Cosplaying since 2012, Krissy Victory has attended numerous events like Youmacon and even got her gender-bent Finn cosplay praised by the great John Boyega himself.
However, as fun and exciting as the world of cosplay is, it also has a dark side, especially for cosplayers of color. Victory faced weeks of vitrolic backlash on social media for daring to portray Overwatch's D.Va, sharing the truly shocking things said to her in a YouTube video.
theScore esports spoke to Victory about how she pushed through the hatred with the help of her brother, how her cosplay helps others and what its like getting a shout-out from a Star Wars star.
How did you get involved with cosplay?
I got involved with cosplay in 2012 when one of my college friends told me to dress up as Panty from Panty and Stocking because she needed a friend to match with her because they're pretty much a set. And I was like, "I don't even know what that is, I don't know who that is," and she explained like it was Halloween and basically dressing up in character and I thought it was very interesting and I was like, "I like to dress up as different people, so let me give it a chance." So I researched it and I looked up stuff on eBay.
I didn't really know how to use eBay at the time and I was grasping at straws and I bought a very ugly looking wig and dress and I wore my character and I thought I looked ridiculous. And I was like, "I don't think this is for me, I look really silly and everybody is super dressed-up." But I got over it and I walked my butt out of there and a guy took a picture of me and he said, "Wow you look amazing, you're incredible. I think you're one of the best Pantys I've ever seen. Hope to see you around!"
And he left. And I was like, "Wow! Cosplay people are really nice even though I look like crap," and I got super addicted to it after that. Because I just didn't realize how nice people could be to me even if I thought I looked horrible, someone took the time out of their day to compliment me, say I was, "the best." So after doing it more and more, [I] started meeting people who took it way more seriously than I did, but they were so influential and they looked so amazing so I started to be inspired by a lot of my friends and I started to take cosplay more seriously.
Why do you cosplay and what is the best part of it?
Being myself and learning the arts and crafts and learning new skills and hanging out with my friends and being an uber-dork and not feeling like I have to be someone else. I think that's why I keep cosplaying, I like making myself happy and lately I've been making others happy. It really keeps me going that some people didn't want to do certain things and in some small form, if I help them that means a lot to me. That means that I should keep going.
And I think that's why I cosplay. It frustrates me a lot with the drama and the toxicity sometimes, but it also inspires me to challenge myself and all the wonderful people you wouldn't think you're affecting their lives by dressing up as a character, but you'd be so wrong. A lot of people don't want to do certain things because of backlash and if I help them in some form, then I'm all for it.
There are stories of discrimination, and you are a colored person who cosplays. I heard of your D.Va cosplay backlash. Would you like to talk about that? How does racism in cosplay make you feel?
Oh my god, I was devastated ... it got worse after I posted about it. It was bad. It was really devastating, I didn't want to be D.Va anymore. I just really wanted to quit because every five seconds I'm getting a shared post about how much of an ape I am or how ugly I was because I was black and how I need to wash my skin and bleach my skin or how better the costume would be if I did that. And people are just crapping on me! I've never had so much flak to the point where it was covering up anything that was nice about me. It was so hateful, just because of how I looked and I literally was blown away by it so much that it became so discouraging. I just didn't want to cosplay anymore. I did want to cosplay, but I didn't want to do it for a while and I just didn't want to be D.Va because D.Va was causing all this stress for me and I'm like, "I really like this character, I've loved her since beta. She's amazing and I think she's super-cute," and I was so excited to be D.Va that I was just so shocked by how much people hated me over it.
The more time kept going on, people just [kept] yelling me on every other post and having blocked a bunch of people, but sometimes I can't even go on groups reported or anything. It just got so out of hand and made me not want to be her, because it was really messing with my mental health, how much people hated me about something I can't even change, something I wouldn't want to change, but you can't change your skin tone so it really knocked me down. I just didn't want to deal with it anymore, I got frightened.
The only reason why I continued during that time was my brother told me to keep going and he started defending me a lot more and I started to see more positive comments from it and he kept telling me to not give up because if I give up, that's how they win. If it wasn't for him talking me to into it that day, talking to me on my phone about it, I probably would have stopped being D.Va because I just felt weak, I felt defeated, I felt like I couldn't do it anymore and I was so drained and crying to him about it, I just felt like I couldn't do this and he really uplifted me and reminded me that if I give up, they win. And so, I kept going and here I am today, still being D.Va.
How do you feel about the support of the cosplay scene?
It took forever! I said, "Finally. Jeez." I wasn't surprised by black people helping me out, which was very kind itself, because they understand, because they go through the same thing. But it was really crappy that a lot of Asian and white people would turn the other cheek and I'm like, "Yo, that's messed up!" I get all this flak being one of the first D.Vas, then all these other D.Vas start coming out of the woodwork and everybody's being praised, I'm like, "That's not fair." And it just felt like people were ignoring the fact that I'm being harassed by all these people and it really discouraged me. I didn't want to be close to anyone in the community. To this day, I'm still kind of like that. I don't want to be close to anyone, I'm really fine with what I have with the people I talk to. It's just I have to realize there's so many people who care about this more than someone else, the little guy, and that's just how it is. It's a dog-eat-dog world and I have to remember that not everything is sunshine and rainbows in every community.
I'm glad people started being more active to be nice to me after the articles came out, I felt like it was super-late on the support and I was like, "Better late than never," and I wish it was sooner, but I'm glad people see it now. It's better for them to see now than never seeing it. Charlotte [Shung, D.Va's voice actress] gave me a lot of words of encouragement, she was really there for me and I really appreciate her support. Before the article, she really reached out to me and I really appreciate her having my back on what was going on. Not a lot of people do that, even if they're working on the character and such they usually turn the other cheek, but she was very supportive and really aware about the issues when it comes down to discrimination and racism and I really look up to her for it.
John Boyega gave you a shout out for your gender-bent Finn cosplay. What do you think of that?
Oh my goodness! I was crying, screaming, acting crazy because I was shocked by it, I didn't think it was real. But it was real, I'll never forget him doing that for me. Saying he was in love, that's the highest honor of a cosplay you can get is the person themselves saying how amazing it is and I think he's super, super amazing for doing that and I know there's like thousands of tweets. Y'know, celebrities get spam and spam of stuff like that, but the fact that he noticed was shocking and, cosplay-wise, it changed my world completely. Before that, things were fun and exciting and some people knew who I was, but then it just felt like, "Wow." He just opened up a whole new world for me I'd never even seen. I'm so thankful for him doing that for me. It means so much to me, I probably wouldn't have gotten a lot of unique opportunities I have gotten from that. I don't even know how to top that to this day (laughs).
If you want to see more of Krissy Victory's cosplay, check out these links:
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Photos courtesy of Krissy Victory.
Navneet Randhawa does stuff and things at theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.