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Cosplay and Construction: An Interview with Jasmine Grimes by Mara Kissinger

Cosplay and Construction: An Interview with Jasmine Grimes by Mara Kissinger

(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

Last week I had the lovely opportunity to sit down and have coffee with Jasmine Grimes also known as @myssematch.

  We talked about cosplay, her experience finding body positivity, going viral, representation, and working as a plus size woman in construction.  Jasmine was very open about feeling weird about and then embracing nerdiness and her love of sci-fi as well as what representation can mean in the many areas of her life.

M: How do you like to describe yourself, and what are your pronouns?

J:  She/her/hers Cosplayer blogger writer everything 

M: When did you first start cosplaying and what character did you cosplay?

J: So my first character was Kim Possible and it was like a year ago. If you can believe it, it was only a year.

M:  So what got you started?

J:  28 days of black Cosplay happens every February and I got to see everyone else cosplaying and I've been looking at it for years and then I was like I kind of want to do it but I don't know.  I waited until after February had passed and I was like okay I'm going to do it after everybody had already done it and I did it and then everything took off.

M: When you first started out did you ever feel like there were any characters that were off-limits for you?

J:  No see before cosplaying I was really into body positivity before it got watered down and crap so through that it's like you can do anything basically.  We need the representation so when I started cosplaying I was like I want to cosplay all the characters that I loved growing up because I want people to see them in my body because people need that.  A lot of people think that, like you're saying, characters are off-limits and it's because they don't see anybody cosplaying them.

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

M:  Were there any characters that you were really excited to do?

J:   All of them.  But one of my first cosplays was Kida from Atlantis.  That was one of my favorites because I always looked up to her and I was like she's brown and she has that white hair and I want to do it.

M:   What kind of reactions have you forgotten about your cosplay?

J: There have been good ones and there have been bad ones definitely.  When I first started everybody was like this is so amazing and everyone was happy.  But I wasn't in the cosplay community so when I joined in and they hadn't seen a lot of black plus size cosplayers I was getting a lot of like you know you suck you don't have the right body type you don't have the right skin color you shouldn't be cosplaying these characters. But like why would I stop just because you some random ass person doesn't like it?

M:  What do you think has been the impact of you getting into the community being your body type and a minority within it?

J:  In cosplay there is a whole Community of like black nerds out there that I didn't know about growing up I used to think that like I’m weird because I don't fit into the stereotype of what many black people are into.  So I was able to like find this whole community of people that were like me which is amazing but there is still a lot of gatekeeping in the cosplay community and it's like you only like us because you're getting attention from this you don't really like anime or the characters that you're cosplaying aren't real anime.  I don't know it's weird or you should only cosplay these characters because they match your body type or your skin tone and it's like why would I do that? It always irritates me because it's like we literally should be able to do anything and you're like personal problem with it is something you need to work out with yourself.

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

M:   Have there been any other cosplayers with huge huge follower accounts that have attacked you?

J:   Not in genera,l that's something that I'm really happy and lucky about for the most part the community is awesome.  I don't really see people fighting unless they're like doing blackface or gatekeeping besides that everybody else is fine.  

M:  So the gatekeeping hasn’t been too nasty?

J:  It depends. My story is kinda different I started gaining a whole bunch of followers when larger like art based pages started reposting my stuff.  So when that started happening their followers were like horrible in the comments under it and so I would be like getting thousands of comments under their posts not under mine but besides that and then also I have comment controls so that helps.

M:  Does that ever feel annoying?

J:   Yeah well because I mean people have been saying racist stuff and really inappropriate stuff and so I had to put controls on it in order to make sure that my space was safe for everybody who was going to be on it.  I guess it does affect me cause everybody reads the comments.

M:  You say that you do closet cosplay can you explain a little about what that means?

J:   Closet cosplay is different from traditional cosplay because you're using the stuff in your closet.  You're basically using that to create characters so you're mending clothes and cutting them up. You’re using all the stuff that's in your house so you're not really going out and buying as much stuff as you would and you're using your own clothes so I'm not like sewing stuff from scratch I don't know how to sew yet.

