Sunday, October 19, 2014

I am Shiklah, Queen of the Undead, or The Joys of Fat Cosplay

It's October 2013. My fiance and I go to Comic Con together, as we've done the past few years. My honey is dressing up as -- or doing Cosplay as -- his favorite Marvel character, Deadpool. Every year he refines his Deadpool costume and is often asked to be in photos. I am too hesitant to dress up myself. My fat activism is only a month old. I'm shy, but I'm getting fired up. And here I am at Comic Con, a temporary community that accepts and even embraces the unconventional. As my guy and I are walking around, we hear someone say, "now that I want to do this Cosplay, I have great motivation to lose weight." On fire with my new body positivity, I can't resist replying: "hey, you can do your Cosplay at any weight." He replies excitedly, "no, for the specific effect I'm going for, I need to be thinner."

I want to say more, but we get separated in the crowd. I continue to make comments, and not in a quiet voice, about the incident. Isn't Comic Con about enjoying weirdness and not conforming to societal expectations? Why should such prejudice be here? I feel so hurt. Just as loving my fat body is becoming a real option in my life, someone rejects that possibility in a venue that typically encourages self-acceptance. In addition, my guy is a BHM or Big Handsome Man whose adorable teddy-bear stomach has never stopped him from doing fantastic Cosplays of a character who is drawn with a thinner body. Nonetheless, he is much calmer about the situation than I am. His priority is to move on while mine is to vent the injustice. We are frustrated at each other for approaching the situation so differently. Neither of us knows what to do.

A year goes by. A lot of things happen. We get married that summer. I continue with my fat activism full speed ahead: I read blogs and look at tumblrs, join online communities, do e-courses about body love at any size, read gorgeous fat poetry, get more comfortable wearing clothes that hug my stomach and thighs. I deeply enjoyed listening to Ragen Chastain and Jeanette DePatie host the first annual online Fat Activism Conference and I appreciate Stephanie Payne's great talk on plus-size Cosplay. I start my own fat blog. I see the fat troupe Rubenesque Burlesque perform live at the New York Burlesque Festival, meet them and get pictures with them. Now I'm ready. I want to do Cosplay, too.

My now husband (!) comes up with a great idea. Just as we got married over the summer, so did his Marvel obsession, Deadpool. He suggests we go to Comic Con as fictional and real husband and wife. Deadpool's wife is Shiklah. She wears purple and black, some pretty cool jewelry, and is a succubus who is queen of the underworld and lord of the monsters. Cool, huh? I am not the avid comic reader that my husband is, but I read some comics with Shiklah in them and did some online "research" and decided that this was a cool character. The next week, hubby and I went to a costume store and basically bought a nice purple and black witch costume to adapt into a Shiklah Cosplay. I was feeling down that day, sad about unrelated things, so I mostly sat there and pouted while my husband resourcefully put together an amazing plus-size costume. I did not appreciate the astonishment of some skinny sales ladies when we announced that we were looking for large purple tights, as if no woman over a size 8 has wanted to wear such a thing, but somehow we found those, too. Okay, the tights were a little bit small in the end, but they were good enough for a one-weekend costume.

Here is how my Shiklah, Queen of the Underworld, Lord of the Monsters, came together:

I'm Shiklah. Fuck you.

We stopped by a Halloween shop in our neighborhood so Hubby could do my make-up before the Con.

Husband and Wife Kiss! I had to rub some of my black lipstick off of his mask after this.

Ruler of the Deadpools! My husband is the one in the cap. I took off one of my gloves so I could actually use my cellphone and stay in touch with's easy to lose track of them at Comic Con!

Here I am with Wonder Woman (above) and a gender-bending Thelma (below).


As you can tell from these photos, I had a great time doing my first Cosplay! There were people of all shapes and sizes, and we were all fine. Fancy that!
At Comic Con I was able to buy awesome Adventure Time clothes, which I love to do. I got a BMO sweater in XL and a fitted 2XL black polo shirt with Lumpy Space Princess on it. I decided to layer these items a few days later and hubby took a (blurry) picture of me, which I present below:

I can think of conservative not-fat-appreciating people (mother, cough cough) who might think that my stomach here is unflattering and I should wear something looser. But this is exactly what fat acceptance and fat activism do not require of me. Personally, I love the look. I love that I can proudly present the cuteness of BMO the talking game console, my breasts, and my stomach. If a "muffin top" is a bad thing to have, well, I just don't agree with that.

There's no reason you have to be a particular weight to do Cosplay, to pose for pictures, to wear a sweater. In a culture brimming with pictures of skinny women, it's easy to feel that it's a problem for you not to look like that. I hope that my playful Shiklah and BMO pictures can point to the arbitrary tyranny of such a standard. Magazines, movies, tv shows may discriminate, but images, whether photographed or drawn or digitally composed, don't have to: they can celebrate all bodies. And they can present bodies not as impossible ideals to identify with or try to match, but as sturdy and flexible inhabitants of a changing world. It's amazing how easily we make the conceptual leap from "there's a thin body" to "that is desirable and I need to be it." Aren't there other ways of relating to images than feeling the need to conform to them? Of course, and I hope that my little photos, humble and awkward and fun and lovely as they may be, help point to that.


  1. Gaby! I was the other shiklah! we took a photo together!!

    add me my Facebook is Kusumi kia on facebook I'd love to be friends i have been looking for you lol!