Thursday, September 5, 2013

STGCC 2013: Vampy Bit Me (Linda Le) interview

By Jedd Jong

Morrigan from Darkstalkers

I had the chance to sit down and speak to cosplayer Vampy Bit Me (Linda Le) at STGCC. She's an experienced cosplayer who has put together some incredible costumes, done some great photoshoots and earned herself a legion of fans on the internet. I'm a big fan of her Lady Nightwing cosplay myself (you'll see it a little later). Read to hear how she got her nickname, what she thinks of reimagined anime, which fashion designer she looks up to, that whole "cosplayers getting harassed" issue and how long it takes to put a costume together from concept to convention. 

Q: Is your name in any way inspired by the viral video?

Vampy: What viral video?

Q: The “Charlie Bit Me” video.

X-Force Psylocke

Vampy: No! No (laughs)…I got Vampy in middle school. I pretty much don’t sleep at night, if you guys follow me on Twitter, I never sleep at night. I’m usually up and I sleep during the day. It’s very weird, but it’s been like that since I was in middle school, so it was a nickname of mine. I don’t like it, but it stuck with me.

Q: Do you feel you’ve embraced it?

Vampy: I have to embrace it now, because it’s my name now, so…I still don’t like it, but it’s Vampy.

Q: What is the logistics like when you’re preparing for a shoot, looking for photographers and so on?

Vampy: Um, actually I only work with my friends. So it’s like, I work with four people, and it’s been like that for four years; just friends.

Q: Where do you get ideas for the poses?

Vampy: Oh, I research. So pretty much if I have my comic book, I have it out and I copy exact poses. Everything (comes back to the) reference. I don’t really change it, I have it exactly to the comic book’s guide, because I’m a fan, a fan of their work, and I want to translate it that way.

Q: I understand that you started modelling a while back, so is modelling or cosplay more attractive to you?

Vampy: Um, the funny thing is, I didn’t like modelling. My friend got me into it because I style women. I work with a lot of models who are…tall. (Laughs) I’m short. So I would style them and my friend said “why don’t you take some pictures?” And I was like “okay…” and that’s how it started. So which do I like more? I like both, I can’t really answer. It’s like me with K-Pop and metal music, I like both.

Lady Punisher. "Fran Castle", perhaps.
Q: What criteria do you look at when choosing a character you would like to cosplay as?

Vampy: I like strong characters. A lot of my characters are only strong women. If it’s kind of a weaker woman, I won’t cosplay it. That’s it, pretty simple. Powerful, they kind of have to be like a dude, that’s why I do a lot of guy characters. They just look better sometimes. So I said “hey, if Punisher looks cool, I’m going to make it into a girl character, because it looks cool!” It’s gotta be strong, like Claymore or something like that. Yeah.

Q: What’s the biggest sacrifice that you’ve made for the sake of cosplay?

Vampy: Everything. (Laughs) I kind of don’t have a life, really. If life meaning going out with my friends. My weekends…I don’t even know what a weekend is anymore, it’s been six years since I knew what a weekend was. Everyone’s like “yeah, Saturday!” and I’m all like “what? Working.” Sacrifices, I mean I love doing what I do, but actually going out with my friends…so I invite them over and “convert” them into making costumes, so that’s how I have a life now.

Q: At this point, you’ve been to a lot of conventions. Are there any “horror stories” or anything interesting that has happened?

Vampy: Every time someone says “horror stories”, it makes me think of a massacre or something, like someone’s going to get killed! No, not that bad! People are really nice, generally. Asia is just different. People are very like, they’re big fans, so they’re kinda like…there’s crowds. And that scares me because I’m usually by myself, so when there’s more crowds, I’m like, I clamour up. That’s the only thing.

Q: Which Marvel or DC artists/writers do you respect most?

Vampy: Oh, Jim Lee. It started out with Jim Lee; I talk about Jim Lee all the time because for me, I think he understood each character and he still does with DC, but he totally understands that character and how to depict women. Sexy, but strong, you know? And I love that; and I love his art style.

Jun the Swan from Gatchaman - and me! 
Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced till now in creating your own costumes?

Vampy: To be honest, every costume is a challenge, because you don’t know how to make it, you know? You don’t really have anyone to go off of, because if you’re doing a God of War character, no one really does it, so you don’t really have reference. So you have to make it up in your head, which makes you go a little crazy, but every character is another way to teach yourself a new skill. Yeah.

Q: Has it ever happened that while making a costume, you felt like you wanted to give up, because you felt you weren’t able to get the results you wanted?

Vampy: Yeah, I go through that a lot. But then after a while, you just stop thinking and just doing, you know? You get depressed sometimes when you can’t finish something but you know what, overall, it’s just supposed to be fun. So you let it slide and you just bring another costume that you want to get ready and sew.

Q: Are there any fashion or costume designers working in film or fashion that you look up to, whose work inspires you?

Vampy: Alexander McQueen, I love that. (Laughs) I’m like crazy over it. I love high fashion, I think that in a lot of my photos you can see the high fashion influence, because I like the cinematic, you know the quality.

Reika from Gantz
Q: Is there a costume or character that you like so much that you keep wearing it?

Vampy: It’s kinda obvious (motions to Psylocke costume she’s wearing). (Laughs), oh yeah. I like Gantz a lot, even though the ending sucked. I like Gantz, it’s just I like black things and things that cover up a lot of stuff. I’m happy that it’s not hot here, right now, inside. So, I get to wear it. And Morrgian (from Darkstalkers), but I wore that too many times.

Q: What’s the number one irk you have while preparing for a cosplay event?

Vampy: Packing. You have to remember every little thing! So, that’s it.

Q: There have been lots of superhero movies in cinemas lately, what do you think of the designs or redesigns in making a comic book costume work onscreen?

Rei Ayanami, Evangelion

Vampy: Okay, well, do you want something specific? Like in G.I. JOE, when they did Snake Eyes and they added lips, that’s not cool. (Laughs) why did they do that? I wasn’t very happy about that. Um, thing is some look very cool, but some look too slick. For example Gatchaman, the new movie, I’m not too big a fan of it, because it looks like, um, Tron. Like “why did you make it like that?” I heard the reviews; I haven’t watched it yet but I heard bad reviews so, not very happy about that. When it’s too futuristic, you’re not really paying homage to the original, so that’s my gripe.

Q: You’re now very well-known in the cosplay scene; are there any cosplayers you really look up to?

Vampy: My influences aren’t cosplayers though, so it’s kinda hard (to answer the question). I like everybody’s cosplay though, it sounds really silly but I do. I like Kamui, Kamui Cosplay. She does a lot of armour. So next thing I want to do is start doing more armour. I like Warhammer, so hopefully I can start doing more Warhammer. I like Kamen Rider too, I wanna do some helmets.

Q: Is there any advice you can give newer cosplayers?

Vampy: Um, make sure you do it because you really love it. Sometimes you go into it thinking you’re going to be popular out of nowhere; that’s not true. Um, it’s definitely…you’ll see the ones that last the longest are the ones that love it. Because the ones that go away are the ones that are doing it for the wrong reasons, so yeah.

Q: Characters from older anime and comic book series, the designs are obviously quite different than those that came up in the past ten years. So, I was wondering what you think about when an older series is redone to suit modern tastes, and what are your thoughts on Gatchaman Crowds?

Vampy: Oh, don’t get me started! I’m not a fan. What is that? I watched the first episode and it doesn’t do anything! Phoenix is not in there, it’s just too cute…Gatchaman’s all about butt-kicking. I can say that, right? Yeah, butt-kicking. And there’s none of that! As an old-school fan, it made me a little said. And Ranma too. Ranma didn’t have red hair, so I was like “no!”

Q: If you weren’t a cosplayer, what would you see yourself as?

Vampy: I’ll continue being a stylist. I’ll probably style other women and men, doing nice things to them!

Q: I love that .gif I saw of you giving a Deadpool cosplayer a peck on the head, and he then pretends to faint. What are your favourite moments of interaction with other cosplayers at conventions and such?

