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Meet Jay Sutton of Hey Jay Cosplay in Palm Beach County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jay Sutton.

Jay, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have always been a fan of anime and video games. Growing up, I used to sit and watch shows with my cousins and brother and even write fan fiction. I didn’t have any friends who I knew of that were into the same things so I never got to connect with anyone on that throughout the school. It wasn’t until 2014 when I finally mustered up the courage to do my first cosplay at a convention in South Florida. Luckily, one of my best friends was there to do it with me so it made the experience a little less “scary” since I was so far out of my comfort zone.

From there, I fell in love with cosplaying and dedicated time to crafting and putting together cosplays to attend conventions or just to have some cool images to memorialize my work. I experimented with armor builds, sewing and more just to get better so I could bring any ideas I have to life. It was because of my first cosplay experience that I think I started to come into my own and figure out my brand and image. I started incorporating natural hairstyles into the characters I cosplayed, and It received a lot of attention. It made cosplaying more fun to me, and I loved being able to include a little bit of myself into each character.

With all of this, I still wanted a way to connect with other POC in the community so, in 2016, a group of friends and I started a social community called Urban Anime Lounge. It is based on interests such as anime, video games, manga, cosplay and more and also help connect POC in the community so that no one has to feel “alone” like a lot of us did growing up with these alternative interests.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Whew! No, it has not been.  I struggled and still struggle with actually liking photos, which can sound insane coming from a cosplayer. I get very critical of my self-image but I am slowly becoming more comfortable with myself and being in front of a camera. Not to mention, having these internal feelings and then putting yourself out there online subjecting yourself to all types of criticism is a different beast.

People always say to get thicker skin or ignore the trolls on the internet, but people can be rude. Black cosplayers always get an extra layer of criticism because of our skin color or the way we choose to wear natural hairstyles instead of the actual character’s hair. I usually fall more into the latter and have heard and read awful things about my natural hair and how I choose to portray a character. My problems feel small compared to what my fellow cosplayers with darker complexions go through, but they are things I deal with. We want this space in its entirety to be less negative about our presence. I have had several images go viral, and no one should have to think about the terrible things people might say about you but it’s a reality in this social media age. Cosplay is a hobby for me, and hobbies are supposed to be fun. It’s challenging when people try to disrupt that.

Please tell us about your work.
Hey Jay Cosplay is my Facebook page, and it’s recently grown to over 15,000 likes with my most recent costume, The Mask, reaching over 2.5 million people! I cosplay any characters I resonate with or have a specific vision for, which makes it all the more exciting for me. I believe I have become known in the space since I use natural [black] hairstyles as a part of my cosplays. I receive so many comments and posts from people telling me I’ve inspired them to go out and cosplay and/or embrace their natural hair. It’s so amazing being recognized in public and seeing people’s enthusiasm to meet me. It feels surreal when It happens.

Urban Anime Lounge (UAL) has broadened my social circle even more, and I love connecting with our members and planning events for them to connect. What sets me apart as a cosplayer is my unique take on established characters, sense of humor, and connection to the community. I’m grateful to everyone who has liked or even shared any of the content.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Well, my Aunt is the reason I started watching anime as a kid so she will always get credit for that. My mom, family and my friends are my biggest supporters – even the friends who don’t necessarily understand my interests. They respect It and support It because they respect and support me as their friend. My team at UAL has always been there for me when I have any doubts or just need to talk things through. And of course, any and everyone who has shared my content or interacted with me in the community. I stay involved, inspired and grounded because of the amazing people in this community. I am so appreciative of the experience each day!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Gambit photographer: @Kingedcam (IG)
Mermaid Artist: @drewkahuna (IG)
Spike Edit: @GATrademarkz

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