Anyone can be a cosplayer, said Monika Lee. Anyone can put on the costume of one of their favorite genre characters and bring the fantasy to life, added the 20-year-old cosplayer who is the youngest star of Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay, a docu-series that follows nine cosplayers as they traverse the world of costuming and sci-fi conventions.
“Cosplay can be anything. If you're just buying a costume and walking around a convention, that can be cosplay. Or if you're crafting costumes for months on end, that could be cosplay for you too,” said Lee. “I think the unique situation with cosplay is that no matter how old or young you are, you're able to relate on that nerdy level. We all make costumes at the end of the day.”
Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay delves deep into cosplay competitions at genre conventions, following both experienced and newer cosplayers as they conceive of a new character, build their costumes and race to bring those costumes to the next big costume competition at genre conventions around the world. Heroes of Cosplay premieres on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 10:30 p.m. ET.
As the youngest of the group, Lee admits, “there's not a day that anyone [lets] me forget it.”
While she might be young, she's also been involved with cosplay since she was 13 years old. She grew up in a family that embraced anime and other “nerdy” things, and it all was “totally normal to me,” said Lee. “I don't even know how it happened. I just remember the next thing I was going to eBay and buying some costumes from my favorite anime and putting it together and going to conventions and stuff.”
The Atlanta native is an avid gamer who spends most of her free time playing and making costumes inspired by videogames. She worked at E3 2012 for Hyperkin, and her work has been featured on GamesRadar, Kotaku, IGN and Game Informer. Lee is a member of the gaming group LT3 and is currently on the licensing team at Blizzard Entertainment. She's also a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she majors in Industrial Design.
With all that, it's hard to imagine she has any time for cosplay. However, not only does she cosplay every chance she gets, she also hosts cosplay panels and judges and hosts cosplay contests too.
She's thrilled with the explosion of cosplay in the last few years. “It really does inspire people to be really creative. Mainly it's just more people I can talk to about the things I like,” said Lee with a laugh. “It's like we're going to start taking over the world and making costumes while we do it.”
Whether she's cosplaying as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Rogue from X-Men or Chell from Portal 2, Lee uses anime, movies and videogames as her inspiration. She's won several "Best in Show" and other awards for her work.
“Usually when I choose costumes I'll be playing a certain videogame at the time. So, for example, my last one I did was Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite, and I've always been a huge fan of the BioShock games. And when it first came out I was like, 'Oh, I don't want to cosplay her.' But the more hours I put into the game the more I saw her outfit, her character, and I was like, 'I have to cosplay her if it's the last thing I do.' [laughs] That's usually how it happens for me,” said Lee.
Check out the gallery below for some of her favorite costumes.