At only 26 years of age, Myleah has already made her way through college, started an anime convention, worked as a journalist and a social media marketer, and most recently created Lumikha Cosplay, a website dedicated to helping cosplayers buy and sell gently used cosplays, wigs, and props. With an impressive resume such as this at her age, perhaps it was unsurprising that in our conversation together I saw quickly that Myleah epitomized determination and drive, which was true even with her first ever trip to an anime convention.
Myleah recalled, “I cosplayed at my first convention, Otakon 2015, and I was really ambitious. But I guess that’s kind of a theme to my life. I decided I’m going cosplay every single day of the weekend. So I did. I did Korra from The Legend of Korra on Friday. And then I did Nico from Love Live! on Saturday. And then I think I did Korra again on Sunday. So yeah, It was a full weekend, and it was really fun.”
After this first convention experience in her freshman year of college, Myleah was inspired to do more in her own way as a part of her local college anime club.
“At first I was the social media manager / historian role,” Myleah said. “But I then became president of the anime club, because I was unsatisfied with the way that the anime club was set up at the time.” Myleah thought then, “I feel like this needs to be more inclusive. Like, we’re the black sheep of the clubs on campus. We don’t host a lot of events. We just sit in our dark room and watch anime for two hours on Sundays. But what if we hosted events and invited more people to come in.”
Myleah’s aspirations for the club then led her to one of her biggest decisions yet and proudest moments thus far.
“I felt so energized and excited going to my first convention.” Myleah remembered thinking, “‘Okay, we have all these cool people here. And we can invite panelists to come speak at our college. We can host our own cosplay contests and have our own Maid and Butler cafe. Then why don’t we bring a slice of that awesome convention energy right here at home?’”
Myleah continued, “So then I came up with this crazy idea to make a convention at my local college. I founded the first convention at my university, which was called KAMECON. We had 500 people in the first year, and it was really cool. I’m from the DC area, and since it was at the University of Maryland, we had people from DC, Maryland, and Virginia, all coming to the convention, and it was really, really freaking cool. So that’s one of my big highlights of college”
While Myleah’s drive may be all her own, her introduction to anime is a familiar tale for so many Gen-Z/Millennials, as she was not immediately introduced to anime as being all that unique from American TV.
Myleah remarks, “[I just thought] this a cool cartoon. It’s a different style than Dexter’s Laboratory. But it’s still a cartoon. So I didn’t really have the consciousness of anime yet.”
Once she started learning more about anime, her fandom took off. She would check out DVDs from the limited selection of the library, and when she went to college she was exposed to an entire group of friends who loved anime who introduced her to an even broader range of anime.
“When I came to college, I met a bunch of friends who were way more into anime than I was,” Myleah recalled. “And they introduced me to so many series. Before I had only probably seen Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon from 4Kids, and maybe Code Geass and Blue Exorcist. But when I came to college, they were like ‘Here’s the starter pack anime. Here’s how you’re gonna get started.’ And then I [started] to watch so many more series. And they introduced one of my close friends who I’m still close with.”
Myleah’s close friend is also who introduced her to cosplay and who took her to her first anime convention, where her love of cosplay really blossomed.
Myleah said, “I just thought it was so cool that you could have a character that you really admire and see yourself in and then you get to make that costume and wear it on the con floor. It was such a cool thing to me. And it was really cool because it was basically like, I’m [sort of] a walking billboard for being able to say ’hey, come talk to me about the series’. I think that’s what really drew me into cosplay. It’s an instant way for people to connect. And that was always what I loved about cosplay. I’m a super friendly person, so I love meeting people and making new friends. So anytime I see anyone wearing a costume from a series that I’m really into even if I’m not wearing that costume I just go ‘Oh my gosh, I love your cosplay! I love that character too’. Or ‘Oh that series is so good’. And it’s just such an easy way to connect.”
Myleah clearly had the motivation and love of cosplay and anime to create something for the fandom, but it took a trip to Japan to give her the spark of inspiration for Lumikha Cosplay.
