Schwartz, who was to be cosplaying as “Princess Peach” in a poofy pink dress and blonde wig at Anime Expo in Los Angeles this weekend, said being recognized in an uncommon costume is gratifying. “I do weird costumes, and sometimes absolutely no one knows who I am,” she said as she pinned her costume on a blue mannequin in her action-figure-filled apartment a few weeks before the convention. “I’ll get like three people who are stoked about what I wear.
“When you do rare costumes, and a few people notice it, it’s such a better reaction than people just being like, ‘Oh, you’re ‘Princess Peach’ or another widely known costume. Everyone is going to recognize me at Anime Expo as Princess Peach, but that’s not going to be as cool of a feeling as when people recognized me as a gender-bent Hannibal Chau from ‘Pacific Rim.'”
Sometimes, though, recognition can lead to scary moments, which is why Schwartz and Sonali feel the need to protect themselves with stage names. Sonali wants to keep her personal life private, so her regular social media page is not where she promotes her cosplaying.
“I’ve had a lot of guys message me really inappropriate comments,” she said. “Girls get grabbed at conventions. That’s not behavior that should be accepted, and I know it happens to the majority of female cosplayers that we know. Convention venues now have signs that say, ‘Cosplay is NOT consent.'”
But when the weird stuff isn’t happening, cosplay generally benefits the women’s self-esteem. “I have incredibly bad social anxiety, and dealing with crowds is so much easier with a wig on,” Schwartz said. “It’s not me, but it is me. When they look at me, they’re looking at a character. Pictures of me as myself, I’m like, ‘Get it away.’ But me, in a costume, I’m like, ‘Yay! Look how cute I look.’ At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of weird nerds in costume.”