Cosplay But Make It West Indian

Find out more about VantaBlackCosplay on Instagram and Twiiter

Vanta was featured in Cosplay Realm Magazine’s September issue for her Articuno cosplay. She made the cape and carnival headdress herself. 

Vanta was also featured on BET for my panel called “Kinks and Curls: ethnic hair in the cosplay community” 

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[00:00:00]Lisa: [00:00:00] Stitchers. Welcome to stitch. Please be official podcast of black women's stitch, the sewing group where black lives matter. I'm your host Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

[00:00:25]Hello everybody. And welcome

[00:00:27] to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And I have a very exciting episode today. As we close out BlackTober, I wanted to draw attention to a particular form of costuming and design that I find so [00:00:45] remarkable. So detail oriented, creative, and impressive. At the same time, also really culturally particular.

[00:00:53] And this is talking about cause play. Last year, you recall that I talked with the cos player for BlackTober, and I think this is an important tradition to carry continue for this month. This month, this year, I have the extreme privilege of talking today with Vantaa black cosplay, you can find her amazing looks on Instagram and anti-black cosplay.

[00:01:16] She's also on Twitter. She was recently featured sure. In a cosplay magazine and she was also featured. And  coverage of the Comicon. And so there's so much that [00:01:30] Vantaa has done and her looks are absolutely stunning. You can see these from the episode, cover art as well as on her own page. And so I'm really excited to be able to talk with Vantaa today.

[00:01:43] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:01:43] There's so much you made me sound so awesome. Really humbled. Oh my goodness.

[00:01:50] Lisa: [00:01:50] I made you, you make it, make it easy to make you say,

[00:01:53] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:01:53] thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I'm discovering this podcast was great. I was at work. I'm like, I need to listen to a podcast about sewing and I found it and I'm like, yes, black women who sew  I love this.

[00:02:06] This is me. and that's how I discover your podcast. And I'm like, Oh, that'd be great if I could be on that. And then I said that five months ago, and here we are. [00:02:15]

[00:02:17]Lisa: [00:02:17] that's amazing. Cause I was going through like Instagram and looking through lots of different cause players. And then I was like, wait, I think, I think, I think she contacted me about something like you liked one of my posts in my stories or something.

[00:02:30] And I was like, Oh my gosh, wait, I think she knows about then I think she knows my podcast even exists. I

[00:02:36] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:02:36] would definitely ask her.

[00:02:38]Lisa: [00:02:38] Yeah, I was, I was very excited. So thank you so much for being here. So I wanted to ask you, how did you get started? Can you tell us your sewing?

[00:02:49] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:02:49] Okay. So very long, long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away in the heart of Brooklyn. I, [00:03:00] I grew up with my grandmother. Yeah. And she was a seamstress. So as a little kid, she would always be fixing things, fixing socks, fixing coats, buttons, little things.

[00:03:11] And one day she taught me how to hand sew and, it was small something to give a little kid something to do, and I love doing it. When I got older, I have aunt and a cousin who are both seems just as well. And they like make their own clothes. If somebody has a wedding, they'll make a dress for a whole bunch of stuff.

[00:03:31] And I want some, no, it was over, they live in Barbados and I was there one summer. Yeah. And they showed me how to make a tablecloth, just something small for my nightstand. And so I loved it. It had a little a sun in it. It was really cute. [00:03:45] I think I still have it somewhere in the house. So that was.

[00:03:49] Lisa: [00:03:49] So there was embroidery involved in your tablecloth. So it wasn't just, here's a square of fabric, put it on the table. So it was a bit more involved and

[00:03:57] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:03:57] it was, it's not the most beautiful thing in the world, but I made it. So to me, it's beautiful, those kids' drawings where they like make us sun in the corner and it's got like Ray beams coming out and there's like a pole, that was my tablecloth.

[00:04:16] Lisa: [00:04:16] That's still actually how I draw,

[00:04:18]I draw and then a house and then the ground line for the ground. That's pretty much how I still draw things.

[00:04:24] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:04:24] We are here. We are. We are here. You can't see me do this, but our eyes are moving right now.

[00:04:31] [00:04:30] Lisa: [00:04:31] Our eyes are meeting. Yes, exactly. We need both it linked to the same art school. Yeah.

[00:04:40] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:04:40] So I. I started cosplaying in college because, I'm a big nerd.

[00:04:46]I've loved it. Yeah. And it may, for as long as I can remember, I've loved comics, especially Batman for as long as I can remember. And my college roommates like, Oh, we should go to New York comic con and I'm like, We can do that. Yeah, we can do that. Let's do it. Let's cosplay. Let's do it. And for a split second, I was a little anxious because of, obviously we experienced racism because we're black, that's the nature of things.

[00:05:09] We get called certain words that is so offensive. And so I was apprehensive, but she said to me, she's [00:05:15] Black people, tons of black people do it. They have a great time doing it. Don't worry about your skin color. You're going to find friends. You're going to be fine. It's going to be amazing. I'm like, all right, let's do it.

[00:05:25] So first constantly was a bunch of random stuff from Michael and. Michael's and Amazon a, in a marshal put together. It wasn't. Yeah, again, not the most beautiful thing. I was very proud of it and it was realistic. I was, Batman beyond Terry and his bat suit, which was just me in a unit, tarred it with a mask.

[00:05:51] And I did have a bunch of people come up and ask me to take pictures. So that was kinda cool.

[00:05:56]Lisa: [00:05:56] Yes. Now I have, I just want to pause here cause I want to ask a couple of [00:06:00] questions. The first one is you lived in Brooklyn and grew up in Brooklyn, but when your friend said let's go to New York Comicon, which is where in Manhattan at the jabots. Is that where it is? You were uneasy and I'm like, I'm thinking for someone who's a, a black nerd, a blurred as how I call myself a blurred.

