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Teen Overcomes Her Social Anxiety By Dressing Up As 'Furry' Alter-Ego Named 'Cosmo'

Teen Overcomes Her Social Anxiety By Dressing Up As 'Furry' Alter-Ego Named 'Cosmo'
Sophie has forged strong friendships since joining the furry community (PA Real Life/Collect)

Truly all we're looking for is to be a part of something. This nervous teenager found her crew, and overcame her chronic social anxiety by joining a movement of "furries" and assuming the alter ego of a wolf with human characteristics called Cosmo.

Struggling throughout life to make friends, Sophie's life changed when she stumbled across YouTube videos featuring the "furry fandom" – a subculture of people who like to dress and behave as animals with human characteristics.

The "furries" perform everyday tasks dressed head to toe like animals.Sophie Whitehead created her outfit herself. And, she has even put her textiles BTEC to good use by running up suits for fellow "furries." And charges up to £1,100 (almost $1,500 dollars) per costume.

Now making a living creating costumes for fellow "furries," having transformed her bedroom at her mom's house where she lives into a workshop.

"I was drawn to the furry community as a way to escape everyday life," she said. "I have quite bad social anxiety, which makes me awkward and hard to talk to. Now I have a second furry family that I see in – and out – of my fur suit, it's been a lot like therapy."

Sophie says without the furry community she would be a "loner in a deep depression" (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I was always on my own – a bit of a loner – and to pass the time I watched a lot of animal videos," Sophie recalled. “I'd watch cats and dogs doing silly things. Then one day a video about furries popped up in my suggested videos."

Sophie has been dressing up as Cosmo Dog since 2017 (PA Real Life/Collect)

“After watching it, I wanted to delve deeper and here I am, two years later, a fully-fledged furry," she added.

Starting out by talking to other "furries" online through social media and forums, three months later, Sophie ordered a fur suit online.

“The online community was a great place to talk, not just about furries but about feelings and hardships," she said.

Sophie hopes to encourage other "misfits" to find their furry "pack" (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I found for the first time I could talk about my social anxiety and how I felt alone, and other people completely understood," she continued. “So, eventually, I ordered a wolf's head online from America, but when it arrived, I realized it wasn't very good at all. I stripped it back and did it up and, although looking back it was hideous, that was the start of my work as a fur suit maker."

At first, Sophie confined her suit wearing to the family home.

“It was quite scary trying it on for the first time. It's a lot different seeing it online and on YouTube," she said. “You always see them from the outside, so being inside one, it can be overwhelming how warm it is."

Sophie claims being a furry has helped banish her social anxiety (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It's like wearing an incredibly thick onesie in the middle of summer, so you have to build up your endurance to how long you can wear it," she continued. “I have to wear a cool down vest to keep my temperate down as it gets very hot, but it's worth it for the fun. I used to only be able to wear it for 10 minutes, but now I can do two or three hours depending on the weather."

Sophie's creations can sell anywhere up to £1,110 for a full fur suit (PA Real Life/Collect)


“Going to the toilet can be a bit of a nightmare, too, so you always go before or after climbing in. Fur suits in the bathroom are a big no no because it takes about 10 minutes to take it off and another 20 minutes to put it back on," she added.

Describing her family's reaction, Sophie explained how, at first, her mom was concerned about the motivation behind "furry fandom."

“I mostly wore my suit around the house, but my mom, Angela, didn't understand what it was about at all," Sophie said.

She continued: “She was a bit lost for words when she saw me in the fur suit for the first time, she sort of just looked at me and went, 'Oh my.' I was so excited to get it I wasn't paying much attention but I could see the confusion in her face, even though I'd told her about the wolf's head prior to wearing it. It was quite weird with her, which I understand. She was worried it might have been some sexual thing that I'd got in to, but I explained to her that it wasn't about that."

Sophie dressed as Cosmo Dog, and her mum Angela (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I told her it was just for fun, but it didn't take her long to see how it was helping my social anxiety," she added. “Part of it's down to being able to identify with a whole community of people for the first time and on the other side of things I am able to escape from everyday life and hide behind Cosmo's persona."

Three months later, Sophie sold the first wolf's head for £100 ($130 dollars) on eBay, saying she “didn't identify with the character" properly, and started searching on social media for a "furry" she felt at home with.

Sophie often creates parts of a fur suit, rather than the full thing (PA Real Life/Collect)


“I saw Cosmo on a Facebook page and I fell in love with his design – his colors in particular really stood out, which is something I've never liked to do," she recalled. “It's hard to explain, but Cosmo's the kind of person that I want to be. He looks awesome and confident – the total opposite of me – and when I put him on I feel like I can push away my shyness to become those things."

Sophie went to her first meet up a week later, where 60 or so "furries" from the surrounding area gathered together in a local pub to have a drink and a dance.

“It was really scary not knowing anybody," she said. “I wasn't sure my newfound confidence as Cosmo would pay off but it really did. Stepping out as Cosmo for the first time it was something totally different and despite the nerves it's a moment I'll always remember."

One of Sophie's creations being showcased (PA Real Life/Collect)

“He isn't big into talking, that's how his character played out in my mind, but that doesn't stop him socializing and making friends," she continued. “He's outgoing and likes to be the center of attention – in a nice way. He will use hand gestures and body language to portray his coolness, like waving his hands around and slouching against walls. Luckily, I didn't have to walk to my first meet up in public, I got dropped off by my mum and changed into my outfit at the venue, but it turns out most of the public react well when they see it."

Sophie often creates parts of a fur suit, rather than the full thing (PA Real Life/Collect)


“Although it can be quite scary when people think they can grab you because you're dressed up – especially when you don't have your peripheral vision, because of the fur suit," she added.

Now going to monthly "furry" meet ups in Leeds city center, Sophie has also developed a strong circle of friends, who she sees every week.

“We'll go for drinks and dinner or out to the cinema – anything you'd normally do at a social," she explained.

“We normally start off a meet up by going to a bar in our fur suits, but we will take them off later in the day, depending on what we're all up to," she added.

Being part of the "furry fandom" has transformed Sophie's life.

Sophie's creations can sell anywhere up to £1,100 for a full fur suit (PA Real Life/Collect)


“When I'm in my fur suit I don't feel like Sophie Whitehead, I turn into Cosmo," she said. “He's separate from me and I'm separate from him. It feels like a release and there's no pressure whatsoever."

Part of the fur suit making process (PA Real Life/Collect)

That inspired her to converting part of her attic room into a workshop, she has two sewing machines, a large work desk and a chest of drawers full of fake fur, foam padding and vinyl.

“I spend about five hours a day working on different fur suits – it's a very long process," she said. “I don't often make full suits, I'll do paws and heads, and it's always to order. I have made a full fur suit which I sold for about £1,100 but it varies from suit to suit. My mom's been a great help in it all, especially with the business side of things."

Sophie has turned her attic room into a workshop (PA Real Life/Collect)Collect)

“People are so often scared of things that are different and want to label or spoil them," she said. “TV programs and popular culture portray being a furry as a sexual thing but as far as I know that's not the case at all. It certainly isn't in the furry circles I'm part of – it's all about fun. I've made friends I think I will keep for life through the community. I even have two furries coming over on Christmas Day, although I'm not sure we'll be suited up!"

Sophie has been an active furry for two years (PA Real Life/Collect)

“Even my mom thinks it's great and sees that it's given me a way to be myself and make friends – and it's all thanks to Cosmo," she concludes.