Skye Owen has been spending the last few months learning Korean for her next U.S. Air Force assignment. She likes to dress up as her favorite animated character and pose for photos on her off days.
Owen, who is Dominican American, said her obsession with cosplay got her weird looks from her Caribbean family at first as very few people of color are seen in cosplay at industry events.
Some of these responses have been edited for clarity.
What is cosplay?
So cosplay is pretty much where you dress up as a character. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from anime. It could be like a TV show, a comic book, manga, video games, and pretty much anything where there’s a character that you like and want to be. It’s an opportunity to dress up like them and pretty much play like that person. People normally, especially at conventions, get into their cosplay, and they’ll walk around and take photos. Sometimes they’ll set up sessions with photographers and do photoshoots and things like that. Nowadays, on Tik Tok, it’s really popular for people to get into cosplays and do dances, or recreate scenes from the cosplays. Also, a lot of people do parodies or remakes of anime at home.
How did you get into cosplay?
I started watching anime when I was like, maybe, 10 or 11 years old. I’ve always been into like the art with characters. That’s what drew me to Japanese animation instead of westernized animation. I really started to fall in love with it. I started drawing the animations, and I always wanted to mimic it or look like one of the characters. I never actually took up the opportunity until I was in California the first time back in 2015.
I went to an anime convention where a bunch of people cosplayed. They have panels with different speakers, usually artists, or voice actors, or some kind of person who influences the making of anime, comics or manga. There was a cosplay booths there, and I had bought my first Japanese and Spanish Lolita outfit. When I moved back to Georgia, one of my friends and I decided to go to a convention, and she was like, “Hey, do you want to do cosplay.” I thought to myself, “this is so much fun.” Now, I do a mixture of cosplays and making my own or customizing other costumes.
How did your Dominican side of your family respond to you doing cosplay?
When I first started getting into anime, they didn’t really understand it. They were like, why are you watching this Japanese stuff you don’t know the language. You don’t understand it. But I explained to my mom that Dominicans love karate movies, and me dressing up in costume is just like when we all get into costumes and parade down the road. Instead, this time, I’m only in a convention building, and people are taking pictures of me. That’s the biggest difference. So, now they are very understanding and very supportive. They usually are pretty interested in it, especially now that anime and Asian culture have become popular. I think a lot of people don’t think it’s really weird anymore. They kind of think it’s cool.
How does being Caribbean American influence your everyday life?
I am really proud to be Dominican. So, every day, I go out into the world. Right now, there’s a lot of racism, and there are a lot of social issues that are going on. But I am proud of who I am and of my background. When people say negative things or make negative comments, I don’t really let that faze me. I know that I am proud of my background and culture, and nobody will change my mind. A lot of times in the cosplay community as well, they’ll be like: “Oh, Black people can’t cosplay. You guys don’t look like the characters from the anime because they have fair skin, and they have straight hair.” But I’m proud of who I am, so I’m going to cosplay regardless of what anybody else has to say. I’m proud of being from Dominica, and I think it gives me a sense of confidence and class.
What do you love most about being Dominican?
I love my people. They’re sweet, and the culture is great. The food is great. I love food. I grew up there as a child, and Dominican people’s values are different from American values. I also appreciate my culture because I got to experience growing up with specific family values. Cooking, taking care of your family, and knowing how to do basic house chores are important.
How do you define success?
I think success is really defined by happiness. You could have the best-paying job in the world or be the poorest, but I believe you are successful if you’re happy. I think you’re successful if you’re doing something that you love. That’s success at the end of the day.
When are you the happiest?
My family makes me the happiest. I have a secure job so that I can actually pursue my hobbies. I don’t have to worry about a lot of things. So, if I want to draw, sow clothes or work on my cosplays, I have the time and profitability to do that. That makes me happy.
Follow Owen on Instagram: @honey.xp