Interview with Cheyenne Ewulu from Shades of Cosplay

cheyenne ewulu

cosplay shadesa short documentary film focusing on four black cosplayers, was released in 2015 by filmmaker cheyenne ewulu. cosplay shades it was Ewulu’s first film, and he decided to re-release it because he felt the conversations were still relevant today.

He’s right, which is pretty telling since the movie touches on racism in the cosplay community.

The documentary is not just about the hurtful aspects of the community.

As I sat down to watch the film, I realized that Ewulu had done more than just address current issues. The way he shoots the documentary keeps the conversation flowing. weather cosplayers participate in what they love: dressing up as their favorite characters. You can see black cosplayers putting together their looks, talking about the materials they used, competing on stage, and admitting the nervousness one feels before standing in front of an audience to perform a skit.

This documentary is more than just our exhaustion from negative feedback, it’s a display of pure black joy that serves as a way to remind the audience that at its core, cosplay is all about having fun and that’s all black cosplayers are ever trying to do. do. You can see black cosplayers coming together, creating together, paneling together, and encouraging each other to go out and cosplay if that’s what they want to do.

There’s a part in the documentary where a plus size black girl talks about how she thought she couldn’t cosplay because there weren’t many characters that looked like her, and that part took me back to my younger cosplay days where I felt exactly the same way. I’m sure many others have felt this way or are feeling this way right now. This girl goes on to say that seeing others in the cosplay community encouraged her to do so, and she is passing that mindset on to the young people in her family.

It’s amazing that hearing that can still mean so much, even if it was said all those years ago.

The way racism is framed illustrates how frustrating it really is.

Photo by HellorHighWater Photography

The way derogatory comments are talked about in the movie really gives into the fact that discrimination in the community is exhausting and, frankly, total nonsense. The tone is conversational, as Ewulu talks to black cosplayers as they prepare for a convention.

Basically, you look like someone is trying to vibrate on something like My Little Pony, so there’s a level of anger that you feel when you see this person minding their own business and trying to have a good time and they’re suddenly told that a fictional pony isn’t black.

I like. Think about that for a second. Tell me a cartoon PONY is not black. Later in the documentary, the same thing happens with Beast Boy, who is green.

The documentary really drives home how frustrating racism is. All these cosplayers want to do is dress up in a great sailor moon group and… that’s it.

It really shouldn’t be that hard.

An interview with Cheyenne Ewulu

cheyenne shades of cosplay
Photo by Mike Garcia

After watching the documentary, I had the opportunity to interview Ewulu about the film itself, her own experiences with cosplay and being a Black creative in the geek community, and how it feels to look back on the work she created.

ETC: This is one of your first movies, how does it feel to release it again?

EWULU: It feels a bit surreal and also scary because it’s my first film. But I think it’s nice to have him personally, to remind me, as I go through my career, where I started. You don’t see Issa Rae locking up Awkward Black Girl, do you?

ETC: What inspired you to create this documentary? What inspired you to republish it after so many years?

EWULU: I was an avid cosplayer when I was in college and even when I was out of college. Even in the movie, you can see clips of me dressed up as Sailor Uranus. I had always wanted to make a short film about something I could relate to. I didn’t see any content about black cosplayers at the time, so I decided I was going to make that my first project. I had been in the community before, I was also a cosplayer and had friends at the time who were starting out in the cosplay world so it made sense.

I feel like it’s important for us to get out there and try to tell our own stories, you know? Because if we don’t, someone else will…and they’ll be wrong. I wanted to re-release it because I don’t think I really gave it time to marinate when it came out. I may not cosplay anymore, but there are so many people still doing it that it could really resonate with this movie. They deserve to see it.

ETC: Do you think the issues addressed in the documentary are still issues in the cosplay community today?

EWULU: Oh, they are still very relevant to this day. It’s sad. Every two weeks, I see a post on Twitter about something racist happening within the community.

ETC: What changes have you seen in the cosplay community (and the geek community in general) over the years? Has it become more inclusive? What improvements can be made to create a better experience for black cosplayers/nerds?

EWULU: Well, for starters, there are so many more black women openly disguising themselves now, and it’s amazing. I see girls getting offers from brands and things like that, which is great. We now have anime companies with black cosplayers on their platforms. And while they are great and create exposure for those creatives, it sucks to see that 90% of the time, the comments section of those posts with black cosplayers is full of trolls.

I think the first step in creating a better environment for Black nerd creatives, specifically online, is to make sure that we don’t allow negative comments to be so visible on these big brand pages.

ETC: Since you used to cosplay, what was it like to go from being someone who cosplayed to someone who creates important videos documenting the experiences of black cosplayers?

EWULU: It’s a bit crazy. I feel like my cosplaying past will always be a part of me. I’m still a nerd, creating nerdy content.

ETC: What I like about their documentary is that it not only focuses on the racism that black cosplayers face, but we also get to see them having fun cosplaying, winning competitions, and even giving details on how they make their costumes and props. . Why did you think it was important to also show this side of the black cosplay experience?

EWULU: I feel that many times, as a person who watches documentaries DAILY, many documents that deal with traumatic events, especially racism, leave the viewer feeling defeated in the end. I didn’t want that with this. I wanted to show whoever is watching that even though these bad things happen, there is still a light for you at the end of the tunnel. You can do this too. I wanted this to be informative but also fun and inspiring.

ETC: Do you have any advice for Black creatives looking to do work that focuses on community experiences?

EWULU: Just go out and do it. I did Shades of Cosplay with a DSLR camera in one hand and a studio light in the other, moving them around in that convention. Without camera equipment. No, nothing. Ava Duvernay and I think Ryan Coogler made their first feature films on iPhones. Start somewhere and don’t be afraid of being seen trying.

I’ve done a couple of interviews with some talented black nerds looking to make their own movies and let me just say it looks like there’s going to be some awesome Blerd content in the future. I’m excited to see what people create. I hope that my film inspires others to share their own stories in the way they feel comfortable.

ETC: If you were to cosplay again today, which character would you cosplay and why?

EWULU: Fran from FF12 has always been my dream cosplay man. Perhaps a more modest version of her. She is one of my favorite video game characters.

(Image: HellorHighwater Photography/Mike Garcia/Cheyenne Ewulu)

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