A black, femme Inuyasha stood near the revolving glass doors of the entrance to the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, and a group of curvy girls dressed as the cheerleading squad from the teen hit Bring it On (2000) were congregating near the escalators for a picture. They stood in poses so perfect that many onlookers probably wondered if they’d been real-life cheerleaders in high school. Also, ‘wonder’ is what BlerdCon, a conference founded on a theme of full inclusion, is all about. If anyone ever wondered what a gender-bent Miles Morales looked like, or if Thor could pull off a dreadlock ponytail, or what a Conga line of about 200 high energy black and brown cosplayers dancing to soca amidst a bank of retro and emerging video game consoles, they would wonder no further if they’d attended this year’s event.
Pinpointing what made the con so magical isn’t a difficult feat; it’s easy to see the draw of a three-day soiree that offered its participants the chance to show off costumes that took weeks to craft, line dance while dressed as a masked superheroes, and partake in panels that discussed everything from DC versus Marvel universes to the future of black fantasy. But the element that continues to bring an immense amount of growth to Blerdcon each year is two-fold: its nostalgia factor and its great location. While the latter isn’t necessarily the most interesting aspect of the con, it was important. Just twenty minutes outside of Washington, D.C., scores of cosplayers were able to flock in by train or Uber, and there are entire streets designating to handicapped parking adjacent to the venue. This is important, considering that besides being LGBTQ-friendly and diverse, accessibility for differently abled attendees was also high on Blerdcon’s list of priorities.
Now back to that nostalgia.
The only way to truly categorize the levels of throwback-ness at this conferences are to divide them into two factions: the pop culture fare you distinctly remember loving as a kid, and the stuff you’d totally forgotten about–but still absolutely love. Some of the most creative attendees dug in the retro vault to rev up those memories.
Another lure for Blerdcon are the afterparties. Aside from the non-stop dance party going on in the gaming are on the lower level, Blerdcon also dedicates a space for an afterparty for its participants who want to keep the festivities going after the vending booths and panels shut down for the day. They’re always well-attended, too, because the headliners for the con are bound to stop through and take pics with fans. This year was no different, since songstress and Steven’s Universe voice actress Estelle wowed Garnet fans who attended the party on Saturday. For those who weren’t gaga for Garnet, actress Racheal True had more than a few Spiderman meme moments last Friday as she posed for fans cosplaying as Rochelle, her character from The Craft (1996).
In all, Blerdon’s recipe won the east coast’s diversity cook-off this year just as it has each year since its inception in 2017. And really, as long as the con keeps celebrating pop-culture enthusiasts from every corner of the color, gender, ability, and sexuality spectrum, it’s their attendees who win.