Breakfast with Black Quasar

9/28/2018

We live in a strange world. Subcultures like goth & punk have become mainstream aesthetic yet actual punks & goths are still ostracized, drag queens rule the internet and our TVs yet our government is taking every opportunity to destroy the LGBT community, and online music platforms have removed all need for record labels or corporate entities, yet most artist still strive to be signed. In this weird contradiction, singer/songwriter Awleen, and her performance platform Black Quasar, has become a huge breath of fresh air in Atlanta. After attending a few of her events I knew I had to sit down with her. So, a few messages later, I’m sitting at West End Krispy Kreme blown away when this woman, who looks like some sort of live-action Disney witch. A couple of classic glazed between us, I knew with would be interesting.

What is Black Quasar? What does the name mean? Where did it come from?

Black Quasar is a platform for all creative people to come in with us and promote themselves. In the beginning, I was looking for performance opportunities, but without a manager or any kind of assistance or clout, finding a quality gig is difficult, and a paying gig is next to impossible. Then I realized I could get a venue myself, sell tickets myself, and create a tribe, a network of people who can grow and become something more, but on our own terms. As far as what the name means, A quasar is both the darkest and the brightest thing in the known universe. When a black hole has taken in too much matter, it releases beams of energy that are brighter than any stars. It’s incredibly rare, also I love the color black. I like to say it’s the color of my soul.

Your name has been popping up everywhere in the city, seems like every week your doing something awesome. What inspired you to go so heavy into events rather than the traditional studio hermit route most local unsigned artists take?

I love performing, and I wanted the opportunity to perform in a way that would allow me to invest in myself. Becoming both the business as well as the product by eliminating the middleman.

For me, this is something I’m seeing more and more of, with Punk Black, or The Early Show, Controllerise, and all these other monthly concert functions. I remember when a lot of artists only option was open mic nights and coffee shops and hoping somebody would buy your cd or maybe get your music of Bandcamp, but now, with services like distrokid, SoundCloud, and monthly concert functions any talented artist can find a fairly consistent platform to build from. With Black Quasar, Awleen has done exactly that. Going from someone I’d never even heard of before to having her own stage at Sweet Auburn Fest and performing all over the city. These feats are already noteworthy on their own, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the kind of music she makes.

I’ve noticed your music style is very versatile. Can you try and describe your sound for those unfamiliar with it?

I have this obsession with darkness and sadness because I feel like it’s the most authentic form of human expression because people spend more time forcing themselves to be happy than they do pretending to be sad. I don’t want to be defined, my music is a cluster of everything, from gospel, to rock, to jazz, even screaming gospel. I’ve rapped a few times but I’m incredibly conflicted and shy in that form because of years of ostracization from the black community.  

When did you realize you wanted to make a career out of this?

For as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to be a singer. As a child, I thought of any other career as a possible back up plan. In elementary school I wrote my first poems, in middle school, I got my first guitar. I didn’t learn how to play for a long time cause I felt overwhelmed by it, but eventually, I wrote my first song, about a crush. A typical middle school corny love song. As a got older I started writing with purpose, and I know I have notebooks full of music.

Any word on when you’re releasing a project?

Soon.

Not to get too personal, but you are a happily engaged woman if my information is correct. People are obsessed with the idea that the path to success is lonely, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. So, what do you say to the artists who want to find love but have their careers too?

The path of success is only lonely if you refuse to compromise. You may have the same goal but you have to keep in mind you’re still separate entities. As long as you don’t undermine or betray one another, and that goes beyond romantic relationships. Authentic connections, compromise, and finding ways to reach goals together.

3 Breakfast must haves?

Gotta have waffles and a nice fruity syrup, like strawberry, and orange juice.

Top 10 most played songs on your playlist right now?

Willow Smith- Female Energy

Lots of Lana Del Ray, but especially her song Cherry

Flyleaf

Evanescence

The Queen of the Damned Soundtrack

I also watch a lot of physics videos which take up a lot of my time

You’ve just been given all the power in the world to create the tour of your dreams. Pick 1 living artists and 1 dead artist as your openers.

Marilyn Monroe, then Lana Del Rey, and then myself. It would be an amazing past, present, future kind of vibe.

