Black Woman Creator: Briana Lawrence
As an author, freelance writer, and cosplayer, Briana Lawrence is working to get her works out into the world. Whether it’s creating a fantastical universe, writing articles pertaining to social issues in the geek community, or putting together fun scripts for WatchMojo.com, Briana is out to be the best “WRITTER” she can be. You can find her work at www.magnifiquenoir.com. We spoke with Briana about her inspirations and being a creator.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
I’m that Black girl whose muses attack her in the shower, so she can create fantastical worlds where plus size Black women create exploding baked goods and hurl them at monsters who spout out derogatory comments about their size. Loosely translated, it means I’m a writer. I also do a lot of freelance writing for various websites where I combine geekdom with diversity, representation, and social justice.
BGC: Why do you create?
I’ve always wanted to write. I’m not quite sure what started it, but I know it’s something I’ve always been interested in. Growing up, I was really into cartoons, anime, video games, and some comic books. I was a certified geek. One of the things I loved is how through all the fantasy, the stories were basically about everyday people like you and me. The things we faced on a daily basis had been turned into these cool, out of these world tales, you know? Coming of age stories, but with magic. Dealing with discrimination, but with mutant superpowers. As I got older, writing became a way to express myself and tackle the issues of the world (and within myself) through creativity. By sharing it, I hope to inspire others and encourage them to believe in themselves.
BGC: How did you get into cosplay? How is it connected to your writing?
I discovered cosplay back in 2002 when I went to my very first anime convention: Anime Central (ACEN). I pretty much assumed it was Halloween, but for adults who were into nerd culture, so to me it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen! I started cosplaying in 2004 and would go to maybe one or two conventions a year, but now, with my books out, I go to as many shows as possible and usually have a different costume each day. In 2017, my partner and I did around 25 conventions and events, and I cosplayed at almost all of them.
Cosplay has helped me come out of my shell in ways I never expected. I was pretty much the quiet fat girl who wore hats to cover her hair and put on as much clothing as possible because, “Ew, no one wants to see that.” But something about portraying the characters I loved and altering the looks into styles I was comfortable with made me feel more confident in myself. I talk a lot about loving yourself, and that leaks into my writing with the characters I create. It also made me feel more confident about having Black women headline my work. When it comes to the world of fiction and the genres I’m into, Black women usually aren’t the main characters, so I assumed that I had to focus on white characters. As I put myself out there more with cosplay, I decided to do the same with my writing, and work to create the characters who represented who I was.
BGC: What is your favorite thing about fandom?
The sense of community within it. I know it has its ups and downs like every other community out there, but when you find your people, and get that love and support from them, it’s amazing. People within fan communities have this way of coming together, and it’s incredible. I’ve met some of the most important people in my life through fandom, including my partner of 16 years!
Fandom is also where I got introduced to queer content in a positive light, which was important when I came out. It was kinda hard to explore queerness when most forms of media didn’t touch the LGBTQ community back in 2001, so having a space where people wrote stories about queer characters and drew art of couples that wasn’t purely tragic was a big deal to me. The rest of the world may not have caught on, but fans did.
BGC: Who is your audience?
Everyone of all ages, especially those who are used to being underrepresented. The amount of, “Oh hey that’s me,” I hear when people see my work is really encouraging, and that’s something I set out to do.
BGC: Who/what inspired you to do what you do? Who/what continues to inspire you?
My older brother, most definitely, was a very good influence. He passed away when I was 13, but I’d like to think that he’s watching me and cheering me on as I go on this writing journey of book publishing and geekdom. My mom is also extremely encouraging. She reads and shares everything I do, and was the one who said, “I told you so,” when I FINALLY decided to pursue writing full-time. Then there’s my partner, who I bounce ideas off of. She really helps me flesh things out and is always supporting my work.
I also have some wonderful friends who really inspire me to keep going, not just because they support me, but because I watch them pursue their own dreams and seeing them succeed inspires me to go out there and do my best. And anyone who’s ever felt like they haven’t been represented properly encourages me to get my stuff out there, so they can have something to look at. I’m trying to create the kinds of stories that I wanted to see when I was younger.
BGC: Why is it important as a Black person to create?
For me, it’s how I get my story out there. As a queer woman of color, I know content that puts me smack on the front cover is rare, so I decided to do something about it. On top of getting my stories out there, I think Black creators inspire each other. Seeing one of us out here encourages more of us to take those steps. I think Black Panther is a good, recent example of this. With the success of that movie, other Black creators are like, “Oh wow, maybe I can do this!” Even with the attempted backlash, the overwhelming success and positivity with it spoke to so many of us. As a creator who is constantly told what does and does not sell, seeing a diverse work break the, “White is the default,” mold has affected future creators out there. As much as I want my work to speak to the audience, I really hope there’s another Black, queer creator who sees the book and decides that they can do this, too.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
Since writing is my full-time career, I try to have a set schedule for when I write. Typically, I work in the morning, and I have an office space in my house that is just for the writing I do (or any other work I do, like trying to book shows to go to, and things like that). I also keep an up-to-date calendar to remind me of what has to get done, whether it’s an article or setting aside some time to work on one of my books.
I try my best to have the outside of the office be for non-work-related things, like playing video games, or watching whatever series I’m into... but muses tend to hit whenever they want, so having a phone I can take notes on is vital. My partner and I also have at least one day dedicated to not working at all, so we might go catch a movie or go hang out somewhere, or just hang out in the living room doing anything BUT work. We hold each other accountable for getting work done AND knowing when to relax and unwind. Bath bombs and comic books have been a godsend.
BGC: Advice for young creators/ones just starting?
For one thing, I want to say good job on taking that first step, because a lot of people don’t even get that far. That deserves praise. Now, don’t stress about publishing and all of that, not yet, the first thing you must do is get the story written. Once that’s done, you can look into publishing or whatever it is you want to do with your work. Also, it’s just as important to get yourself out there as it is to get your work out there. People want to do more than follow your work, they want to follow you, as a person. They want a glimpse at who you are.
If you’re a creator who is part of a marginalized group, I know there are a lot of detractors out there. This is gonna be difficult to do, but: Tune. Them. Out! Surround yourself with positive voices. Think about the moment when you finally felt like something properly represented you and keep that in your mind as you set out to create that same experience for someone else. And don’t be afraid to be proud of your accomplishments. Reward yourself and celebrate what you do. I look forward to seeing what you put out into the world.
BGC: Any future projects?
I have three! They are:
magnifiqueNOIR Book Two: You Are Magical
The second book in my Black, queer, magical girl series. In this installment, the girls (Galactic Purple, Cosmic Green, and Radical Rainbow) are trying to figure out who the mysterious Prism Pink is while learning about the previous group of magical girls from two decades ago... while balancing holiday season and college finals.
Page Turner: Hunters Book 3
The third book in my urban fantasy series with my partner. After the events of the second book, the Hunters (a group that hunts down demons to keep their city safe and unaware of the dangers that lurk in the shadows) set off to London in their ongoing quest to uncover the secrets of the Storyteller (a mythical being who can read your entire life like a book and change it anyway he wants) and prevent that power from going into the wrong hands.
Untitled Cosplay Comic
A comic I hope to have published that’s an anthology of shorts. Each story will tackle issues within the community such as slut-shaming, body-shaming, racism, and more. I’m currently writing the script, and when it’s done, I’ll be looking to collaborate with artists the same way I did with magnifiqueNOIR back in 2017.
Find Briana’s work here: