She may spend, by her own approximation, about 46 percent of her time in costume, but cosplayer Victoria Ortegas — GeishaVi when she's in character — knows that the key to dressing up as somebody else is to love yourself first. In Bustle's latest documentary short, Ortegas dresses up as her favorite comic book super-heroines, like DC's Starfire, Poison Ivy, and Psylocke, and she also shares some other costumes she designs herself. "I wear what looks good on me, I make sure I design it to fit my body," she says.
She totally embodies a sense of fearlessness and ferocity, right down to her makeup — nary a neutral is found in her eyeshadow palette, and even her makeup mirror is trimmed in fiery red lace.
When Ortegas started, cosplayers were mostly shy, quirky, and introverted people, but she's seen the community evolve to a new sort of culture where a lot of value is (mis)placed on sexuality. "Before it was an open-source thing and anybody could be anything they wanted. [There] was no standard. Now with mainstream community comes those, you know, sexualized standards that we try to get away from."
And the consequences have had damaging effects, even on someone as beautifully body-pos as Ortegas, who faces some harsh criticism sometimes. She gets teary recalling how though she ultimately ended up winning a contest for a costume , a hate blog was created for the sole purpose of bashing her for wearing it. Perhaps the most frustrating part for Ortegas was that the critique wasn't even about the costume, it was about her, so it definitely felt personal, and the pain she was feeling reminder her that she's only human. "You go through a lot of stuff, being a cosplayer of color," she sighs, and it's impossible not to feel her as you watch.
Not long ago, Ortegas was told by a fellow cosplayer that perhaps the reason she doesn't have more likes on social media is because as a "plus-size cosplayer of color" she doesn't fit into the mold.
Luckily, though, Ortegas is making her own mold, along with her friend Stephanie Darius, a cosplayer and seamstress. "They don't have to be a size zero or twelve," Darius says as she sews a costume for GeishaVi. "They can be sexy at whatever size they want. I help create that."
For Ortegas, it's more than getting dressed up in costume. "The boost of confidence that you get from being able to be in such a social setting with a little bit of social armor because it is your costume, I think after a little while you don't need the costume anymore. You start to realize that people are very genuine with their responses and that's a life lesson that people can use for ever."