What song made you fall in love with music?

AFI- Miss Murder, it was the first rock song I heard that really hit me, I was excited at the idea of what music could be.

Pancakes or waffles?

Waffles because they have the grooves to hold the syrup, and non-vegan waffles use whipped egg whites in the batter that create a perfect fluffy inside.

In this city, there’s at least 3 different art events or parties happening every night, and a lot of them are lame. Your events are always great. What’s the secret to a successful event?

Making sure there’s something to do for everybody. A lot of people focus on just having music and nothing else, but if there’s gaming, some kind of free activity, and also attractive women helping you promote always helps. Most importantly, a well thought out, written plan. My partner and I will sit down for four hours and strategically plan who we call for every event we do.

I can honestly say I’ve never heard an artist like you. The way you mix rap, genuine musicianship, soul, and gothic energies amaze me. So, final question, do you realize how dope you are?

Oh, um, i don’t know. I try to be humble. I do want to create a new wave of music, that goes beyond genre. Humans are like rainbows, we can’t be expressed simply through one color.

My favorite line in music history is “be every color that you are” and Awleen lives that completely. For some, she may be the dark gothic girl you try not to look at when you walk down the street but for others, she’s a beacon of light, and I can’t wait for the day the whole world witnesses her light

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Breakfast with Alex Wex

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12/4/2018

People have a million opinions and false facts about the digital world we live in today, and even more about social media. For a lot of people, they use platforms like Instagram and Twitter to follow celebrities, and some use it to bully celebrities. Most forget that that connection can also be used for good. We live in a world of amazing accessibility and, when used properly, could foster a wonderful connection between people. A prime example of this is the Will Smith Jump event that took the internet by storm, that all started with a video message. It’s incredible what can happen when you reach out to people. That was the main thought in my mind before sitting down with Alex Wex yesterday. Alex Wex is an amazing Twitch streamer, and until recently, was a producer for FBE and REACT on Youtube. As of this interview, Alex Wex has fostered a wonderful community through Twitch and Discord known as the Jank Squad, and recently broke his view count record at 210 viewers for his birthday stream, also hitting close to 600 subscribers. Given that I was in Atlanta and he was in LA we couldn’t actually meet for breakfast like I usually do so we had an amazing video chat instead.

So for starters, I just want to thank you for sitting down with me. I’ve been following your work since I first saw you on FBE and I think you’re an awesome dude so thanks. I wanna start at the very beginning because I’m really interested in your story. So, I know you went to high school in Atlanta, GA. What can you tell me about that?

I was actually born in Manhattan, my family moved to Atlanta around pre-K and I lived there up until I graduated from Riverwood High School. All my friends wanted to go to UGA or Georgia Tech but I was really interested in traveling and branching out, so I went to Ohio for college, and now I live in L.A. I made some truly amazing friends in Atlanta, and having this kind of east coast, south culture mixture has made life pretty interesting.

When did you know you wanted to work in entertainment, and what led to you becoming a producer?

When I was a kid, my family liked to record family videos, and I always wanted to see the recording. I had the eye for production pretty early. Once I started high school I got involved in performing, did Grease, The Wiz, and a few other school plays that got me interested in the performance aspect as well. In college, I majored in video production with a minor in film and sociology so I gained real knowledge of the art that happens behind the camera.

How does one go from school in Atlanta to working at FBE?

As I mentioned before I went to college at Ohio University, what got me was their video production department. I actually still work with the head of the department and speak to the alumni when they come here, advising them on some dos and don’ts. As a graduation gift, my Dad gave me an all expense paid trip to anywhere I wanted to go in the U.S for a few days and I chose L.A. So I was here, hanging out with my current roommate Johnny and we just decided to come out here permanently and live the dream. So I packed up my car and drove from Atlanta to LA and started looking for internships while working at Chipotle.I first joined FBE as an intern, then got hired as a PA and eventually was a writer for some of their scripted shows, and I worked my way up until I was offered the producer position. I loved producing because that involved every aspect of working behind the camera, from writing to filming to editing and seeing the baby from birth to fully grown. Being in front of the camera came back when FBE launched the community team and started streaming on Twitch.