[00:06:18] I would've thought that you would have been thrilled, light it and known all about Comicon since it's right. Kind of in your, in your back woods. It, why was that something that you, I didn't know about? I don't know. How would you explain that? That wasn't something that you felt. entitled to, or looking forward to, or had been doing as long as you have been doing your own version of murder,

[00:06:43] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:06:43] maybe because I wasn't [00:06:45] fully aware of how big it was.

[00:06:48]like I always knew about New York Comicon and different conventions, but I didn't know how big, everyone's heard of New York Comicon and San Diego con, but to me, I guess just, I didn't really, I was also in college at the time. So Cos playing and all and hobbies and all that was on the backburner was get your degree and get out.

[00:07:09]Lisa: [00:07:09] A lot of colleges, a lot of work and time and stuff.

[00:07:12] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:07:12] Yeah. And I, I don't know. I did it. It never really. It always appealed to me. I'm like one day I'm going to make it to New York comic con. I'm going to make a cosplay. I'm going to be amazing. It's going to be great. And that's it. And it was like a dream, like a bucket list thing, not a actual, I can do this [00:07:30] thing.

[00:07:30]Lisa: [00:07:30] Okay. So it was a special thing. It was like, you felt like you had to flip your way.

[00:07:35] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:07:35] That's a good way

[00:07:35] Lisa: [00:07:35] to put it. And so I'm also going to backtrack a little bit again, cause I also want to ask, how would you define, and again, this is a serious, no wrong, no right answer question. How would you define cosplay?

[00:07:52] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:07:52] How do I define costs by to me? Cosplay is finding a character that I like that I want to portray, trying to create my version of whatever outfit they're wearing and take pictures, hang out with friends, just enjoy being that character for a little bit, with everything going on, especially during the [00:08:15] pandemic, it's nice to take a break and invest time into this hobby, into this character that you like.

[00:08:21] And, it's probably cause there's, parts of them that you really wit either. You wish you could portray more or you see a little bit of yourself in that character. So for a couple hours, you get to be that character. And it's great. It's great. Like when little kids see you and they're like, Oh my goodness, you're wonder woman.

[00:08:37] One of them is my favorite or, I had, I was sailor moon and. This little girl wanted to give me a hug because she was like, Oh, I love you soggy. She's so great. it's, it's getting to be that character, even if it's for a little while you get to emulate the character and I, and that's why I really love it.

[00:08:54]Lisa: [00:08:54] That sounds really beautiful because it's, it seems like it's a [00:09:00] combination of an inner desire. a way to attach to a character that you have developed some toward some sort of connection with either by reading the comics or what watching the anime. And then it's also, it also has an external impact too, because other people will recognize and see that.

[00:09:18] And they're like, Oh my gosh, thank you for reminding me about why I'm here. Thank you for reminding me, about why I do this. And I think that's really fantastic. I want to talk a bit about your sewing and sewing for cosplay, because it seems to me that cosplay sewing requires something very different than sewing for apparel.

[00:09:42] So I'm an apparel. So I do make [00:09:45] quilts and on deck and stuff, but for the most part, If I say, you know what? I want to make a bra this weekend. Here's the bra pattern. Here's the bra fabric. Here's the bra, the findings. I will now sit down and follow the directions and make this amazing Gras. It's gonna be great for you.

[00:10:01] That's different, you say, I want to be poison Ivy. And now I will like, so like how does that work? Like for most people we'd go to the Halloween store and buy a really not very good quality, costume, but for you, you do something different. What is your, can you, I guess maybe I'm asking you to describe your process.

[00:10:24] Oh, by identifying a character and then developing a look. Okay.

[00:10:27] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:10:27] So as [00:10:30] a new sower to sow or seamstress, whichever term you would like to use, I start off with, I'm honest, I'm strictly honest. I will say, can I make this and do I want to make this? And a lot of the time it's yeah, I do really want to make this because I want to test my skills, I believe in myself, so I can do it with.

[00:10:51] I think my favorite, I don't know, every year I say this as my favorite and then it's, and then the next year comes and I make something better. My Darla cost by Darla from shazamm that body suit. So backtrack. So when I watched the Suzanne movie watching it, Darla is this cute really sweet girl.

[00:11:11] She's trying to be the best little sister he's got [00:11:15] pigtails and glasses. And that was me as a kid. Like I had big pigtails. I had. Big glasses. I was a little nerd. I always tried to be like the nicest person and she's just adorable. I'm like, this is me. I want to be with her. So when she has her costume, I'm like, this is it.

[00:11:30] She's an adult version of me. This is so cute. Why not do it? But I said yes to myself. I'm like, okay, I got to learn how to do a bodysuit. And then I got to make the belt and then I got to get cool shoes and make a cake. Okay. Okay. Okay. And so I deconstruct it. So I started off first with the bodysuit.

[00:11:47] I worked with spandex previously, but was still a little apprehensive and I'm like, okay, we're going to get spandex and we're going to make the body suit. I already had a body suit. And what I'm saying, Bonnie Sue, I mean like a [00:12:00] unitard, like legs and sleeveless. Yeah. So this one was sleep.

[00:12:05] So I already had a sleeveless body suit. And I cut it out to fit the space. Cause it was also Spanish and I'm like, this will work out fine. It'll be perfect. Ooh child. That was not perfect. It was not.

[00:12:19]Lisa: [00:12:19] Did that spandex fight you and your sewing machine?

[00:12:22] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:12:22] My sewing machine is from the seventies.

[00:12:27] Lisa: [00:12:27] Okay. I always love it when black people, when we begin a story with. First

[00:12:35] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:12:35] do you want to hear about, to hear a, you are comfortable?

[00:12:40] Lisa: [00:12:40] So

[00:12:41] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:12:41] machine is my original grandmother's sewing machine from the [00:12:45] seventies. It is a Kenmore ultra stitch eight.

[00:12:48] The manual isn't even with it anymore. I had to download the manual on the black, the dark web. I have to search for it. That's how old,

[00:12:59]Lisa: [00:12:59] the dark web.

[00:13:01] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:13:01] I would not think that Kenmore

[00:13:02] Lisa: [00:13:02] sewing machine manuals would be one of them, but Hey, you got it.

