Insta babe Kiera Please explains the importance of black visibility in cosplay
While you may not know her name yet, there’s no doubt you’ve seen photos of cosplayer Kiera Please all over social media.
The Georgia-based, Virginia native has cosplayed some of the most iconic ‘90s and naughties cartoon and film characters — from Kim Possible to Edward Scissorhands to Winifred from “Hocus Pocus.”
When she’s not embodying your fave fictional characters, her personal style is making waves. Think – striped crop tops, distressed denim, tennis skirts, and a rotation of different-colored wigs, which she alternates with her own stunning natural hair.
It’s no wonder that she has over 600,000 followers on Instagram, more than 30k YouTube subscribers, and nearly 80,000 Twitter followers.
Recently, Kiera ventured into the music industry with her dreamy, lo-fi debut single, “Bloom.” But, Kiera admits that she owes a great deal of her popularity to her cosplaying online.
But, hold up. You may be wondering, what even is cosplay?
Cosplay, short for ‘costume play,’ is a hobby that involves dressing up as a fictional character from a television show, movie, video game, book, manga series, or anime series. Given the misogynistic atmosphere among nerd communities, it’s already tough to be a woman who cosplays — even though cosplay was invented by one.
Big surprise there.
Cosplaying on public platforms like social media or at comic or gaming conventions can elicit plenty of discrimination, which is often amplified when women occupy other identities, such as being black or brown.
In the interview below, Kiera Please reveals how she began cosplaying, her cosplay and everyday beauty tips and tricks, how she handles haters with grace, and why she thinks black visibility in the cosplay scene is so damn important.
What got you into cosplay?
I want to say I started around two years ago, and it actually was by accident [laughs]. People would always tell me I looked like this character from “Steven Universe” — their name is Garnet. And then one day I was just like, “You know what? I’m just going to dress up like them, because everyone keeps telling me I look like this person.”
I just wanted to do it for fun. Back then, I didn’t really connect it with “cosplay.” I didn’t really know about the community at all or that it was a thing. [Garnet] was just someone I decided to dress up as, and a lot of people liked it. I personally enjoyed kind of pasting together the outfit. It was something I never would’ve thought I’d be interested in. So that’s when I decided to actually sit down and do another one just to see if I’d like it even more, and to make it completely from scratch, do the makeup, find the fabric.
That’s when I did Princess Kida from “Atlantis,” and I noticed that I really enjoyed going through the process and seeing the end result of how the characters I grew up on could come to life. I looked in the mirror and was like, “Wow! I’m embodying this person.”
So, I think that’s how it began. And that’s when I started getting more into [cosplay] and realizing, “This is an actual thing. This is a community of people.”
Did you already have a social media following before you started cosplaying, or did you start posting your cosplay looks and develop your following that way?
I actually did have a following before. It’s crazy, because my following was more for beauty and fashion. I used to have these sort of bohemian looks, like flowers in my hair a lot — and this was years ago. I don’t know if you remember when everyone kind of started putting flowers in their hair and things of that nature? [laughs] So I was actually more so known for fashion and beauty, and then I decided that I wanted to try cosplaying. My following was already there, but it has grown more.
You have done some amazing cosplays, like Storm from X-Men, Amanda from Dream Daddy. Sadness from Inside Out was such a look. What is your favorite character that you’ve recreated?
This is always so hard! I think my personal favorite would have to be Princess Kida from “Atlantis,” only because that’s when I first got into cosplay. That was also when I first got to create the outfit and try to figure out how to piece together the necklace. And before that, I didn’t think many people remembered “Atlantis,” because not a lot of people talk about the movie — and I love that movie.
Where do you shop for the pieces you need for each look?
With some outfits, I kind of go in my closet and find pieces that look like the outfits I need and manipulate them in some sort of way. So, if they’re old clothes that I never really use, I see if I can use the fabric for something else. I try that as well as thrift stores on 25-cent day or one-dollar day. I go there and try to find pieces I can use and, again, manipulate.
