Monika Lee has made quite a name for herself doing what she loves. As one of the stars of Syfy’s Heroes of Cosplay, she was able to showcase her passion for costume making and while she was not quite portrayed as the villain of the series, she did come close on more than one occasion. However, viewers of reality television understand that not everything is as it seems on the small screen and “reality television” can be anything but real. As such, it is a certainty that fans who met up with the cosplay superstar at Amazing! Arizona Comic Convention were unsure quite what to expect. As it turns out, Monika is not only a talented costume designer, she is also much more down to Earth than many would have expected. Monika was able to break away from her seemingly endless line of fans to talk to Kabooooom for a few minutes about her thoughts on reality television, cosplay, and even gaming.
Kabooooom: In the cosplay community and through Heroes of Cosplay, you’ve definitely made some fans doing what you love.
Monika: Aw, thanks!
How did you make the decision to go from a casual cosplayer to a professional?
I still consider myself casual. I don’t really think the term “professional cosplayer” exists. “Professional” deems that you are being paid to cosplay and when you’re being paid to cosplay, it kind of takes away from the meaning of it. You cosplay because you love the character and stuff, not because youre being paid to do it. So, I kind of think that “professional cosplay” doesn’t exist. So, I think I would say maybe a “hardcore cosplayer” if you do it more than a normal person but for me, it’s still a hobby.
When you are looking at different genres to draw inspiration from, where is the first place you generally look? What is it that really inspires you?
(laughs)Typically video games, except that I’m cosplaying from anime today. Im a really big video game fan, I play video games all the time. So, for me, it’s the key source material to want to play more games…it keeps my interest peaked. I don’t want to cosplay in something Im not interested in, so that’s why video games.
What’s your favorite video game right now?
Oh, right now? Actually, I’m playing Kingdom Hearts right now, which is so old school. I finished Last of Us a couple months ago and it was super awesome. There are so many new games coming out, I can’t wait.
Playstation or Xbox?
Oh, Sony forever. Sorry Microsoft!
Going back to Heroes of Cosplay, there was obviously some controversy that surrounded you a little bit. From selective editing to stories of intimidating cosplayers that were at a more amateur level, it seemed that you were unfairly portrayed. Has your experience soured you to reality television?
Well, when you go forward with a reality show, you sign your soul away. So, you just kind of cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t come out too badly. It’s just how it is; reality tv’s not reality. So, I’m just like, you know, “don’t get so invested in it – it’s just a tv show”, you know? Go do your job and get on with your life. It’s like, “Cool story, bro”.
So, the show didn’t spoil you for reality television? It’s something you would still be interested in participating in?
Actually, I would say it did a little bit. I mean, when I watch reality shows now, I kind of see the cues behind it and you know it’s not real because you were in that situation. So, all the cooking shows I watch on Food Network, those are all spoiled for me now! I think it’s still an interesting insight to see how they do it. It’s definitely a certain type of art form, I suppose.
Last question: Now that “geek culture” and cosplay is becoming more mainstream, there are obviously going to be people who have never been in a convention setting and may not be familiar with the etiquette involved when appreciating cosplay. Unfortunately, some people may simply sexualize the cosplayer without realizing they are breaking that etiquette. Do you have any advice for newbies in this situation?
I’d say the difference now is that there used to be cosplayers in the costume community but now there are cosplay fans; people who don’t really understand why we do it or the work that goes into it. They just see it. I think it’s one of those things where someone may approach a person cosplaying as Thor and think, “wait, you don’t look like Thor! You suck, you’re the worst!”, and they don’t get the mentality and the effort that was put behind the costume. I think it’s just one of those things where you kind of have to stop and put yourself in their shoes and think, “would I have been able to make that? Could I have done all the work that goes along with that?”. In other words, take a minute to think before saying what youre going to say. Count to three.
Thanks to Monika Lee for taking some time to talk to us! If you are interested in seeing how Monika has made such a big name for herself, head over to her Facebook page and take a look around. You can also follow her on Twitter @mnikalee for her latest news.