[00:13:08] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:13:08] So that was the first thing. Second of all, you can't find the sewing pieces for. The, you can't find the presser feet or like replacement bobbins or anything for the sewing machine, because it is so old.

[00:13:22] And so had pun intended, learning to sew on spandex with this very old [00:13:30] machine was challenging, but rewarding. And so I remember it was 4th of July weekend. The week before the convention, because cost where's wait last minute. I do my best work under pressure. I gotta say I was watching stranger and just go on and going out.

[00:13:50] I like sewing down the leg. So in the arms, making sure the seams look good doing the zigzag stitch, because that's, you know how to get really good scenes on, on the stretch fabric. And I'm like, yeah, this is it. This is it. We got this, we got this. And it was just, it was just a plain basic bodysuit because the emblem on it, I could glue on.

[00:14:12] The belt was, Velcroed [00:14:15] on and the keep I had snap fasteners to put on. So it really wasn't too complicated, but it was me learning new techniques, me trying to figure out how to use spandex, learning, how to use, spend X needles, learning how to put in a zipper, which some

[00:14:33] Lisa: [00:14:33] spandex. Ooh friend

[00:14:39] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:14:39] given.

[00:14:40] I had a girlfriend who helped me out and, taught me how to put a zipper on with her machine without a zipper foot. yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but I was able to do it and it looks great.

[00:14:52]So that, that is one of my. That's that's definitely one of my favorite moment. I [00:15:00] also Valentine's day. I was like, Oh, I'm going to make a beautiful dress with kente cloth. it was my first Valentine's day with my boyfriend. I knew like I wanted to make something special. So I, I worked for a month on this dress.

[00:15:14] And every day I would come home and my dad, this looks amazing. You, you, you do next top model. This is it. You're going to be on the runway for me. And I was like, dad, I don't know. Cause the slips high. He's no it's fashion. You got this.

[00:15:32] Lisa: [00:15:32] It's like

[00:15:32] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:15:32] men it's fashion it's fashion. So yeah, those are my two moments.

[00:15:36] I was like, I'm doing this, I'm doing this. So you get, sometimes you get a little [00:15:45] intimidated because you see all the things that other people can do, or people who have more experienced than you, but you don't pay that any mind because you do what you can for you. And you do, you go at your own pace, every time you start sewing, you learn new tricks.

[00:15:58] Every time you going, you surf running your, your bobbin and you start winding everything up. You're like, Oh wait, I remember this. Yeah. I know how to do this and switch this over. And it, it starts to become second nature. And, it just, it comes with practice. the phrase practice makes perfect is good for practice.

[00:16:18] Makes perfect. It is better. And then, I keep, I tell myself that so I don't get intimidated and yeah. Sometimes yeah. There's like tons of terms and what's a sewing ham and, [00:16:30] backstage and this and that and that. And sometimes, yeah, it is intimidating, YouTube there books are, they're asking friends, you can all, people can always ask me.

[00:16:39]I may not know the actual term, but I know someone who knows it. it's good to that's why the community is great because you can find someone who will help you.

[00:16:50] Lisa: [00:16:50] Yes, that is so that's so beautiful. And I really love the comradery that you're describing because it suggests that everyone is working from their own individual intention.

[00:17:02] Everyone is working from this really deep sense of wanting to link to a character and bring that character to life. And all of the time and energy and resource that you put into it, it's not like I don't get the sense. And [00:17:15] again, I'm not sure cause player, and I've only, I'm just an observer, but I get the sense from talking to, some black class players, which would be you and my other friend.

[00:17:24]Ayesha makes who's a cost player that it's not about competition. It's not Oh no, I'm not going to help you make a blank blank blank. Because one day I might want to make a blank, blank, blank. Like it doesn't, I don't get that vibe. Is that true? That it's much more of about a cooperative spirit and not as some

[00:17:38] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:17:38] type of penguins on who you associate with.

[00:17:41] It really does because when I first started out, some people weren't as helpful. And you could ask people things and they left you, I leave you on red. And it's okay, I get it. Fine. Whatever my circle of friends, the cool kids, [00:18:00] we don't do that. We help each other out. Yeah. And that's, your inner circle.

[00:18:07] And who you associated with because yeah, there's definitely been times up to a couple of weeks ago. I asked someone, Hey, where did you get this? And how did you do that? Red? didn't even answer. Hasn't said anything to me about it. I'm like, okay, cool. You know what? People are busy. Things are going on.

[00:18:26] There's YouTube. I'll find I figured it out. Not a, not a big deal.

[00:18:29] Lisa: [00:18:29] That's what I, I love about the spirit of resilience. That seems to be part of your creative practice. I will figure it out. My machine is, is twice as old as I am. My machine was from the 1970s and I am still going to [00:18:45] make it, do this new thing.

[00:18:46] I'm going to, I'm going to introduce this machine to fabric. It's nothing. Yeah, because when that machine, that machine was made, there was spandex was not very widely available for home Sowers. And so it was not used to that. And you made it work and you figured it out. I think that's really beautiful. One of the, one of the questions I wanted to ask was about what gets paused plate.

[00:19:12] Does it have to be limited in your, in your opinion to the anime comics Saifai or can it be something else entirely? I guess that was one of my questions. I'm looking back at some of your really amazing looks and I'm [00:19:30] seeing some of my favorite characters. I'm like Cora, the legend of Korra. I really liked the one, the recent photo.

[00:19:37] And I want to talk to you about your photography, makeup, and hair. Cause that's, that's an important component as well. and all of the other, poison Ivy that poison Ivy that I mentioned earlier. So I'm wondering. Does it have to be someone in the, from the fantasy Saifai realm or can it just be any fictional character that someone happens to see like some something from literature or something?

[00:19:59] I don't know if there's different kinds.

[00:20:01] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:20:01] So that's a, that's a really good question because I've never really thought of it as strictly nerd culture, Saifai. Books, graphic novels, comics, and man, I've never thought of it in that niche [00:20:15] because to me, cosplaying is anything really that you want to portray.

