Ok, the amount' of bullshit I had to deal with in the last few weeks, for being an semi-accurate cosplayer, has become unbearable - I've put my Esmaralda cosplays in storage, until I have the strength to deal with this again.
If the fact, that I tried to look the best I could, portraying this character some find offensive - I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry if I came out racist for trying to look like someone I'm not by means of tanning. Though I did not "blackface" her (or brownface either), as some called out - it was summer, so I'd still be tan, whether I cosplayed her or not. I'd have to ban the sun over Russia and carry a parasol around to stay pale.
I take cosplay very seriously and in no way as a caricature - I don't do a character if he'll be a mockery by the way I can possibly pull him off. I don't do black characters, I don't do men, I don't do characters that are not my body type. But if the character has a skintone slightly darker or paler than my natural - I will try recreate it for the sake of NOT making the character a caricature. As if I would do a character of an unnatural skintone - you may argue, that green-skinned people don't exist and can't be discriminated against, but I don't see either case different from the point of recreating a look (from this point - I'm in no way belittling discrimination real people get for their color), as long as it isn't half-assed. The difference is that I'd not use stage makeup for natural tones - I only work within my natural possibilities. I DON"T COSPLAY TO PORTRAY STEREOTYPES. I view this problem in cosplay from an artist standpoint, not as an ethical dilemma or a way to degrade someone.
I would not make Esmeralda "white" even if I had to go though this bullshit again - I respect the character way too much to strip her of her heritage and one of the design elements, that was important for the story, the fact that she was different from the common french white folk (according to Disney anyway). For a character, who's race already isn't portrayed too much in the media - that would be disrespectful in my book. It's not something she can take off - it's a part of her. It would mock her in such fashion - you change one thing and you shortcut the character. I'd end up as Bellatrix Black in a red dress if I was pale. At that point I could as well make the dress green and the hair ginger - and lose the character altogether, calling it a Poison Ivy crossover. Gingers where hunted down as witches too, as where girls, who seemed "too beautiful".
I'm not gonna tell others how to cosplay, to match the skin tones or not. But my choice stands - if I love the character (otherwise, why would I cosplay her in the first place?), I'm gonna make her as accurate as possible. Hair color, eyes, skin, every detail of the outfit - I'll do my best. If I slack off - that's the disrespect I'll be ashamed of. I don't know how cosplay is viewed in Europe or the US, but in Russia many take it really serious, not "just a costume", but as somewhat art. I understand that skin color isn't a costume - but I don't understand why people treat any "costume" as something bad or offensive, as if it's all cheap halloween "sexy indian" shit. Why people only view it as a mockery, a caricature? And I even wasn't talking about heavy theater makeup or making an obviously stereotypical costume.
You can feel offended, I can't dictate how you feel, but hopefully you'll also understand my point of view and the fact that I'd never use cosplay as a way to mock, degrade or make fun of someone, to make a stereotype or caricature.
If someone is offended by this - forgive me for being a russian girl, who looked up to princess Jasmine and Esmeralda, as a child, rather than Aurora, Ariel or Cinderella. And for wanting to portray them in all their beauty, not adjusted or watered down.
I'd like to note, though, mostly people offended were from the USA, so I'll address a lil matter to this fact. People of different ethnic backgrounds coexisted on the territory of Russia for centuries with 2 vast cases of discrimination - slavery of white people in the Mongol Empire and white-white slave ownership on a state level up to 1861. We do have racism, I'm not denying that, but PLEASE consider that the whole world doesn't revolve around your social situation and history.