If you haven’t heard about the Australian Sexpo cosplay competition, You’ve probably been living under some kind of rock for the last few days. After seeing a larger competitor take out the grand prize, certain parts of the internet have taken to body-shaming, and it’s time to set the record straight. Sexy can be fat, thin, black, white, orange, rectangular or triangular. We need to put the body-shaming to rest and realize that there is a legitimate reason to be disappointed in the results of this competition, to recognize the repercussions that this has on the sexy cosplay community, and to look at how we can better this event in future, to become an integral event for the cosplay community as a whole.

Earlier this year, the announcement of Sexpo Australia’s first ever Sexy Cosplay Competition was met with some very mixed reactions. Some were thrilled, while some thought it was a terrible thing for the community. But for “sexy cosplayers”, this was a dream come true. A safe space for them to showcase their art and not be judged for wearing the costumes that they genuinely love making. It was a big step forward for the cosplay community. Over the course of the weekend, and by the end of the event, I’m sad to say that it may have been a temporary step backwards for the sexy cosplay scene.

For anyone who has donned a sexy cosplay before, you may be familiar with the fan favourite sexy cosplay insult, “that’s not a cosplay. It’s just sparkly underwear with wings/tail/helmet etc” or “they don’t even put in any effort, it’s just about getting your tits and ass out for attention”. And after the completion of the finals, I’m saddened to say that Sexpo reaffirmed every one of those statements and represented sexy cosplay in a way that sexy cosplayers have been fighting against since they first picked up a hot glue gun or needle and thread.

The competition consisted of four heats, each slowly slipping away from reasonably judged competition to popularity contest, with the last heat completely throwing cosplay out the window and letting the crowd solely decide on the winner. And believe us when we say that the crowd there wouldn’t know the difference between Yoshi and Bowser if it licked them in the face. While this is an issue to be addressed, this was Sexpo’s first ever cosplay competition, and judging methods are certainly something that the organisers have stated that they are trying to improve, which is a promising move on their part.

During the final heat, we saw pairs of beautifully handcrafted wings, light up costumes, gorgeous corsetry work and some cosplayers that truly became their characters, with high kicks and fighter moves that looked as if they were taken straight from a video game. And all of them were truly sexy in their own unique way. And then the final contestant bounced onto stage wearing nothing but store bought sparkly underwear and a wig – the stereotype that sexy cosplayers have been fighting against at every step of their journey, and in one swift move, she reaffirmed the attention seeking, titty flashing stereotype by tearing off her bra and swirling around her sparkly nipple tassels at the crowd.

In that moment, it  was clear that the cosplayers who had spent hours hand crafting their cosplays and had spent years promoting sexy cosplay in a positive light were about to be outdone by someone who truly promoted that prominent negative idea of sexy cosplay that seems to constantly circulate throughout the community. And it happened. The crowd roared, and Sparkles (as she will now be referred to in this article) was put through to the finals.

The final show was a little different in one way. After speaking with the competitors, we learned that they had all been told that taking their clothes off was now strictly forbidden, which heavily implied that Sparkles had won on a gimmick. Despite the insinuation that she had won with trickery, there was no move to disqualify. She was still eligible to compete. So the finals went on. Four competitors would get on stage, and one would leave as the winner of the first ever Sexpo sexy cosplay competition.

Sure enough, the winner of the first ever inaugural cosplay competition was Sparkles – The embodiment of the statements, “that isn’t cosplay, it’s just sparkly underwear” and “sexy cosplay is all about getting your tits and ass out”. Sexpo single handedly reaffirmed every negative opinion of sexy cosplay by pushing out long term cosplayers with lovingly made costumes and pushing forward a girl who put on a pair of red and black underwear, a blonde wig and called herself Harley Quinn.

There was a lot of impressively crafted cosplay on display.

There was a lot of impressively crafted cosplay on display.

