If you don't already know about Briana Lawrence, then do yourself a favor and look her up on Facebook or Twitter right away! You won't regret it, I promise! I featured Brichibi (Briana's cosplay stuff) on a Follow Friday post a while back. I love following her on social media because she shares so much really fun and geeky stuff. She's one of the people I think of whenever I imagine what a self-rescuing princess looks like.
As soon as I heard about her newest project about magical queer black girls, magnifiqueNOIR, I was immediately on board and ready to throw my money her way! She's already the living embodiment of a magical queer black girl, so of course I already know her story of other black, queer, magical girls saving the world "with the power of friendship, glitter, and fantastic hair" is going to be absolutely fantastic!
I'm so glad she took the time to chat with me about this project and about her love of anime, games, and cosplay! As I'd long suspected following her online, she's a truly remarkable woman doing really amazing geeky stuff that just warms my heart and inspires me and countless others to go do our own thing, loud and proud!
BL: Sure! I've been writing since I was 9-years-old, so this is definitely one of those "childhood dreams" scenarios. I went to Iowa State University and got a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Women’s Studies. Sadly, a lot of things distracted me along the way, so it took me a while to get to the point where I am now. Currently, I travel to conventions with my partner to get our works out there. I also write scripts for WatchMojo.com. Somehow, this whole geeky world became a writing career, which I was not planning on at all! I've always wanted to write books, but I never thought I'd also be able to write about anime and video games professionally.
I think a lot of things inspire me, the biggest one being my older brother. He passed away when I was thirteen, so everything I do I do to make him proud. Along with him, my loved ones inspire me, my fans motivate me to keep going, everything around me inspires me -- usually in inconvenient places like the shower!
SRPS: You've been doing cosplay for ages, and I love everything you've done! Where does your love of dress up and anime come from?
BL: I was one of those kids who loved dressing up for Halloween. I didn't know cosplay was a thing until the early 2000s when I went to Anime Central and saw it firsthand. I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen! The funny thing is: I used to hate dresses and makeup, but cosplay has given me a newfound love for those things.
As far as video games and anime, I've been playing video games since I was six. I still remember my mom having a NES and how I played Super Mario Brothers. With anime, I was ten-years-old and I remember a kid coming to school and telling us about a cartoon he discovered late at night that "wasn't a cartoon." I went home and discovered a little thing called Vampire Hunter D and was instantly hooked. After things like Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon... that was it!
SRPS: You go to a lot of conventions. What is it about the shared experiences of a con that keeps you coming back, year after year?
BL: Conventions hold a special place since Anime Central, back in 2002, was where I met my partner in person (we'd been talking online since 2001). It was there that we really got to know each other, and it was there where we really got to be girlfriends. We walked around holding hands and no one batted an eye. At the time, I was REALLY nervous about doing stuff like that, but in the convention space no one cared. We were all busy being geeks, standing in line for autographs, getting excited about panels and the concept of a giant video game room, it was pretty amazing. I feel like conventions are the space where we all get to be nerds and have fun without worrying about that weird look, you know? And yes, there are occasionally issues within the community, but overall, some of my closest friends and loved ones have come from here. I also feel like I can speak my mind here and that -- for the most part -- people listen.
SRPS: As a black, queer cosplayer and writer, who or what inspires you to be brave and live your authentic life, and then share that experience with others?
BL: I spent a lot of time living the way I thought I should versus living the way I wanted to. I mentioned graduating with a degree, but I ended up working retail for six years because people kept telling me I was lucky to have a job, and that writing was too unpredictable. So I lived the way they thought I should. My partner and I were selling at conventions but only for fun. We weren't taking it seriously. I stayed with that nice, safe job... then got fired six years later. After that, I had no idea what to do. At that point I was stressed beyond belief with retail, but losing that job still made me panic because it was a steady source of income (even if it wasn't much). So at that point... I turned to writing. At that point it was like, "Well... might as well try, right?" Like if the "stable" job let me go, then why not try the career I'd been wanting since I was nine?
People say that if you want more diversity, you should go out and create it yourself. This is usually said to get you to shut up about diversity, because they assume you aren't going to go out and do it. Well I'm here, and I'm doing it, and I'm not stopping anytime soon.
SRPS: Right?! So, speaking of creating it yourself, what is magnifiqueNOIR?
BL: magnifiqueNOIR is a book series staring four black, queer, magical girls. They each represent a different part of the spectrum, and they each vary in size and skin complexion. I really wanted there to be a range of characters, from looks to personality. It's a book series where these girls fight monsters and defend their city. Each of their powers stem from their interests, for instance, Galactic Purple is a baker so one of her attacks is exploding cupcakes. They each have goals and dreams, and honestly... they're all kinda aspects of me. Galactic Purple is plus size and learning how to love her body, Cosmic Green is a gamer and is dealing with how to tell her mother about her sexual preference, Radical Rainbow is the loud and proud lesbian but she has a hard time asking for help, and Prism Pink... well, not much is known about her yet.
Deep down, it's a story about growth and learning to love who you are. I wanted to have a story with positive, black, queer characters. That's not to say they don't have hardships they'll face, but I want the takeaway message to be a positive one. All the girls are in college, and I realized while writing it that it was college where I came out and really started to figure out who I was. It was where I learned to accept myself and to be happy with who I was.
BL: I've been a fan of the genre since Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon was the first series where I saw a group of girls as the heroines. Usually, there'd be a team of heroes and there'd be a few girls, but I'd never seen an entire team of ladies until Sailor Moon. And I loved that! More importantly, I loved how they developed throughout the series, how their friendships blossomed, and how their issues ranged from defending the planet to dealing with school, love, and just day to day things teenage girls went through. I want to do the same with my girls.
I think the need to make them grew as I talked about them at conventions. I got a lot of, "Yes," and, "It's about time," and I realized the importance of their representation. Them being women of color. Them being queer. Them being different sizes and different skin complexions. Them being treated as beautiful women with personalities. Them being important to the story. At the time I didn't realize how important that was, but after a while I realized... I'm making the series I wanted when I was eighteen and coming out, and I hope it's a series that other girls see and smile at.
BL: Check out the magnifiqueNOIR website and Kickstarter page for more info about this project. You can see some of my other work here. And I'm on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.
Also, I want to give a shout out to the wonderful artists:
MuseTap Studios for the battle pic and chibis in LGBTQ pic;
Radiant Gray for the battle pic;
Graphite Punch Illustration for the Golden Blaze pic;
NamiOki for the slumber party pic;
Sakura Mochi Panda for the Cosmic Green transformation pic;
And thank Elyse Lavonne for her great photos!
Please consider backing this fantastic project! It's true that we need to do everything we can to support the voices diverse artists and authors, and there's really no better way than through buying their work! Plus, honestly, there are few more kickass self-rescuing princesses than magical girls!
If you like the work I do here at Self-Rescuing Princess Society,
please consider donating to my Patreon.
please consider donating to my Patreon.