M:   Does closet cosplay have its own community is it different from traditional cosplay?

J:   It falls into the realm of casual cosplay and then closet cosplay is pretty much the same thing.  So you're not perfect basically, you're not having everything that the character has because when people do traditional cosplay they're trying to make sure that every little thing is perfect.  When you're doing closet and casual it's not as strict which is why I loved it. If I tried to do a traditional cosplay I think it would be too much. Also it's expensive and if I do buy like cosplay items I'll go on depop and I'll buy stuff that has already been used.

M:  What’s been your favorite part about the community?

J:  Finding people who like the same stuff that I do is the best part because like I was saying before I used to think that I was weird and so now I get to talk about all my favorite animes and nerd out with everyone.

M:  Is there any character coming up for you that you're really excited to do?

J:  Actually I did go on depop and I bought Naruto and I bought Sasuke so I'm really excited to do that.  I'm thinking about going to con this year and I'll have those to take with me.  

M: So have you been to conventions before?

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

J: Yeah I went to San Francisco Comic-Con which was interesting because the first time, like I said I only started cosplaying last year and I wasn't able to go to all of the cons and stuff, so it's been pretty fun and different.  I didn't understand the first time that I went there what was happening, I was like what are we supposed to be doing I was confused, but then I realized that it's literally just people getting together and hanging out. I thought it would be structured but it wasn't like that at all so I was a little bit confused.

M: You said that growing up you felt kind of weird because you liked all of these things could you talk a little bit about that?

J:  I am a big sci-fi nerd, I-15, Stargate, all that stuff is my favorite and growing up in the Bay Area like in high school listening to rap music that's what we were doing.  I like listening to alternative rock music and watching anime so everybody was kind of like no you need to be this way this box and I was like I'm not going to do that. Even my family thought I was weird for a long time I used to role-play online and so back in the Myspace days they would say you need to go outside and hang out with kids your age and I would say no I want to stay in and read and watch sci-fi with myself.  It was definitely interesting back then I was also hella uncomfortable with my body so it was just like a whole entire thing. This was before body positivity started coming out and I didn't have any representation or have anybody that looks like me and I just felt awkward like I didn't belong anywhere. It wasn't until I got to college that I actually started seeing people who look like me and plus then I got into blogging and Instagram and everything.

M:  So what was that like finding body positivity community?

J: Eye opening, scary, and then my whole attitude towards everything changed.  The people around me were kind of like what the hell is going on with you and I was like well I realized that I can do anything and that there's all these people without a voice who need it and I want to do something about it.  So I started posting differently and then I think everything changed when I took a photo in a bodysuit because I had never won a bodysuit before and Ef Your Beauty Standards reposted and this was let's just say before trauma happened and they're still kind of cool but then I don't know I just found the community.  I really feel like I fell into a lot of this stuff just randomly like I found it and I fell into it and somehow it worked out and became what it is.

M:  So did that come together with cosplaying?

J:  So body positivity was a year-and-a-half before cosplay so I was taking photos in my underwear and posting them online and it got picked up and it ended up going viral.  It was in Cosmo and The Huffington Post and Daily Mail I think I went from like 6 thousand followers to 12000 followers in two days. It was really weird and then like people in my real life started seeing it and people at my job were seeing it and they were kind of talking s*** and I had to ignore it

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

M:  So people were being mean about it behind your back?

J: They were like oh she loves her body and she’s putting online because Cosmo put it on their Snapchat and that's how it kind of went viral then everybody saw it and everybody was like what the hell?  That experience taught me to deal with everything else because like I said I was dealing with people in my real life and I was dealing with people online and I had never gotten hate and now people are emailing me and writing articles about it.  I found an article that called me a Fat N******* Online and that was horrible I started crying. Then I had to remember that this is some random person online you don't know them, people are going to write whatever they want and it's up to me to decide how I'm going to respond to that. I developed a thick skin really fast.

M: Were there ever any other moments when it really affected you?

