Cosplay has done a great job of bringing people together and making nerd culture somewhat mainstream. From cosplaying on social media to cosplaying at Conventions, many more people are taking a leap into this aspect of nerd culture. Yonna, AKA The Yonn Don, is a 27-year-old cosplayer that splits their time between Brooklyn, New York and Ohio. Yonna chose The Yonn Don as their cosplay name because they wanted something that represented them; growing up, they used to be called Don a lot in reference to the 1950 mafia Dons.
Yonna first started cosplaying a couple of weeks before Halloween of 2014, their first introduction to cosplay was by chance "I was looking for some work, and I went on craigslist and saw an ad looking for someone to sell T-shirts. I accepted, not thinking much of it," Yonna said. Unbeknownst to her, she would be attending her first comic con by accepting this gig for two days, "So I got the gig, and on getting there that first day I was in awe, I didn't know something like this existed, and I could dress up like in cosplay when it wasn't Halloween" Yonna explained. At the end of that first day, Yonna asked if they could cosplay for the second day; once their boss agreed, they ran home and put together a quick costume from their closet to wear the next day. This was the beginning of Yonna's cosplay journey that has spanned 8+ years, almost a decade.
When asked what the best part of cosplaying is, Yonna said, "Adding my personal spin to a character, whether it's elements of myself or black culture, while representing these characters how I see them in my mind." They said an essential factor of cosplaying for them is representation; they want other black kids to look at them and be able to see that the characters they portray can also look like them, adding elements of their natural curls to otherwise straight-haired characters to showcase black culture. Yonna expressed that when cosplaying, they see it through the lens of expressing their idea of these characters, saying, "These characters are two-dimensional. It's easy to copy the character exactly as the show, but what gives it life are those extra touches. I'm not cosplaying the characters; they are cosplaying being human, so I'm adding elements of my perspective, of how I see these characters."
Their creativity knows no bounds as most of Yonna's cosplays are bought or upcycled from thrift items they can find. They also take commissions to make costumes for other cosplayers helping them express creativity to others' cosplay styles.
The 27-year-old cosplayer mentioned that the sense of community of being a cosplayer is something they love a lot; being with like-minded individuals with the same interests as you, to a large extent, is something that gives them joy. Their favourite cosplay they've done so far is of the character Gyome which they've done several times, but they believe that their most recent one is their most accurate representation of how they see the character, which is why they love it so much. Yonna is very intent on cosplaying in a way that brings them closer to these characters and brings them to life in a way not everyone knows how to do, adding a human touch beyond what screenwriters create.
Yonna has always been a theatre kid, and cosplay is just an extension of that; their biggest motivation would always be their love for cosplay, regardless of whether they made money from it. When they first started cosplaying, their parents brushed it off as regular kid stuff and a hobby, but once they started making money off it, they told Yonna to do what made them happy as long as they loved it; Yonna's parents supported their desire to do cosplay.
Yonna was asked about their favourite cosplayers in the industry, and they said, "I can't pick one; they're so many that are so good. I would say this though; I'm rooting for every black cosplayer out there." Yonna is a full-time content creator and a part-time nail tech; they love doing this, and it's more than a job to them because it's an expression of who they are. Yonna's deep connection to the characters they cosplay sets them apart as a cosplayer bringing out the emotional aspects of characters and, in turn, invoking the true spirit of cosplay; they are one to watch out for.
About the Author: Oluwatobi Omotoso is a writer, content creator, Social Media Manager, and marketing strategist. She's an avid treehugger and lover of all things sci-fi. She has been compared to the Joker in personality tests, and her friends lovingly call her a Megalomaniac.
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