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Watching Alex grow on YouTube, putting reactors in hilarious challenges, eat crazy concoctions and brave some insane hot sauces that would make Sean Evans proud, his personality radiates through the screen. His passion for both sides of the camera is clear in the quality of every video he makes. However, taking part in one of his Twitch streams gives you an even more full experience. It’s like the difference between a teaser trailer and a full film.

Freddy or Jason?

Freddy is my favorite in Dead By Daylight but I love Jason, in fact, Friday the 13th was the first game I ever streamed. I’d have to say, Jason.

So, we were in high school in the baby years of YouTube, I mostly used it for music videos and anime, I think back then I only followed Phil Defranco and Timothy Delaghetto consistently. Back then, did you ever look at YouTube and think “this is going to revolutionize the world and turn traditional media on its head?”

Yeah, it’s changed everything. Almost every network has a YouTube channel now. Late night shows and things like SNL upload segments that get massive amounts of views. YouTube is still growing, testing out its premium service and channel enrollment and things like that, but it’s exciting to see where it’s going to end up.

It’s even crazier when you think about how much Twitch has already changed the game.

Definitely, I mean we’ve seen what happens when some of the top YouTube creators come over to Twitch and realize that it’s completely different from what they’re used to. It’s more like an improv radio show, you have to be on for two or three hours and avoid dead air, rather than being able to edit something together. It’s hard to be constantly entertaining when you’re used to delivering a finished edit rather than a live audience. For example, Logan Paul had over 100,000 people in his first stream but after that, the numbers dropped just cause that’s not his world. Live Streaming is a constant conversation. It’s the opposite of YouTube.

I remember seeing YouTubers flood to Twitch after the adpocalypse and feeling like it made no sense. A lot of vloggers and creators who never expressed any interest in video games were all suddenly obsessed with Fortnite. However, when people like Alex Wex came to Twitch they brought genuine love of gaming, skill, and a great sense of community.

What insight can you give into the world of a producer? Especially on the internet, how to figure out what videos are gonna get views or go viral?

It’s a case by case basis depending on what you make. With Challenge Chalice, we made it during the high point of internet challenges and we had consistent challenges to make content with constantly, but this past year challenges have kinda quieted down so that got more difficult. We revisited and revised a lot of earlier challenges to make them more interesting, and that has to do with being present during every step of the process. You can’t slack off on anything, from script to editing. Being organized is key, and definitely take on the ideas and criticisms of the people working with you. Be flexible and open-minded. It’s not about balance, it’s about harmony.

3 Breakfast must haves?

Bacon

Grits

Belgian Waffles are incredible

Hack-n-slash? RPG? Or FPS? And why?

That’s complicated. Overwatch is one of my favorite games but it doesn’t play exactly like an FPS. For me, hack-n-slash for games like Dead Cells, Rogue Lights, I love games with massive replay value. I’m playing Diablo 3 on switch right now and I love it.

What games are best for streaming? Does the game you play matter?

A little, but it shouldn’t be everything. You want your audience to gravitate towards your personality. Never play something you don’t enjoy playing. I love Overwatch and it’s not one of the current hot stream games but I love playing it. Story games are complicated. If people miss parts of story mode games they tune it out cause they won’t know what’s going on. More than anything put your own spin on what you’re doing. For example, when I do Dead By Daylight I do stream vs chat where my chat helps the survivors escape if I’m playing the killer. In fact, chatting streams are starting to really blow up. It’s more about the person playing than the game they play.

What game has you hype for 2019?

That’s tough, but probably Kingdom Hearts 3. I’m excited for Smash Bros for my last game of 2018 too.

What led you to Twitch?

I’d seen some of it, but Tom had been doing it for 6 months and kept suggesting it until one day I finally did. I had a decent setup with an ultra-wide monitor and Tom’s old video capture device and I started streaming Dead by Daylight. We actually came into the name Jank Squad because of how janky the streams were in the beginning.

What led you to leave FBE and what are you working on now?

I wanted to focus more on my Twitch, and it was exhausting streaming at work on the days when I’m also streaming at home. I wanted to give my audience the most energy I could and be more involved with them as a community. I’m creating new ways to interact with my audience, more active in my Discord, and after working there for 5 years I felt stuck. There wasn’t any new learning experience and things felt a little sour and monotonous with the new direction things were going in. I’m actually getting a new camera and a green screen to upgrade the stream quality. I’d love to make partner with Twitch.

