When Joey Lim arrives, everyone can’t help but stare. Dressed as Lucy Thorne from Assassin’s Creed–a prototype, she insists–the freelance photographer, also known as Angelus online, is bedecked in elaborate Victorian garb, black leather with feathers, ruffles, purple trimmings and rows of tarnished metal buttons.

But under that gloss of stage makeup and flamboyance is a self-confessed geek and tomboy who’s struggled with dyslexia since she was a child.

“I left school after completing my PSLE. My reading and writing were P3, P4 standard. If I continued to secondary school, it would have been a struggle and I’d likely be retained. So I was homeschooled.” 

This proved the right route for Joey. Since young, her talent and keen interest in the arts was nurtured. Despite her dyslexia, she had (and still has) a voracious appetite for learning, reading and developing her talents. However, another stumbling block was the need for an O-level cert to enter the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). It was something she really wanted to do. In the end she took a two-year part-time course in Western fine art from the school.

Posing gamely for the camera against Monniker‘s steampunk-inspired backdrop, she shares: “Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I harnessed the internet. I read up on how to use Photoshop, photography, and so on.” 

The 30-year-old’s interest in cosplay was piqued in early 2000. Her first (very nervous) appearance was as Princess Leia of Star Wars for Movie Mania. She started making her own costumes to save money and pursued a tailoring and silk-screening course to further her skills. “Every costume is a learning process. I get to explore new techniques like making ruffles or using power tools,”  she notes. The costume consultant and columnist with community site The Neo Tokyo Project spends about $100-150 a month on materials.

In between in-character sultry shots for the camera, Joey is upbeat and chatty, especially about her pet subject, pop culture and video games. Like her choice of drink, a Valrhona chocolate”“iced with a dusting of cocoa powder and shavings of the dark delight”“there’s a certain richness and sophistication to Joey that is not immediately apparent. Once shy due to dyslexia, Joey has since opened up and regularly participates in conventions, both here and overseas. She’s also won awards for her costume creations, and her Kerrigan, Queen of Blades (Starcraft, Blizzard) outfit saw her flying to Boston as a judge for PAX East.

Joey suddenly squeals with joy. Our food has arrived. She’s spied eggs ben served with sauteed spinach and smoked salmon on housemade caraway bread–her favourite. Her fingers can’t stop reaching for the sweet potato fries served with a kaffir lime infused sweet chilli aioli dip. She hardly touches her phone.

“The internet is important,”  she affirms. “It helps us advertise our work further and lets me connect and share art with likeminded individuals from all over the world.” The Neo Tokyo Project’s Facebook page has about 9,000 fans and Joey’s DeviantArt account (ladyangelus) has garnered over 83,000 views. “But some people get too affected by internet fame. I’ve
seen people spiral into depression because they had too few ’likes’. Just switch off the computer. It won’t affect your real life.” 

Although Joey has found her calling, she is not complacent and is still hungry to learn. She continues to push forward and hopes to champion this value to the younger generation.

WHAT WE ORDERED

Joey had: iced Valrhona chocolate ($6.50)

Meredith had: cappuccino ($5)

Cheng Wei had: iced Valrhona chocolate ($6.50)

We all shared: eggs ben with smoked salmon ($18), grilled chicken and avocado salad ($15), double truffle fries ($12), sweet potato fries ($10), truffle mushroom pappardelle with homemade tofu nuggets ($18)