J: Yes and no.  Yes because like I said I had to develop a thick skin real fast and my family was right there and saying you're okay.  My parents are really involved in my life and I love them for it and they're awesome and they're trying to be like I'm going to fight people in the comments and I had to be like no but my family has my back and so because of that I was okay.

M: So they've been supportive of are the cosplaying stuff?

J:  Oh yeah some of my favorite pictures are ones that my mom took actually.

M:  You work in construction have you gotten any surprising reactions when people find out about that?

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

J: No one can believe it.  My dad used to work in construction so that's where I got it from because he did it for 30 years and then he retired and I went into it and no one can believe it.  Everybody even when I was going to school because you have to go to school for two months everybody was like looking at me strangely because I wear a full-face of make-up everyday and hair and all of it and everybody's kind of like what's up this is construction we don't do that here.

M:  Has there been much representation of of women?

J: No when I go on job sites I've been I think on four so far in the last 3 months all the guys are like we've only had one woman so far or I've never been on a job site with women before and especially not ones that look like you.  It’s kind of like what are you doing why are you here? I just have to explain that yes I’m in construction and this is what I want to do and plus they make a s*** ton of money.

M: What was going to school like and not seeing many people like you represented?

J: At school they made us do a whole week where we sat in the classroom which was boring as hell and then the other weeks we had to get on equipment and we had to pass every class and on equipment that we've never touched before.  It was interesting to say the least I was lucky because there was like a group of us, so we were broken into 8 groups of 7 or so and we were all together through all this and because I had a good group of people I made it through. cause we were really supportive of each other there were days the first week we got on equipment  I was having a mental breakdown and I was crying and the other woman cause there's only one other woman in our group was Amber and we were both sitting there together. And they had all these dorm rooms with all these men and then they had this one dorm section that was the girl’s section and there is like seven of us in there and they're like this is the biggest group of girls we've ever had.  So the first week we were all sitting there crying and saying “we suck” we were all having a breakdown but we made it. But it was a lot and there were definitely times that, there was one time we were in this one class and I had to stop and I got out and I was crying and there have been so many moments where I've had mental breakdowns because it's overwhelming. But I made it and I'm stronger now.  But it's not easy and being the only girl is not easy but I'm learning and I feel like that is a big help because it's going to be representation for all these people. Because, like I said, people don't see people like me in construction at all.

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

M: Did you have trouble getting respect ever?

J: Not really like I've been lucky with the companies that I have worked with so far everybody has been really respectful and really nice.  I think it's because they tell them that they have to because there's going to be a girl on the site. In construction now they take no s*** so if the men are doing anything that's inappropriate they're getting fired and that's just how construction is in general which I learned which is really weird.  Sometimes people don't know if they're coming back the next day or not it's a really cutthroat industry. But luckily I'm an apprentice so they have to have me. The only thing is sometimes they think I'm weaker because I am a girl which I don't like cause they're like you should be clean and stay clean all day and we don't want you to shovel and we’ll do the hard work and you the girl stuff, you can get us water and I'm like what no.

M: So did you get pushed into those kinds of jobs?

J: A little bit.  Plus I'm a grade setter so my job is to make sure that the people who are running the equipment know what they're supposed to do and make sure that it's right and it's level and it's supposed to be where it is.  At the company I'm at now I shovel, I sweat, I'm in there with them so it's good and my last company they were like a little bit more we were raised in a way that women shouldn’t be doing hard work so you stand there and spot and we'll do it. 

M: After your viral post do you think there was a loss of respect that happened in your job?

J: Definitely and it's something that I had to deal with I ended up actually leaving that job because people started treating me completely differently because of the stuff online, plus I worked in a warehouse so I worked with a whole bunch of men like there were three women there.  For some reason I keep getting these jobs where I'm the only girl and so yeah that was difficult and like I said I ended up leaving that job. But it's okay because where I'm at now I'm still the only woman but I'm getting paid a s*** ton more. 

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(Photo Credit: Jasmine Grimes)

I hope you had as much fun reading about our interview as I had doing it.  Jasmine truly is unafraid of breaking out of boxes and does the admirable job of encouraging others to do the same.  She shows up to represent in so many facets of her life and it was truly amazing to meet her.

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