By Uwin Lugoda
Cosplay has been around for quite some time now, but to us Sri Lankans it's a fairly new concept.
Cosplay is a play on the words costume play, and gives people the chance to dress up as their favourite characters, either from, comics, movies, TV shows and games. A lot of hard work goes behind each cosplay, with each cosplayer being an artist in his or her own way.
Recently some of our talented cosplayers gained international acclaim. Amaya Suriyapperuma, Ashini Jayasinghe, Seshani Cooray, Shamindri De Sayrah and Tharaka Sugathadasa, got their talent and hard work recognized by the likes of directors, illustrators and actorsactresses, who have brought each of their respective characters to life.
We were able to meet these five extremely talented individuals for a quick chat.
Q: What does cosplay mean to you?
Amaya: To me cosplay is a way of expressing myself, it also helps me build confidence and conquer my insecurities; so I cosplay characters that I relate to on a personal level. With each passing day cosplay becomes a bigger part of my life.
Ashini: Cosplay is an art. I started cosplaying as a hobby and I think it's become a part of me. When you cosplay a character, you become her/him. Cosplaying your favourite character is always fun.
Seshani: It means a lot to me. I get to dress up as characters that I look up to.
Shamindri: For me cosplay is how I can be myself by being someone else. The chance for me to pay tribute to the characters, shows and movies I love.
Tharaka: Cosplaying is a hobby and its simply getting into shoes of the character you love, can relate to or that you are similar to. Cosplaying is just being yourself and expressing your inner geek. As Joker says "give a man a mask and he will become his true self."
Q: How have you seen cosplay grow, in Sri Lanka?
Amaya: Cosplay is relatively new in Sri Lanka, but every year I see more and more people cosplaying. We have even partnered up with the growing community of the Asian Cosplay Association and are now connected to over thousand amazing cosplayers in the region. Apart from that, quite a few of our cosplays have been recognized internationally as well.
Ashini: Cosplay is still new to Sri Lanka. But our geek community is growing day by day. More people are interested in seeing cosplayers and even trying cosplay themselves. I think in future Comic Conventions will be a big part of entertainment in Sri Lanka.
Seshani: Everyone is just really good, each year the number of cosplayers just increase and I'm so happy that they are very comfortable cosplaying in Sri Lanka and I really love how creative each cosplayer gets.
Shamindri: I've been cosplaying since 2015, and I'm amazed at how far the cosplay community in Sri Lanka has come. It grows every year with each con and I've seen such a diverse range of cosplayers from different worlds, movies, shows, anime, comic games and more. I'm so proud to be a part of it.
Tharaka: I started my cosplay journey from Lanka Comic Con 2016 and this is my 6th cosplay. It's amazing to see likeminded people join the cosplay community day by day where it all started with a handful which turned in to a bigger society by now.
Q: What does it feel like to have been internationally recognized for your cosplay?
Amaya: It feels surreal. To have DC comics-illustrators, the director and the actress of the Wonder Woman movie itself praise my cosplay is the best kind of reward I can think of. But the best part was definitely Patty Jenkins calling me "the real thing" and a "real amazon."
Ashini: I cosplayed as Harley Quinn prison version from Suicide Squad with my amazing and talented cosplay partner Tharaka Sugathadasa as SWAT Joker. And the director of Suicide Squad movie saw our cosplay and liked it on Twitter. To get recognition from the movie Director himself was a big achievement for us.
Seshani: I really did not expect this but this is just a dream come true. I'm so happy! These are people who we respect and look up to and moment they just appreciate your hard work, it's a dream come true.
Shamindri: I've been noticed by celebs before on twitter, but being recognized for my Killer Frost cosplay by the actress Danielle Panabaker herself, means so much especially to someone like me. I cosplayed that character because I love her and the TV show The Flash, and without this amazing actress to bring her to life I never would've met Killer Frost. So having her say my cosplay was great was a feeling of joy, pride and accomplishment.
Tharaka: I cosplayed DCEU's version of Joker for the first time at Lanka Comic Con 2016 and with all the good comments I heard for that, I improved my cosplay for Lanka Comic Con 2017. This year I did a couples cosplay with the most talented female cosplayer Ashini Jayasinghe to execute the best cosplay we planned for a long time and David Ayer, director and writer of the movie Suicide Squad himself recognized and liked our cosplay on twitter. It was a huge accomplishment we were literally over the moon!
Q: This year cosplayers were subjected to bullying by people who don't understand cosplay; what do you have to say to them?
Amaya: There is nothing worth being said to people who hide behind their computers and attack anything and everything that goes against their preconceived notions of how things should be, without at least attempting to understand it. All I'd say is that what they are doing is not okay, it will not be tolerated and they will be stopped.
Ashini: People tend to laugh at things that they don't understand well. Cosplay is still new to Sri Lanka and most people don't even know what a Comic Con is or what cosplay is. But to laugh at an artist who clearly put a lot of hard work and dedication into something is just sad and it shows everyone that they are insecure about themselves.
Seshani: S...w them? Because this is something we experience each year. Especially girls. Cosplaying has a lot to it. Hard work, time, creativity, etc. That's the fun part about cosplaying. But sadly some don't understand and they just love to poke their nose into it somehow.
Shamindri: To all the bullies out there who insulted me and body shamed me for cosplaying Supergirl, the only thing you succeeded in doing, is making me stronger and bringing the geek community closer together.
Tharaka: It all started with some of those social media page admins who would even sell their parents to get a like. Nobody can stop you from doing what you love. Who cares about haters' opinions when your cosplay gets approved by the directors and actors, themselves.
"People hate what they don't understand" – Martha Kent.
Q: Lastly, what would you like to say to up and coming cosplayers?
Amaya: I'd say for your first time, try not to be a perfectionist. Not everyone starts from the top except for a rare few. Just start. If you have a character in mind, make the costume and go ahead and cosplay. Then grow from what you see in other cosplayers and constructive criticism. And know yourself well, so no matter what the haters say, you know where you stand.
Ashini: You are all welcome to enjoy geekness with us. It doesn't matter if your cosplay isn't perfect or you don't look exactly like that character. All that matters is that you enjoy yourself and have fun as your favourite character.
Seshani: Start your cosplays now! Get creative and just be brave. Do not care about what others think and just move forward. Mad love for all cosplayers!!
Shamindri: I would just like to say, to anyone out there who worries about their size, you don't have to be the perfect figure to cosplay a character, you just need to have the passion for it. Make sure you cosplay for yourself and no one else. Don't give a damn about what anyone else thinks of you. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.
Tharaka: We all had a beginning. We all failed at first. But we didn't stop, that's what took us to this place. Keep in mind that you don't have to cosplay as your race, body type, or gender, anyone can cosplay. And the best part of cosplay is when a stranger sees you and gets excited to meet you/the superhero or whatever you're being. There's pretty much nothing better.
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