Linda “Vampy Bit Me” Le has been cosplaying for over two decades, sewing her own take on Paula from Earthbound when she was just 10 years old. This story originally appeared on theScore esports.
Armed with a degree in business and a love for heavy metal, anime and fashion, Le has portrayed characters like Psylocke from X-Men, Samus Aran from Metroid and the Unicorn Gundam from Gundam Unicorn.
theScore esports spoke to Le about going against the trends in her industry, how marketing informs Cosplay is Not Consent and why she thinks cosplay is a “selfish” pursuit.
How did you get involved with cosplay?
My mom actually is a seamstress, so she’s been making costumes for us and teaching us to sew since I was five years old. So there’s pictures of my mom and I with our Juki sewing machines and I learned how to hand sew when I was about five, really young, and I continued to make clothing and costumes since then. So it wasn’t generally what I would have known as cosplay.
What was your first cosplay?
My first official cosplay was a character named Paula from Earthbound. So it’s an RPG game that was on the Super Nintendo and I pretty much made that costume — back then, there was no internet, so I didn’t know how to buy wigs, so I didn’t dye my hair or anything. I was really young, I was like maybe 11 or something. I think younger than that. I was maybe 10.
And we couldn’t buy wigs, so I pretty much just made the shirt, or the dress that she had and then that’s all I did. You didn’t call it cosplay back then, it was Halloween. But I guess nowadays it would be called cosplay.
Why do you cosplay and what is the best part of it?
I really love cosplay for the simple fact it’s something that is very, I guess you could call it selfish. Because I still very much cosplay the things I want, and if I’m not super-interested in it [I don’t cosplay it].
I don’t care how much money someone can throw at me, I will not do it. Like for example, a new game came out for this series that I’m actually really interested in getting into, but I did not do any research on it. I will do my research and then if I really like it, I’ll work for the company. So it’s very much a selfish thing for me, not in the way that I’m selfish with others, but is a passion of mine still and obviously I still game, I still watch a lot of anime and read comics.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the industry of cosplay?
The industry is actually very new, so when I actually started doing photoshoots, I did not know … I worked in some really cool industries, like makeup industries, and a lot of the people that I worked with did do geeky things, but they were behind the scenes more so. They did comic books, the comic books people cosplay nowadays. And they were toy manufacturers. A lot of my friends made toys, did toys, so I didn’t understand the cosplay side, even though I did it.
So now, I guess when I started, the way I did cosplay was working with those companies. So I guess I could say I was one of the first people to work with game companies. I guess not the first, but one of the first, because that’s all I knew. I did not know that you could do that, and I never saw anyone do it. So then I said “Hey, Capcom, I would love to work with you” and they wanted to work with me and they never hired a cosplayer before. So I guess I was one of the first, and definitely the first for Capcom to be hired to represent their characters and debut their characters.
So it was a very new thing for them, especially in the bay area where they had a ton of gaming companies and they’re like, “Man, you do really cool costumes, there’s no industry for that. Would you like to work for us?” So I was paid to wear the costumes and things like that, that I made or collaborated on with their companies.
Hi everyone! This is my schedule for ICON’s 25th Anniversary Gaming and Comics Convention in South Africa ???????? Can’t wait ! 😀 Friday 16th – Sniper Wolf 10AM – Panel: The State of World Cosplay ( Main Stage ) 12PM – Panel: Cosplay – How to Make the Leap ( Main Stage ) 2PM-3PM : Signing at booth Saturday 17th – Armored Nightwing 12PM-12:40PM – VIP Meet and Greet ( Cosplay Area ) 1PM-2:45PM : Signing at booth 3PM – Panel : Spotlight Vampy Q. & A. (Main Stage) 4PM-6PM : Signing at booth Sunday 18th – Panther / Persona5 9:30 AM – All day : Cosplay Judging 4PM – Cosplay Contest judging on Main Stage
When I used to go to cons, it was not a job. You had a job, so you would just make your costume and have fun with your friends. So I think that since I came into cosplay doing photoshoots later, I was already in that mindset of work because I went to school for business. So I said, “How can I make this a job that will pay my bills and I can work with companies I respect?” And in a sense I sometimes blame myself for contributing to that because a lot of people, not in a bad way, but a lot of people take it too seriously now and I kind of want to go rewind and say, “No, this isn’t always about work, it’s about having fun too.”
When I cosplay I have fun, but being a lot older than a lot of the girls — I was 25 when I took my first photo shoot — a lot of these girls are only 18 years old now and they’re writing me letters saying like, “Hey Linda, I really look up to you!” And I’m like, “No, no! Get an education first!” I always press that on my Twitter. Please go to College, get an education, be a strong women. You really love these characters, they’re strong women and educated women in these comic books. Please take after that.
What is the worst advice someone has given you regarding cosplay?
Yeah, I have a lot of bad advice people tried to give me. So some people don’t know how long I’ve been cosplaying, so they go up to me and they tell me, “Well you should…make a Patreon, you should do lewd photoshoots because…” If you research me, I have lingerie pictures and I have bikini pictures because I wanted to. The thing is, I grew up in fashion and marketing and magazines so I was never tall enough to do any of it. All the girls I’ve styled were 5’9. I was like, “Y’know what? I’m small and I kind of want to cosplay a girl that’s in fashion, why can’t I do that?” So in my mind, I always thought everything was cosplay. Fashion was even cosplay to me, because I was never tall enough, I’m only 5’2. So I cosplayed fashion icons, like Guess ads.
And that made me really annoyed, when people told me to stick to one thing. “Oh don’t show that you like metal, because maybe some people don’t like metal music.” And I’m like, “That’s my thing!” Like I said before, I’m very selfish with what I do. I don’t really care what anyone says, so I don’t really follow the trends per se. If someone’s doing one thing, I’m doing the opposite.
But I think that cosplay is very trend-oriented. If someone does one thing, everyone follows and I think that’s one of the worst thing that anyone can do for themselves, because cosplay is very expressive. You should do things you like, not because it’s popular and that’s why I think a lot of people butt heads with me, because they’re like, “To stay relevant, you have to do what we do. Or else you’re not relevant.” And that fear is because of insecurity, so I think that people should start tearing apart that insecurity and knowing who they are.
What’s your opinion on Cosplay is Not Consent?
Y’know, everything is marketing in my mind because my brain’s like that because I went to school for marketing. So I think that marketing something that’s positive is always a good thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s written with a ballpoint pen, stuck on the wall. People are going to read it and they’re going to think. It’s not like they’re just gonna read it say “Euch!” And walk by it and not care. It’s something people make billboards for, “Cosplay is Not Consent, ask before you touch someone.” I think it really helps, because I’m not sure if that happened and that’s why I don’t ever get touched or anything, people are very respectful towards me, and I think it’s partially due to that.
Photos courtesy of Linda Le.Navneet.
Randhawa does stuff and things at theScore esports. She did not eat any esportsers today. You can follow her on Twitter.
This story originally appeared on theScore esports.