Thien Voung has been making waves throughout the cosplay community for years now. As a distinguished YouTuber, he’s been able to delve into every segment of vlogging in a creative sense, and in the process gain numerous fans. Whether it be rants, reviews, top 10s or otherwise, you can be sure that T Dragon has them on his channel. His anime/comic convention videos are the real bread and butter of his channel however, and his commitment to the culture has made him quite the renowned thought leader in that sphere. If there’s an anime or comicon in the US, you can bet that he’ll show up, in costume or otherwise.
He’s also starting to break through the film industry, learning a great deal about filmography in the past year, as well as creating a few of his projects. His aspirations to become a world-class actor have already gained momentum, as he’s been involved in a handful of films as an actor, producer and even a director.
Aside from that, he’s also got one more talent to share with the world: Illustration and design. T Dragon’s very own card game ‘Bite Me Cutie’ is a well-received masterpiece which proves to his fans that he can extend his creativity onto new spheres, and has quite a knack for it.
His positive, outgoing attitude coupled with his indomitable creativity and sheer willpower to work as hard as possible have made him a creative force to be reckoned with – we predict that he will be on the precipice of the cultural Asian/Western intersection yet to come, and we’ve managed to snag an interview with him:
Brad: What got you into making these funny YouTube videos?
T Dragon: Basically from when my brother gave me a camera, and we went to a skateboard/BMX event and I saw a recap video for it, I learned how to shoot, I learned how to edit and from there I made my own YouTube channel. This is about the time when YouTube was blowing up, and I started my own channel.
Ryan Higa & Timothy DeLaGhetto were blowing up around that time, and they were some of my first influences. My first video, which was an Air Jordan 6s sneaker review is still up there and it’s super quirky & funny. From then on I made like on average a video a week – and 6 years later I’m still going at it. I’ve made over 600 videos in total, ranging from documentaries, short films, rants, reviews, vlogs, basically every kind of video there is. I did them just so I could learn how to make them all and how to make them good, just learning the different aspects of it. So yeah that’s what got me started my bro gave me a camera and he was like yo make videos and I was like dope! *laughs* Before that I knew how to dance a little bit I played guitar a little bit. I was just trying to find my passion. Once I got an online following it just inspired me to keep on creating.
Brad: Where do you get your inspiration from?
T Dragon: For a long time I was just trying to get people to like my content, I wanted to entertain people, my first 2-3 years on YouTube was lots of random videos, just me talking about top 10 lists or hanging out with friends, just trying to make a quirky thing that people watch and they think it’s funny and cute.
Then it turned into conventions, when I went to my first convention I made a video there and it blew up, it got more views than any other video on my channel. I love anime, I love comics, I love cosplay, so I thought why not try to dive into this community.
The first convention I went to changed my life, it was the best experience ever, lots of costumes lots of love, and so I went to more conventions and made more videos. I’ve tried to focus on different aspects for on conventions so for example music videos, cosplay, recently I’ve been getting into Spiderman and Black Panther and most of those videos have done really well on my channel, and all my content is also PG and it’s basically just showing what people could experience at a con.
It’s a lot of fun stuff, lots of good vibes. Right now I’m just trying to find an outlet, whatever I feel like making I create it doesn’t matter if it does good or bad – some videos do good and some don’t it doesn’t matter it’s all about content. I have a whole short film I’m releasing on my channel which I’ve worked for for a couple of months and if it does good cool but if it doesn’t then I didn’t really expect it to, but I think it’s better than a lot of my stuff.
Brad: What is your goal for now?
T Dragon: The goal is to become the ultimate version of myself, I’m always trying to better myself and become the person I see myself as in 5 or 10 years from now, and I’m always chasing that. I’m always chasing the future, the better, more creative more artistic, more sensible more charismatic version of myself.
