Written by Erin Manzo
Comic Con Arabia will be the first Saudi convention featuring guests from America. But they are going to have to do things a little differently to adhere by the rules of the regime
Riki Lecotey (known in the cosplay community as Riddle) will become the first American female cosplayer to be welcomed in Saudi Arabia. She will be joined by Carlos Blanchard (Rage Custom Creations, and Medieval Batman), Michael “Knightmage” Wilson (cosplayer, spokesmodel, and stuntman), and Thomas DePetrillo (owner of Extreme Costumes and self-professed maker of giant robots).
Riddle’s journey will be particularly remarkable; appearing means she must adhere to Saudi laws as they pertain to women. Only women will be allowed to view her cosplay, which must be separated from the men’s area of the con. In public, she will wear an abaya. Adapting to this culture as a woman, while also presenting cosplay, may be seen as a groundbreaking move. She tells Bleeding Cool,
““This will be a historic event for the geek community in Saudi Arabia, and I’m excited and honored to be a part of it. While comic & video game conventions have been happening for years all over the world, and it’s something many of us take for granted, this will be SA’s second convention ever, and first convention with international guests. A place for all geeks in Saudi Arabia to feel welcome and celebrate what they love. Conventions and cosplay are still in its infancy in Saudi Arabia and everyone involved over the next few years, from organizers, attendees and especially cosplayers, are pioneers. It’s inspiring on so many levels. The fact that I have been selected to represent women in cosplay means more then I can express. I have seen how much cosplay has changed in my almost 2 decades of cosplaying. What always amazes me is how cosplay changes people. It creates community and confidence. Helps those who are shy come out of their shell, or those with a love to create, an outlet to do so. I hope to share my knowledge with the cosplayers in Saudi Arabia , and encourage others to start cosplaying. I have benefited so much from my friends who have passed along their skill, I will always try to help those just starting out in this amazing hobby. I’m excited to see how cosplay and the cosplay community will continue to grow in their counrty, especially now that they will have local events to show off their talent and love of the characters. I always look forward to seeing the costumes and picking up some artwork from local Saudi artist, but most of all, I look forward to meeting the geek community in Saudi Arabia, because no matter where you go in the world the geek community are my people. I can honestly say that when I’m cosplaying the old Sophie from spirited away or granny goodness, I will always look back on my invitation Saudi Arabia as high point in my cosplay adventures.”
Blanchard (who was among the first American cosplayers during China’s first convention in 2015) also issued this statement:
“I am honored to announce that Riddle, Knightmage, Thomas DePetrillo and I will be cosplay guests at Comic Con Arabia at the end of this month! Saudi is in the midst of going through some spectacular and historic cultural changes at the moment and we have been invited as the very first American cosplay guests at the first ever Comic Con in the capital of Riyadh. To say that we are honored and excited, does little to adequately express how we feel. This is a huge deal to put it bluntly. Saudi Arabia only had their inaugural Comic Con back in February of this year, in the city of Jeddah, and it was a huge success with over 20K attendees. Think about that for a second, and let that sink in. What we have been attending for so many years has only just come to their country, showing us on a different level that we share common interests. And that our love for comics and costuming transcends cultures, race and religions. That regardless of all the differences between us, there is a commonality, albeit it a geeky one. We have been given a unique opportunity to see first hand how cosplay and comics are viewed in their country, and we get to experience their joy of this, and allow us to share ourselves with them in the process. This is something we take very seriously, because we understand that we aren’t there as individuals, but as representatives, not only of the United States, but the cosplay community as a whole. When they see us, they see you.
So rest assured that we will do everything in our power to make you proud of us. That when they interact with us, and let us share in their world, they see you, all the cosplayers, worldwide.”
More as this story develops. Keep an eye out for reports from the convention, which will take place November 24th-26th, and follow the show on Twitter.
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