“I traveled to Japan with a couple of my friends to see an idol concert for IDOLiSH 7, which is one of my favorite series. While we were there we were doing a lot of shopping naturally, and one thing that I noticed was that they have a lot of secondhand shops, for merchandise, but also cosplay. And I was super inspired because we went into the store and the shopkeepers were super helpful. There were these bins that just had $1 Wigs in them, and you could just buy $1 wigs. And there were cosplay supplies, and it was such easy access. And I [thought] this is so awesome. Why don’t we have something like this in the States? So I came back and I started writing in this journal these things that I would want if we were to make something like this here. And I have no coding, or programming background whatsoever, so I just started looking into no code solutions to figure out how to build my own marketplace. I wanted to bring this to the states and to have a sustainable option and an accessible option for cosplayers here in the US.”
Myleah sought out any similar options in America that may have already existed, but she wasn’t seeing anything like she envisioned to develop with Lumikha Cosplay.
Myleah remarked, “I did my research because I [thought] surely I’m not the first person to think of this. So I was in a bunch of cosplay marketplaces, or cosplay marketplace groups, on Facebook, and I was used to Twitter threads and people selling that way or even Instagram. So I had checked out other websites. I believe ACParadise also did something similar and Cosplay.com. They had forums where you could sell, but there was nothing that was completely straightforward. [So I[ centralized what I was thinking of doing, and that’s what led me to just say, ‘I’m just gonna do this myself.’”
Myleah envisioned Lumikha Cosplay not just as a marketplace that would help cosplayers seek and sell their cosplays, but also as a way to cut down on the increasing excess of fast fashion and fast cosplay so she could help provide a sustainable alternative.
“I’ve just noticed that in the last few years cosplay has especially focused on making as much content as possible as fast as you can. So I see a lot of cosplayers who might wear a cosplay once and then either they sell it or they’re just like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve had this cosplay in my closet for years, so I’m just going to go donate it to Goodwill or something like that’. That’s fine, but it’s not giving it the second life that it probably could have if you were to have it on a cosplayer specific website.”
Myleah especially remembered seeing how much waste comes from Halloween costumes each year, with some studies suggesting there’s 2,000 tons of plastic waste alone from these costumes.
“[If Halloween creates that much waste] and if we’re imagining that cosplayers [may] cosplay every single day of the year, then how much textile waste are we creating? So that’s really something that I want to hammer home, especially for cosplayers who are spending a lot of money on these materials, but also want to do this hobby long term.”
Likewise Myleah has also emphasized across Lumikha Cosplay’s website and social media that the site’s goal is to also help provide ways to be inclusive.
Myleah states, “I see that there’s a lot of issues with people not feeling like they belong in cosplay, whether that’s because of their body type, or their race, or their sexual orientation or their gender. And I really felt I wanted to create an inclusive platform that makes it feel like everybody and anybody can cosplay. And oftentimes, it can be really difficult for plus size cosplayers or people who don’t fit in this stereotypical small, medium, large sizes that people will say ‘Oh, this is a generic size.’ Well maybe not everyone can fit those generic sizes. So on Lumikha Cosplay you can actually choose the specific measurements for your bust, waist and your hips, and then find cosplays that are within that range. That’s not something that you can do on Facebook marketplace or on Depop because they’re not specifically for cosplay or costumes. But we really pay attention and cater to that so that people can find those costumes a lot easier.”
Lumikha Cosplay’s already made a significant impact as suggested by Myleah’s most recent sales figures.
“We’ve [helped] sell around 800 items total over the last two years. So it’s been really good. The business has been really good, and more and more items keep being listed on the site. Every day, I see new things pop up. And then I have to stop myself because I’m like ‘I made this website so that it can be easier for me to buy cosplay, but my wallet!’”
Myleah actually started Lumikha Cosplay during the pandemic, which seemed like an incredible risk to her at the time.
“The pandemic was still at a high,” Myleah recalls. And I thought ‘I don’t know if this was the right time to launch this business when people aren’t really going to cons.’ But what I honed in on was the fact that people were cosplaying at home. And so if they’re doing cosplay at home, then they still deserve a place where they can buy and sell cosplays and still be able to do that. And so I think that as cons have started to ramp up again, and more people are going back to conventions, we have seen more growth on the site, because people are like ‘I’m going to a con but I don’t know if I’m ready to start sewing again. But there’s this cool website that I can use to buy secondhand cosplay.’ And so at first I was nervous about the fit, because of the timing, but it turned out to be just right.’
