Viral Miami Cosplayer Jonathan Stryker's Halloween Costume Tips: "Become the Character"

Stryker as "sexy Ash" for Halloween 2016.
Stryker as "sexy Ash" for Halloween 2016. Courtesy of Jonathan Stryker
High school can be a brutal time, especially if you’re not part of the “popular” crowd. Miamian Jonathan Stryker, known as J Stryker on Facebook and Instagram, whose cosplaying recently went viral globally, was bullied during his adolescence. Cosplay provided solace during those lonely years.

“I’m gay and in high school. Guys would chase me around, calling me a faggot, so I would sit at the gym and read my comic books. That’s why [cosplay] is so dear to my heart. I didn’t have a lot of friends; I didn’t talk to anyone. It was a comfort zone for me. Cosplay [has given] me a lot of confidence,” Stryker says.

Born and raised in Miami, Stryker, now 26, became a viral sensation when he released a series of themed costumes on social media. The last week of August, AKA “Disney Week," he dressed as eight Disney characters: Aladdin, Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, Emperor Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove, Milo from Atlantic: The Lost Empire, Flynn Rider from Tangled, Tarzan, Hercules, and Simba from The Lion King. Styker embodied each of these characters with full attire, makeup, wigs, and facial and bodily gestures. His costumes are handmade and self-styled. He says the process can take up to 20 hours.
After the overwhelmingly positive response, Stryker released a "Cartoon Network Week" costume series and is in the middle of a "Halloween Month" series, for which he has already dressed as Beetlejuice and Gomez from The Addams Family. He says "Johnny Depp" and "Disney Villains" weeks are in the works.

Stryker says his two older brothers inspired his interest in geek and nerd culture. “I absorbed their nerdiness,” he says with a laugh. After diving into anime, videogames, and science fiction, he found community in cosplay conventions. “I found these conventions where other nerds hang out. Everyone was dressed up. The people were awesome, and I could relate to them,” he says.

When he’s not cosplaying, Stryker, a self-described hustler, organizes two LGBTQ events a year in South Florida: Okama Con and Out Con. In addition, he makes income from Patreon, a crowdfunding creators’ platform, where he says people pay to see extra cosplay content he releases. Now, with the popularity of his cosplay, Stryker says he’s been able to make revenue from being invited as a guest to conventions such as YaoiCon in California.

In addition to garnering cosplay stardom, Stryker says he aspires to be a musician. He has already secured a producer and recorded a single titled “Fucboi,” an electronic track he describes as “very sexy. It spreads a message of body positivity: Whatever you are, put yourself out there. It’s about being a fuckboy and feeling good about yourself and feeling sexy.” He plans to release the single when he reaches 100,000 followers on social media.
Last Halloween, Stryker dressed up as a sexy version of Ash from the Pokémon franchise. For this Halloween, he says he hasn’t decided on a costume yet even though he has more than 100 costumes on hand at home. But he’s considering Johnny Depp characters. He says that while trying out one of his Depp looks, the likeness was so uncanny he scared himself when he looked in the mirror.

Stryker offers three key tips for your Halloween costume:

1. Love and embody your character. “You have to like the character. If you’re not feeling it, you won't embody that character. A lot of my characters went viral because I captured the character, even getting the facial expression just right. It’s not just putting on the costume; it’s about becoming that character: how they act, their face. Bring the costume to life.”

2. Make sure your costume fits properly. “Don’t pull [a costume] out of a bag and put it on. Tailor it and use safety pins. If it fits nice, you’ll feel good.”

3. Commit to the character. “If you’re going for sexy, go all the way. If you’re going to be a monster, go the extra mile and do the makeup. Become the character.”

4. Be confident. Most of all, Stryker says, dressing up is all about feeling good. He says, “Express [yourself] creatively and share it with the world.”
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth