Faye Mata on voicing Lulu in League of Legends, her voice acting career advice and playing fighting games competitively

Faye Mata is an American voice actor with roles in League of Legends (Lulu), Pokémon (Chandelure, Lapras & more) and Street Fighter (A.K.I.) to name a few. Prior to that, she also played Pokken and Super Smash Bros competitively.
Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco caught up with her for a chat at Insomnia Gaming Festival 71 in September 2023 to discuss how she got into voice acting, her thoughts on women in esports, her time as a competitive player, and what it was like voicing Lulu. Thanks also to Reece Barrett for additional editing and transcription of this interview.

Dom Sacco: Hi Faye, welcome to the UK! What’s it like to be here meeting and greeting fans at the UK’s Insomnia Gaming Festival i71?

Faye Mata: Thank you! It’s really cool to be here at Insomnia. I came here for Pokémon Worlds in 2022, but this is my first time working a convention here as a voice actor, because I did some creative stuff in 2022 with Pokémon, and I also am a voice actor in Pokémon now!

I was always a big fan of Pokémon, I grew up on it, so to be in the video games and then to be in the anime, is just like a huge deal to me! It’s a dream come true.

I’m a long-time fan of Pokémon as well, as is my seven-year-old son. Please tell us about the characters you voice.

My first role was in Detective Pikachu, the game, where I played Chandelure, Lapras, Snubbull, Pansage and a bunch of other Pokémon, but it was just like saying the [character’s] names!

Honestly back then I was like, ‘I’ll take it, that’s great, that’s all I want!’

But then I ended up as all three nurses in Pokémon Masters, the mobile game. And I was like, ‘OK.’

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful. But [I thought] it would be really cool to be in the anime. I grew up on the anime. And then in the end of 2022 I ended up as a side episodic character – Multa – in one episode of Pokémon Master Journeys, and I was like, ‘that’s it, I’m done! I’m happy being someone in the anime and working on the games.’

But in 2023, I got to audition for the brand new Pokémon anime, because the last one ended, Ash’s journey [which lasted for] so many years.

[I thought] they were ending the anime and it was over, and I [was] so grateful that I got to be in it. Then they announced a brand new one and I got to audition for that, and I got cast as one of the main characters! I’m over the moon about it.

“I played League of Legends before I actually got cast as Lulu. So I know exactly what that laugh would be used for! I was like, OK, I want to make a laugh that is maybe endearing for the player, but absolutely annoying for the other players. Just a little bit of trolling, you know – I am a League player at heart!”

Faye Mata on voicing Lulu in League of Legends

You’re doing signings and meet and greets here today, and I saw Chandelure in one of the pictures on your stand. What’s it like to voice that? I don’t know what noise that makes!

I’ll do it if you want!

[Faye makes the Chandelure noise]

It was a process to come up with. It’s a little Gastly, so maybe a little ethereal, but also it’s a little swingy cause this is a chandelier, so yeah, we came up with that! (laughs)

Talking of other high pitched characters, you voice Lulu in League of Legends, arguably one of the most iconic early champions in the game, launched back in 2012. What was it like to voice Lulu?

Lulu is actually one of my first ever professional roles. I think it was my second professional role, but it’s my first well-known one.

I played League of Legends before I actually got cast as Lulu. So I know exactly what that laugh would be used for!

I was like, ‘OK, I want to make a laugh that is maybe endearing for the player, but absolutely annoying for the other players!’

Just a little bit of trolling, you know – I am a League player at heart! (laughs) The audition slides were something like a cross between Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter and Rarity from My Little Pony.

[Faye gives us a Lulu voice line and laugh]

And with the laugh, I did a snort for fun! I actually asked them, ‘can I throw in a little snort?’ and they were OK with it. They were just like, ‘sure, try it.’

And sometimes you just do things like this when you’re recording stuff, and then you can keep it.

faye mata voice characters
Some of the characters Faye Mata has voiced

Your voice range is impressive. I mainly stick to writing articles because my voice is an awful monotone-sounding thing.

First of all, I really think that anyone can use their voice to do voiceover, and there’s many different types of voiceover. Even a monotone voice like yours could be known for that monotone voice.

You could have a huge range, and people will still want, you know, a certain specific range that is only in your own natural timbre.

And I think that’s what’s fascinating about it – it’s something that I had to learn over time actually because when I first started out, I was all about imitating things and doing cute archetype imitations. But that’s not really acting. It’s not making it your own.

At first I was cast a lot for high pitched roles like Lulu, for example, and over time I got to show off that I can do more. I got to be in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and got to use a lower voice, so that was a lot cooler.

And A.K.I. in Street Fighter is really creepy.

[Faye Mata gives us impressions of A.K.I.]

She has three different modes. She has this straight-talking deep voice, analytical mode where she’ll name off all the ingredients in something. She’s very intelligent, but has this assassin mode. And then another one is she’s crazed about her master, and she gets a little different there. Like [puts on A.K.I’s voice], ‘master, I’m doing this for you!’ (shrieks)

And then the other mode is a little bit flirty, but seeming a little more innocent to lure in prey. She doesn’t really care about anyone else but herself and her master, and she puts her master above her, even, so she’s a very interesting character.

It’s like I’m interviewing a different person when you bring out these different characters! When did you first realise you had the voice to be in voice acting?

Thank you! I’m a big gamer. I love playing video games and I grew up on the GameCube and the Nintendo 64 with my siblings.

We’d sit playing the same game at the same time and we just like yell at each other in a playful way, because we’re on the same couch or like on the floor or whatever, and we’re just having fun imitating the voices of characters, going ‘hyah, hah! Ahhh!’

Whatever the game was, we were just having fun, and you kind of train yourself with your voice in that way [when imitating characters]. I know it sounds a little silly, but when you’re using your voice, you’re using your voice and you’re strengthening it.

So we just had the whole range of imitating characters, but I was also in choir at school and I was also the kind of person who meows at cats! (laughs)

Why not? I’d be there meowing and people would be like, ‘what are you doing?’

And I would say, ‘I’m just training to be a voice actor!’ (laughs)

I didn’t say that, I just kind of did it, which is a little bit crazier.

“I never grew up saying I want to be a voice actor, I just knew I enjoyed it. The first time I actually ended up in the professional industry was when I went to a convention. I lined up in this gigantic line not knowing exactly what it was for. And the line closed three people behind me. I found out that it was a voice acting competition! All by accident.”

Faye Mata on getting into voice acting

Throughout the halls, you could hear lines like ‘I’ll take you down’ or whatever, just people yelling into a microphone. And I didn’t know what this was all about, but I saw this long line and I just got into it. And I asked the person in front of me, like, ‘what is this? This is kinda cool, kinda crazy.’

If there’s a long line naturally you’re just a little bit curious. Like, is it good food? Is it someone famous? I wanted to know what was going on there.

I get to the front and there’s like six or so little pieces of paper with a character’s picture, and then a few different lines with different emotional intent. And I got to perform one of the characters and the casting director liked me.

It was like a whole thing that you could be in a real anime!

[After that] it’s taken a lot of twists and turns, but after that competition, I got a call back while I was at EVO, the fighting game tournament, and they were like: ‘You are one of our winners from the Anime Expo voice acting competition.’

I was like: ‘Huh? I can’t hear you!’

I probably didn’t sound very excited or grateful, but I was! I just couldn’t hear very well at the time. It was a dream come true.

I got into the studio, they had me read off of a bunch of different types of character archetypes, like different age ranges, like be a little girl, be a little boy, be an old grandma, now be a very angry orc.

Whatever it was, they knew that Faye could do these types of characters and we’ll send auditions in this range and see if she can book some roles.

The fact you were at EVO is interesting, because you do voice acting, but you also had an esports background. You competed in Pokken and Smash Bros, right?