[00:20:19] If you want to cosplay as queen Elizabeth, the first by all means, go for it. And I've seen cos players who've done that. And it's remarkable. Like this woman I'll send her your, all of a sudden her info to you because her sewing is impeccable and she makes, and she makes like full. Victorian gowns and I'm, I'm in all of her stuff.

[00:20:42]but yeah, I, my friend joke around with me because back to this purple body suit I'm wearing my purple body suit with a very eighties looking shirt. My friends call me aunt Viv because of it. They're like, Oh, you cosplay? I don't like, [00:21:00] and so my mom and I were talking about it yesterday because that episode we're on Viv, goes to her, Ballery in the class and she like shows up everybody.

[00:21:08]Lisa: [00:21:08] Dance. Yes, she does. And then, yeah. Yeah, but that's really great. Yeah.

[00:21:17] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:21:17] Everybody, my friends joke around. They're like, yeah, you call splint Viv again, because that's that's me. I wear my purple bodysuit. I dance around, especially when I'm sewing and, getting cosplay ready. Yeah. I think you could be anything that you want.

[00:21:31] I think you could, if you want to cosplay as a plant cosplay as a plant, you want to cosplay as and fossa, and I've seen it constantly is move foster and you want to cosplay as a ketchup bottle. I've also seen that the world's your oyster, it's all [00:21:45] about being creative. There are no limitations.

[00:21:48]Lisa: [00:21:48] That's beautiful. Thank you for that. wonderful answer. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk to Vantaa cosplay a bit more about some of her upcoming looks as well as how she balances the sewing with the other creative assets that are possibly required. So stay tuned and we'll

[00:22:07] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:22:07] be back.

[00:22:08]Lisa: [00:22:08] have kids

[00:22:10] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:22:10] growing

[00:22:11] Lisa: [00:22:11] up. I want to thank you for listening to the podcast and ask a favor. If you are listening to this podcast on a medium. That allows you to rate it or review it, for example, Apple podcasts or iTunes. Please do. So if you're enjoying the podcast, if you could drop me a five star rating, if you [00:22:30] have something to say about the podcast, and you wanted to include that a couple sentences in the review box.

[00:22:36] Of Apple makes a really big difference in how the podcast is evaluated by Apple, how it becomes more visible. It really is a way to lean into the algorithm that helps to rank podcasts.

[00:22:49] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:22:49] so

[00:22:50] Lisa: [00:22:50] if you had time to do that, to drop a little line in the review feature of the podcast, that would be really appreciated and it would help us to grow even further and faster.

[00:23:02]come back, everybody. You are listening to the stitch please, podcast that I'm speaking today with Vantaa black cosplay, who is an amazing. Internationally known cos player does [00:23:15] fantastic and powerful work. She is a self-taught soloist as she has shared with me in her of her selling journey. And she is resourceful and creative and ambitious and competent.

[00:23:29] And. I'm just really glad to have her on the program so that she can share the ways that she's been able to work through cost play and hopefully inspire some of us who are listening to do the same. So what another question that I had was one of the things I noticed for cosplay is that they require very specific hair, makeup, and accessories.

[00:23:52] So I'm going to ask a question, which I know is a controversial one. but I'll ask that one later. That's about black cause players, white cos players and all [00:24:00] that. But the one that I wanted to ask first was how important is it to you to get the look quote, unquote, just right. Is there a type of canonical energy?

[00:24:15] In cosplay. And by that, when I say canonical, the cannon that the character has to look exactly like whatever the drawing was or whatever the show was or whatever the movie was that type of canonical, or are you more content to be flexible? this person had a red hat, but I will give them a blue hat.

[00:24:36]how do you, how do you respond to that? when you're looking at an inspiration picture, how close or exact do you want to be in terms of hair [00:24:45] and accessories?

[00:24:47] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:24:47] That is a good question. And I had to think for a minute. So to me, Canon doesn't really mean anything to me. I think cannon accuracy is. I think it stifles my creativity, I think.

[00:25:01] Aye. Aye. See for ticket. I don't want to call her in the lines. so to me, when it comes to, in terms of accuracy, I, I don't really follow that. a good example to me in terms of my own cosplay is poison Ivy. For me, poison Ivy, she's she? In some iterations, she has green skin and red hair. And to me, those are like the most iconic assets expects of her, not really her clothing.

[00:25:29] So to [00:25:30] me, if you incorporate something that will say, this is definitely this character, there's no doubt about it then. Yeah. Okay. Then that's, as far as I will go in terms of Canon. And so my poison Ivy, I paint my skin green. I'll draw veins. I'll draw on my veins with the eye shadow pencil and, looking at my arteries and veins and make leaves and vines on my skin.

[00:25:56] So it looks kind of like, she's fully, she's like a plant, that's, that's our thing, right? And then the red hair, and I always use curly natural hair because I'm a natural hair cos player to me. I see my I'm a black woman. So to me, if it's going to be cannon, [00:26:15] the cosplay has to have some form of African hair.

[00:26:19] If it's box braids, Afro puffs, curls, Bantu, knots locks, you name it. that's, that's how I see it. And that's how I want. To be portrayed as a cost player. I really want black Hostway or to feel, happy embracing their natural hair. There's nothing wrong with weights. I love good least front.

[00:26:39] I will be the first to say that, but I also love having my curly hair and showing off my curly hair, which is why I'm really pushing my panel, Kingston, curls, ethnic hair in the cosmic community, because I want people to embrace their natural textures. And that is a really big, sorry, [00:27:00] it's a big issue. I don't want to say issue.

[00:27:04] It comes up in cosplay a lot, being and because a lot of people will question black cost layers as, Oh, you're not this, you're not Canon because your hair's curly or you're not Canon because this cost layer, doesn't sorry, this character doesn't have locks. You can, people can say that they have the freedom to say that, but you as an individual should, should be okay.

