Known the world over for her unreal homemade costumes, beautiful looks and positive attitude, Linda Le, who goes by the cosplay name Vampy Bit Me, is definitely one of the coolest cosplayers around. Between designing, sewing and then revealing her awesome costumes at conventions, we had the chance to talk with the übernerd before she heads out on her expo tour that’ll take her all around the globe. See if she’s coming to your town on her Vampy Bit Me Facebook page.
*Playboy.com: *It’s so cool that you started designing costumes with your mom! Have you guys ever collaborated on one of your pieces?
Le: No, we’ve never worked on one together. In the Asian culture, even when I go to Asia, they still hide that they cosplay. Some of them are really big cosplayers in Korea but they don’t tell their parents that they cosplay. My parents aren’t that strict, but they just know that I cosplay and make costumes. The reason I call myself Vampy, apart from the fact that my friends call me that, is so that I never have to use my real name. Eventually, my family started finding out what I was doing and told me that they didn’t care, but I really wasn’t sure if they’d approve. Of course my mother did, though; she taught me how to make costumes so it’s her fault! [laughs]
Playboy.com: When did you realize that you were getting famous for your cosplaying?
Le: I still don’t really realize I’m famous because I stay home all day and make costumes! [laughs] But I guess I started noticing when my exposure got international. I was featured in this book, Otacool 2, by Danny Choo, the son of Jimmy Choo. Anyway, the book came out in 2009 and showcased cosplayers from around the world. After appearing in that, I was contacted by Kotobukiya, the toy company that makes all of those pretty bishoujo figures. What was interesting is that the company had never hired a cosplayer before they hired me. Back then, cosplaying wasn’t that big so they weren’t sure if hiring me was a good idea.
Playboy.com: You brought up something that I never really considered about cosplaying—it’s a world of extremes; a lot of stay-at-home work contrasted with these conventions where you’re just so engulfed in people!
*Le: *Yeah! A majority of conventions are definitely a show. In reality you look great for an hour or two, but the majority of the time you’re working. That’s why you see a lot of these cosplay girls getting so excited to finally see people! I’m dead after cons, which is why I always cosplay characters who don’t need to smile. [laughs]
Playboy.com: Good tactic!
Le: No, I’m just kidding, but honestly it’s a lot of work, especially when you make your own costumes.
Playboy.com: What was the most challenging costume you’ve made?
Le: Definitely Morrigan from Darkstalkers. It was a tiny bit revealing but the hardest part about making the costume was that I had to carve balsa wood and do all of these crazy things like making sure the wings didn’t show on the back and build an armature for the pieces. I didn’t know what I was doing, so it took about six months to make. As a costumer I have to say that the big, bulky costumes—like robots—are easier to make than a more revealing one, which is a surprise to most people; with revealing costumes you really need to be sure that they stay in place!
Playboy.com: Do you keep all of the pieces you make?
Le: Yes, I do. A lot of people sell their costumes, but I feel very personally connected to a majority of mine, so I always end up keeping them.
Playboy.com: I know shaming women for not being “authentic enough” is a part of the cosplay culture sometimes. How do you deal with people who think you’re a “fake geek girl”?
Le: It’s horrible. It just happened to me for the first time. It’s quite awesome that I’ve been cosplaying for so long and online for six or seven years and I only ran into it now! I have been told a few times that as a woman I couldn’t cosplay a male character. And I was like, “Hold on! Do I cosplay for you?” I’m quite vocal online. I wouldn’t say that I’m rude; I’m just an advocate for crossplaying. As geek culture is being more accepted—which I’m happy about because I can get nerd stuff anywhere, which is amazing—there is a growing number of people who believe that women can’t be into cosplay and sexy while they’re at it. I think that they are always going to have that problem. I was on the receiving end of that the other day, and it was hard. But I don’t think we should let it bother us. You know, you just continue to do what you do because you love it.
Playboy.com: You got to work with Nerdist on their “Just Cos” videos! That must’ve been a really fun way to meet other cosplayers!
Le: Working with Nerdist was really fun. I helped produce a couple of their shows, actually! I think they mainly stay in the United States so I didn’t continue working with them because the majority of my shows are international, but I love working with them and still talk to them quite a bit. Chloe Dykstra is still my friend, Chris Hardwick and everyone are so amazing.
Playboy.com: Other than cosplaying, what else do you keep yourself busy with?
Le: I game! I just bought a couple of games online, actually. I pretty much live the otaku life, which is the obsessed nerd culture, that’s the only way I can really describe it. In my free time I like to collect toys, so I like to toy shop, I go to a lot of art shows and I don’t really do anything but nerd stuff!
Playboy.com: Is it strange for you that people want to have prints of you and follow you on a fan page?
Le: It is still very odd to actually go through that. A lot of the girls I work and hang out with have accepted it, but I still think that it’s very…I know this sounds cheesy, but to me I think that everyone is equal in this fandom in a lot of ways. When I meet other cosplayers they sound a lot like me. We bond over loving different series. Sometimes they have gripes about it. But while I appreciate that they love the art that I do on costumes and how obsessed I am about every detail, I also realize that I’m just like them. Although I just started selling prints, it’s solely because fans were asking for them.They don’t have to buy a print. I just love hearing when people appreciate the work I do.
Playboy.com: The photos you’ve done are really cool!
Le: Thank you! I collaborate on them with my friend Long Vo, who works with Capcom on stuff like Street Fighter, so that’s why they have that Photoshopped look to them. He pretty much takes all of my pictures since he lives about 20 minutes away from me, which is nice because I can call him up and tell him that I’ve made a costume and I want him to shoot it and he can be right over! [laughs]
Playboy.com: What do you have planned for this year?
*Le: *I have San Diego Comic-Con, of course, and then I go to Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia…it’s really crazy! I’ve been traveling for six years straight, so I’m kind of used to it. But I try to make time for me, now. I’ll take one or two days off and look around instead of just living in a hotel.
Playboy.com: What’s been the best thing cosplay has done for you?
Le: Meeting other cosplayers that I admire, that’s always been the biggest thing for me. The first one that I met and was just blown away with was a cosplayer from the Philippines named Alodia Gosiengfiao. Not only is she amazing but she’s positive, she’s always happy and even with over two million fans, her celebrity hasn’t gone to her head; she’s still the same girl! I think meeting other fans and cosplayers has always been the biggest takeaway from this because it keeps me motivated to make more costumes.
Playboy.com: What’s your…
Favorite food: Everyone knows this online, so it’s an obvious one: I eat a lot of pizza when I pull all-nighters.
Favorite drink: I always love green tea matcha.
Embarrassing moment: My wigs generally weigh a ton and I was dressed up as a wonderful character called Felicia from Capcom. I’m not sure you’re aware of this, but Felicia is a cat. I sewed four wigs together just to get her hair right. So I’m walking on the floor at Comic-Con on my way to my booth, thinking about how I couldn’t believe I finished this costume, and my wig just plopped off and I’m just bald. I just stood there as a bald furry. So I just ran away for a bit because of course there was a huge line already at my booth. When I came out everyone was telling me it was okay, but yeah, that’s what happened—I was a bald cat!
Worst pickup line: “Your dad must be a thief because he stole the stars and put them in your eyes.” They say it online a lot. That’s definitely the one.