Holly Brooke here interviewing Chaka Cumberbatch a.k.a Princess Mentality Cosplay. I, like many others, became aware of Chaka through her xoJane article that went viral. I then ran into her at SDCC this past summer, and I have been following all of her great work ever since! Check out her insight on being respectful, secret cosplays, and most importantly becoming a Tiny Toon!
1.You’re a woman on the forefront of anti-bullying in cosplay. Have you noticed a change in mentality and responses from fans of cosplay since the viral spread of anti-bullying awareness has taken place recently?
It’s kind of two fold. On one hand, I feel like people are definitely becoming more aware of how their words affect their fellow cosplayers, and are working to be more inclusive and welcoming. On the other hand, however, I’ve definitely noticed a backlash against the “political correctness” of the anti- which is basically just people refusing to acknowledge that it’s possible to participate in this hobby without violating Wheaton’s Law, which strictly prohibits being a dick. And I don’t understand it. Honestly, all we are asking for is to be treated with decency and respect.
At first, I had a hard time dealing with all of the negative feedback, because people can be really, really cruel. There were parts of the internet where all aspects of my life and personality were attacked in response to what I wrote. But the positive emails, messages and tweets from people who read my articles has meant everything to me, and really keeps me going. Even knowing that I was somehow able to help one person just completely invalidates 50 pieces of hate mail, in my mind.
2.You recently wrote an article, “I’m a Black Female Cosplayer and Some People Hate It”, in which you talk about cyber-bullying and the limitations some fans put on cosplayers. You discuss in the article your experiences with cosplaying outside of your race. Have you ever cosplayed outside of your gender? Do you think that cosplaying outside of your gender is more accepted than cosplaying outside of your race in the community?
I love genderbent cosplay! My Lady Captain America is one of my absolute favorites to wear. It’s strange, but I definitely do think that genderbending cosplay is more readily accepted than racebending, and I’m not sure why. People who have a problem with cosplayers who venture out of their race like to claim that it’s about “wanting cosplay to be accurate,” but at the same time they don’t seem to have much of a problem with things like Steampunk versions of characters, gijinka versions of characters and Rule 63 versions of characters. It’s like you’re allowed to be creative when it comes to every aspect except for your race, and I’m not okay with it.
3.Are there any cosplayers that inspire you?
There are so many! And I’m lucky to call a few of them my friends, too. I don’t know her personally, but I really love Misa On Wheels, who cosplays Misa Amane from Deathnote even while confined to a wheelchair. Her positive attitude is amazing and infectious. I’m fortunate enough to call Jay Justice a friend of mine, and I admire not only her attention to detail but her unwillingness to back down in the face of insurmountable adversity. People really, really have a problem with her being a black woman in the realm of comics, but she never lets anything anyone says stop her for a second. Watching my friend Destiny Nickelsen deal with the cosplay community accuse her of faking her cancer diagnosis was one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen all year, but she pushed through it and stays dedicated to her craft, her fans and her friends with a smile on her face, and I think it’s incredible. I really don’t think I would have handled that situation as well as she did, so she inspires me to be better.
4.You recently did a Superhero Disney Princess group cosplay, which got a great response from fans. Any plans for group mashup cosplays in the future?
Oh absolutely! The Superhero Disney Princess group invited me to join them at SDCC 2012, and until that point I was kind of a cosplay lone ranger, I didn’t really join groups or anything. But it’s so much fun being part of a huge, instantly recognizable group! And the girls are so much fun, so many of them have become good friends of mine. I have at least two groups planned for 2014, but they’re such huge secrets right now, I’ve practically signed an NDA.
5.Hypothetically, you are to become an animated character. Which preexisting animated world are you going to live in, and which fictional character are you going to have as a best friend?
Oh, this is easy. I’d be Babs Bunny (my spirit animal) from Tiny Toon Adventures (one of my all time favorite cartoons), and Plucky Duck would be my best friend. We’d get into all sorts of Kenan-and-Kel level misadventures, would probably get arrested at least once and would fight nonstop, but we’d always have each other’s backs and at the end of the day, that’s all that counts. And now I really miss Tiny Toons and Kenan and Kel.
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