional cosplayer with plainer costumes.
Acting is a lot of fun, but it's very rare that I'm able to enjoy the nerdy things in life through it. Through cosplaying I get to allow the child in me to live out her fantasies. It's literally amazing to become the characters that I love or look up to! To be honest, my favorite part of cosplaying is the crafting. Putting a costume together is stressful and expensive. BUT! There is nothing like having a look come together the way you imagined!
BC: What's your favorite cosplay?
Any cosplay that children can enjoy ranks top on my list! Being the Yellow Power Ranger is one of the most fun, because not only do I have a group of my best friends with me, but children of all ages enjoy it! I have 35-year-old men high-fiving me for bringing their childhood to life and little kids who are simply happy to see Power Rangers in real life! It's also a great costume because when I remove my helmet, I can show the other weird little black girls out there that it's okay to be who you are. I love the idea of encouraging young kids, especially black kids who are bullied for liking cartoons past the age of 12, that you can become your heroes and there is nothing wrong with that!
BC: What do you find challenging about the cosplay community? What would you like to see change?
The cosplay community can be as close-minded as it is open. For everyone telling you that cosplay is for everyone, there are those who disagree. To be honest, being a cosplayer of color means that when I cosplay someone that isn't black, I have to bring my absolute A game to be taken seriously. Any small lapse in quality or accuracy and the racists have a field day. And even being completely accurate doesn't give you a pass! The added pressure is unfair and its worsened if one believes that those of the minority race should stick to their characters.
White characters are in abundance in American media. You can't throw a penny in a comic book store without hitting a white character. Meanwhile, for every 20 white characters, there are maybe four black ones. And less if you're Asian, Middle Eastern or Latinx! The disparity is so large that I find myself being protective of my minority characters! The cosplay community needs to learn how to respect the part that race plays into these characters we love.
Black history and comic book history run parallel. Especially when you consider the fact that we didn't get a Black Superhero until two years prior Martin Luther King Jr.'s death.
BC: What's your most memorable moment?
There was one day my group did a Barnes and Noble event entitled, "Marvel vs DC". Being that my group is composed of African Americans, we dressed as the main African American heroes in Marvel; Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade, Brother Voodoo, and I was Storm. On my way back from grabbing waters for the team, an old woman came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. I expected her to ask me why I was dressed so ostentatiously or what character I was, but instead she pointed me to a little girl clinging to her mother's leg and staring at me. She then told me that the little girl thought I was a princess and it would make her day if she could talk to me. I stifled all giggles, squeals, and screams as I walked up to this little girl that wanted to speak to "Princess Storm". Needless to say there wasn't much of a conversation because of how shy she was, but when I asked for a hug, I was nearly choked to death!