Every Body聽celebrates inclusivity and the representation of human聽beings in every shape and form.聽

Whether you鈥檙e into attending fan conventions or just stalk certain corners of the Internet, you鈥檝e probably run into cosplay. The art of cosplaying 鈥 dressing up as characters from movies, shows, and books 鈥 is becoming more and more mainstream. There鈥檚 even a cosplay competition show, Cosplay Melee, on the Syfy network.聽

But more often than not, fat folks find themselves on the outskirts of cosplay communities. This is why professional cosplayers like聽TaLynn Kel are so vital to smashing ideals of what cosplay can and should look like.

Kel鈥檚 life as a professional cosplayer started when she needed an outlet when her father was dying of cancer. Kel explains in an email to Brit + Co, 鈥淚 was overwhelmingly depressed. Once I learned about cosplay, I found something that spoke to a part of me that I knew was being suppressed. Once I knew this was something I could do, I did it.鈥 聽

Being fat and taking up cosplay was, in Kel鈥檚 words, equal parts challenging, creative, and exhausting. She had a hard time finding costumes in stores that would fit. Her first pair of thigh-high boots were made of duct tape.

鈥淚 just enjoyed figuring out how to make things and figuring out how to create a look using a myriad of low-cost, non-toxic tools and supplies,鈥 she recalls.聽

No matter where you look on the internet, you鈥檒l see that cosplay is a performance art and, for lots of folks, a pretty serious hobby. It can take on many forms and standards, but as Kel explains, 鈥淐osplay was never about looking exactly like the character (for me). It was about being able to embody traits that character represented.鈥

The quest for a character who spoke to her聽led Kel to her first comic book cosplay, the Dark Phoenix. Kel explains that, at the time, she was dealing with a lot of suppressed rage and emotional pain that she聽had to learn to cope with. The聽character, a villainous being from the Marvel multiverse, felt appropriate.

鈥(Cosplay) to me is an opportunity to outwardly express aspects of oneself that may otherwise not be acceptable,鈥 she says. 鈥淚 already physically embody that, so I need to get creative for those unseen aspects.鈥澛

Kel admits that, while there are a lot of fat folks involved in the cosplay community, their presence is often left out of the mainstream representation. That lack of diversity doesn鈥檛 just end with fat bodies either; Kel聽points out that the cosplaying community has internalized a lot of anti-Blackness.

鈥淚t鈥檚 easy to pretend that Black people aren鈥檛 out here doing these geek things like cosplaying and gaming when gatekeepers have built these communities around their identity,鈥 she says. That dominant identity of the geeky white fan encompasses what Kel describes the type of person 鈥渢hat isn鈥檛 forced to acknowledge structural inequities like neighborhood and school segregation and intentionally created income disparities that have served to exclude Black people from aspects of life that white people take for granted.鈥

Kel penned a collection of essays titled聽Breaking Normal: Essays on My Fat, Black, Geek Lifein 2016 and is in the midst of releasing a follow-up: Still Breaking Normal: A Fat, Black, Femme Geek Navigating an Anti-Black World.聽Through her written work online and her own cosplay, Kel has received a ton of praise and support online, but notes that it鈥檚 only been from certain spaces in the cosplay community. She doesn鈥檛 expect mainstream acceptance to happen anytime soon.

鈥淚鈥檓 a fat, Black, femme geek,鈥 she reasons. 鈥淚鈥檓 fat. I don鈥檛 yo-yo diet. I don鈥檛 hate myself for being unable to fit into my cosplays. Instead, I make/buy/find a bigger one or redesign it to suit my current body.鈥

But that hasn鈥檛 stopped her. Kel advises anyone wanting to get involved in the cosplay community: 鈥淜now what you want, why you want it, and then have fun figuring it out. Just be honest with yourself about why you want to do it. If you are doing it to make friends, be honest about it and recognize that the cosplay world is just as socially complicated as everything else 鈥 we just look more fun.鈥

Are you part of a fan community? Tell us @britandco!

(Photos via TaLynn Kel)