By Lauren Linhard –

You may have mistaken Alicia Snook for Emma Frost or Princess Ariel at the Great Philadelphia Comic Con, but one thing you couldn’t miss is how this badass woman is breaking down cosplay stereotypes.

It’s called cos-positive, a new movement in the cosplay community dedicated to challenging the idea that you need to look a certain way or have a certain body type to dress as a character.

A lot of male characters are cosplayed as tall and muscular, while the female characters are dressed provocatively with attributes typically unattainable to women, said Snook, who started making her own cosplay costumes two years ago.

“One of the best ways to challenge the negative stereotypes is to cosplay whatever you want and be confident,” Snook said. “If you see any type of negative talk or action towards a cosplayer, stand up and say something. There can be no change if there is only silence.”

To that end, the 24-year-old has taken on a number of genderbends, turning a male character into a female and vice versa, for no other reason than because she wanted to. Her portfolio includes Bowser, The Riddler, Skyrim and Dexter.

“I love the creative freedom of making the costume my own design and expressing myself through those changes,” Snook said of her genderbend creations. “I love the thrill of the design and the idea of making something completely opposite.”

Snook has joined forces with some Pennsylvania-based volunteer groups, Red Hat Games and Central PA Avengers, to raise awareness and funds for pediatric medical condition, sexual abuse and other causes. It means a lot, Snook said, to use her artistic expression and interest in cosplay to make a difference.

“I think cosplay empowers me not just as a woman, but as a person and as an artist,” Snook said. “I have always been a creative person, but cosplay is a good way to actually see and feel your hard work pay off.”

Bottom line: cosplay is all about acceptance – accepting yourself, accepting others and, sometimes, accepting your responsibility as a superhero to make a difference.