Professional Cosplayer?!

Some time after STGCC, a non-Cosplaying/Animanga friend and I somehow started talking about Kipi. She had read Kipi's interview online and was surprised Kipi was a Law major in college.

The conversation then led to us discussing about her looks ( the online article my friend read didn't have any photos).

Friend: Is she pretty?
Kaika: Yup!
Friend: Are her boobs big?
Kaika:  LOL! Erm, No =X
Friend:  LOL then she should go for a breast enhancement ! She's freakin rich now isn't she??!
Kaika: ..………..?!
*exaggerated expression* Do you know how much they pay her to come here??!
Kaika: Actually… I’m guessing not a lot

Friend:  These people they get paid A LOT alright xD ?!

To be honest, knowing the community, I doubt Kipi was paid a lot for her appearance. My guess is that her trip and accommodation were the only paycheck.

At the same time though, I also understand some celebrities survive solely on their fame and their hefty paycheck for a mere appearance. So I found myself with conflicting opinions. To put it short, it was hard to convince my friend otherwise because I wasn’t so sure myself.

And so started the topic for discussion today. Are there really so called “Professional cosplayers”?
I don’t know about you but I raised my eyebrows when the media started labelling famous Cosplayers with that term a few years ago. Something –just- doesn’t sit right. Might be the whole fandom versus commercialism thing that strikes me as queer. defines a 'Professional' as below:

pro·fes·sion·al (adjective)

1.following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.
2.of, pertaining to, or connected with a profession: professional studies.
3.appropriate to a profession: professional objectivity.
4.engaged in one of the learned professions: A lawyer is a professional person.
5.following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime: a professional golfer.

As described by the term, a professional cosplayer should be someone whose livelihood is wholly sustained by Cosplay. Or at least, it should be a medium for them to gain substantial (financial/material) benefits from. Makes sense?

I've had this discussion with Decadence a few years back. And we both agree that by strict definition, it's pretty impossible to have a 'Professional' cosplayer. By strict definition, a professional Cosplayer would have to be someone who is paid to Cosplay. Somewhat like a professional actor who is paid to well, act.

Yes, you might argue that Yayahan and Alodia's doing it. But if you allow me to comment objectively, I'd say both of them are earning their bread not directly from cosplay itself but from their merchandise and presence.

And this is the part that gets grey.

Because even though both above mentioned Cosplayers don't get their money from doing the hobby itself, it is definitely their jumping board, trademark and selling point. So that makes it hard to separate both entities.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to shoot the above mentioned cosplayers down, I admire them and think they are all awesome in different ways. I'm just analyzing objectively.

So begs the question, is the term 'Professional Cosplayers' valid? Share with me your opinion on this!

Ps: All Images used copyrighted to their respective owners. I claim no rights.


fox's secrets said…
Hello there! I've recently started following your blog site and I'm excited to give a first comment entry for your discussion. :) (Wonderful, wonderful blog by the way...!)

What I imagine under the term of a "Professional cosplayer" might be something different entirely. I'd say that a "pro" is someone who can pull any outfit of the character they love with grace and tip top costume, all archived by HQ cameras and DSLRs.
Making a living out of a hobby you enjoy sounds just like a dream coming true to me, haha. Maybe a bit impossible too, if you ask me. But I acknowledge that these "professional cosplayers" do get paid for their "job" which is practically just doing what they love.
On the other hand, I doubt a living can be made just from this.

So, yes and no. The term might be valid when it comes to the quality and prestige, but perhaps not so much when it comes to money.
Meru said…
Hi Kaika!
As far as i've scoured (not a whole lot >_<), there doesn't seem to be people being paid to Cosplay. Like you've already mentioned, Cosplaying is almost strictly a hobby, but there are certain 'grey' areas. For instance, you get paid to be on a programme that features Cosplaying - that's being paid to Cosplay, in a way. Though, you can also argue that it's on a similar plane as what an actor is. So you're being paid to act - not Cosplay, but the two are interlinked in this case.

However, while Cosplaying may not be a very lucrative market (if any at all), it can, and has been used for noble purposes such as fundraising. In that sense, there may still be a hope for Cosplaying as a job in the future. Maybe being paid like a model in a fashion show-esque kind of style?

I enjoy reading your blog by the way, it probes into Cosplay as more of a lifestyle and/or lifelihood with real issues.

Looking forward to more insightful posts in the future! ^^
Daidairo said…
Frankly, it's hard to define a 'professional' cosplayer. Let's say a company pays the coser to cosplay... Does the coser pay for his or her costumes/props? If so, the pay received has to exceed that by quite a bit. Or does the company have a budget? Or does the company actually PROVIDE the costume for the coser... Which would make the coser more of a model/actor rather than cosplayer.

Another question linked to all this is 'What defines a 'cosplayer'?' How does it differ from a regular costumer/seamstress(tailor), or from an actor (who buys everything or gets it tailor made)?

If we go by the definition that a cosplayer is one who makes at least 70% of his/her costume and props, then a professional cosplayer would be someone who was paid to sew, craft, makeup, style, act, appear at events and go for professional photoshoots. It'd be a really, REALLY wide range of things to do... And then there's the fact that said company may do it a few times a year, but not all the time, so living purely off the profits of that sounds highly difficult.

