Interview with Cosplay Artist and Burlesque Dancer Maki Roll
Written by Justine Banal
Cosplay comes naturally to cosplay artist Maki Roll. The D.C. native has been in this business a long time. She has the skill, experience, and creates some of the best costumes which have elevated her to a major player in the cosplay community. And Burlesque dancing? That came easy, as Maki Roll has been involved in gymnastic and dance at a young age. We at the Ac had the privilege to interview Maki Roll about her experiences in cosplay.
How did you get your start in cosplay and how long have you been doing it?
I started cosplaying about nine years ago in high school. I went to my first convention, Anime USA, in 2005. I was fascinated by everyone in costume and how much fun they were having, and I wanted to be apart of it. My mom and I worked on my first costume together, which was Inuyasha, for Katsucon the following year!
Do you feel that cosplay has impacted your life? If so, in what ways?
Absolutely! There are definitely a wealth of opportunities that I have had because of cosplay, such as guesting for cons, speaking on panels, and small opportunities for making money. One of the more recent things I was able to do was meet Ladybaby via a mutual signing together for Sonicboombox at New York Comic Con this year! I think the most important thing though, are the friends that I have. I would not have met the wonderful, talented people that I know now if it weren’t for cosplay. I wouldn’t have met my bridesmaids if it weren’t for cosplay!
You’re very active in the burlesque community as well. How and when did you get started with that?
I’ve been dancing and doing gymnastics since I was five. I was a member of my high school and college dance company. I started my journey with burlesque about three years ago. It was sort of an accident, honestly. I was in a calendar and one of the promo events was a burlesque show, which I volunteered for. I had no idea what I was doing, but after the show I felt this amazing energy. Since then, I have taken classes with both local and out of states talent, as well as worked on producing my own nerdy themed shows.
What has your experience been as a female cosplayer of color?
It is definitely a unique experience. For the most part it is positive, but there are some times where the experience has been less than stellar. One thing I really want to address is when people call me, or any cosplayer of color “the black/chocolate” version of whatever character is being cosplayed. I get that from white and non white people, and in many cases they don’t know they are being offensive. If a person spends their hard earned money and time on a costume, they want to be recognized as THAT CHARACTER. Bringing up a person’s race as a way to identify them in their costume is rude, and it can make the cosplayer feel singled out. Please keep in mind what you say and how it could affect others.
Have you received any criticism for doing what you do? What do you have to say to those critics?
Of course. I have received hate mail, rude comments on my photos and videos. I’ve been called almost every derogatory name in the book. If your sole purpose for existing on the internet is to bring down someone else on the internet, you need to find a hobby. I’m not going anywhere!
What are some of your cosplay/burlesque accolades that you’re most proud of?
While I’ve won no awards, my most exciting achievements have been producing my own burlesque shows and being active, (alongside many others) in creating dialogue which helps encourage cosplayers and performers of color. I believe if you have any sort of platform or fan base, and can use it to be an agent of change, you should absolutely do so. I am constantly inspired by the men and women who risk their popularity and marketability in order to stand up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.
What is your advice to someone looking to get into cosplay?
Don’t let what others say put a damper on your fun. It is extremely discouraging when there are people who want to make you feel bad or make disgusting remarks, but you should always strive to make sure you having fun is the most important thing. If you are having fun despite rude people, it makes them look worse than they already do.
Maki Roll Cosplay is all over social media! You can find out about updates and future guest appearances via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook! Be sure to check those pages out.