As we enter #29daysofblackcosplay I am immensely excited to begin this interview, since in the United States it is currently Black History Month. While in the UK we don’t celebrate Black History Month until October, it felt extremely pertinent that this be my first article of the new decade.
When I first pitched this idea to my editor, I had one person in mind, and that was @mimithenerd_.
With a combined Instagram and Twitter following of 113.5k people, Mimi has been making waves both here in the UK and internationally. She is a force to be reckoned with, and has honestly made me somewhat bitter about not continuing my brief (and embarrassing) foray into the UK cosplay scene.
Mimi has always felt larger than life to me, so it was unsurprising, yet somehow completely like her that she welcomed my interview request with open arms. Over the course of getting to know Mimi during our interview, I learned that she is more than her craft.
Having started cosplaying in 2015, Mimi didn’t decide to take it seriously until 2017/2018. Cosplay is more than just putting in a costume, often times it involves complex makeup artistry and, in her case, body paint. According to Mimi, “Body paint can be fun and stressful at the same time, sometimes it takes longer than necessary because my skin tone sometimes requires me to do layers before it shows up as pigmented as I want it to. I don’t get any help when painting my body, I do all my looks myself.”
Mimi is highly independent, and her ambition is obvious in the way she carves out time to create intricate cosplays, some more elaborate than others, but all incredible in their own right. But I wanted to know more about her life outside of cosplaying. “When I’m not thinking about anime or cosplay, I’m usually thinking about my life goals and things I’d love to achieve,” she says. “I’m forever planning tattoo ideas. Basically, I want to be completely covered so [I] really want to start my arm sleeve next.”
I remember being amazed by Mimi’s tattoos when I first saw them, with homages to Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, and HunterxHunter covering her legs. She’s a massive Studio Ghibli fan and, like most of us weebs in the UK, is excited to see Ghibli films being released in selected countries via Netflix. When asked what her favourite anime of the moment is, she gushes, “Oh my God, I couldn’t possibly answer this question. There’s so many I love dearly! However, what I will say is I STAN STUDIO GHIBLI WITH MY WHOLE CHEST.”
Mimi has collaborated with some big names during her year of taking Twitter by storm, from Sanrio (the company that owns Hello Kitty) to GKidsFilms (the International distributor of the Studio Ghibli Films). She has worked hard to make a name for herself in the Black nerd community, especially here in the UK. I notice that people seem to forget that Mimi is in fact British, often her followers are surprised to learn that she isn’t American.
But being mistaken for American isn’t the weirdest thing she’s encountered.
“Let’s just say that bird app can be very weird at times,” Mimi says. “I’ve had all sorts of messages, from men asking to be my slave… and the list goes on. It’s […] a peculiar app.”
But overall, “that bird app” has been an amazing way for Mimi to engage in her passions and with her followers. She says, “I get so many messages from people who say they want to start cosplaying and how I’ve inspired them, and it honestly warms my heart! I just want to remind Black girls that there is room for us, and we should be allowed to have the freedom to express ourselves.”
Twitter has definitely become a safe space for those who feel marginalized in the real world, it gives people a chance to speak life into their passions, something that Mimi has benefitted from immensely. As someone who has seen the app used for hate, and consequently seen Mimi often speak out against it (without being prompted or forced), I was interested to hear her views on the hate that Black female nerds receive in particular.
“There are a lot of vocal Black cosplayers online,” Mimi reflects, “and a lot of the time what’s being said goes viral, so I feel like people are starting to take us more seriously now. But we still have a long way to go to be fully accepted in this space and there is still a lot of negativity towards us. The racism is still so evident even though it’s 2020, there’s always a Black cosplayer getting abuse[d] by a racist online and it needs to stop.”
I also wanted to know how Mimi felt that people could be better allies in the Cosplay community, especially to Black girls.
“I feel like a lot of non-Black people are still very quiet on these issues and don’t really fight with us when things happen, which is a shame because you’d think as a community, we are one,” Mimi says.
To me, Mimi is an activist first and a cosplayer second. She speaks out about things that matter to her (80% of her account is dedicated to telling her followers to watch Nana or Kakegurui), but the bit that stands out and draws so many of us to her is her willingness to never compromise on being unapologetically herself—Black and unashamed.
When asked if other Black girls should follow in her footsteps, she is adamant.
“I’d honestly say just GO FOR IT,” Mimi exclaims. “Start with the easier costumes, work your way up, and, most importantly, HAVE FUN with it all!”
Edited by Chichi Amaefuna