Historically Black fraternities and sororities have traditionally been important spheres of influence in Black America. Be it as a catalyst, conduit, gate keeper, or mirror, trends tend to funnel and flourish through the Greek letter organizations or go there to wither away.
So it only makes sense that, with the growth of the blerd community, The Divine 9 reflects the personality of those who are making up their numbers. If you look at it, The Divine 9 have been geeks before it was chic. The Divine 9 sounds like something ripped from an anime, and the color combinations scream Gatchaman — or Sailor Moon. The steps and strolls could even be mistaken for the Fusion Dance. We were excited when we saw an amazing pic of members of the black sororities coming together for a Sailor Moon shoot and embracing their geekiness.
The concept for the sailor moon greek unity shoot was the brainchild of CC the Greek Geek, a cosplayer who is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. Not only did the image remind us of what made everyone contemplate joining a greek letter org, but it also served as a powerful symbol to women and girls of all colors that being who you are is acceptable at all times — even as a Greek. To take this message of unity and inclusion even further, CC is one of the founders of the upcoming BlerDCon, the first con to showcase the rich diversity of the minority community contributing to geek culture.
We had a chance to chat with CC about her cosplay and get some insight on BlerDCon.
TUD: So when did you start identifying as a geek?
CC: I’ve been a geek all my life. I honestly don’t remember life before it, and didn’t think anything of it until I was teased about it in school. I started to truly own and embrace my geekdom in college.
What things do you geek out about?
I love history, anthropology, and culture. I’m pretty much a sucker for the social sciences. However, my first dream as a kid was to be a paleontologist. I love anime — Sailor Moon in particular. I’m also big on Marvel — particularly X men, Black Panther/Avengers — and DC, especially Wonder Woman. I guess you could say I’m a fangirl/Otaku hybrid. A jack of most trades.
Why those things? What about them caught your attention?
I always identified myself with female superheroes, particularly women of color. The idea of a woman being the hero was much more captivating than the overdone damsel in distress. I remember admiring Storm’s wisdom, poise, and power since I was a small child. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to make the world a better place.
How did you get started cosplaying?
It was something I has contemplated doing the minute I was introduced to the concept. I was intimidated by the big names in cosplay who have much more resources. One day I was determined to attend a convention and cosplay. I found a Black Widow costume at the last minute at a pop-up Halloween store.
What drew you to cosplaying? Why do you cosplay?
When I went to Baltimore Comic Con in 2016, my first con ever, I received so much support and attention. People everywhere would stop me and ask to take pictures of me. I realized then that I was onto something. There was something significant, something defiant, about me being in my body and doing what I’m doing. If I could have such a profound affect on people’s lives with a rink dink cosplay, imagine what I could do if I put more time, effort, resources, and thought into them.
What was your first cosplay? Favorite? Worst? Most difficult?
Black Widow was my first cosplay. My favorite has to be a tie between Sailor Mars and San (Princess Mononoke). I’m a true moonie at heart, but my San cosplay has sentimental value because two of my best friends helped me make it. It was also the most difficult cosplay because there were so many pieces to consider and put together, considering no armor or body paint is involved.
Which cosplay of yours gets the most response and why
I think San gets the biggest response among the geek community simply because not too many people cosplay it. I’ve been told at least twice that I am the first “brown-skinned San” people have seen. On the flip side, I think Sailor Mars gets a lot of attention on the Greek side of the spectrum, mainly because Sailor Moon is more popular, and Mars’ outfit aligns with my sorority colors.
What is a cosplay you want to do but haven’t yet?
I really want to cosplay Storm and Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman. Women of color in the superhero realm have had such a great influence on them at an early age. I want to give them the nod they deserve.
When someone asks you what is cosplay how do you define it?
I typically use Maki Roll’s definition. On the lowest level, cosplay is dressing up as a character based on comics/manga, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and gaming, and in a lot of ways has spilled over into film and literacy in general. On the highest level, cosplay is embodying the character you choose to portray. That includes their signature poses/moves, catch phrases, demeanor, etc.
You’re building a large social media following. When did things start taking off for you?
I would say it happened in phases. BlerDCon has put me on a platform that amplified my voice as much as my cosplays. We were interviewed by ESPN’s “The Undefeated” at Otakon 2016, and I got quite a bit of attention from that. I also gained a lot of notoriety from attending Dragon Con. My San cosplay was a huge hit there, and a friend of mine from college (Shawn Moore) interviewed me for the first episode of The Mindful Rebel podcast. He and BlerDCon are pretty much the reasons I was able to attend Dragon Con. When my Sailor Moon pictures came out, that’s when things really took off. We became more visible to people within and outside of the geek community.
Are you surprised at the attention you are getting?
Yes and no. I knew I was onto something with the Sailor Moon NPHC Sorority Concept. It was TOO perfect that there was literally a Sailor Senshi whose colors were almost identical to our sorority colors. It was something unique that had never been done before, and I knew it had to be planned and executed to perfection to get the exposure it deserved. I think it reinforced the importance of representation, and it was empowering for our sorority sisters, geeks of color, and women of color in general.
What makes a successful cosplay?
A successful cosplay requires heart and personality. You have to truly own your character and yourself at the same time. It allows for you to let yourself shine through your character, creating your own cosplay fingerprint. That’s a very important part of the process, and it takes practice.
What is your process for creating a cosplay? Like what triggers the “OK, I want to cosplay that person?” And then where does it go from there?
I start with brainstorming a list of characters I admired/identify with.
Your Sailor Scouts Cosplay was amazing, especially the way you incorporated the colors of the sororities. How did that come about?