What’s the dream?

I take things to step by step. I’m definitely in a transition right now. I’m looking for another good full-time job at the moment. I’d love to be a full-time streamer but I’d also love to produce my own stuff and then stream after work. Streaming is probably one of the most consistent things I’ve ever done. Funny enough, that’s part of what got me into it cause Tom knew my leisure activity was video games, and streaming just takes that to another level. It definitely takes work, but the community you foster on this platform is unlike any other with the rating system and how everything is set up.

Alright so the zombie apocalypse is upon us and you can have 1 mortal character, one god tier video game character, and one Reactor in your survival squad, who you got?

Kratos from God of War 2 causes his chain blades would tear through everything, my regular would be Leon from Resident Evil 4 cause his aim is amazing and he’s used to zombies, and my Reactor would be Chelsea cause she knows so much about The Walking Dead. That’s my squad.

East Coast or West Coast?

East, it’s where I was born and bred.

Top 10 songs or artists on your playlist right now?

Meek Mill- Intro with the amazing Phil Collins sample

Tyler the Creator’s Grinch is great for the holidays

The Cool-Lupe Fiasco

Chance The Rapper’s new songs

Paramore- Ain’t It Fun

You come from the same city I did with only a two year age difference, and you’re the first brown face I saw in relation to FBE and now you’re killing it on Twitch. Do you know how dope you are?

I appreciate that. I like to think I’m dope in some ways but I also do my best to keep it real, keep myself humble, and not letting the numbers get to my head. I hope everyone thinks they’re fucking awesome, cause they are. I have my good and bad days but I like to look at what has been built and keep grinding. Everyone is on a different time stream. I don’t want to rush things, I’m on my own path, and right now I just wanna build this community.

I for one, am excited to see what comes next from Alex Wex, including his stream later this week. You can find him @ItsMrWex

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Breakfast with King Kitsu

2/1/2019

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King Kitsu is a black trans man making a name for himself in the cosplay world and having a good time doing it. From amazing suit builds, to mashups, to fun videos with other cosplay friends and even a highly praised live performance, Kitsu represents the best part of what cosplay, and the cosplay community, is, a place to find freedom, expression, and acceptance. In today’s world of professional cosplayers, Kitsu delivers professional level work but does it for the fun of it. As a trans woman and a newcomer to the world of cosplay, I was blown away as I learned more and more about him.

Do you remember the first character you wanted to cosplay?

I was super into EDM and I ended up doing Deadmau5 in high school after I saw a friend of mine make one out of a hamster ball and some fabric. We ended up going to a con and I was hooked.  

Please explain the origin of your cosplay name

I’m a Kingdom Hearts and Disney nerd, and King Mickey is the most badass thing I’ve ever seen.

Where did Grandpa Kitsu come from?

A lot of people who’ve met me have called me old, cause I’ve experienced a lot and been through a lot. Despite me being a goofball 98% of the time there are things I can speak on and things I can do that come from my experiences. I also go to bed early, have bad hips, a bad back, and complain about kids being loud.

What was the moment where cosplay became more than just a hobby for you?

It’s still a hobby honestly. I speak on things as much as I do because this isn’t my profession or career. It’s my creative outlet. I do it for fun and to make good memories with my friends.

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3 Breakfast Essentials?

I only just recently started actually eating breakfast so right now it’s just Starbucks.

When did you take up building? Were those skills you had before becoming a cosplayer?

My first was Deadmau5 and I’m still not sure how I did it. I don’t understand how I was so confident and not paranoid like I usually am. I had no experience before that, but my dad’s an engineer so maybe that has something to do with it.

What steps do you take when you’re deciding who to cosplay?

Normally I’ll just think about it when I see a nice design. if I’m watching the show and I like a specific character I’ll be like “nice outfit, mind if I look up some references?” Sometimes I’ll talk to some of my friends about certain characters and we’ll decide to do a group cosplay.

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Dream cosplay?

Either Wisdom Form Sora, Xehanort, Xemnas, and to revamp my Vanitas. Zack from Final Fantasy is a big one as well.

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What’s your big goal or dream?

Being financially stable probably. I’d love to become a dressmaker for award shows, possibly movies. My dreams change often but it’s always within the world of costuming

Favorite anime?

Yikes, I want to say Naruto but I haven’t finished it yet. I’d probably have to say My Hero Academia. I love that they dive into every character. Both of these shows have motivated me to become a better person and helped me with my transition.

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Favorite game?

Kingdom Hearts 2

Do you think you’d be safer as a normal person living in the Marvel Universe or the DC universe?

Maybe Marvel, if I lived in the woods by myself.

I can see from your incredible Vanitus cosplay that you’re a kingdom hearts fan. Favorite game? Favorite keyblade warrior?

Kingdom Hearts 2

Mickey

If your life was being turned into a manga would it be an ecchi, a shonen, a slice of life, or something else entirely?

One of those fourth wall breaking comedies like One Punch Man, with some slice of life and seriousness.

The apocalypse has come and you can assemble a squad to keep you alive. Only 1 immortal/god tier character allowed. What 2 video game and 2 anime characters do you pick?

Sora

Escanor from Seven Deadly Sins

Zack from FFVII

Dabi from My Hero Academia

When did you realize you were trans?

It wasn’t a realization, more like a build up. Going to a Christian white school and realizing I like girls, and then realizing I like presenting masculine, then realizing it’s ok to be genderfluid and test out pronouns, and then finally realizing I was trans. I kind of tiptoed into it.  

Top songs on your playlist right now?

Focus by Charli XCX

Someone that you love by Jarreau Vandal

WestWorld by Evan Gia

The Getaway by OddKidOut

To The Moon by Tokyo

Free Fall by Pool Club

Enough by The Endorphins

Being a poc cosplayer is putting yourself in the crosshairs for racist comments disguised as “purists” nonstop. Being trans on top of that is even more difficult, what gets you through it?

I’ve gotten so used to negativity and backlash that I address it and move on pretty quickly. It still gets to me but at the end of the day, I can’t make people change. The best I can do is speak up and speak the truth. Support is nice but I’d prefer people spread proper information than just tell me I’m right all the time.

A  number of people don’t actually transition, what were your thoughts going into it?

It was a no at first, the negative thoughts were pretty much inescapable, but eventually, I just said: “fuck it, I’m confident in myself that I can become the person I want to become.” It was definitely the right choice for me.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to transition, but is absolutely terrified?

Go to therapy and talk about everything. I tried to accept myself as female, tried to be the baddest bitch I can be, and I was feeling myself, but that wasn’t who I wanted to be. It was like a trial and error run. Figure out what you need to do to love yourself.

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When I asked my final question “do you know how dope you are” Kitsu replied with a silent shake of the head, and I burst out laughing. We live in a time where most of us have turned our interests/outlets into jobs. We love it, but it’s draining and takes a toll, sometimes leaving us jaded. Most of all it changes how we interact with everyone around us who does what we do. I’m grateful to wonderful people like Kitsu, who remind us why we started doing this kinda stuff in the first place.

It’s fun!

Follow his instagram @kingkitsu

Why we don’t need a Zendaya album…yet

2/12/2019

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I love Zendaya, I think she’s absolutely incredible. She’s a wonderful role model for young girls and is truly changing the world of entertainment. Rather than ditch her Disney roots and go crazy to prove she was grown she became an executive producer for her second show and rose from Disney Channel to MCU. This brilliant move, as well as everything else she’s hustled and fought for has kept her working and spread her across so many screens that she’s undoubtedly one of the biggest stars of 2019. Thousands of people love her, follow her on social media, and make sure to watch most, if not all, of the projects she takes on. However, one look at her twitter and you see what has gone from a question to an ongoing joke among the fan base: where is her second album? Her first album was released six years ago, and fans have been eager for a follow-up ever since. But, in my opinion, we don’t need one, at least not right now.

