At its heart, Geek Bomb is fundamentally about celebrating, inspiring, and getting to know women in geek. Founded by our Boss Bomb Maude Garrett and featuring a Bomb Squad filled with diverse, talented, and totally badass ladies, Geek Bomb has a mindset much like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Females are strong as hell. And it’s about time we start celebrating that again. So, we’ve decided to relaunch Women in Geek, our interview series that spotlights, shows off, and talks about the wonderful ladies who are leading the geek entertainment field.
Joining us this week is Akakioga, a cosplayer extraordinaire whose interests range from blasting the enemy team in Overwatch to creating insanely well-crafted costumes to laughin’ it up at internet memes (we couldn’t be happier to chat with a fellow meme queen, to be quite honest). In our continued efforts to spotlight women in the nerd world, we spoke with Akakioga about how she got her start, what fostered her love of all things nerdy, and the ways in which she hopes the industry will change for the better moving forward.
Geek Bomb: First off, when did you realize that you were, in essence, a geek? What geeky things are you up to now?
Akaioga: I think I first realized I was a geek in elementary school when I first went over an old friend’s house to check out her new Nintendo 64. I had no idea what video games were at the time, so she introduced me to Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon Stadium. I was immediately hooked and asked my mom to buy me one the exact same day after I left her house! The same friend also introduced me to anime on Saturdays, like Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and plenty others. Her introducing me definitely kick-started my love for everything nerdy. Once I told my mom I was into all of these “weird shows,” she finally caved in and revealed she was a huge Star Trek fan! I had nerd and geeks all around me but I had no idea. Now I’m one of them!
GB: Let’s get our foot in the door by asking how you got your foot in the door. What’s your industry origin story – how did you get started? What advice can you give to those looking to break into your industry?
A: I started going to conventions in 2006, Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con being my first two cons ever. I had NO idea people were able to dress up as these characters I admired from TV shows and animes I watched every Saturday! I raved about it the entire time my mom and I were at the convention, begging her to buy me a Sasuke cosplay at one of the booths.
I really started getting into the cosplay hobby around 2014, when I began to make more of my own cosplays. My roommate at the time in college told me I should make a Facebook page and share all of my pictures there, so I did! I just… kind of started? I was honestly surprised how many people really enjoyed looking at my work. I just kept making costumes and sharing them onto the page, not even really knowing other people did the same until a year or two later.
If there’s any advice I could give about breaking into this industry is don’t let what other people do discourage you. Honestly, I’m happy I came in a bit ignorant about the “likes” and numbers associated to a cosplayer. I won’t lie, it can be very difficult when you see others with huge followings! Cosplay what you want because you love it and the fans will come.
GB: What is the most difficult obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in your industry or maybe even still overcoming?
A: Honestly, the biggest obstacle I still face in my industry is the lack of representation for minority/black cosplayers. When you see “top 10 cosplayers,” 99 percent of the time, I never see a black cosplayer. To someone who wants to start cosplaying and not seeing themselves represented is very discouraging. Because what comes with the lack of representation is the hate from others stating, “You can’t cosplay this because you’re black,” or “You’d make a great (insert black character here). We are automatically put into a pool of maybe 10 characters who look like us and are mocked when we don’t pick that small pool of 10 characters. The cosplay community and even the nerd industry at large sometimes makes it hard to feel welcomed, even though we all love the exact same things. I continue to cosplay and do what I love regardless of the late, but I won’t lie when I say it does get hard to want to continue sometimes.
GB: Picture yourself at ten years old. What advice would you give her? What would she love to know about present-day you?
A: Oh my goodness [laughs]. My ten-year-old self would never think in a million years I’d ever be where I am! I would tell her to not let the bullies get to her because she’s a nerd and loves “guy stuff.” Keep playing video games, keep watching Star Trek, keep watching anime, keep going to conventions, love life with a hint of ignorance but a heart filled with love and compassion, for great things are headed your way.
I bet she would love to know that I’m known [for]cosplay[ing]characters I used to watch on TV back when I was a kid! I think she’d also like to know that being unique is not a flaw; it’s one of the most amazing things ever. So take pride in yourself and keep your head up!
I totally think she’d be surprised I have a following now and people are actually fans of me now [laughs]. Present-time me still doesn’t believe that! People look up to us because of our conviction of promoting diversity as well as our warm hearts to acceptance of anyone and everyone who comes in contact with our lives.
GB: Who are your female role models and/or inspirations?
A: Funnily enough, two of my female role models are Beyonce and Nicki Minaj. Main reason being, they’re both two strong black women who know what they’re worth. Nicki especially because not only is she strong, independent, she also promotes girls to finish school and get a higher education. That in itself is super noteworthy (and needed!) for someone to use their platform for something so wholesome. Plus both these women are super sexy and actual goals [laughs].
GB: Who are some of your favourite fictional female characters of all time?
A: Oh boy, I could make a list but I’ll keep it short [laughs]. Tiana from Princess and the Frog; Storm, Pharah, D.Va, Mercy, and Tracer from Overwatch; Zelda from LoZ; Princess Leia from Star Wars, Sylvanas and Jaina from World of Warcraft; and Uhura from Star Trek.
GB: How would you like to see this industry grow for not only women, but within the entertainment space?
A: I would love to see this industry grow for women by including more women of color, which also counts for the entertainment space. I think we are moving in a great direction for more inclusion! But until then, I think the industry should allow the space for women of color like myself to enjoy what everyone else enjoys and cosplay those things I enjoy without getting hate for not being the correct skin color. I’m seeing more and more people stick up for us, but there will always be more room for improvement. The intent is there and I can’t wait to see it continue to grow. <3
GB: Where can people discover more about you? Socials/website/podcast or channel links.
A: I have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a Twitch! I’ll provide all the links for you guys! Thank you all for the support! Hope to meet you on the other side of the interwebs one day!
Thanks again to the lovely Akakioga for joining us to celebrate the magic of women in the nerd world!