Monika Lee has been cosplaying for over seven years, but when she attended her first convention, Dragon*Con 2005, she wore a normal outfit. “I wasn’t aware of cosplaying at the time and simply went with my dad (who is a big trekkie) so I could meet James Marsters from Buffy.” While she didn’t meet Marsters, she did enjoy herself enough to keep going back to conventions, and her first cosplay was at Anime Weekend Atlanta, where she dressed as Temari from Naruto.

“I love to just be able to dress up as my favorite characters and hang out with my friends…”

This week, Buzzfeed released a list, 24 of The Best Cosplays Ever, and Lee made the number one spot with her Bioshock Little Sister cosplay. While she’s a rising star in the community, she insists she cosplays just for the fun of it. “I think some people get really caught up in the attention/’fame’ of cosplaying and forget why they were doing it in the first place,” Lee says. She wishes more people in the cosplay community were just “having fun and being nerds! Being petty and jealous just ain’t worth it, you know? I love to just be able to dress up as my favorite characters and hang out with my friends without any unnecessary drama.”

While Lee could fill most of her time making costumes, doing photo shoots, going to conventions, and doing interviews, this 20-year-old has other responsibilities. Lee is a second-year student at Georgia Tech, where she is currently studying Industrial Design. “Although I really love design,” she says, “I’d love to work in the gaming industry. I’m only in my second year right now so I definitely don’t have anything definitive planned out.” For now, Lee doesn’t have plans to make cosplay a bigger part of her life after school. “I would like to keep cosplaying as a hobby though, because that’s what makes me happy.”

Between school and cosplay, Lee doesn’t have too much time these days for one of her other favorite hobbies: video games. Currently, she manages enough time for playing Diablo 3, and some replaying of Bioshock 2 and Portal 2. When asked for her favorite video game characters of all time, Lee first looks back to the Final Fantasy franchise. “[My] favorite female video game character has to be Fran from Final Fantasy XII. I really love the way she was designed and her armor is super sexy. I also love her voice in the game, her tragic story and how she came to be.” Lee’s favorite male video game character, Nathan Drake from Uncharted, doesn’t require as much to get her attention. “He’s good looking and funny,” she laughs.

Lee’s other hobbies include sewing and reading fantasy/fiction books. Also, she says, “I love to cook and eat (can eating be a hobby?!)” She then adds with a laugh, “I’m pretty oddly domesticated with my ability to sew and cook.”

Lee is currently busy getting ready to go to the Amazing Arizona Comic Con at the end of January. Travelling from Atlanta to Phoenix can be quite the trip, and Lee often says she wishes she had super or magic powers to be able to teleport or apparate to conventions. “I’m so lazy and poor when it comes to traveling places, so this would literally be the best thing ever,” she says.

“I love meeting new people at conventions and talking about nerdy things.”

In addition to the costs for travel and lodging at conventions, cosplay has other expenses, mainly the cost of constructing high quality costumes. In order to mitigate some of those costs, Lee, like other cosplayers, sells prints of her various cosplays, which can be found at her online store. “Essentially if I can’t sell prints for money, I don’t have money for cosplay. All of the money I make goes into supplies/materials for new costumes as well as transportation to conventions. I really appreciate everyone who has bought prints so far to support me in this hobby.”

If Lee’s fans miss the chance to see her in Arizona, they will have other opportunities at conventions throughout the year. One of those will be MomoCon in Atlanta, where Lee is an invited guest. MomoCon is special for Lee, and she’s been attending it since 2007. “I really enjoy Momocon because it’s literally 10 minutes away from where I go to school. My school’s anime club actually started Momocon so it’s been amazing to see them start in Georgia Tech’s student center and grow into huge hotels in the heart of Atlanta.”

Despite the fact she travels across the world to cosplay in front of large crowds, Lee admits, “I can sometimes be a little shy or awkward when I first meet people, so I laugh nervously a lot. I don’t normally do that…haha.” Cosplay has always been something Lee has done for the fun of it, and she’s still getting used to the idea of having fans. “It’s really bizarre to me that I have fans, to be honest.” She does want to invite all of her fans to follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and to check out her print store. “Everyone I’ve met so far is really sweet and kind, and I love meeting new people at conventions and talking about nerdy things. Without the support they provide, it would be really hard for me to make new costumes and get to conventions….Thanks!”

Summoner Yuna 1

Lara Croft photograph by Benny Lee Photography

Applejack photograph by Paul Karpey with ears by Yaya Han

Diablo 3 Wizard photograph by Anna Cosplay Photography

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