And there were some cosplay sites that have reached out to me to try some of their pieces. One was called Cosplay Sky. Those outfits were extremely amazing. And part of it is from my friends who are designers and who will help me get a piece to turn out a certain way. So, I’d say it’s partially finding things in my closet, going to the thrift store, and utilizing friends and what they know or even pieces that they may have. The process is even more satisfying than the end result because you’re just invested in the project. It feels so good to create something.
Given that your cosplay looks are posted on the Internet, do you ever feel pressured to recreate certain types of characters to appeal to your followers?
I wouldn’t say I feel pressured, but there is that sense of people continuously wanting more, and sometimes you don’t have the time to do more. [laughs] Or sometimes, you may be busy or you’re not in the mood or things happen in life. It’s more that kind of pressure. It’s about balancing it with time or other obligations or even other interests that you have.
When you’re on social media and you do have a large following, online hate is inevitable. What do you think about claims that if you’re black or brown, you “can’t cosplay non-black characters” or “pull off” certain looks, especially if the character has green hair or blue eyes or whatever? How do you react to that and just push it aside?
First of all, I think it’s kind of silly to have someone say that you can’t cosplay a certain character because you’re “too dark” or your hair doesn’t match. It’s more about the embodiment of the character. And personally, since I know there are people like that, who say certain things about my cosplays that may not be the friendliest way to say it. I kind of just look at it as, there’s always someone out there who may want to cosplay too but has that fear. And if there are people like me or other prominent cosplayers that are willing to push that boundary and show that you are able to do this type of thing without fear, even though you may have some mean people coming at you, it’s okay to do it.
I hope that I can provide confidence, and make people realize that there’s someone else who looks like them and is recreating characters you love, even though they may not look like them. They may have a different body type or different hair or something like that and have that same fear but are pushing past that to make other people feel safe in that environment. It’s more about the love of cosplay as opposed to the fear of what someone else has to say.
Why do you think having black and brown visibility in cosplay is important?
I think one of the reasons is that it’s hard to name people of color in cartoons and movies. At one point, I was struggling to just name five. Even though there are more than five, it’s a lot easier to name other people, and that is really frustrating. It’s important to portray all types of characters.
Maybe it could help push creators to create more diverse characters that people can identify with and see themselves as. I think that’s one of the bigger issues. You don’t see people who look like you, and it’s important that there’s people in that realm that can represent you.
Even when you’re not cosplaying, you still have killer beauty game. What’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?
I’m obsessed with Colour Pop, the matte lip in the color Kae. I wear it in almost every single picture, which is very sad! [laughs] I have Kae and I have Tansy. Those are like my go-to lip colors. And it doesn’t matter which brand necessarily, but I always love a good cat-eye wing. A very sharp one with a good liquid liner. Right now I’m using Revlon, but I’m open to changing that.
Do you have a specific place where you get your wigs for cosplay? And how do you make a synthetic-hair wig look as fleeky as the real deal?
Sometimes I see a character’s hair and I’m like, “I don’t know if I want to wear that exact hair. I kind of want to do a twist on it, like an alternate version.” One of the wig places that I shop from is this place called OmgQueen hair. I would always order this white wig. The first one I had was for Princess Kida. It’s like grayish white, and it’s a straight wig, and I can dye it a whole bunch of colors. These are synthetic wigs, which is cheaper. But I feel like the quality is thicker, so it lasts a while if you take care of it.
There’s also one called Hea Hair. Right now I have a turquoise wig from them and a gray one. They’ve very long but they’re very thick, so they’re really good for cosplay and for everyday use.
As far as making it fleeky, I kind of like combing through the hair a lot to make it less shiny. And if it’s way too shiny, I may use baby powder to give it a dull effect so it’s less shiny. And I would cut the very front of the wig and maybe put, like, a little bit of concealer where the part is to make it match your hair a bit more. Sometimes, if the part’s not big enough, you can pluck it so it looks more like your natural hairline.
And sometimes you can just find a good beanie or a good beret, and it’ll still look good. I also used to just cut the bangs to my nose and put curling rods in them, and then I’d have curly bangs and wouldn’t have to worry about the hairline. That is always an option!