So I’m always just doing everything I can – everyday I learn something new, apply it, do it, work with it and go on to the next thing. This past year I’ve really worked on becoming an actor while living in Atlanta and getting into the film community. Before that I focused on travelling all over America for two years, mainly at conventions whether they’re anime, Comi-Con, just all those conventions across America, San Diego, NY, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Texas, Detroit and so on. I just went everywhere in America for cons and I learned a lot, mostly about making videos, the community, and so I kinda had my fill of that, that was my early 20s of travelling.
Then eventually I thought ‘ok, what’s next’ so I decided. Since I always wanted to be a filmmaker I made the move to move to Atlanta after a lot of contemplation. I thought Atlanta would be the city that could make it possible for me, so I came over here, the film industry here is just booming right now there are over 16 film projects being filmed here right now not including the indie stuff, and it’s just crazy.
I filmed a lot of indie films while being down here for the past year, I also made a card game, I got boxes of it right over here in my room. I learned how to illustrate and design while being over here and I created over 300 cards for two decks for a different version of the same card game called Bite Me Cutie which I had a Kickstarter for, we originally asked for 5000 but ended up getting 8000.
Even though I made a card game and an I have a short film coming out, and even though I’m releasing a video tomorrow, that doesn’t really matter to me because it’s all about what I’m gonna be doing in 5 years, I’m just doing the micros to get the macros all the way down there, so it’s just an everyday grind, we’re all working man we’re all hustling.
Brad: As a cosplayer and fellow Asian, do you feel the cultural intersection of East Asian pop culture has influenced individuals in their art style, personality, and self?
T Dragon: Hell yeah 100%. People go to these conventions because they’re finding other people like them who are into the Eastern culture, anime, KPop, everything from over there. Most of my best friends go to the same conventions because we like the same shows, we play the same games and so on. Think about video games for example, most video games like the ones from Nintendo are all from Japan. There’s a lot of influences in our games and so on that we don’t notice which are derived from Asian culture. Right now in our society it’s just a great time to be a melting pot, and that’s what America is – we’re all into what we’re into and if we can find each other we can just group up and be a community together and influence other people, and if they like it they like it if they don’t well then they don’t. I don’t like things, so it’s fair if sometimes other people don’t like my things or like what I like, so yeah.
But I’ve definitely seen a lot of impact in everywhere I go. I have an acting class that I went to just last night, this couple that I didn’t even know came up to me and just went on and on about anime to me, and I guess they just didn’t have anyone they could talk to about their secret anime obsession *laughs*, so there’s a definite influence. Dancing is also so inspired by Eastern culture in general… I also went to this college down in Atlanta in the South of the city, I forgot its name, but literally everyone knew what KPop was and they all danced to it , everybody knew it and they thought it was awesome, I was blown away.
Brad: Who are you inspired by and who do you look up to as a role model or leader?
T Dragon: My big brother and my dad, they really helped me become everything I am. They helped me see things from a different perspective – a lot of people can take a few step backs and move to another angle and see something completely different. They introduced me to that concept, my brother gave me my first video camera for example. My dad was the one who would set an example for me about hard work by being passionate about working hard every day to be able to achieve everything he has for us, and that just inspires me to work hard on my own thing, to give it 120% and make it as good as it can be.
After that my biggest heroes are definitely Gary Vaynerchuk, and a lot of great entrepreneur people that I listen to and keep up with everyday, there’s a lot of mentors out there but personally my biggest inspiration is…. I guess the future man, it just gets me really excited, I really wanna find out what can be. Isn’t it cool to think that everything you wanna create, it’s possible?! You just have to put the work in! Like I said to myself I wanna make a card game. Why? Because it’s awesome why not? And I did it! Then I was like “hm, I wanna make a movie”, “like alright this is the idea, can we make it? Yeah we probably can!” We should just try, and *BAM* it’s made! You just gotta put the work in, and isn’t that like the best inspiration? Knowing that anything you can think of, you can make it possible? I’ve done it. Countless other people have done it in their lives, so you can do it too! You just have to think it, dream it, envision it first and then get there.
I would’ve never thought 5 years ago that I would’ve been really popular on YouTube, or be living in Atlanta and be doing theater, or make my card came, or having a cat *laughs*. It’s all happened, and it’s really interesting to see that. It’s all about starting off with the baby steps.
Brad: I took baby steps for my idea to unify East Asian culture and everything about its representation in the west, I went to tons of meet ups and learned how to approach my weaknesses in order to overcome them. I was taught to be specific and it was probably the best advice given to me, next to know your weaknesses. If you just focus on your weaknesses but not your strengths, you’ll never be able to grow. Those are the two best pieces of advice I ever got.
T: Yeah I agree. I think it’s all about information and being to know what to do with it. I’ve been blessed to have the best people in my life show up in the perfect moments so they can play the role they have in my life. Like for example with the card game, I had multiple friends with their own successful kick-starters some even had their own card games, so I just asked them what to do, and their advice and suggestions really helped me immensely into making it possible. Making it legally copyrighted and so on, it’s not exactly simple you know.
Brad: Taking into account the skills you developed over the years of you crafting your own personal creative self, does it get hard for you coming up with something where originality is scarce?
T: Not at all. Cause I think that everything I do in my life will always be either good or bad, but in my eyes it’s always good. I care enough about what people say like obviously I release something and I’ll watch how people share it and track their reception of it. But at the same time by nullifying myself of the fear of whether it’ll be good or bad it becomes easier to create whatever I create more naturally instead of making it pertain to the preferences I think my fans may or may not have.
Like I’ve created hundreds of pages of scripts and hundreds of videos, even card games, 300 different cards with unique designs, so going through that with every art form, you learn the creators tend to have doubt by focusing on that ONE part of the release… That one drawing, that on video, one part of the release. First thing is looking at the project as a whole, like the card game for example people may only see one card and think “oh well this ones bad”, but when they see the thing as a whole they just keep looking through all the cards, they’re like “this one’s cute this one’s cute this one’s cute”, and they’ve forgotten about that one bad card already because the whole thing resonates with them, because they’re getting the whole package and they enjoy it as a whole.
The creators are so focused on bettering one part of their project, like one speck of dust, that they never get to releasing the whole package. And that’s why a lot of YouTube are successful, because they just throw out content everywhere, they spread it everywhere, they let it resonate with people and then people can just consume the whole package that is their channel, which has every part of that content, each video is like a speck of dust you know, and what matters is how it all compiles together to make the whole channel, that’s what matters.
So like it can be good it can be bad, the only thing that matters is that it comes from you, it comes from a truthful place in your heart, and that’s what’s most important when creating something. I hate it when like people feel insecure about themselves, they feel insecure about what others see, because it honestly doesn’t really matter – you’re awesome, you should believe that and you need to fight for yourself, you need to make something that you think is great or, you know, just make something fun and keep it up.
Obviously you have to learn what’s good and bad by consuming art while you make it. It’s a big process. It was the same with the card game while I was creating it it was just hours upon hours of looking things up and looking at tutorials and other YouTubers talking about that and seeing what they did good and applying it to myself and really learning what makes something good, what makes something worth watching or consuming.
So when I figured that process out I just tried to replicate it and do it as much as I can. So it’s not difficult for me to make stuff because honestly I’m always making stuff *laughs*, it’s all from different aspects whether it’s an illustration or a logo for some company or a YouTube video or a short film, whatever. I make so much stuff it’s hard not to be creative about it. It’s about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Put that into what you make and people will feel that emotion.
Brad: What’s pushing you to stay on top of your game and never give up?
T Dragon: This is crazy but um, I got this fortune cookie a year ago and I’ve kept it since then. I bought it and it was so stupid, you open up a fortune cookie and you expect it to be something cheesy, but it actually stuck with me. Here’s what it reads: “someone is looking up to you, don’t let that person down.”
I look at this everyday, and that’s just like enough right there. I’ve been working hard since I was like 16 to do whatever I’m doing right now and be the best I can and, it’s gotten an audience so there’s always someone back there, someone that’s not where I am but they’re working hard to be, and there’s a lot that are ahead of me, so like I’m here to show that, if I can do it you can do it. At the end of it that’s what motivates me, it’s me looking on myself, motivating myself because I need to be the best I can be for other people and myself.
Brad: Being a cosplayer is sometimes being like two different people. Do you feel that’s true? Why or why not?
T Dragon: I don’t believe it’s AS true, because as an actor you find the truth within yourself. You are like the character you’re portraying, like “why do you like this character?”, because the qualities and traits you see in them are inside you too. There’s no way you’re out of the equation, even voice actors, it’s always them, they’re bringing out their qualities on screen onto the person they’re voicing. All of the best actors Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, they are still themselves in those pictures, even Johnny Depp whose always in costume, they have their own style. People look at their characters they’re playing and can instantly recognize the actors playing them, you don’t mistake them for other actors. Same thing when you see Jessica Nigiri do cosplay, you know right off top that’s her. That’s being an artist, only you can do that, only you can look that way in that costume or act or sound like you do, no one else in the world has that but you.
Brad: In every career, there are always haters however when it comes to the cosplay community, do you feel that some of that hate from certain individuals is justified?
T Dragon: No. I guess it all depends on the individual. I think in any community, any world, it’s all up to the individual. You can live your life the way you wanna live it , I can’t control anybody. I can only do what I can do, I make the decisions I make for my life.
Brad: Will you be evolving your art and branching out from the pop culture world, or will you take what you have learned from that world and improve it?
T Dragon: Well yes and no. Yes I’m nerdy and I like anime and all these things and I create all these things but I also wanna do things as a professional too and bridge that gap where it’s okay to make videos and even full length indie films and at the same time love anime and comics. I’m always going to have a place in my heard for conventions, they’re so awesome, you get to meet people and hangout with people so I would like that whole world to become more mainstream in a way , not for it to get too crazy but just like take it from something that’s not as cool and make it cool, if that makes sense. *laughs*
Brad: What opportunity you felt you’ve missed out or hesitated on?
T Dragon: I don’t think I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve always made my decisions like right there on the spot I don’t think about it twice, if it’s hot it’s hot if it’s not it’s not. You know inside of yourself what’s good and what’s bad and you can usually judge it before it happens.
I just make the decision right then and there. If I made the wrong decision and failed, then cool, it just didn’t work out, that was my lesson, so I’m just gonna do whatever’s next and keep working. If something just goes down south that’s not gonna stop me from whatever comes next, the next thing could be even greater or it could be just the same. That’s life man, you’re just living it like it or not, as long as you’re living it you have possibilities.
I don’t feel like I’ve lost any opportunities, I actually feel like I’ve gained opportunities thanks to my instinct and being surrounded by the right people that have helped me see things from a different perspective make the right decisions at the right time.
Brad: What are your plans for next year?
T Dragon: To kill it even more than I am right now, get to the next level.
I want my business to be booming, but my YouTube channel will be pretty much the same. I’ll mainly be doing more rant videos in different fashions and whatnot. And as far as acting goes, I’ll probably be booking some different stuff, who knows. I would like to make an indie film in a year, nothing crazy but something definitely worth doing which will be fun as well.
From vlogging, to cosplay, to designing and acting, there’s nothing stopping this bright young man on his road to success and fame. With a determination and drive like his, anything is possible – like he says, it’s cool to think that anything you can envision, you can create, whether it be a card game, movie, video game, cartoon, whatever. If you’d like a more in-depth look into who the Real T Dragon is, make sure to check out our feature on him, and while you’re at it, why not our Facebook and Instagram too.
A video Interview by (Zoom Out Media) I Do not own the rights to the video.