Vampy: Oh man, every convention that I’ve been to, I’ve always had a good time collecting cosplay cards, especially here, I guess it’s popular and I just love every convention I get to meet new cosplayers, because they inspire me. Especially going to Asia, everybody’s so expressive in the posing, so it’s inspired me to work on my posing.

Q: Where did you start with making costumes?

Vampy: Ever since I was little, my parents told me that “you can’t have everything,” so I was like “fine, then I’ll make it.” My Mum taught me how to sew when I was four years old, and then my Dad taught me how to make things, props and things like that, when I was a little older. I started very young, pretty much all my life. It takes a long time, but I enjoy learning. (Even now) I don’t know how to do everything so I pretty much practice, do as much as I can, if I can’t do it then I go online and teach myself.
Lady Kratos; God of War

Q: Could you briefly explain the entire process from start to finish, from when you pick a character to cosplay straight through completion?

Vampy: Oh my goodness…okay, well, so what I do is I usually go online to look at turnarounds. So I do at least a couple of weeks’ worth of research. And then I go pick the fabrics, that takes about two weeks. Sometimes for Psylocke, it took me six months to get that fabric, six months to get that latex. So I had to wait six months. So I grew out my hair for four years and I dyed it purple. I was crazy! So it varies, but depending on how much I love the character. I pretty much do research for a couple of weeks, and then fabrics, if I don’t know how to make something, I go online, so that takes a couple of weeks…so maybe two months prep before. Each character is two months before, doing research.

Q: You’ve been to many conventions; what impressions do you have of STGCC?

Vampy: Oh man, I love it. I’m like literally…I’m super…I didn’t know how hot it could be sometimes, but it’s not that bad! People are so sweet here. Even if I’m not invited, I want to come back because everyone’s super cool, so I’m very happy, yes. I would totally come back, just to hang out!

Q: You’ve been here since Thursday, have you looked around Singapore, tried the food?

Vampy: Yes, I did. What’s that chicken and rice dish? Chicken rice? (Laughs) Yeah, I went there and it was some plaza with a lot of other things. I don’t know what it’s called. What is it called though?

Q: A hawker centre?

Vampy: Yeah, I went to a hawker centre, and that was cool. I think soon I’m going to go to the toy stores. After the convention, I’m going to go look at all the toys. Yes. I went to Flabslab the other night. Heard of him? He’s a toy guy here, I went to go over there, but I wanna see the Gundam, I wanna see the kits.

Q: What is cosplay to you, and how has it changed your life?
Lady Nightwing

Oh man, um, cosplay to me sometimes I don’t even know what’s going on with the internet, I just like to share art. So it’s definitely an art, because when you look at a picture, it’s not just a girl wearing an outfit. It’s her acting like the character. So to me it’s art. For example, if I see a video game I love to play, I express it through cosplay. So I want to give a gift to one of the creators, so I would probably cosplay his outfit really well, and tell him I love his game. So to me it’s art, art for art.

Q: I hope it’s okay to ask if you have anything to say about the whole “cosplayers getting harassed” thing.

Vampy: Um, well obviously I don’t like it (laughs), it’s not a good thing. I just think that sometimes, as a culture, we don’t like to speak up, we stay home a lot, we’re otaku (geeks), we don’t really have good interaction with people, so when people who aren’t really nerds or otaku or something like that and they do those things, it kind of feels like you don’t know what to say. Obviously I’m against it, but I just think that women and men – men get harassed too – they should speak up. If anything happens to them, they should tell (the person harassing them) “no.” It’s never happened to me because I say “no.” So yeah, speak up!

Q: You’re from the States and you’ve been to places such as Japan and the UK, are there any differences in the art that you’ve noticed being in these different places?

Vampy: Yes. American art style, if you notice, it’s not that clean. It’s very sketchy, right? Like Jim Lee for example, he’ll sketch the lines. But in Asia, oh my god, it looks like watercolour, you know? It’s unreal. It’s like if you have a dream, it kind of looks like that in Asia, you know? It’s just a cleaner art style. I appreciate both but when I go here, it’s crazy. For example Artgerm right, Stanley? I don’t even know how he does most of his art so, it’s amazing. I love both.