Yeah! I am very, very passionate about competitive gaming and esports.

I hosted my own Smash tournaments and I love everybody getting together in the community.

When I first started playing Pokken, it was just because I liked Pokémon and I loved fighting games. So I just played it – a lot – and they had this ranking system inside the game, so I just kept playing it and got pretty good.

Then a friend of mine was like, ‘hey, you really like this game, don’t you? Did you know that they’re having some locals?’

It was still like a three-hour drive, but I checked it out and it was just like a whole new world for me. When you find your tribe at a tournament, it’s just like nothing else.

I’ve met a lot of people who are so nice. We all played the same game and I was inspired to get better, because you see other people who also want to get better – and they’re like, ‘you’re pretty good, will we see you next week?’

And I thought, ‘yeah I think you will!’

And so I went back. And then the next week and the week after that, and suddenly I was doing the entire circuit around the US. Then I went to Japan and I met the players there playing Pokken at the arcade machines, and had tournaments there.

Then at EVO that year, I think it was 2016, people from Japan, Europe and NA all came together and played Pokken. But I knew I was the only one that knew the Japanese players! So I got to introduce them to everybody else and we all had a nice dinner.

It was amazing. It was beyond just playing the game, it was like, this is a family, it’s wonderful – and I wish that everyone could find that kind of experience.

[Esports freelance producer and observer] Lotty asked me to ask you, what’s your favourite voice line? Is there something from a character that has stood out for you over the years?

It’s very hard to pick. I don’t really have a favourite line but I will just say, as a cop-out answer, for every character I voice, I put a little bit of myself into it and go on a whole journey with them.

I’ve always had a passion for this and I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s a little bit of me in all of them.

The writing itself is not even written by me, but by other people. But different actors could read the same line in different ways, so every line you hear from me is delivered in the way that I would say it personally, combined with a director.

I’ll just say a Lulu line. It’s not my favourite, but people just like this: ‘Beautify!’

lulu splash

Faye Mata speaks about women in gaming and esports, and the initiatives she’s worked on in this area

You’ve backed several programmes for women in esports and games. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Well, where do I start with this? I’ll start with my own personal experience.

In my first tournament ever, I was in school, the boys were playing a Smash tournament and I was playing Smash all the time at home.

I was like ‘hey, can I join your tournament?’

And they all laughed.

And guess who won that tournament?

It was me!

The organiser of that tournament was then like, ‘I bet you can’t beat my big bro.’ And we have to give everyone a pass in that tournament because we were all children!

I beat their big brother too. It felt good because they were making fun of me before that. I was like, ‘you really don’t believe in me’. And this was my first experience. I was very shy as a kid, I grew up in Wisconsin in the US, everybody else was Caucasian and we were like the only Asian family there.

I didn’t have similar interests to the other girls. I feel like a lot of people that work professionally in this industry these days actually have a similar story. People were into games or they weren’t.

I did feel a little bit isolated so it was a risk I was taking to even ask some guys if I could play a game with them, because it sounded fun. [I said] ‘I want to play Smash,’ and then to be laughed at in the face, that was hurtful, you know, but it felt like justice to win. It felt very satisfying.

But I also did make friends with them after that.

And then there was this whole thing where they all started having crushes because we were babies, it was just that age, and that was weird (laughs)

You still get that in esports now, there’s been instances of some esports players saying they didn’t want a woman on the team because they got ‘distracted’ when the team was trialling them.

Every human is a human, you know. Esports has gone through a lot of changes and learning, and there weren’t a lot of girls in the space before.

Now it’s a lot more prominent, and I think that has a lot to do with marketing, the developers thinking ‘how could we be more inclusive?’ and things like that.

But for my small slice of this, way back when, I noticed that not a lot of girls were showing up at my tournaments! If they did, they were like someone’s girlfriend maybe, and I was like ‘why don’t you play too?’

And they were like, ‘I don’t know, it’s not really for me, that’s kind of like a boy thing.’

