By: Beth Casteel
Opening the door,Libbey Jaeblon, a freshman theater major with a design track, smiled and held out her hand as she’s quick to introduce herself by saying a simple, “hey, I’m Libbey.”
As she walked into the Cauldron’s office, she found a seat and patiently waited for the interview to begin. Briefly looking down, she commented on the laptop sitting in front of her. Decorated with stickers of Stars Wars and Supernatural, she points to the “Matt the Radar Technician” sticker and simply said that the 2016 SNL skit was a favorite of hers.
What followed that comment was a half hour interview about the wonderful world of cosplay and her life leading up to, and after, her massive Instagram following of 104k.
Starting to cosplay around the age of 14, she would go to conventions and have fun dressing up in different costumes with her friends. It wasn’t anything too serious, but it began to spark her interest. Having an interest in makeup and prosthetic work, she decided to turn this hobby into a more serious endeavor. She started to post simple makeup transformations on her Instagram, @boxturtlecosplay.
Those makeup looks gave her a small following, but overtime her following grew bigger, and it was all thanks to a certain cartoon character that made her following go from small to massive overnight.
“The one post that blew up was Hayley Smith from American Dad. It was an off day, I think it was a weekend, I had nothing to do and I wanted some content to post, so I threw on some clothes I found in my closet,” Jaeblon said. “I said [to myself] it’s just content, it’s not going to do well and overnight it got 50,000 likes and my page blew up. I woke up to all these messages, and I’m like what happened and I realized it was that post. From then on out, it just snowballed.”
With her social media following, has come some negativity. Receiving death threats for her Hayley Smith cosplay, internet trolls and people envious of her rise to Instagram fame, she’s remained positive through the negativity she has received. Opting to avoid those who shame others in the community and block when necessary, she tries to stick on the brighter side of the internet and interacts with the audience who are supportive.
Her audience is a broad mix of people with a variety of interests in cosplay: superheroes, anime and a personal favorite genre of hers, pop culture. While her audience may have a diverse mix of interests, they are still an incredibly close-knit group of people. The closeness of the community that Jaeblon has found herself in is one of the biggest reasons why she loves cosplay so much.
The support from her followers has helped her really reign in on her craft. When she began this journey, she wasn’t completely sure what she was doing, but she’s gained experience by practicing and using Google or YouTube, which she calls her best friends, when she needs help.
Taking the things she’s learned by either doing or looking up, she’s now become a source of inspiration for her followers to do the same.
On her Instagram, she began utilizing the app’s stories and highlight feature. Doing step-by-step tutorials on makeup looks or cosplay techniques like covering eyebrows or wearing wigs, she tries to be as open as possible; even letting her followers direct messages when they are really stumped on a certain look.
While her social media has been a way for her to get noticed and connect with millions of people at the touch of a button, it’s also given her a way to make a living. Getting promotions, interview requests and products sent to her, she’s now able to reap the benefits of having such a large following.
“Originally, I would buy my costumes. A lot of that was ‘dad can I please have x amount for this costume,’ but now I’m on my own and I have to fend for myself as far as funds,” Jaeblon said. “My primary donation center is called Ko-fi, an app where people can purchase virtual coffees [which, in turn, allows me] to buy fabric, wigs and travel expenses for conventions. As far as any other income, money comes from promotions and my print store.”
The support she’s gained is something that she’s still amazed by. Through all of the support she’s gotten, she still credits her parents as the ones that helped support this dream and shape her creativity. Between getting her mother’s love for makeup and her father’s love of pop culture, she’s been able to express herself through cosplay.
As far as long term goals, she wants to work towards finding a spot in the film and television world. While she’s not sure where cosplay will fit into her life at that point, she remains hopeful she can find a job where she can combine her love of cosplay and her theater degree.
Until that time comes, she’s focusing her attention on balancing it all. This may have been an unexpected event, but she’s taking it in stride, always reminding herself that everything works out in time.
“I didn’t think this was going to be anything, but it blew up over time,” Jaeblon said. “I use the word snowballing a lot, but I think that goes with every aspect of cosplay. Whether that’s building a platform or learning different things — it all just accumulates over time.”