We all know cosplay is a great way to make friends and show your fandom, but could it also be good for your health, or maybe even save your life? It might sound far-fetched to the layperson, but for those who sew, stitch, and hot glue their way to cosplay glory, the physical and mental of health benefits of cosplay are very real.
Meagan Marie, community manager for Crystal Dynamics, told Geek and Sundry that the company behind Tomb Raider receives an “incredible amount” of letters from fans in their cosplay community. “It always makes me cry is when they mention — and I’m not joking — that Lara Croft has saved their lives.”
Marie shared that she’d encountered cosplayers who expressed that portraying Croft inspired them to “get themselves out of dangerous situations — to recognize their own strength.”
That includes greater physical strength, too. She’s seen many cosplayers who were inspired by Croft’s example to “challenge themselves” physically, like “taking archery lessons.” If living la vida Lara means increased mental and physical toughness, does the same hold true for those who cosplay other characters? Geek and Sundry spoke to fans who dressed as everything from an Avenger, to Sailor Moon to WWE wrestlers to find out.
KBV Cosplay is a freelance photographer who said that cosplay kept her “motivated to exercise and make good good choices” so she can “look and feel good” in her costumes. She’s dressed as nearly 50 characters since 2003, including three WWE “Divas” who she calls “beautiful, strong women,” adding, “I definitely feel that way when I cosplay them.”
Ashley Leckwold, a freelance writer, has been cosplaying since 2004. In a piece she wrote about her participation in a cosplay competition for the comic book character Dawn, Leckwold explained that cosplay “made it easier to love myself…I trace those moments and that love for what she [Dawn] represented to me to the ways I ended up breaking out of my shell.”
Since 2001, which he calls “the Stone Age in cosplay time,” analyst and freelance writer Christopher Troy has been dressing as everyone from Booker DeWitt of BioShock fame to Marvel marksman Clint Barton (Hawkeye). “As someone with a speech impediment,” Troy said, “cosplay has definitely inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and be a little more of an extrovert.”
“I was always a bit of a health nut prior to cosplaying,” said entrepreneur Carrie Wink, “but the hobby definitely kept me going on that path.” She’s cosplayed since 2002, starting with a Sailor Moon cosplay group before branching out to characters like Spider-Woman and My Little Pony’s Fluttershy.
Wink said of all the character’s she’s dressed as, “none has inspired more so than Bayonetta.” She explained that while Sega’s witchy heroine had an “over the top appearance, her confidence, wits, and banter inspire me to be a stronger person without having to sell myself short.”
“Does Pippi Longstocking count?” asked Residence Hall director Valerie Hardt, who has been cosplaying since childhood. She’s tried on the threads of everyone from Doctor Who’s Rose Tyler to Raleigh Becket from Pacific Rim. She claimed that cosplay has helped her to accept her body, something she’s struggled with, saying: “I felt more at home in my own skin after cosplaying as Black Canary and Ms. Marvel.”
Hardt also explained that she felt her mental health is improved by the creativity cosplay work inspires, but took that a step further, saying: “I think cosplay allows us to be our heroes. Which in turn makes us realize that heroes are just like everyone else. Once we realize that, then we can go be heroes for someone else.”
Does cosplay inspire you to be your best self? Which characters and why? Tell us your story in the comments, and check out this fitness guide that let’s you train with Lara Croft.