was dressed in a shiny leotard that made her look like the spitting image of Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series
. Standing at her merch booth selling photographs of herself in various costumes inspired by pop culture, she said she was introduced to the world of cosplay through make-up artistry, before she knew what "cosplay" even meant.
Now, she has social media followings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and is a mentor to up-and-coming cosplayers around the world.
"You know how people say they don't like working with people?" she asked. "Well, I'm not like that. I love people."
Alkali Layke was part of a panel discussion with Princess Morgan
of Cleveland, Ohio, at the Wizard World Comic Con
, which took place
at Boise Centre West on July 13-15. Their topic: cosplay on a budget. Though Alkali Layke and Princess Morgan are experts in their field, their passion for dressing as characters from fandom—an increasingly popular hobby or source of income for enthusiasts in Boise and beyond—would be familiar to anyone.
"It's a fun getaway from my day job," Alkali Layke said. "I keep coming back for the thrill of cosplay, from the preparation to the actual events."
What Alkali Layke and Princess Morgan do is more than dressing up as a hobby or occupation: They're part of a large and welcoming community, and people enter into it in a variety of ways. Princess Morgan was introduced to cosplay as a child, when she tagged along with her older cousins to a comic con.
"I just fell in love with the welcoming atmosphere," she said.
Eventually, she said, she would like to make costume design her full-time job, but for now, she's a student studying fashion at Kent State University
. While she and her partner on stage are aspiring professionals, the majority of cosplayers are avid amateurs who enjoy dressing up for conventions the way many people dress up for Halloween.
"For some, Halloween comes once a year," said live-action role-player, or LARP-er, Erin Kleveland of Boise, who wore medieval clothes. "But with cosplay events, you can dress up all year if you want."
Cosplay is inclusive, and it embraces all fandoms, ages, levels of interest and experience, and body types. Like Alkali Layke, McKayla Agnew of Boise was dressed up as Harley Quinn. She said comic cons are places where she can feel safe being a person other than herself.
"I enjoy cosplay because I can pretend to be someone else without judgement," she said.