It's like being a voice actor (the not so famous ones); when you have a job, you get paid. Otherwise, you take up something else to make sure you get to eat. =)
Mike Abundo said…
Here's Maridah's take on the matter:

"If a person is a cosplayer and is sponsored by a company to promote a product they don’t suddenly stop being a cosplayer. They just stop being a hobbyist in that instance. It’s a hobby for most of us, but that’s more situational than by design."
Jerry said…
Well... I've seen those cosplayers, and one of the most recent and accurate example is Pikminlink/Li Kovacs for cosplaying Link and Zelda for Nintendo. In the first place, she started just cosplaying Link/these characters, before she was EVER hired by the company. Anywho, if you are hired to cosplay, then you are a professional.

Cosplayers have a major difference from models, they actually are involved in portraying the character, their passion is actually what made them qualified and thus hired to do certain characters. Compared to regular non-otaku models, who are basically hired just to look good in costume, and HOPEFULLY portray the character well. :P When it comes to cosplayers, it's pretty much a sure shot. ^_~
pohcbSonic said…
It's an hobby. creativityness, art, friendships, etc comes with it. Not a professional in terms of work. No such thing as "professional cosplayer".
If it's a profession, it would be considered to be modelling wouldn't it. Believed read it somewhere where ther's contraversity between modelling and cosplaying, which is too complex to comprehend.

Though cosplayers do get famous, if they really cosed and got into theor characters well, provided with many photogs and, of course, their photos taken got them all over the world, and poof! they are famous. That's how it goes, I think.
Kai kuchiki said…
I would rather say it is a hobby (even though I was once given a little compensation just to cosplay)=.='..
As far as I know there are a lot of cosplayers out there who do not get paid by cosplaying..and there are also some who do get paid but is still not considered 'professional cosplayer'..=.=' The real thing that confuses (and somehow annoys me) are those so-called cosplayers/ models (I'm not talking about alodia, her story is a different.^^, ) who call themselves professional cosplayers but knows little about the character that they portray.>.>
Aly said…
I've had this conversation with a childhood friend of mine;; He told me that I should be a professional cosplayer and go to Japan and stuff.
To be honest, I never thought too much into it (obviously I said that cosplay was just a hobby and not something I'd like to gain money off) but I'm agreeing with your points on this subject.
I don't think the term "Professional Cosplayer" is valid - cosplay is a hobby, not a profession. I mean, I hear stories about "famous" cosplayers - they have normal jobs like we all do - their "professions" and I've never heard of any of them being paid to make costumes, to "cosplay". I don't believe the term is correct to say "professional cosplayer".
Anonymous said…
I think that what makes a cosplayer "professional" is the attitude towards Cosplay.I don't really care how high profile or how many awards he/she has won, but if they are friendly and has the correct attitude towards cosplay (but in this case, what makes it the correct attitude depends on one also LOL). I think that makes my mark!
Anonymous said…
Professional cosplayers are cosplayers who are approached by event organizers, inviting them to be judges or guests of their event, to attract both cosplayers and members of the public to interact with the said cosplayer.
narutaki said…
i dont really believe the term professional is appropriate for Cosplay. anyone can be commissioned as an endorser, a model, a photographer, an actor, a tailor, a judge and even a Mascot, but thats it you get paid to do a job,but not as a cosplayer its just that being a cosplayer is a bonus.

i even encountered people calling themeselves freelance cosplayers before which in my opinion doesnt sound right either,
icie said…
Perhaps the unaddressed issue is "What constitutes a professional?" beyond what the dictionary provides.
Some people, as we have seen here, see professional as having attained a certain skill level above the average cosplayer or hobbyist.
Others say a professional is born when an amateur is paid for their services -- no matter the amount or the frequency with which they are paid.
Others, when a cosplayer is acknowledged by an "official" source, such as a game company, a convention (as guest or mascot), etc. Case in point: SPCATs from S. Korea.

The strictest definition of a professional (and this is coming from the photography sphere, where the distinction between pro and amateur is similarly unclear), would be the dictionary definition. That is, you are a making a living out of it. Where if someone asks you in an elevator "what do you do for a living?" you can without hesitation say "I cosplay".
I think that the aforementioned sales revenue from associated merchandise such as prints and keychains can constitute part of this equation -- they are making money based directly or indirectly on their cosplay.
That said, I highly doubt there are many cosplayers who can claim to be making a living out of cosplay. The money and market isn't there.
But cosplayers can, by focusing on specific parts of their hobby, develop related careers, be it as models, actors, or costume/fashion designers. In fact, I know of at least one cosplayer in Australia who now does the costumes for a theatre, on the basis of her strong portfolio developed in cosplay.
Shinju said…
It's really hard to define what a professional cosplayer might mean, but I think Kamui might fit the description. She works part time for Apotheosis agency and she basically gets paid to make cosplay costumes and wear them at certain conventions. The same for the rest of the cosplayers working for Apotheosis (They are in the US, as far as I know). Since a big part of cosplay is crafting, those cosplayers who live out of commissions might be called this. I am doing this, but I don't feel I can call myself that, since for me "professional" means a certain degree ok knowledge and I never feel I know enough or that I'm good enough...

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