[00:27:28] Embracing your version of the character and you making the character your own. That's how I see it. I want, if I'm going to portray character, I'm portraying the character because I see something like myself. In that character. And I'm going to show a bit of myself [00:27:45] in that character. I, I make the, I say the phrase co cosplay, but make it West Indian.

[00:27:50] So I'll add, bits of carnival flirter into it. Add some feathers, some bees wave a flag, something to make it authentically me because when you do that, That's when I think the cost, it really shows and it makes it unique. And it's, there's like a feeling there's a, yeah, that's right. I got it.

[00:28:08] Okay. This is, this is me. I've made it into my own. And I live for that feeling.

[00:28:13] Lisa: [00:28:13] I love that. I am so glad that I asked this question and that you elaborated on it because it's not so much about trying to be a carbon copy. It's about, it's not, you're not trying to, I want to duplicate every single thing.

[00:28:28] Instead it's about, like you [00:28:30] said, make it your own, make it, you make it. You and I, I wanted, I wanted to ask about your Kings and curls panel at Comicon and how that came about and what what's something that you remember from that, from that event, how, how did the panel go? first of all, how did it, how, what was it like to propose a panel to Comicon?

[00:28:52] And what was that process like? It was.

[00:28:57] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:28:57] Wild. As soon as the panel applications opened up, I sent all my information instantly. It was, I think I was up at six in the morning, just filling it out and I'm like, okay, we're going to send this in. And it was my first, really big convention. [00:29:15] So I was a little anxious.

[00:29:16] I'm like, I'm not going to get in it. It's fine. I it's. Okay. I presented at Katz UConn and I've presented at blur con awesome con I've presented at cork con and that's great. All those cons are a little bit smaller. I know the people who are going to be there more or less, because a lot of them are my friends or people I know in the community, but New York Comicon is a whole different game.

[00:29:39] So submitting that I. I think I downplayed it so that I, and fear of rejection. I'm like, if I don't get it, it's okay. And I'll be fine. And then I got it and I cried. I started solving.

[00:29:55]Oh, that's

[00:29:57] Lisa: [00:29:57] amazing. That's so amazing. So tell us [00:30:00] about how you pulled it together, who was on it and, what are some of your memories from that day?

[00:30:08] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:30:08] I feel like the whole weekend was a blur because there was just so much that I did. The my panelists. One of them is my close marriage, close friend and roommate.

[00:30:18] And she's a hairstylist. So it would have been, this is perfect. She needs to be on here because she knows how to style hair. She's great with styling wigs. She's a licensed cosmetologist. She's a black woman who, loves curly hair and specializes in curly hair. Who else? And then my other panelists is another friend of mine who.

[00:30:37] I adored her on YouTube and I watch her videos to learn about weight styling and, braids and all these different things. [00:30:45] And then I met her in person and now we're friends. Like we, we, we hang out on the weekends, which, in itself was awesome and cool to happen. But she was also a perfect candidate because she's a nerd like me, but also really specializes in hair.

[00:30:58] So we know we've got this like great fusion of different voices from different backgrounds and different strengths in the natural hair community. And I thought it would be great to have their input.

[00:31:11] Lisa: [00:31:11] Yes. And you get to the kind of shine, the light on you and shine the light on them. And it's like cosplay, but make it community, What does that you brought in your friends or people that you didn't know, and then they became friends and now you all are normalizing this to say that, Hey, this is our cannon, my [00:31:30] cannon. And what's authentic to me, grows out of my scout this way. And this is why I do what I do. what was the discussion?

[00:31:37]what kind of conversation do you remember? Any, and it's probably been a little while, but do you remember any questions or any, thing that people said or, or people just really excited other black cause players like, yes. I know I had to go to this session because I can get some tips.

[00:31:52] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:31:52] It was a mixture of, it was a mixture of both.

[00:31:55]it was one memory, not exactly from New York Comicon, but from blurred con a group. It was a group of black women with all natural hair and they were dressed as the muses. And I went up to them is to take a picture because I love your cost way. This is a great group. And so they [00:32:15] were like, Oh, you seem really familiar.

[00:32:17] Who are you? And I'm like, Oh, I'm going to black cost. you're the girl with the natural hair panel. So seven women are like telling me how they love my panel and they loved it and they use my natural hair. And they were like, it was like, imagine like a group of aunties telling you how much they love you.

[00:32:35] And it was such a heartwarming moment. Like I started tearing up and they all gave me a hug, but even now I'm getting like gearing up because it was such a beautiful moment. And that was, it was so nice. And having that support was just so amazing. at New York Comicon, the seats were full.

[00:32:57]Yes. [00:33:00] It's just Oh, y'all are here to see me. Y'all are here to talk about hair. Great. We, we talked about. What happens when people say they don't like your hair, people try to touch your hair and I'm like, leave the haters at the door. don't worry about them. You've got us, you've got your community.

[00:33:18] Who's going to support you. And I have, my presentation is really a PowerPoint with 150 costs. Players, cost playing with their natural hair or a kinky curly wig. And I, every time I have a panel on, on Instagram, like guys send me your cost place on your cost place and on Facebook too. And that's.

[00:33:38] I also love that because there's so many people who are like throwing, just throwing me, they're costly. He's left brain left brain. Look [00:33:45] at this. I did this, I did this even last week. This girl's Oh, using my natural hair and constantly more all because of you. And like I was at work and I'm like, if y'all told me these things, I'm going to cry.

[00:33:58] Lisa: [00:33:58] It's I'm not emotionally prepared for this for all this, all this energy right now. Thank you guys. Wow. Yeah. Yeah. That is really, yeah. Beautiful. But it just shows that, when you create something that was meaningful for you deeply personally, meaningful for you, there is a good chance that it's going to speak to lots of other people as well.

[00:34:23] And you are getting this recognition and gratitude from cosplay aunties and little kids who are so [00:34:30] excited to see you as sailor moon, because what you're offering is an expansion. It seems to me that that invites everybody to come and play that you don't have to look this a certain way. You don't have to have a certain type of hair.

[00:34:45] You don't have to have a certain type of body type. You can play it. This is called cosplay because we are going to play. And that, there's something about the joy of it that I really, that I really appreciate about what you're doing. I wanted to switch just a little bit, and this is up, I have a piece of, and to talk a bit about black cost players, building their own communities.

[00:35:08] That's something that I am really very much about, black women, stitch is a, a sewing project or a actual larger [00:35:15] project than just sewing, but it centers black women, girls and fans in sewing. and that was because I wanted to, essentially decolonize. What we normally see as representative to have sewing.

[00:35:27] Like when I would look for sewing instructor, when I would look for sewing patterns, that it would be very difficult to see myself reflected there. and so it wasn't, it became a important to me to be able to sow in community. In a way that was free of microaggressions and free of racism and free of these things.

[00:35:47] So this is one of the reasons that I did it, but more importantly than things avoid was the benefits I received. And that was the benefit of being, being with other black women, doing something that I love with [00:36:00] people who. Knew and understood me again. We don't all agree of course, on everything, not every black person at all the world lives in the same house.

[00:36:08] We don't get on conference calls to decide what the blacks are going to do on Thursday

[00:36:12] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:36:12] for lunch.

[00:36:14] Lisa: [00:36:14] It is this, it is this, there is something to be said for, things that don't need to be explained. And I'm wondering if your creation or your participation as a black cause player in a black cosplay community.

[00:36:30] Is this, how does, how does the black cosplay community in your experience of it, in your creation of it respond to some of the racism that is very apparent in cosplay. And I find, I taught a [00:36:45] class for five years on the game of Thrones. it was very successful. it, it, it was, written up in, wall street journal and time magazine and all these things, which was great.

[00:36:56] And I know for sure there are people who are surprised as all hell that a black woman was the person who had created this course and gotten this national attention from it because so much of the nerd culture is what white boys want. And that's not normally, you know what I'm saying? They don't normally center us.

[00:37:13] In nerd cultures. And so I'm wondering if some of, one of the debates that I hear about is about, Canon and, can black people be  for example. And one of my favorite retorts was like, it was, it was, Oh, I think you might've posted this [00:37:30] Vantaa it was about avatar and it was like, What, what, what type of bender would you be?

[00:37:36] Would you be at earth bend or water bend or fire bender or an Airbender? And someone was like, dude, they are no white people in avatar.

[00:37:44]VantaBlackCosplay: [00:37:44] And

[00:37:46] Lisa: [00:37:46] fell out, laughing and was like, and I write like it. Yes, burn. Like none of this belongs to you. but it's true.

[00:38:02] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:38:02] There are

[00:38:02] Lisa: [00:38:02] no white people in avatar. There just are not there yet, but when it comes time for like cost planning or for casting movie roles or all of that, it's all white people.

[00:38:14] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:38:14] So [00:38:15] like how

[00:38:16] Lisa: [00:38:16] you, what are your thoughts on that? When it comes to cosplay? Like the idea that, for me, it seems like the idea that.

[00:38:23] Some white person would be trying to pull your card for sailor moon. And it's wait a minute. Why can this white girl be sailor, moon and be authentic? But a black girl can't win when there's no white people that sailor moon either. what do you think about that?

[00:38:36] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:38:36] Yeah. Yeah. I think it's hilarious at first.

[00:38:42] Aye. When I was younger, I said, I'm like, as soon as I get my first racist comment, I'm out. I'm not cosplaying anymore. I'm not going to do it because I can't take it. And then I cost played Samis. From Metroid. Simon's around, she, she big, [00:39:00] big suit and everything, but I was a zero. I was zero Susannah.

[00:39:03] I'm thinking of her in smashes, because I made her as smash. Anyway, I wore her body suit and I wore my natural hair and I wore sneakers and I was joking around I'm like Santa Shanna wear heels. That makes no sense. She's running around, beating up aliens. Why would she wear heels? So some of them bodies, ashy son was like, you can't be Sam as cause Sam is, is white.

[00:39:26] I'm like, first of all, Sam is an alien, she's half alien and she wasn't even born on earth so that doesn't even make any sense. And it's the same thing with Superman and people are like, Oh, Superman, white, black men. Can't be Superman. I'm like, Superman is not American. In fact Superman was made by a Canadian.

[00:39:45] [00:39:45] So you're all the way wrong. Don't don't, don't want to try to question me about what I know cause I know you're wrong. you, you just, if you hit them with the facts, they shut up. And it's really funny when they do, when it comes to what black people can and can't do in terms of Casa, we can do everything.

[00:40:04] There is nothing we cannot do. And I'm I'm at the point point in my life where I'm going to hear somebody say, you can't do it. And usually when I hear you can't that just translates to me as, Oh, I can do it and do it better than you thought. So how are

[00:40:23] Lisa: [00:40:23] we twins? I just want to know, because that is my energy to tell me I can't do [00:40:30] something.

[00:40:30] Tell me

[00:40:30] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:40:30] I can't double dog dare you to tell me I can't do something. Please say psych that's that's me as a whole. And Yeah, I hear it all. I hear it all the time. Oh, you can't do this. Oh, I love anime all the time with Emma. Oh, this character is white. You can't cross with them. I'm like this pair character is Japanese.

[00:40:54] So I don't know what you are thinking.

[00:40:57] Lisa: [00:40:57] Yeah, I was reading, I think this was a video and again, I'm not sure if this was on your page or that the cost player that I was following. And they were saying that one of the artists for, a very popular Japanese anime was saying, I made this I'm Japanese.

[00:41:10] I made this for Japanese people, but I fully expect if this car, if [00:41:15] this cartoon or this comic or animated goes, when it goes to Africa and say, it ends up in Ghana that the characters would be DNA and that the characters would be, they would reflect the people who live there. Why would it, why, why would that not be the case?

[00:41:31]and so what I find so remarkable is that, for those white folks who are being gatekeepers over Japanese anime, And about who can do it and who can't. that I thought it was, it just seems interesting to me that they are willing to somehow empower themselves as gatekeepers over something, to which they have no rights .