It started as me wanting to cosplay Sailor Mars. She and Jupiter were always my favorites, but I really identified with Mars fiery passion and blunt honesty that often left her misunderstood. My friend, Luisa Spencer, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha was already a member of my team and helped me create my San (Princess Mononoke) cosplay. I thought it would be extra cute to have her cosplay as Sailor Jupiter. The more and more I thought about this idea, the more I realized how meant to be it was. Once I realized there was essentially a Senshi for each organization, it had to be done.
In the past, The Divine Nine has been an agent of change for people of color, influencing style, culture, etc. Do you think they can also impact geek culture?
Divine Nine (NHPC) organizations have already affected geek culture in major ways. Some of our greatest writers, scientists, philosophers, activists, and overall scholars were members of these organizations. A lot of that gets overshadowed by stereotypes and lack of education. Academic excellence is a prerequisite of membership. The notion that Black Greek culture and Geek culture are mutually exclusive is a notion that is misinforming at best.
What is BlerDCon?
For decades, the world of geekdom has grown and expanded its reach to include more Black, Latino, Asian POCs, as well as women, the disabled and LGBTQ nerds here and internationally. During this same period, conventions focusing on anime, comic books, sci-fi, gaming and cosplay have failed to incorporate proportional representation reflecting the growing audience of “minority nerds.” BlerDCon will be the first of its kind to host a traditional convention structure of panels, celebrity guests, presentations, workshops, gaming tournaments, cosplay contests music and dance while highlighting and showcasing the rich diversity of the minority community contributing in those genres!
“Blerd” is shorthand for “black nerd” but is often used as a self-descriptive term for people of all colors within the minority community of geeks.
While Blerd is the organizing principle of this con, we are expanding its meaning to encompass the far corners of diversity that represent the growth population for all that we love about nerd-dom.
There are a ton of cons. What made you want to start BlerDCon? How did it get started?
There are a ton of cons, but none on the larger scale that focus on inclusion. I didn’t need to do any market research to know there was a need for a BlerDCon. All one has to do is look out into the crowd of any medium-large con to see the diversity that isn’t represented proportionally in the programming or guest list.
What are your goals for BlerDCon?
The goal is to create an event that not only can sustain itself, but can transcend its calendar dates to become a year-round movement. The biggest and best annual events become part of our daily and weekly lives. If BlerDCon can spur and inform the ongoing dialogue of inclusion and diversity, it will have achieved its mission.
With things like #Gamergate, #29daysofblackcosplay, etc, it seems a bit harrowing to be a woman of color in the geek world, which is supposed to be a come-as-you-are community. Why do you think it’s that way?
I think it’s indicative of the overwhelming misconception of a post-racial society. We’d like to think that, as a community with above average education, we are above the fray of bias and oppression. On the contrary, it is people’s bias that inhibit their otherwise rational thought process. If racism and sexism can invade our highest institutions of education, it can most certainly be spread within the geek community.
What do you think are the biggest issues in the geek world you have to face?
Aside from general barriers pertaining to my race and gender, I think my pro-black mentality is what people find hardest to digest. There is this expectation that, as a blerd, you have to suppress you black heritage in order to be accepted. Whereas, there is also a stigma that blerds are trying to “act” white, or have some sort of self-loathing complex. That’s simply not true. This is not to say it doesn’t happen, but I find it somewhat difficult to find my place as a geek, Sorority Girl, and pro-black feminist/activist.
What do you think of the backlash many cosplayers of color face on social media or at events?
It’s honestly inexcusable. To try to tear anyone down who is of no harm to you is perhaps one of the cruelest things you can do. It is one thing to confront someone who is being unjust in their beliefs. It’s another to bash people who are simply trying to enjoy themselves in a positive way.
Some say cosplayers wear too little. Is that accurate?
Hardly. We’ve tolerated “skimpy” outfits in comics, sci-fi, and fantasy for decades. Therefore, why would you demean someone who is only accurately portraying the very characters we fetishize. The cosplay community is full of confident, care-free spirits who are truly dedicated to their realm of fandom. They don’t wear any less than swimsuit models, and if they did, that’s their choice.
With your profile steady on the rise do you feel any pressure?
I feel an enormous amount of pressure to take my cosplaying to the next level. That includes athletic abilities, sewing, crafting, and creating the next new innovative concept. I admit I’m rather limited in my seamstress and crafting skills, but I grew up drawing and designing various ensembles in my spare time. It will be important for me to nurture those hobbies again, as well as continuing my education in the social sciences. By continuing my education, I hope to bring a social-historical academic element to fandom and further develop my knowledge in social issues to become a better voice for nerds of color.
Who are some of the people that inspired you?
My friends are my greatest inspiration. They manage to uplift me and keep me grounded at the same time. When I first started getting cosplay curious, my best friend was very encouraging of my involvement. She and another good friend of mine have also been vital resources in helping bring my ideas to life. I am also extremely inspired by my BlerDCon team, especially the young women who are powerhouses in their own rights. I’ve also been very inspired by veteran cosplayers of color such as Maki Roll, Kay Bear, Panterona, Ashe Cosplay and groups such as POC Cosplayers. The POC geek groups are SO important. It gives us a safe space to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of being a minority geek.
Who do you most want to meet in geekdom?
Does Bill Nye the Science Guy count? I love him! His show was EVERYTHING!
What’s next for you? What is your goal in geekdom?
I’ll be taking time to channel more of my energy into pursuing my graduate degree, and applying the world of geekdom into my studies wherever possible. With BlerDCon approaching in June, I will certainly have my hands full in helping to complete the planning process and making sure it is executed with excellence. Aside from that, I hope to do more group cosplays and cosplays that empower power — especially marginalized people.