Now that cosplayers are returning to conventions in droves, they can take advantage of one of the most unique tools Lumikha Cosplay provides.
Myleah remarked “We provide the platform where they can sell to people. And then everyone handles the shipping and handling on their own, but shipping with props can be really difficult, so there’s also a pickup option on Lumikha Cosplay. So if you’re going to a convention, you can say, ‘We can do pickup at Katsucon or something like that.’ So there’s both the mail it to you [option], or pickup as well.
Myleah said she’s regularly asked by users of the site for new features, and she’s looked into ways to continue to improve the site for the many cosplayers using Lumikha Cosplay.
“We’re planning on doing some updates pretty soon in the coming months. A lot of people have been asking us for the ability to make a wish list and make a list of things that they’re maybe eyeing or thinking about and so that’ll be coming in our next big update.
Of course, when creating a site such as Lumikha, there can be additional challenges too, and I was curious to ask Lumikha what impediments she’d found in the process of creating the website.
Myleah responded “I think one of the biggest challenges has been that I’m not personally a business major nor do I really know how to run a business. So I think that a lot of it has been self learning and learning on the fly and reaching out to mentors and people who have started their own business and leaning on them for support. Because I think that just figuring out how to balance spending versus how much I’m making on the site [is a challenge.] I’ve always been known for being the ideas guy, but the actual implementation and getting into the nitty gritty details is less my style. But when you’re basically a one woman business, you have got to do it all. So that’s been a bit of a challenge of having to juggle everything. And then also my own day job, which I still have to do, because in order to fund my business I have to work. I’d love to get to the point where it’s just my business, and I get to just be passionate about cosplay and do that, but until then I still have to make the daytime job papers.”
Myleah’s certainly been incredibly grateful for the help she has had establishing this new business.
“So my girlfriend is the one who designed our logo. I did a very rudimentary sketch and I was like ‘here’s what I would like it to look like’. And then she made it really pretty and brought it to life. I also have several friends who stepped up and volunteered to help. When they have time it’s like ‘Oh yeah, can someone check the email inbox? Can you guys just go through the site and make sure there aren’t any listings that shouldn’t be there that are breaking the rules? Or do you mind helping me hand out business cards at the con?’ So I don’t have anyone hired yet, but I have a team of friends who have been really supportive through [it all.]”
In addition to her friends around her that have supported her, Myleah’s found that Lumikha Cosplay has allowed her to reach and connect with an increasing number of peers in the community.
“Recently I connected with the Anibae’s Anime podcast and they are these three really great black women who were talking about anime and they’re three friends that just like making a really cool podcast. But we connected beyond just ‘oh, we all like anime’. It’s also that we’re black women that are in this nerd space. And sometimes we feel excluded. But by connecting with others who are just like us, it empowers us to have more fun and shut out the people who might say ‘Oh, you can’t be here, you can’t wear that cosplay because X, Y, and Z.’ So by being able to connect with [them and others] it has been really, really helpful in being able to feel like I can continue on, because of course there’s always going to be those people who are like, ‘Oh, what’s the point of using that website? You can just use Twitter, you can just use Instagram’. But then there are so many people who say ‘This has really helped me,’ and if I can just help one person, which I have, then I feel like I’ve done my job right. And so, it’s just been really cool to connect with other people who are doing similar things as me in the same space.”
When asked what advice she would give to anyone else looking to achieve in their own way what advice she would give, Myleah responded “So my word of the year is imagination. So what I would say is there is no limit to what you can do. Besides your imagination. If you can think of it then you can do it. I think that so much of my younger years were spent feeling like I was limited by my resources or people around me who said that I couldn’t do things. I wish at that time I could just tell myself ‘It doesn’t matter what those people think.”
Myleah continued, “If you want to do something, you can do it.’ I didn’t think that I could start a business, but I used Google because Google is free, and I reached out to people who knew what they were doing. And I gathered resources together and I figured it out. So yeah you might not know exactly the best way to build that community or build that business or make those friends but if you put your mind to something, you really can achieve anything. I know it sounds really cheesy, but it is really true. I think that a lot of people can get stuck in a box of thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’m not smart enough, I’m not popular enough, I’m not rich enough or whatever’, but you have to be able to step outside of that box and see yourself for what you really are. And that’s a person that can do anything that they want to do.”