Linda Le Turned This Nerdy Hobby Into A Career
If you’ve never heard of it before, Cosplaying is an activity that basically involves dressing up as characters from popular manga, anime, and video games. Although technically you can cosplay whenever and however you want, the most dedicated participants of this practice usually put in their fair share of hours and money to recreating believable and accurate real world representations of their favorite characters at cons (conventions) across the country. New York City is home to the biggest and best– NY Comic Con– on the east coast.
For many cosplayers, dressing up as their favorite characters is something they might do a few times a year at large convention. Casual cosplayers manage to embody characters through a variety of methods based on their goals for what they’d like to accomplish with their costume. For many, dressing up is a way to participate in a fandom. These participants usually settle for what works best in a short amount of time.
Others opt to buy their costumes from custom retailers on websites like Ebay or Etsy. Customers send in their exact measurements, and a costume tailored to their size is sent, usually 6-8 weeks later. Although expensive (costumes run anywhere from $80 to hundreds of dollars) these custom made designs may offer highly detailed costumes that casual cosplayers can’t replicate at home.
That being said, if you’re trying to cosplay a more obscure character you’ll probably have trouble finding a ready made design. In those cases, dedicated cosplayers usually bite the bullet and make their costumes themselves, which can be a time consuming and taxing process. For a lot of cosplayers, however, making costumes is a huge part of the fun, and it allows them to tailor their look to their own preferences–whether that means prioritizing accuracy, or infusing the costume with a bit of their own tastes.
Amongst throngs of cosplayers that appear at large conventions such as NY Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con, there is one woman who has taken cosplaying to levels far and above. Linda Le, known as VampyBitMe, or Vampy for short, spends most of her time cosplaying. In fact, she’s so good at it, she’s managed to turn it into full time job.
Vampy is a stunning woman to behold, and also models in addition to cosplaying. But by no means is she just the pretty face of her costumes. Vampy takes accuracy to the extreme, designing and constructing all of her costumes herself, by hand, and with stunning craftmanship that seemingly knows no bounds.Vampy replicates, in breathtaking detail, not only the imagery and costumes of the characters she cosplays, she also captures the spirit of the characters in her photoshoots. Vampy has no trouble jumping across genres as either– cosplaying popular characters from video games such as Chun Li from Street Fighter one day, and then refashioning herself as Marvel’s Black Widow the next.
For most casual participants, cosplaying is a hobby that is all about bringing their most playful fantasies fostered in childhood to life. For professionals like Linda Le, cosplaying is the result of long time fandom fostered over the years that manifests itself in serious attention to detail. Her inspiration seems to come from a place of deep love of the characters themselves, particularly women characters who are, as she puts it, “strong” and “kick ass”.
One of her most exquisite cosplays was her MS Gundam Girl costume which involved tedious structural design to get the details of the mobile suit just right. If you’re not familiar with it, Gundam is perhaps the most prolific and well known franchise of mecha anime paralleled by Neon Genesis Evangelion (a series that many say inspired Guillermo del Toro’s robots versus Godzilla flick, Pacific Rim). Mecha anime is basically any type of anime that involves giant robots. Vampy’s task was creating a costume that attended to both the accuracy of the mobile suit she was modeling her costume off, and capturing the spirit of a MS Gundam Girl— which are actually a type of anthropomorphic fan art inspired by the Gundam series, but ultimately a completely separate entity from the series. MS (short for Mobile Suit) Gundam Girls are drawings or figurines of girls wearing armor that “resembles mobile weapons,” or features of the Mobile Suits from various Gundam series (1).
Are you confused yet? The long and the short of all of this is that, there was no way Vampy was going to be able to buy a ready made costume for this cosplay off of ebay (not that she has ever done that for any of her cosplays). Vampy designed her MS Gundam Girl armor completely by hand, using acrylic sheeting, and even incorporating functioning LED lights. After she revealed the stunning costume on Instagram, she disclosed that the costume took over 400 hours to complete. There’s no doubt that number would probably triple for anyone else.
You don’t have to be a die hard insider to the so-called “nerd culture” from which cosplay stems to appreciate Vampy’s craft. Her vision and costumery speak volumes, even without context. Amongst those who count themselves as “otaku” and those who don’t even know what that word means, the consensus is pretty clear– Linda Le is one boss a$$ b!tch.