Roughly two weeks before the start of Anime Expo, Chocolate Covered Cosplay was born. The group of six women-- Ashphord Jacoway, Neko Nivi, Ginger Burton, Angel Drake, Danielle McRae and Deanna McRae-- came together for cosplay with a purpose.
"No matter your race or your height or your weight or how you look, do what you want," says Burton. "Have fun."
"You don't have to be the black version of whoever, you can just be that character," she continues. "Be who you want to be and have fun because cosplay is all about having fun."
Burton, like the others in the group, is an avid cosplayer. She has her own commission business, GNB Cosplay, and founded the Southern California Cosplay Ball as well as Otaku Sanctuary Magazine. Jacoway and Nivi had approached her about doing "something cool with cosplay," she says, and Nivi came up with the name. Then Drake and sisters Deanna and Danielle McRae came into the fold.
"There are a lot of public figures that are singles, or are two people, but a group, I hadn't seen a group of six people yet," says Burton.**
Cosplay is a fan-centric art form that focuses on accuracy and attention to detail and there are many schools of thought on how to approach recreating beloved characters. Some might believe that one must physically resemble the character they are cosplaying, or even that cosplay should be exclusive to certain ethnicities or nationalities.
"There's kind of an unwritten rule that only Asians can cosplay," says Burton. "I've heard that, of course. Only skinny girls can cosplay. Only fair-skinned people can cosplay. It doesn't matter. If you see a really great costume, it doesn't matter."
"It's all about the effort," says Drake.
"There is an unwritten rule," says Burton. "We don't follow it."
"There aren't that many dark-skinned characters anyway," says Drake. "You have to dig for them to find them."
Chocolate Covered Cosplay focuses on costuming projects that they can do as a group. Currently, they have Storm from X-Men, Fran from Final Fantasy and Monster High in the works. They're also planning a Poison Ivy group cosplay for San Diego Comic-Con. Jacoway says that she's studying up on the different costumes that the DC villain has had over the years. In addition, Chocolate Covered Cosplay takes requests, which you can leave for the group on their Facebook page.
"One day, I know that I will do a serious, serious Sailor Moon," says Jacoway.
This prompted a discussion between the women. Looks like Sailor Moon is in their future too.
Chocolate Covered Cosplay is currently working on a calendar.
"That will be fun and sexy and chocolate covered too," says Burton.
More than that, though, the women of Chocolate Covered Cosplay want to help foster a sense of community online.
"It's a nice, honest, open environment so that people can dialog about what's going on with us as a culture," says Jacoway.
In the meantime, you can follow Chocolate Covered Cosplay on Facebook . Look for them at San Diego Comic-Con.
**Update: Clarification from Ginger Burton:
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"We know there are many cosplay groups out there that are anime/gamer/comic cook/cosplay nerds, however what makes us different is that we are a group of black females who are trying to be a positive influence in the cosplay world. We want to encourage others to cosplay as that character that others have told them not to cosplay as because of their height, weight, sex, skin color... etc...
"We know there are a lot of great cosplayers out there like Adella, Ya Ya Han, LimeBarb, Team Unicorn...etc... but we have yet to hear of a 'known' Female Black Cosplayer group that expresses our nerdy world!"
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