[00:41:50] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:41:50] Absolutely no rights. And when you were talking about game of Thrones, I started to laugh because I am a huge game of Thrones fan. I have three [00:42:00] Darwalla t-shirts Arya, stark will forever be my favorite character

[00:42:05] Lisa: [00:42:05] goat. She is

[00:42:06] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:42:06] pretty much, yeah, she's the best. Like I had Instagram accounts, like about Arias.

[00:42:11] Yeah. Twitter, like tumbler pages for Aria star. I did the whole thing. I have a game of Thrones poster game of throne card game. Like I was deep in it, so I fully understand. And yeah, people look at you and they're like, wait a minute, you're a game of Thrones fan. I'm like, yes, I've read all the books and watched the show and played games.

[00:42:30] Yeah. Why is that so surprising and as blur culture is becoming more mainstream, to say, or more widespread, people are starting to realize that. There are blurts and they're like, wait, what [00:42:45] you like enemy

[00:42:48] Lisa: [00:42:48] it's so nonsensical. It's really frustrating when you think about even as late as, even as not, not to mention like WB Dubois, writing science fiction back at the turn of the century, like in 1903 and 1905.

[00:43:02]

[00:43:02] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:43:02] hello? Can you hear me? Yeah. Yeah. I'm laughing. I'm making a joke.

[00:43:06] Lisa: [00:43:06] Okay. I was like, okay, exactly. I was like, hold on. Did I lose her? Okay. but yeah, do boys riding, or eat people earlier, even in 19th century, black folks writing speculative fiction. people and Octavia Butler, obviously Samuel Delaney, Nalo Hopkinson NK Jemison, we do this, we,

[00:43:26] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:43:26] you, you just said all the authors of my library that I'm [00:43:30] literally next year.

[00:43:30] That's hilarious.

[00:43:32] Lisa: [00:43:32] I teach a class sometimes on  on black speculative fiction as well. So this is why I think a lot about these questions, but I get, so I get very irritated. With this idea that somehow whiteness is neutral. That's the problem.

[00:43:47] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:43:47] The

[00:43:47] Lisa: [00:43:47] problem is. And in, in this it's, it's fun. This idea that whiteness is neutral is actually a product of white supremacy.

[00:43:55]this idea that whiteness can, whiteness can take on any and all characteristics of whiteness, white people can play anybody of any race. but if it's a black

[00:44:04] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:44:04] country standards,

[00:44:07]Lisa: [00:44:07] it's just a hot, that's a bunch of hot, garbage, it is

[00:44:10] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:44:10] a hot mess. It's a hot mess. And I think about [00:44:15] movies too.

[00:44:16]Because some of the movies, I'll see, gods of Egypt is a perfect example. I think there was one, I think Anthony Mackie was in it. I think there was one black man in that entire movie, and this is supposed to be depicted in Egypt,

[00:44:35] Lisa: [00:44:35] big convinced us, because of racism.

[00:44:37] They've convinced us that somehow Egypt is not an Africa. Yeah. And that is just filled with very slightly tanned, white people,

[00:44:47] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:44:47] slightly tan, have been in the sun for all of five minutes and it's Oh man, it drives me

[00:44:55] Lisa: [00:44:55] like, when you said that, like that Superman isn't American, it's yeah.

[00:44:58] Try telling them that Jesus [00:45:00] isn't from America.  like English. And wasn't blonde with blue eyes. Like all of that is Yeah,

[00:45:07] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:45:07] Or when Nick fury, when Samuel Jackson was cast, as, as Nick fury, people were up in arms and I'm like, who else can play this? Who, who else tell, tell me exactly who you want for this role and okay.

[00:45:21] We'll say, okay, because there was nobody else who would be just as good, people that see one thing and then they get upset or, And the, the Harry Potter play adaptation in

[00:45:32] Lisa: [00:45:32] England with Hermione that's right.

[00:45:34] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:45:34] That really, that will always stand out in my mind as a pivotal moment in how I see myself as a blurred, [00:45:45] because it frustrated me a lot.

[00:45:47] And I think it maybe had to do with like how I was raised, I went to private school. I have always been like, I was, I, I'm not tooting my own horn, but I was one of these smart kids. I wasn't one of the gifted kids, I am my normal job. I'm a scientist. Like I, this is like constantly is my hobby, but I am an intellectual.

[00:46:06] I like to read, I like to travel. I like to do all these things, which are considered to be, white. Because people think that's not what black people do stereotypically. So second day,

[00:46:19] Lisa: [00:46:19] I'm listening.

[00:46:19] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:46:19] Go ahead. The second, her mind was black. People had an issue with it and I'm like, but why is it?

[00:46:25] Cause her money is brilliant and you don't see black girls being brilliant. We had [00:46:30] hidden figures, which show that black women are in fact brilliant input people on the moon. So why is this such in fact? Sorry. So why is this such a hard, the concept for you guys to understand and.

[00:46:45] Lisa: [00:46:45] Racism. That's what it is.

[00:46:47] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:46:47] And that's what it's. And that shook me. I'm really spoke out to me because I'm like, we are not we as in us, but we, as a whole, as a world are so backwards when it comes to black people, we are so of the mindset that we. We don't progress. We just one type of thing and they think we're a monolith and we're not, we're very, we're multifaceted beings.

[00:47:10] We have different opinions. Like you said, we aren't, aren't, aren't raised in the same house. [00:47:15] We don't say, okay, what are the blacks eat lunch today? And people have such a hard idea understanding that.

[00:47:21] Lisa: [00:47:21] And, and I think it's still useful to be really specific here. When we say people to go ahead and say white people, if that's what we're talking about.

[00:47:28] Cause I do think that it is. And this, this idea that, you know, so when you were saying, I went to private school and I like to travel. I like to read blah, blah, blah. And I refused. And I tell my students all the time, I refuse to call those kinds of behaviors, acting white, because since when the white people become so great that people want to act like them, I'm just, I, it's a genuine question.