And I said, I love this, that’s why I hold these [tournaments]!

One time I went to a tournament with some friends and we did not win, but like most tournaments, you go back and you have fun, you see the same people, you try to get better. We were [still] holding our controllers when we went to a boba shop.

And at this boba shop, there was a girl running the counter and she asked us why we were holding controllers.

I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I need to tell you all about what happened. So we were at this tournament, we were playing Smash Bros and like this and that happened, we didn’t win, but it was really close.’

She just went: ‘Oh, wow. I didn’t know that girls played like that. I didn’t know that was even a thing that we could do.’

And to me that was like a really cool moment to be like, ‘oh, I just informed someone.’

“I used to imitate game characters, but I was also in the choir at school – and I was the kind of person who meows at cats! I’d be there meowing and people would be like, ‘what are you doing?’ And I would say, ‘I’m just training to be a voice actor!’ (laughs) I didn’t say that, I just kind of did it, which is a little bit crazier.”

Faye Mata on starting out using her voice for fun

It was a small moment for me, a nice interaction. But what made that huge, was two years later at an event, a girl comes up to me, and I don’t recognise her at first, but she’s like: ‘Faye Mata, right? Because you told me about about that tournament, I went and checked out the scene and you were right. It was really fun. I found a community and they helped me out and I pretty good. I’ve been going weekly for the last two years.”

I was like: ‘Oh my gosh!’

It was just so fascinating. I guess people just don’t know what they don’t know, and sometimes when people think that a certain hobby, or whatever it is, is just [only] for a certain type of person, you don’t even think to go and try to do it.

Word of mouth is one thing, but actually demonstrating the passion, doing it yourselves, people seeing it, it makes a huge difference. I’m a voice actor, but when I’m a voice actor going to these conventions, they ask, what kind of panels do you want to do?

Of course, there’s the typical AMA, but one of the panels that I often do is, ‘try to beat Faye Mata at Super Smash Bros Ultimate’.

So I set up on stage and people challenge me 1v1, and as they come up, I have a little fist bump with them, a little chat like, ‘hey, what’s your name? Who do you play?’

And it’s just like a nice moment.

Then we try to beat each other.

And if they beat me, then they win an autograph print and they’re happy. But in some of these, nobody ever beats me.

It’s really fun for a few reasons.

I tell them straight up at the very beginning, ‘I’m not going to go easy on anybody and this is out of respect for you as a gamer’.

It’s very important for me to say that, because I don’t want to look at a child or a girl or like whatever the stereotypes are and then just predetermine that I’m going to go easy on you because of what you look like.

It goes however it goes.

At the end, someone told me: “That was really cool to see because we never see girls kicking butt like that. One, you’re a woman kicking butt on stage, and two, you’re a voice actor but you’re playing games with us, that’s really cool.”

And to me, I mentioned I grew up pretty shy, but over time I learned like if I’m going to have attention on me anyway, I want to be a good role model.

My role in that is that I will just show people this. So if there’s a little boy who sees this, and it’s not a big deal but if they see this girl winning, they won’t have this bias that all women or all girls suck at video games, or whatever it is. They are just exposed to that.

Because I think with the bias, it’s not intentional that people are rude, it’s just that they’re really not exposed to it, or they make friends with more people who are just like them [with the same bias].

I could go on about it for a LONG time!

faye mata stand insomnia i71
Faye Mata’s stand at Insomnia Gaming Festival i71, where she met fans and signed autographs amongst other voice actors like Neil Newbon

You’ve worked with programmes like Girls Who Code. What are your thoughts on getting involved with that?

There’s a lot [of initiatives] that aren’t listed online but one of my favourites is Girls Who Code.

It inspires more girls to get into coding, which leads to developing, which leads to making more video games with different perspectives.

But what this does is it exposes girls to something that may be of interest to them: a free programme where they can learn to code after school. I think that’s really cool.

Because it’s one thing to shove something down anyone’s throat, like ