It’s time for another series of the Senpai Cosplay Spotlight!
In this episode, I am interviewing Kendra Beltran. She is a freelance writer for many publications such as Cosplay Central, Fandomania, MTV Geek and also her own website. I myself was featured in one of her many awesome articles on Cosplay Central! It was about cosplayers sharing their mental health battles during the pandemic (click here to read that post by Kendra).
Kendra is also the founder of Crushgasm, a fun podcast discussing all our favorite crushes in life, especially those celebrities!
In this interview, we get to learn all the amazing stuff that Kendra has done throughout her long writing career, including:
- The path that lead her to become a writer
- How she made her school teacher cry with her writing!
- How writing for cosplay writing is particularly special to her
- Why she started Crushgasm during the pandemic
- Advice on what it takes to be a freelance writer, and how you can get started
You can find Kendra on various platforms online, including:
Senpai: To start off, how did you get into becoming a freelance writer? Was it something that you naturally enjoyed? Or was there a calling that led you down the path to being a writer?
Kendra: Writing is both something I love to do and something I started to do out of necessity in 2009. I’d graduated college with zero direction and a love of live music. Even back then concert tickets weren’t cheap so I eventually learned you could write reviews of concerts or interview bands to get press passes. Eventually writing about music led me to branch out and write about pop culture in a more well-rounded way for sites like Fandomania, MTV Geek, and Cosplay Central.
As a kid I liked to write and I was good enough at it. English class was never a struggle, but it wasn’t until 10th grade in Mrs. Marquis’ class that I sort of realized that yeah, it’s easy enough to form words into sentences that’ll get you an A – but it takes a specific skill set to be able to take words and impact. On this day in 2000-something Mrs. Marquis assigned a paper about a time someone did something that made you appreciate them more.
I’d just had a particularly horrendous, teen angst moment with my father that, in turn, made me respect my mother all that much more. I’d turned it in, sat back down, and soon enough Mrs. Marquis was standing there crying, and hugged me. It was the first emotional response I’d got from something I’d written. After that I started to write with that in the back of my mind; move your audience whether it’s to tears or it’s bringing a smile to their face, move them.
So while falling into the world of freelance writing was the result of graduating college with no plans in place, I think deep down inside I was always going to land in a place where a pen and paper were waiting for me.
Senpai: As a writer, what got you into the cosplay community and writing articles related to cosplay?
Kendra: Like many freelance writers, I was on the hunt for new places to write for and saw Cosplay Central was looking for writers and reached out. I approached them with years of writing experience to my name and explained that I wasn’t coming to them as a cosplayer. Only that I’d gone to conventions for years at that point, and had always been enamored with the imaginative ways cosplayers can not only capture characters but also the way they put their own spin on them.
Ultimately I like being able to share people’s stories and perspectives, and Cosplay Central was so amazing in that regard. They let me pretty much write every single article I pitched during my time with them from pieces about mental health to life as a Black cosplayer.
In pop culture coverage it can be very one-sided in not only who is being talked to but what is being talked about, and I just like to be able to bring new perspectives to the table, which I’m proud to have done with Cosplay Central.
Senpai: I know that Cosplay Central is one of the largest cosplay websites out there. As a writer, I wonder how does it feel to have your content being shared to such a large audience?
Kendra: For me it’s not so much about how big or how small a site may be, it’s more about the types of articles sites greenlit and are encouraging about. That’s always the sites I enjoy writing for most, the ones that allow writers to write and deliver what they do best, and for me that’s diving into interviews and highlighting stories we rarely hear.
Senpai: What are some of your most favorite or memorable articles you’ve written as a writer?
Kendra: It’s always fun to do the big roundups of cosplay looks for pieces like Disney’s ‘Hercules’ or Barbie, because again – cosplayers are just some of the most creative people on earth. But aside from those, I loved the piece about cosplayers’ mental health during the pandemic. You know we were all struggling, but it was nice to be able to put that piece together for a specific community.
Other pieces I enjoyed with Cosplay Central focused on drag in the cosplay community as well as the one about cosplaying Disney while Black. Loving Disney can be a struggle as a Black girl so it was interesting to hear other perspectives on the matter.
Senpai: I decided to view your Crushgasm podcast and it seems so much fun and such a great idea! How did that come about? Who are some of YOUR favorite crushes? 🙂
Kendra: During the pandemic it was hard not to start a podcast, right? It was like buy plants, bake bread, start a podcast. I’d done the first two so by the end of 2020 I was toying around with the idea of putting a show together because my husband had already started one. I thought – hey, it’s just like doing all these other interviews…only I have to actually talk to people. That was the hardest part to get over.
Crushgasm seemed like the natural progression for me though as a writer and a fangirl. I grew up during the boy band craze of the late ‘90s so talking about crushes and reading those teen magazines sort of morphed my mind into this perpetual slumber party where the conversation is always about crushes!
Again, an older millennial here so Backstreet Boys are ingrained into my heart at this point but I’ve let a few more make their mark on my crush list in recent years. I love Jesse Eisenberg and Homelander from ‘The Boys.’ Not so much the actor that plays him, it’s more about the character. I’m not sure why because Homelander is unstable as can be. So it has to be that bleach blonde, Zack Morris from ‘Saved by the Bell’ hair.
Senpai: What are some of the things you enjoy about being a writer?
Kendra: This can best be answered by my favorite song from New Found Glory, “Truth of My Youth:”
These are my thoughts written down on paper
It’s my only savior
From not saying what I want to say
These are the thoughts that are on my mind
Moments that haven’t yet been defined
I’m naturally shy to the point that it’s crippling in some cases, but writing – I can say all that needs to be said without having to vocalize a word.
Senpai: What about the not-so-nice things?
Kendra: There was a point in freelancing where I was writing for maybe 10 sites at one time. Of course, I did more for some than others, but it was still a lot. Too much actually. It can burn you out and there have been times where I’ve lost the drive that pushes me to write.
When that happens I actually take a step back and write for me. I’ll just start a blog about this or that and write about what I’m passionate about at that moment. In those instances I did a year-long dive into what it meant to be an adult (https://exploringadulthoodsite.wordpress.com/), and in many ways Crushgasm was a moment in which I needed to get back to writing about what I wanted to because on top of the podcast, I write two blog posts that coincide with each new episode.
Senpai: You mentioned that with Cosplay Central, you’ve been given a lot of creative freedom to write articles. Is that type of creative freedom rare as a freelancer? Or would you say it’s unique to writing about cosplay, or with Cosplay Central?
Kendra: In my experience it’s not so much as rare as it is a gift you don’t take for granted. I’ve written for sites that would basically make you write a thesis-sized paper as a pitch before even considering your piece. It would’ve been worth it if it paid well, but it wasn’t and it can be exhausting to put that much effort into an idea for an editor to pass on it. It can also be discouraging when you see what did pass, you know?
So with Cosplay Central, it was such a great experience getting to bring these ideas to the table that weren’t so much about the art of cosplay as much as they were about the people behind the creations.
Senpai: You’ve written quite a few articles with Cosplay Central. Are there any other topics you wanted or plan to write about in the future, with regards to cosplay? I’m curious to know!
Kendra: I haven’t written for them in awhile as I’ve been focusing on the podcast and whatnot but given the time and opportunity, I’d love to talk to do a round up of those sort of cosplay mashups like a Disney Princess Stormtroopers or showgirl-inspired kaiju characters (which I’ve seen before and they were amazing).
I’d also love to talk to cosplayers that do characters that are sort of out of left field. You can go to a convention and see more than a dozen Jokers and Harley Quinns, but then you see one Princess Unicorn from ‘The Office,’ and those are the sort of pop culture figures I like to see brought to life.
Senpai: Since writing about concerts is a big part of your repertoire, what are some of your favorite musicians? 🙂
Kendra: Backstreet Boys and Mariah Carey would definitely be the foundation of my musical home. They were the first couple of artists where I felt an obsession. Since then that home has built walls with Garth Brooks’ vocals, given me a finished basement with Matchbox Twenty’s Vh1 vibes, made sure my appliances were tip top due to SZA’s lyricism, and put a roof on top thanks to Paramore’s overall greatness.
Senpai: If someone is aspiring to be an online freelance writer themselves, what advice would you give them?
Kendra: One time I saw Chuck Lorre, the man who basically kept CBS going in the 2000s by co-creating ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ speak at a panel and someone asked him his best writing advice and I can’t top it, so I’ll share with you – write a lot.
Nope, I have one more…If you’re not getting hired or don’t think there’s a place where your writing fits, then start your own site. Think of it as a gym for your writing. A place to workout those creative muscles while also fine tuning your voice. That perspective is going to be the only thing that sets you apart because there are a lot of people who can write about cosplay, ‘Gremlins,’ or Paramore – but how you would write about those things is what editors are looking for. So work on your voice and do it often, but if it ever starts to feel like a chore, take a writing break and write about something that, in the words of Marie Kondo, sparks joy.
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!