Cosplay Opinion Piece: Talent Vs. Skill

Recently, I posted a picture of my new wig to show off on one of my personal social media accounts. One of my friends commented about how I had talent, and that they were impressed with my work. It got me thinking— what is talent?


Personally, I have always seen “talent” as an inherent thing— like I somehow intrinsically came with my abilities from birth. While I do understand that the comment was not meant to imply that I didn’t work for what I have, it does sometimes seem to suggest that people have a knack for something that other people don’t. In my case, I can assure you that I never came with any of this, or at least not much more than the average person.

My cosplaying, and everything that goes into it, comes from a long journey of the things I chose to devote my time to throughout my life. Even though they have all compounded together to make it seem like cosplay is something that I have talent in, it was all by choice and hard work that I made those things happen.

My cosplaying, and everything that goes into it, comes from a long journey of the things I chose to devote my time to throughout my life.

One of the things that has been commented on is that I have an eye for color and style. I might have that now, but I cannot stress this enough – I used to be TERRIBLE at it. I wouldn’t ever take risks in my wardrobe; I only wore neutral tees paired with jeans and sneakers. That’s it. That was “safe” for me. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at it) I have immense social and generalized anxiety, and this, coupled with the fact that I was relentlessly bullied as a teenager, meant that I was terrified to break social norms in public more than I realized. Throughout my entire time in junior high, I hardly ever stepped outside my jeans and tee outfits, occasionally throwing in a daring red and black striped hoodie, or combat boots.

My anxiety meant that I was always aware of how other people dressed, because I was uncomfortable about my own fashion choices and wanted to fit in with my peers. I constantly was looking at what other people were wearing, because I knew that if other people were wearing something it was safe for me to wear. I started making bolder choices, but only when I saw someone else wearing the exact same thing I wanted to wear. I felt like that chick in Mean Girls – “I saw Regina George wearing army pants and flip flops, so I bought army pants and flip flops.”

Image result for regina george outfits

Everyone else was Regina, and I was always the awkward weird girl who only wore band tees. This was my first step in being able to form a sense of style.

My second step was getting a job in retail. I worked in a store in which we styled every single customer that came in. The thought absolutely terrified me, but I wanted to do it because it meant so much to me when I went in as a customer and they helped me. I started being able to be bolder with my clothes— in retail, you’re constantly making different outfits and dressing all sorts of people up in different styles. I committed myself to this. I memorized every item we had in the store so I could put outfits together. When I was walking the store, I was constantly looking at what could go with what. I eventually became good at it, but it took me literal years of practice to get to where I was.

I committed myself to this. I memorized every item we had in the store so I could put outfits together. When I was walking the store, I was constantly looking at what could go with what. I eventually became good at it, but it took me literal years of practice to get to where I was.

After I got comfortable with clothes, I started experimenting with makeup more. I used to have the same look basically every day with my makeup until then. I would sit at home for hours practicing new things in the mirror. I would buy daring products for cheap from the drugstore on the corner from my house and see what I liked out of the crazy lip colors and eyeshadows. I watched beauty tutorial after beauty tutorial, and read article upon article about makeup and the proper way to apply it. I worked in steps— first on eyeliner, then being able to blend eyeshadow properly, then on to discovering that I really needed to do something with my brows, and eventually onto foundation, contouring, and highlighting. This, as well, took me literal years.

This is my submission for @noble_porpoise’s #nobleporpoise1k giveaway! 😊😊 (Congrats on the 1k!! ❤) I figured I would try my hand at something that isn’t normally cel shaded, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I don’t actually know how I decided on My Chemical Romance album covers, but that’s where my brain went. It was a lot of fun to add in the realistic looking blood on top of the cel shading, and practice cel shading without a reference that’s already shaded. I’m not gonna lie, I’m still wearing the makeup and it’s truly unsettling when I see myself in the mirror. I know there’s a hard line where I spliced the pictures together, but I’m honest to god too lazy to clean it up. #cosplay #cosplayer #mychem #mychemicalromance #threecheersforsweetrevenge #emo #poppunk #albumart #celshading

A post shared by Jessica (@matchstickcosplay) on

You could say that my attention to detail helped me improve at applying makeup, and this probably comes from drawing. I would always feel antsy in class when I was in junior high, so I took to doodling to keep myself occupied while listening (along with the occasional incredibly terrible fanfiction writing). I had hundreds of pages of looseleaf paper filled with drawings that I did, and I suspect this is why I have a decent understanding of how to pay attention to detail. I would spend a lot of time recreating drawings from the manga I was reading, and I would study every little piece of the drawing to be able to do it. Same with my craftsmanship ability— I have been making crafts since I was in the Girl Scouts in Elementary school.

I think my anxiety also had a very large part to play in my cosplay. The little voice in my head telling me that everything has to be perfect or people will judge me, has, funnily enough, made me good at what I do (even though I want to smash the little voice with a hammer). Is this why I like playing as Krieg so much? Anyway, the obsessive nature I have is painful, but it puts the fear in me so that my projects come out decent enough. I obsessively research reference images, plan out my entire project before doing anything with it, draw countless breakdowns of my projects and what I have to do, the works. I don’t think I really have “talent”. It’s more skill. And that comes from years of unrelated things that happen to work with my hobby (which is probably why I enjoy not just the end result, but the process.)

I don’t really think any of us are born with talent. I think a lot of us have a set of circumstances that we are born with early in life that makes us good at something. Maybe these circumstances are due to something like brain chemistry, or maybe they’re a series of seemingly unrelated events that made is so that you can do something well because of your background. Ultimately, if you want something, you are going to have to work a lot harder than you probably suspect, and then some.

Ultimately, if you want something, you are going to have to work a lot harder than you probably suspect, and then some.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Matchstick, I’ve been working my little butt off and I still am not that good at cosplay.” Keep. Working. Never give up if its something you want to do. If I, the awkward nerdy girl who didn’t have many friends and had zero fashion sense for way too many years of her life can do something like this, I am completely confident that you can, too. It will be challenging, you will get frustrated, you’ll want to give up, and that is okay. Take a break, work on something else, do something that makes you happy, do something you’re already good at; but always come back if you really want to do it.

The most important thing about cosplay, or anything really, is to not compare yourself to other people. I am constantly battling with this in my head – I’m not as good as other people. There are so many cosplayers that are better than me. I will never get as good as them. This is the deep, dark pit that you should never fall in, because you’ll keep spiraling and your fears will eventually come true. Never compare yourself to others – only compare yourself to you. You might not be as good as the girl with 50k followers on Instagram, but you are better than you were yesterday.

The most important thing about cosplay, or anything really, is to not compare yourself to other people.

Make a collage of what you’ve done already to see what amazing things you’ve accomplished. Do a side-by-side of your first cosplay to see how far you’ve come. If it’s your first cosplay, take a picture of it and be amazed by the fact that you made that wonderful thing. Fight with yourself to be better-than-yesterday you, because that’s the only person you should ever compare yourself with.

Ultimately, nobody is just born with talent; we all have to work for what we have. Maybe it’s just a case of semantics, but I never want someone to say that I’m simply talented. Not only does it take away from the years of work I have done to be good at something, but more importantly, it takes away from the fact that ANYONE can do what I do; especially you. You have the drive; you just need the skill, and that just requires some good-old-fashioned time and effort (which yes, is a pain, but there’s no way around it.) Just keep trying.

And if you’re still feeling bad about your cosplay not being good enough, send it to me and I will gush over how wonderful you are for even trying to make something and put yourself out there. You are enough and more.


Special thanks to Bobby, Del, and Kathleen for sparking this article idea, and always having wonderful things to say about me. And for putting up with me when I write articles about the dumb semantics of their word choice.

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Written by: Matchstick Cosplay

Nerd who enjoys playing dress up a little too much.

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