By Joe Roberts @JROBERTSJOURNO
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Michael Catron
Producer: Joe Roberts, James Thorne
Editor: James Thorne
Tori Lydick has combined her love of Japanese Harajuku fashion with her passion for drag culture, video games, and horror movies to craft a personal style unlike any other.
The graphic designer, who originates from Raleigh, North Carolina and now lives in Atlanta, even creates her own custom pieces which she pairs with her eclectic wardrobe and makeup skills to create her looks.
The 24-year-old told Barcroft TV: “I've always dressed differently. I kind of found myself through experimenting in all these different styles. My cyber style is all inspired by video games and aliens and science fiction.
“My more Japanese-inspired style is Decora which is Japanese street fashion, mostly from around 2010 when it was peak amazing. And then my drag style is inspired by princesses and aliens and monsters.
“It's better to do what you love and not regret it because of someone else's opinion of you, than to sit here and be like I'm going to wear a suit and tie and look normal.”
Tori dresses in her extravagant outfits every day and can sometimes take up to four hours to complete her makeup and outfit combinations - especially when performing at drag shows as “Venus Thightrapp”.
She now lives with her YouTuber boyfriend, Thien, who’s known online as ‘RealTDragon’, in an apartment which they’ve designed to be their own live-in “art installation”.
Living such an unapologetically expressive life is a dramatic contrast to Tori’s upbringing in Raleigh, where she says her surroundings were not just dull, but hostile to her creative spirit.
“Raleigh is very much old people-central,” she said. “It’s very good for families and it's very safe, but I was super-duper bullied when I was a kid.
“I remember having drinks thrown at me, people yelling out of their cars, people yelling memes at me. And I know what I look like. I'm fully aware that I look insane. But when I look at clothes like these my brain’s just like ‘that's what I want to wear.’”
After leaving Raleigh, Tori attended art school in Greensboro, North Carolina, but things didn’t improve too much for the young creative.
She said: “I would go straight from my apartment to the art building and pretty much run. People would still yell and stare. And it wasn't until after I graduated I found out that people in our building were talking, saying ‘she's an attention hoe.’”
Luckily, Tori’s mother was incredibly supportive of her daughter and became a guiding light for a young girl who simply didn’t fit into the culture she’d been born into.
“If I ever wanted to do anything my mom was like, ‘ok, if you're going to do it, we're going to do it the right way,’” said Tori. “So colouring my hair, getting tattoos, it was always with her helping me make the right decision in my own way. So she helped mould and shape me into who I am today.”
Now, Tori is fearless when it comes to showing off her unique tastes, and dresses in her eclectic style every day, taking things up a notch when she performs at drag shows around Atlanta.
“I got into Japanese fashion before I got into cosplay,” she explained. “And then after cosplay I got introduced to drag, which has been pretty much like one of the only communities I've really felt welcome in.”
Reflecting on her past experience with judgement, she added: “People judge other people with how they dress because they don't understand it or because they're insecure. It's the same reason why people judge people who are overweight or who have a different beauty to them.
“It's because they don't feel good about themselves. So they're projecting that onto someone else.”
Atlanta, where Tori has lived since January, has proven to be much more accepting of Tori and her eccentric look, and the young artist is thriving amidst the more progressive culture of the city.
Boyfriend, Thien, said: “In Atlanta specifically people love her look, people are inspired. When people are turning around they’re like ‘I love your hair, I love your eyes, what did you do, how did you do that?’
“We’ll be walking on the streets and someone will be like ‘wow how did you do that to your make up, how long did that take? Oh my gosh this is beautiful, this is amazing.’ And I see that most of the time, people just love it.
“It’s so cool to see in 2019 where the world has really came from a place of love.”
The couple first met back in 2017 and have established a solid relationship, with Thien consistently supporting Tori’s artistic endeavors.
“I think Tori's style is so incredible,” he continued. “It’s herself. I feel it’s just freedom in a way, because she gets to do whatever she wants, and she does it confidently.
“It’s such a cool idea to be able to put on a mask and be a super hero. But in the same way when you put on makeup, you put on a wig, you put on a cool dress, that’s like your super hero costume.
‘So in a way, I feel like that empowers her and people who see her to be like ‘that could be you in your superhero form right?’”
Thien and Tori’s apartment also represents their artistic sensibilities, having been decorated in all-manner of video-game and Japanese-inspired styles which the pair can use to film videos and do photoshoots.
And in her spare time Tori makes her own clothes – a hobby she’s had since she was 13 and continues to develop to this day, even selling some of her creations online.
Meanwhile she has racked up 37,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts as ‘happyunbirthday1,’ and says she plans to dress in her distinctive personal style “forever”.
She said: “What I would tell people who want to live their life unapologetically is just find people that love and support you. But also do it because it makes you happy, because it's what feels natural to you.
“As long as it doesn't hurt yourself or anyone else. Have fun with it.”