Jamila C.

#BIPOCVampDay is Sept. 17-19 and we talked to the creator of the event, Jamila C. of Black Bettie Cosplay.

Midwest BSFA: How’d you get into cosplay? 
J.C.: I have been doing costuming for a long time. I studied it in college and sewed from a young age. I learned that people were dressing up to conventions after I graduated and wanted to continue making costumes as a hobby.

Midwest BSFA: How did you come up with the idea for #BIPOCBVampDay? 
I was inspired by the Black Fae Day event this year. As someone absolutely obsessed with vampires since childhood, I’ve always noticed a lack of Black and POC vampires in the media despite the diverse lore that actually exists around the world. Also, I know many BIPOC friends that have experienced backlash for being Black and cosplaying as a vampire. This day is to encourage more representation and showcase all the amazing vampire mythology and characters that do exist but aren’t at the forefront.

Midwest BSFA: Who are some of your favorite vampire characters and why? 
I love Marceline from Adventure Time, Akasha’s design and backstory is just fabulous, and the entire cast of What We Do In Shadows (the movie and the show) are delightfully hilarious.
Midwest BSFA: What do you think keeps more people of color from getting involved in fantasy? 
A lot of people believe that fantasy is based on European mythology and culture and therefore we can’t participate, which is absolutely not true. I was raised on African and Caribbean folktales, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and Mexican magical realism, all of which are just as fantastical and sometimes even more creative. There are so many myths and folktales from around the world (some of which have inspired the fantasy characters people love so much), but rarely include the people who inspired them. And if we try to get involved, even through cosplay, we are often told we are unrealistic or don’t fit because of history, even though dragons and fairies are accepted. We deserve to be included in fantasy and have stories that can be told as much as any French fairytale. We can be the main characters in a fantasy world, go on quests, have adventures. These things are not exclusive to the Eurocentric world. 

Midwest BSFA: What do you hope to achieve with #BIPOCBVampDay? 
J.C.: I’m hoping to show the media and public that people would like to see more diversity in their fantasy genres – which includes vampires. To get more exposure for creators, artists, designers, makeup artists and cosplayers, anyone who has one of these characters and would like that content to actually get seen. To prove every person who ever told a POC person they can’t be a vampire that they are wrong. I’m also doing a fundraiser for Sickle Cell Disease Association of America—an organization that brings awareness, research and aid for a blood disease that disproportionately affects Black and POC people—as a way to give back to the BIPOC community. 

Midwest BSFA: What changes have you noticed in the cosplay community over the years as it relates to race and gender? 
J.C.: It’s been slowly becoming more inclusive, but we’ve still got a long way to go. A huge part of the problem is the media, conventions and public having this focus that cosplayers have to look exactly like the character. Which is not what cosplay is about. Cosplay is its own form of fan art involving costuming and makeup. We’re all just trying to enjoy our favorite characters and create our own unique spin. That is what it’s about. The more we focus on that, our community will be better for it. 

Midwest BSFA: How has the pandemic affected your creativity when it comes to costuming? 
J.C.: It’s certainly changed how I socialized and did cosplay. I became more active on TikTok and my drive for larger contest pieces came to stand still. But I got to focus on other skills like makeup, video, building friendships online, and working on my own small business.

Midwest BSFA: What keeps you cosplaying? 
I really love making costumes and transforming myself into different characters. I love the passion everyone has for their creations and all the new techniques I have learned with each new costume. Also, I love the idea of shapeshifting and this is probably the closest thing to it in real life.

Midwest BSFA: Anything else you want our readers to know? 
J.C.: We have a website with more details about the event – including ways to get involved and associated organizations. There will also be a showcase that will continue to run after the event, so a lot of the work can be seen. http://bit.ly/bipocvampday

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