Cosplay bringing the community together
A group of cosplayers dress as Disney princesses for the Tucson Ever After company. The hobby of dressing up as beloved characters for volunteer work is commonly referred to as “causeplaying.”
The Tucson Convention Center is gearing up for Tucson Comic Con on Nov. 1-3, which will host a space for cosplayers from all around to explore their limitless imagination and creativity. For some local cosplayers, imagination and creativity are said to be tools that connect with others in the community.
Local cosplayers like Nikki Padgen and Jeka Bosworth chose to join organizations that gave them the chance to give back through their cosplaying hobby.
“I went to my first comic con, Phoenix Comic Con, and I just saw people dressed up, I didn't understand it was 'cosplay,'" Bosworth said in an email. "But then, I saw the Arizona Avengers. They looked amazing and I loved what they were doing for the Arizona community. That's when I learned about cosplay and discovered it could be used to help other people.”
Bosworth and Padgen both mentioned the term for the volunteer work they do as “causeplaying.” They are involved with Arizona Avengers, a non-profit Marvel cosplaying group in the state.
“With the causeplaying (cosplay with a cause or costumes for a cause), the excitement kids have to see their favorite character in real life is heartwarming," Bosworth said via email. "All the personal excitement you had for a cosplay doesn't compare to a kid's enthusiasm to open up to you or hug you. They made it worth it.”
Padgen is also the co-founder of Tucson Ever After, another cosplay charity group. She has said that her favorite thing to do is volunteer.
"I've been with the Arizona Avengers since 2016, and I co-founded Tucson Ever After with my best friend," Padgen said over email. "I love going out to fundraising, community outreach, or children's events dressed up as my favorite Marvel or Disney character and being in-character for the community. I get to act like my favorite character and give back to the community.”
Through cosplaying, Padgen was also able to connect with her grandmother as well.
“I've designed [costumes] for as long as I can remember, much to the stress of my grandmother!" Padgen said. "I always wanted the patterns changed a little here and there, so I finally (way too late in life) asked her to teach me.”
For high school student Jessie Murray, her favorite part of being a cosplayer is simply to express a character creatively.
“My favorite part [of cosplaying] is just being able to embody a character in a way and not be myself and not worry if someone knows me from school,” Murray said. "It’s kind of a creative outlet."
Although Murray is 15 years old, she has been cosplaying for two years and does not plan on stopping even when she has a "steady job in the future.”
However, for UA alumna and cosplayer Michelle Richards, cosplaying can be a job, albeit a fun one.
“I started to cosplay more seriously approximately five years ago when I joined a princess party company," Richards said. "Dressing up for that job led to me putting together more of my own costumes.”
Richards was also beginning to start her own cosplay company called “A Whole New World of Parties.” According to her, the main goal of cosplaying is to "bring these characters to life for people, especially kids who may not get the chance to meet their favorite characters at a major theme park.”
For Padgen, embodying characters was fun, but she had to also be careful to also keep a healthy balance between cosplay and other parts of her life.
“My least favorite part of cosplay is how you can completely lose yourself in it if you're not aware," Padgen said. "You forget about other responsibilities, your significant other feels neglected, you start to stress yourself out over parts of your cosplay, you spend unreasonable amounts of money and/or time on it … you just get sucked into the whirlwind of the cosplay and it becomes unhealthy.”
However, she went on to say, that it can be a common occurrence in the hobby.
"There are times when you can let yourself go in them and times when you need to remember you're a real life human being," Padgen said.
Despite challenges of cosplaying, these three cosplayers all said that they hope to continue doing it in the future.
Besides, as Richards said, “Who hasn’t wanted to dress up as their favorite character at some point?”
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