Q: Can you tell us about your future plans?

Vampy: My future plans? Next year, I’m trying to focus on more mecha. I think I shouldn’t do that now. Because before, I wasn’t very confident in my skills, but now I think I’m getting better. So now I want to do like Kamen Rider, I want to do Zaku (the Gundam), I want to do armour. I love Warhammer, I want to do Warhammer 40 K…I just want to do all the crazy stuff. Sexy is great, whatever, it’s just…me, like inside, that makes me go crazy, like the mecha. And my future plans, I’m coming out with a toy soon.

Q: If you were to cosplay Kamen Rider, which one would it be?

Vampy: Oh, Super-1. He was only around for one year, but he’s my favourite, I love his design, he’s cool.

Q: What’s the hardest cosplay you’ve ever made?

Vampy: Believe it or not, it was Morrigan from Darkstalkers. It’s very hard. I mean I know it shows a lot, don’t let that fool you because the head wings? Hard to do. The wings on your back? Hard to do. Picking out the colours was really hard, everything about that costume was hard. It took me like seven months to do, I didn’t sleep very much.

Q: With Warhammer, what would you like to cosplay as?

Vampy: I want to do Sisters of Battle, that’s my dream cosplay.

Vampy as is.
Q: What’s Vampy like outside cosplay?

Vampy: Just the same thing, just not this (motions to costume). I’m pretty simple. I don’t really…the thing is, I’m not too much of a fan of when girls say “I’m like a dude”, I’m totally a girl! It’s just that I like to do things that are cool, for example, build Gundams, it doesn’t make me a man. I just like it, right? I think that I’m the same, people tell me that I’m the same person. Just without this and the eyelashes and the contacts.

Q: What hobbies do you do in your free time?

Vampy: I used to play saxophone a lot, guitar, I love metal music so I go (to) concerts. When I come back, I’m gonna see Iron Maiden. I heard that you guys had…Metallica? I love Metallica. I like to eat a lot. If I didn’t do cosplay, my passion…my brother’s a chef, my little brother. I would totally be making food all the time, and building Gundams. I’m pretty boring (laughs).

Q: What’s the most out-there, “I wouldn’t have thought of that” material or item that you used in the formation of a costume?

Vampy: Uh well, like…I use everything. I use foil. I use tinfoil, and then I put clay over it, so instead of using all clay, you use that as the inside, foundation. Tinfoil is great for anything, tinfoil and then clay over it, epoxy.

Q: How do you make something durable, how do you make something last?

Vampy: I like to use Magic Sculpt, you guys know Magic Sculpt? Epoxy, I love that because it does not break. I used epoxy on this (the antenna for the Swan Jun helmet). I dropped it a few times and nothing happened.

Q: How many cosplays have you done?

Vampy: Too many. I can answer this: I make two or three a month. So out of what, 15 years? That’s a lot, if you do the math.
Q: How long do you think you’ll continue to be cosplaying?

Vampy: To be honest with you, since cosplay’s changing a lot, I see a lot of things happening in society that’s really sad. There’s a lot of hate in the cosplay community sometimes, it makes me really sad, it makes me not want to do it, but I continue to do it because I love it. But I wanted to quit many times, it feels weird because even though you’re wearing your Gundam shirt, if I was wearing my Gundam cosplay, same thing! We’re both fans, but we express it differently, right? In this community, I feel like sometimes there’s a lot of anger. Unneeded anger, so as long as no one tries to kill me, I’ll continue cosplay.

Q: You have quite a big following, do you have a message to your fans?

Vampy: Oh yes, of course! I think the message for me is that when you cosplay, it doesn’t matter if you’re putting $5 in cosplay or a couple of thousand, just have fun, because honestly, I appreciate all of it. Even if you’ve never tried cosplay, please try it, because it’s very addictive, you know? And it’s a good thing, because I see “box Gundam” guys – they just put (the) Gundam (logo) on a box – it’s cool! I like it! Whatever, so I just say “don’t be afraid to cosplay”, because I was afraid before.


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