While it is commendable that Sexpo is inclusive and diverse, and it is true that sexy is sexy, regardless of size, gender, race or background, it’s disappointing that sexy cosplayers have been welcomed in and then represented in the exact way that they have been fighting against for years. Sexy cosplay is not all sparkly underwear and titty flashing. There are people that put in countless hours of work on their costumes and their bodies, and sexpo has rendered all of that irrelevant and made this an American Idol, saddest story, popularity contest.

Sexy cosplayers are constantly chastised at other events for their attire, and the Sexpo cosplay competition presented an opportunity to prove that they are more than underwear, gimmicks and skin flashing. Sexpo took the opportunity to start something unique and uplifting for the sexy cosplay community, and turned it into an archetypical reality TV show sob story, and presented sexy cosplayers with a representative that promotes every negative opinion that these cosplayers have to fight back when they create the costumes that they truly put their whole heart into.

So what does this all mean for the sexy cosplay community?

The crowd that this competition was presented to are mostly new to the idea of cosplay. People that have not heard of it, and potential newcomers to the scene. Presenting sexy cosplay as flashy underwear and stripping not only puts sexy cosplayers in the same bucket that they always get lumped into unfairly, but it also presents some safety concerns, when people from this crowd attend cosplay fuelled conventions and expect that the cosplayers there are on the same level as the strippers and adult stars that they have seen at Sexpo. The competition was very much about promoting each cosplayer’s individual idea of sexy, and the winner was someone that really pushed Sexpo’s idea of sexy instead, which is something that so many cosplayers are desperately trying to prove that they are not.

Does this mean that sexy cosplayers should be boycotting future Sexpo events? Absolutely not. While the winner of the competition may have been a poor representation of what sexy cosplay is about, and may have had some temporarily negative effects on the community, sexy cosplayers have always been seen this way, and this has given them even more reason to stand up and prove that they are more than underwear and gimmicks. This was the first ever attempt at this kind of event and there will absolutely be some mishaps. But this event still presents an incredible opportunity, and will grow to become an integral part of the community if people band together and help to make this event as great as it can truly be.

Outside of the issue of misrepresentation, there were a lot of positives to speak of. The hosts and judges went above and beyond to make cosplayers felt welcome at the event, and to ensure that they made every single cosplayer feel like they were part of the Sexpo family, regardless of whether they competed or not. Cosplayer safety was an absolute priority to ensure that no-one was getting harassed, and from everything we heard, it may have been unnecessary, as the crowds there were respectful and kind, and were more understanding and accepting than any other crowd the cosplayers had come up against before. And no cosplayers were made to feel like they had to strip or be any more sexual than they would usually be. It was about expressing their own unique kind of sexy, whether that be getting into full LARP gear, or donning that gorgeous PVC mini-suit that you’ve spent hours trying to sew and stick to your body. Giving sexy cosplayers a place to express themselves may also mean that we see a decline in revealing costumes at family friendly events, because it is no longer the only place for cosplayers to get out and be seen in their creations. This positive may be the most important of all, as it combats one of the biggest issues in cosplay, and that is the current rise in revealing costumes at kid-friendly events like Supanova and Comic Con.

Overall, this is an event worth working on. It has a lot of potential and is absolutely a positive thing for the sexy cosplay community. In terms of improvements, it would be nice to see a panel with 2 or 3 judges, who know the ins and outs of sexy cosplay, and to have those judges select the two best representatives of sexy cosplay from each heat. This means that the community is being represented by people that the judges have deemed to be a positive selection of the community. After that, the crowd should have the final say, to prove that each contestant can really wow a crowd and will be a capable host as part of the next Sexpo cosplay event. Aside from that, the rest of the event could be considered a wonderful success, with cosplayers and general public both loving the brand new addition to the event.

Watch this space. The Sexpo sexy cosplay comp will be back, bigger and better than ever, and as a community, it is imperative that cosplayers get behind the movement and guide it in the right direction to ensure that it continues to grow into a more positive and welcoming community for everyone to get involved in.