Strictly musically speaking, Zendaya is constantly releasing music, most of it in connection to movies she’s in. Everything from the musical Greatest Showman (for which she learned trapeze) to a single song for her kid’s movie Smallfoot, there’s no shortage of music from her, but more than that, think about how a full album would change things for her. Right now Zendaya has a film and TV schedule of projects set to come out this year and 2020. She’s been, for lack of a more fitting phrase, acting her ass off. Small screens and big screens, she’s all over them. She constantly addresses dating rumors simply by telling us she doesn’t have time, and from that release schedule, she’s right. I couldn’t tell you the last time we saw any evidence of a vacation. She’s constantly working. So, rather than complain about what she isn’t doing, let’s praise and support her for what she is doing, being a badass!

Breakfast with Sarahndipity Cosplay

2/21/2019

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Sarahndipity hasn’t been cosplaying long, but in the 2-3 years she’s been doing this she’s already cultivated a wonderful community of support. There’s a uniqueness to what she does that just pulls you in. From popular Marvel heroes like Miles Morales & Domino to lesser-known heroes from Dungeons and Dragons podcasts, Sarahndipity executes her cosplays perfectly, sometimes even using Tik Tok to truly step into the character and create some hilarious content. She’s quickly become one of my absolute favorite cosplayers and it was an absolute joy to sit with her.

Explain your cosplay name

I like words that have the sound of my name, and putting my name in. Serendipity is one of my favorites so when I made my page that just sounded good. It’s essentially a pun.

Where did the idea to do cosplay with tik tok come from?

I saw people doing it and it looked like a fun time so I figured I’d give it a try

What is The Adventure Zone?

The Adventure Zone is a podcast from the McElroy family. It’s them playing Dungeons & Dragons but not really knowing what they’re doing. They end up telling a great, and very funny, story.

Ok, please explain your love for survivor?

It’s a really interesting game. If I ever got the chance to be on the show I’d love it, it’s so well put together.

Alright, so I’m gonna let your mind play for a second. My Hero Academia: Survivor. Students only, whose winning, and whose voted off first?

The first person out would be Koji because he lacks social skills, and the winner would probably be either Momo or Invisible Girl.

So according to twitter you do D&D. What’s your character?

I have a lot of characters, making characters is really fun.

Have you listened to Wonderwall yet?

I finally did, but I wasn’t impressed. I feel like it’s been overhyped cause of the meme for it. I probably would like it if I’d heard it earlier in my life.

Who was the first character you cosplayed?

Officially, it would’ve been Emerald RWBY.

What got you into cosplay?

The Peter Pan actor from Disney Parks that went super viral on tumblr a few years back. It made me want to work there as Jasmine and after seeing some incredible Jasmine I cosplayers I finally made a costume when I got invited to Colossalcon a few years back.

Top 5 songs on your playlist right now

Marshmello- Happier

Myster Skulls- Ghosts

ARIZONZ- Freaking Out

Blackway- What’s Up Danger

Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra- Kiss The Sky

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The apocalypse has come and you can have a survival squad made up of you, one god tier character, and two characters you’ve cosplayed

That’s actually a really hard one. Let’s say Shigaraki, Domino, and Deadpool. A villian, and 2 mercenaries. Shigaraki could defend well turning everything to dust, Domino’s luck would definitely help, and Deadpool’s humor would keep morale up.  

3 Breakfast Essentials

Orange Juice

Cereal

Bacon

What new skills have you learned since pursuing cosplay?

Before this, I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine, but after getting one as a gift from my high school home ec teacher and watching some YouTube tutorials I figured it out. I also learned building and constructing with foam and wires.

What’s your favorite thing about cosplay?

Getting to be creative, and figuring out how to make things work since I usually make my cosplays, and of course, portraying the character.

As a black woman, what is your dream cosplay?

I don’t know at the moment, because it used to be Jasmine, but I did that.

What’s your dream?

I want to do something creative, probably being a writer since that’s what I study, but as long as I’m being creative and enjoying it that’s what I want.

Do you know how dope you are?

Well, I don’t know. I guess that’s pretty cool to hear. Thank you.

Writer, cosplayer, gamer, survivor, regardless of the medium, Sarahndipity is a true creative, and I’m eager to see what she’ll create next. She seems almost fearless and unbelievably driven, facing challenges head on, learning whatever skills she needs to overcome new obstacles. She’s an inspiration.