California-based cosplayer Darth Lexii knows a thing or two about villains. She even says it’s OK to refer to her as “the dark lord.”

When asked the story behind the name, Lexii laughs, explaining she was inspired by the name of her car. “My Prius has a sticker of the Mandalorian on it, and I named my car just as you name vehicles or airships and planes and all that jazz, so I named my car Darth Prius,” she says. “So I’m Darth Lexii, after my Prius, after Darth Vader.”

She first made her Instagram account “just to post pictures of cosplays,” so the name didn’t seem incredibly important — but 146,000 followers later, Darth Lexii has become one of the most-influential cosplayers on the scene.

For Lexii, cosplay is a family affair. Her father first introduced her to the artform through their con adventures. Knowing his daughter has always been a huge comic fan and movie buff — something they bond over — he took her to her first convention in 2017. Seeing so many people there dressed in cosplay sparked her inspiration to start cosplaying.

Fandom First

In just a few short years, Lexii’s cosplay has come a long way, but she won’t cosplay just any character. She is widely known for one of her all-time favorite, spidey-sensing superheroes. “I’m a huge Spider-Man fan, I’ve done so many different variants of the cosplay,” she says. “I mostly stay with characters I like and I know a lot about and I care about so that I can portray them in the right light.” Lexii focused on just Marvel and Star Wars cosplays at first, but has now added DC and anime characters to her portfolio.

Featuring her cosplay photos on Instagram has allowed Darth Lexii to largely connect with her fans and friends in the cosplay community, both in person and online. She explains, “I think that [Instagram] has helped me stay connected with my friends, and it’s also helped me get a name in the cosplay community, which I’m grateful for.” According to Lexii, the Instagram community also helps cosplayers connect with one another before a con, plan meetups, and form cosplay collaborations.

When Fans Become Family

With so many Instagram followers, Lexii has thousands of fans both young and old. Going to cons often gives her a chance to interact with her fans and followers, and sometimes that leads to meaningful, long-lasting friendships. In 2018 at Long Beach Comic Con, she noticed a family with two young boys come up to her booth.“They were really excited to meet me because the dad knew who I was, and I asked if they wanted to sit down because I know how hard it is at cons to find seating. That needs to be fixed; that’s to every convention ever: There needs to be more seating,” she says.

Later on, they came back to take her up on the seating offer, and the rest was history. “I just kind of built this beautiful relationship with these boys. We’ve built LEGOs together, we’ve hung out, and since then I send them toys for birthdays and Christmas, we keep in contact, and we FaceTime.” To Lexii, these young fans became like godchildren, and it’s all thanks to cosplay.

Darth Lexii as Tiger Woman

Darth Lexii as Tiger Woman, an original cosplay. Photos: Mike Saffels

The Best Day Ever

While Lexii is no stranger to the camera, modeling her cosplays led to a totally game-changing opportunity last year. In what she describes as the best day of her life, Lexii was asked to model clothing and merchandise for a Her Universe and Hot Topic campaign for Avengers: Endgame. Being a huge fan of Hot Topic and an HT Fanatic (Hot Topic’s brand ambassador program), Lexii jumped at the opportunity.

According to Andrea Lewis, vice president of brand marketing at Hot Topic, “With the widely anticipated film release of Avengers: Endgame from Marvel Studios, we knew our inspired-by fashion collection, designed by winners of the 2018 Her Universe Fashion Show at [Comic-Con International: San Diego], needed to be special. Darth Lexii was a perfect fit for the campaign. Not only is she a true fan of the Avengers, her cosplay background and knowledge of the characters allowed her to effortlessly nail the playful-yet-powerful vibe of the collection.”

The Hot Topic photo shoot was a lot different than what Lexii is used to. “I worked with real models, I worked with photographers who have been in the industry for 25 years-plus, and it was just so surreal,” she explains.“I got to see all these Avengers clothes months in advance, and I couldn’t talk about it, which was the hardest thing.”

The Dark Lord herself even got to rock merchandise inspired by one of her favorite villains: “I got to wear the coolest Thanos bomber jacket ever, and I’m a huge, huge fan of that guy — I love me a good villain, and Thanos is the best, and that jacket was so cool,” she says.

Acting the Part

Cosplay is a centerpiece in Darth Lexii’s life, but it’s not her only passion. “I was an actress first before cosplaying; I did more theatre than anything,” she says. But acting finds its way into Lexii’s cosplay life. Her acting background means she performs her cosplay characters a little more intensely than people might expect. Her friends and family like to joke with her at times, saying they hate it when she takes her cosplay to the next level. “Any time I’m Spider-Man, I’m Spider-Man: … I’m crawling, I’m running, I wanna climb things. … Or when I’m Harley Quinn, I do the accent for Harley Quinn the entire day,” she says.

According to Lexii, acting is actually a key part of her cosplay experience. To her, it’s all about how you portray the character. “I mean the persona, I don’t mean the look, because there are so many different styles you could do, and cosplay is about play — that’s truly what it’s about: being able to play,” she says. “I mean, we’re already a weird group of people. … We’re just adults having fun and playing dress-up. It’s a good time,” Lexii laughs.

Thanos Bomber Jacket from Her Universe

Darth Lexii modeling the Her Universe Thanos ‘Oh Snap!’ Bomber Jacket, available at Hot Topic and Her Universe.

One Villain to Rule Them All

True to her name, Darth Lexii has a soft spot for villains, so I asked her probably the hardest question of all time: Who is the all-time best villain between Darth Vader, Voldemort, and Thanos? Judging by the gasp that ensued shortly after, it is safe to say this was a tough one. “OK, you want to know why this is hard? Because Thanos is just incredible. I think he is evil and he’s fun and I just, I loved him, and I think Josh Brolin played him so well,” she explains.

“Darth Vader, I mean I’m Darth Lexii, like it just it makes sense, but Voldemort. … My catchphrase when people say, ‘Hey, are you Darth Lexii?’ — I will look at them and say ‘the dark lord is here,” she goes on.

While each villain clearly has a place in her dark heart, Lexii eventually settles on Thanos.

“He is a true destroyer through and through, and he really thought what he was doing was right,” she says.

What started as a fun hobby has taken Lexii to many new places, including cons all over the country. But ultimately, what brought her to cosplay is still the most important: her father. “I’m grateful because it’s really brought my dad and me together, and that’s so important to me,” she says. Cosplay has also afforded her an incredible set of fans and followers, dozens of new friends, and even some unforgettable experiences. “[Cosplay] truly — at its core — is a community full of people who just want to have fun and enjoy the craft,” she says. “If you ever see me at a con, come and say hello, and … I’d love a pack of Doritos.”

This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Winter 2020 Issue No. 6, click here to read more!

Photos (top): John Kim @candidJohnKim (left), Kryptic Frames Photography (right)