Cosplay, short for ‘costume play” saved my life. It is very like performance art, whereby the players generally hand-make costumes that represent popular or iconic characters. Some people go to a step beyond simply “wearing” the costumes, and actually role-play the character. For me comply was never about fandom. I didn’t play a single character over and over. Instead, I played multiple characters, sometimes at the same event. It was about creating the costume and the character and then embodying that role. My sources varied and included anime, manga, literary figures, characters from TV, comic books, video games and film. Sometimes the characters weren’t female (crossplaying), and sometimes they weren’t even human. Others times altogether, they were entirely inanimate.
The most memorable types of cosplay have a sexual component. Admittedly, most of my costumes involved bikini-wear and minimal fabric. This is true, because many of my favorite characters are best represented by their beautiful and sexual bodies, but also because I enjoyed the attention these outfits afforded me. However, I only ever embodied strong female archetypes. My cosplay was decidedly feminist.
I believe it is common to consider cosplay a hobby, but for me it was an identity born out of multiple identities –each of which brought me a little bit closer to myself. Before cosplay I was “Joan Smythe,” nerd and loner. In high school I was so out of touch with who I was, I literally wore my brother’s clothes and agreed with them whe my fellow students called me a “dyke” or a “loser.” I discovered cosplay my senior year, and when I did, nothing my classmates called me mattered, because that girl wearing the Queen Amidala wig and white battle costume that she’d made herself.
It wasn’t a Halloween stunt, as my mother suggested, or a childish pastime, as my father believed. It was an identity that made me stronger, smarter and more creative than I’d ever been as Joan. So I changed my name to Jane, the cosplayer, the costume designer, the role –player, and I grew within that woman to become someone strong and capable. In the places where I met with other cosplayers, I belonged.
For me, as important as the events and competitions are themselves, it is the photo shoots I meticulously stage with every costume that outshine everything else. I am lucky enough to consistently work with thoughtful photographers who are willing to work with me until we achieve my vision. I apply my make up with an eye toward the photographs over the events, using thick coats and bush strokes to achieve maximum theatricality.
Copsplay is no longer my escape. It is my reality. The idea of entering a fantasy world, counterintuitive though it may seem, can actually serve as a guidepost toward the certainty of a soul. I know myself better and in more detail than I did when I was younger. Of course, one might say, the same is true of making friends. Creating a circle of intimate friends and close acquaintances provides living mirrors through which one might best understand oneself. Before cosplay, I didn’t have any of these.
It is clear to me that cosplay is a tool by which I have come to know myself. Overtime I have come to take it less seriously and embrace it as an outlet of entertainment. But the woman that has developed within it is one that knows her goals and understands her own mind. I will always cosplay, but that will only be a portion of who I am. I believe that a law school education is exactly the evolution the character, “Jane Smith” needs to achieve. But I also believe that a great law school program such as the one you offer, will simply evolve for the better with my acceptance into your program. You will be gaining a creative, confident and self-aware woman for whom stepping out of her own skin and into someone’s else only serves to make her more herself.
Know your audience.
At the end of the first paragraph, I still do not know what “cosplay” is. Is this happening in a park? Is it something that goes on through all of life? What is the “play” component — is it just dressing up in costumes, or does it involve an activity? She could be much clearer about the answers to these questions.
This applicant is a decent writer and understands that the fundamental goal of the personal statement is to convey that she is a person the admissions committee wants at its school. I know this because of how she ends: “You will be gaining a creative, confident and self-aware woman for whom stepping out of her own skin and into someone else’s only serves to make her more herself.”
Despite her understanding of the purpose of a personal statement, she misses the mark with regard to execution. Using one’s personal statement to discuss how one’s hobbies have led to one’s self-realization is fine, and if those hobbies are unusual, that is fine as well. But what is not fine is if a hobby comes across as a tool for handling a psychological issue that could impede one’s ability to be a lawyer. And fortunately, that is how “cosplay” sounds in this essay.
In addition to not even really understanding what cosplay is –it appears to involve her dressing up and just existing in various personas —I do not know what the take –away from it is for her as an adult, only what the activity meant to her in high school, when she was lonely and nerdy. That is fine. Talk about that. But then the following sentence suggests that in the present day, she continues to dress as multiple personas: “Cosplay is no longer my escape. It is my reality. The idea of entering a fantasy world, counterintuitive though it may seem, can actually serve as a guidepost toward the certainty of a soul.”
This does not make her sound like someone who will make a good lawyer.
I also want to address this sentence: “The most memorable types of cosplay have a sexual component. Admittedly, most of my costumes involved bikini-wear and minimal fabric.”
I know that law school, and the legal profession, are viewed by many – including me – as excessively traditional. But that is because these institutions are excessively traditional, and the point of the personal statement is to be admitted to this excessively traditional world. I could not in good conscience advise a candidate to write about being a sexual hobbyist, especially without contextualizing such a remark better than she does. For example, she calls it “decidedly feminist,” but she does not explain how or why or what feminism means to her. A comment like this must read as a necessary piece of information to her story, and the story itself should read as critical to who she is and what she wants to do in law.
When I reach the point of the essay at which this sentence appears, I am confused as to why she is sharing this information, and –if I am putting on my admissions –officer-with-who-knows-what-values-and beliefs hat –I am dubious about her choice to include it, maybe even even dubious about her suitability for a law career, based on her decision to share the information with an admissions committee.
Lawyers are fired all the time for showing up scantily clothed to events or for appearing scantily clad in photos on social media sites. Hate that reality if you want, but if this is a battle you want to fight, fight it after you secure a law job; do not sabotage your legal career before it even starts by including gratuitous personal information in your application.
I would want to have a frank conversation with this application about what the legal profession is like and how she expects to exist within it. I am not implying that she should not attend law school, but she needs to understand that living in costumes is not going to work in 99% of the profession, and suggesting, even implicitly, that is what she believes is certainly not going to help her get accepted to her target JD program. She may still be able to incorporate the subject of cosplay into an appropriate story about herself, one that would lend itself to law school admittance, but this story has a long way to go before it is ready to be submitted to any school.