Everybody calm now? Great! Now unless you’ve been living under a rock, it would’ve been impossible to miss the brouhaha generated by the cosplayer-versus-costripper-versus-model debate. As much as I’d love to dish out my own two cents on the matter, I honestly can’t be arsed as I am far too busy watching tennis/football/foot tennis.
What did catch my interest though is the statement argued to death by all sides that once a cosplayer gets paid for his efforts, he is no longer a cosplayer but a model.
And while there is some truth to that, I do recoil at the sweeping generalization it implies: you can get paid to cosplay, and it would still not be a modeling gig. How is this possible, you ask? Well, let me tell you about a little country called Japan.
Staffmembers at Otaku Shops and Cafes
What do Mandarake, Cafe With Cat, and Cafe B:Lily-Rose have in common? Exactly — all their staff members are in costume! But so what, say purists — if they’re not acting out their roles, there are merely in costume, but not cosplaying. This is where they are wrong — staff members, especially those employed by maid and butler cafes, are required to portray a particular role that their employers demand and their customers expect.
If you don’t fulfill this prerequisite, you are simply a minimum wage slave in fancy clothing, and you will soon be replaced by someone who will play by the rules. So if you’ve always wanted to pretend to be Tohru Honda stocking comic book shelves, or Suoh Tamaki serving tea, then this gig might be for you.
If cosplaying Disney characters is more your thing, then don’t just cosplay — cosplay and get paid for it by joining the Disney Castmembers. Perks include year-round entry to the Disney theme park you are assigned to, standard health and dental packages, and professional costuming from Disney’s supply
But not everything is sunshine and butterflies in Uncle Walt’s world: employees are required to sign a nondisclosure contract, and this contract is effective even after your resignation or termination from the Castmembers. Still, it’s a small price to pay to be Jack Sparrow; carry on, lads!
Whether it’s Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or Mylie Cyrus, impersonators earn their living by dressing up as and acting like celebrities. It does not take a lot to make the leap from Hollywood to Studio 4C, so it is possible to make a living pretending to be Ayanami Rei, Lelouch Lamperouge, or Kamina.
If you are lucky (or crazy) enough to be based in Japan, your main source of income could come from photographer groups, who pay you by the hour to take pictures of you in costume. It sounds totally skeevy, I know — but for some reason this works out pretty well up there. How they managed that is a mystery to me.
A “step up” (please note the quotation marks) from the celebrity impersonator gig are the otaku idols — girls who voice act, pose in tiny bikinis for photo books, act stupid on game shows, or cosplay on demand based on the whims of their fans and admirers. The most famous example of the Otaku Idol would be Nakagawa Shouko — or simply, Shokotan.
Shokotan dons costumes and acts out anime characters to pander to her fans and generate income. However she is by no stretch of imagination a model, since she only does this with products that she herself uses or endorses, whereas models usually have no choice about the matter (unless you are Tyra Banks, but that is beside the point).
Shokotan also deals almost exclusively with anime-related paraphernalia, and we would be hard-pressed to find her doing more “traditional” modeling jobs like high fashion, luxury goods, and mens magazines. If she did, then she would be crossing over from cosplaying to modeling territory, and then we’d have another argument on our hands.
Fastfood Chain Mascots
Wearing a fur suit to pretend to be a fastfood chain mascot intrinsically fulfills the two requirements of cosplay: 1) you are in costume; and 2) you act out the character being portrayed. Granted it may not be as glamorous or as photog-friendly as the other four occupations listed here, but there is no denying that make-up and short skirts notwithstanding all jobs require you to do the same thing — to pretend to be someone you are not. And the best thing about job number five? You don’t even have to be in Japan to pursue this line of work! Brilliant, ain’t it?
So pad those CVs, Photoshop those resume pics, and let’s hit the job market — there’s money to be made, ladies and gents!