[00:47:49] And I think that this is another form of. Not just white supremacy in practice, but how we as black folks sometimes can internalize these things and you limit our own [00:48:00] understanding based on the limitations that have been placed upon us. Of course, black people travel. Of course, black people love anime.

[00:48:06] Of course, black people have cable television and watch game of Thrones. Like all of that, remember the gem Thrones hashtag from. the black guy who tips, I think had a, he started like the Dem Thrones hashtag that kind of put together.

[00:48:18]So not only do we, just enjoy it and consume it, it's in a traditional way. We also almost like cosplay put our own spin on it. And that allows us to be really engaged with the creative work, which is the whole point of watching and reading and, and, and enjoying and participating in creative cultures for this very reason.

[00:48:39]before we wrap up, I want to get to the most important holiday for cosplayers which is [00:48:45] Halloween. You mean. as I said that this episode is going to be, it's our closing episode for black Tober. So Halloween is coming up in a handful of days, and I want to know you sound very excited about Halloween.

[00:48:57] And what I love about your excitement is that unlike many other folks who do celebrate Halloween, Yours is not about the acquisition of candy, which has been compromised because of our COVID situation. And people are like, Oh no, Halloween's canceled and there's no door to door and how can we do distance?

[00:49:14] And it sounds like you are not happy about that at all. You were like, I am going to have time to get my looks together. So tell me what you're thinking about for

[00:49:22] Halloween.

[00:49:24] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:49:24] I don't even eat candy. I just want to look it look cool. It's just like

[00:49:30] [00:49:30] people do a candy on Halloween. This is a strongly question.

[00:49:35] No, it's about, we are here to slay. We not about that.

[00:49:40] Lisa: [00:49:40] Yes. Tell us Tell us.

[00:49:42] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:49:42] I have, and you'll, you'll see through Instagram. I have a bunch of looks that I'm in the process of doing and. I wanted to, like I said, I wanted to play up with natural hair. So with my box braids and with my curly hair, adding different elements and, black Tober, as, actually name, a lot of black artists are taking all the, popular anime characters and comic book characters and Melanie eating them.

[00:50:07] So I'm like, I'm going to do this for Halloween. So some of my favorites, favorite Halloween stories growing up, beetle juice. I've got [00:50:15] Lydia, I'm doing Lydia. Coraline, which was my favorite book growing up. And you'll see with my box sprays, they'll be cut, but they will be box braids. the corpse bride again, another favorite movie, Sally, with more box braids Medusa.

[00:50:33] One of my favorite Greek myths, natural hair and Medusa. She's going to look great. She's going to be rocking it. With some Dolce and Gabbana shades. you don't turn to stone life.

[00:50:41] Lisa: [00:50:41] And did you know that Alice Walker in her book, the temple of my familiar offers a legend or an interpretation of Medusa as a black woman with dreadlocks.

[00:50:52] And she says that that is why the Greeks created Medusa with snakes in her hair. Was because they hadn't seen [00:51:00] anybody with hair like that. And so they turned her into a monster. So you might want to check that out. I, at first read about it and that was Walker's book, the temple of my familiar. I think that was the one that I, that I heard

[00:51:11] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:51:11] about to buy that book.

[00:51:13]The temple of my familiar. Okay. I'm going to buy this book and probably I'll

[00:51:18] Lisa: [00:51:18] check. I don't want, again, caveat, this was something I read 25 years ago, so I could be wrong, but it's always stuck with me and I know it was from her and it might be that book. That's just what I was thinking, but yeah, but these are awesome.

[00:51:32] What else do you have? So you got the Medusa. You've got. Oh my Coraline and,

[00:51:38]VantaBlackCosplay: [00:51:38] Lydia, Lydia

[00:51:40]paradox a few succubus books. and also,

[00:51:44] Lisa: [00:51:44] so how long [00:51:45] is Halloween for you? Because for the rest of us, it's just 24 hours. And I'm wondering what your Halloween is, because it sounds like you got a week's worth of looks

[00:51:56] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:51:56] for this whole month.

[00:51:58] Lisa: [00:51:58] Ooh.

[00:52:00] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:52:00] Yeah, Halloween. We, we celebrate Halloween the entire month.

[00:52:03] It's spooky season. It's not

[00:52:07] Lisa: [00:52:07] nice spooky season, not spooky day.

[00:52:10] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:52:10] Excellent. Excellent.

[00:52:12] Lisa: [00:52:12] Wow. Okay. Wow. Wow. So thank you so much. Oh my goodness. I am so excited about this. This has been really amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time. It's where we can find you on the social. So we can have people go back and look at all your looks from this month.

[00:52:30] [00:52:30] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:52:30] Sure I am Vantaa you can find me on Instagram as anti-black black cosplay. If you look up Vantaa black on Facebook, you'll find me and Vantaa black 21 on Twitter. I'm going to try to do a few tik toks, but we'll see how that goes. It's the same thing. Vantive black. Hostway. Excellent.

[00:52:48] Lisa: [00:52:48] Excellent. Vantablack.

[00:52:49] Thank you so much for being here

[00:52:51] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:52:51] with us today.

[00:52:52] Lisa: [00:52:52] This has been really a delight. Thank you so much. And thank you for helping us to celebrate BlackTober.

[00:52:59] VantaBlackCosplay: [00:52:59] Thanks. Happy Blacktober everyone. And thank you for tuning in.

[00:53:04]Thank you for listening to the stitch,

[00:53:05] Lisa: [00:53:05] please podcast the official podcast of black women's ditch. The sewing group, where black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us. Bye. Sending to the podcast. [00:53:15] If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at black women's stitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patrion P a T R E O N.

[00:53:28] And you can find black woman stitch there and the Patrion directory. And for as little as $2 a month, you can help support the project with things like editing. Transcripts

[00:53:37] and other things

[00:53:38] to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere.

[00:53:50] And to podcast that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcasts. directories or services allow for reviews, but for those who [00:54:00] do for those that have a star rating, or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us or the stitch place podcast, that is incredibly helpful.

[00:54:11] Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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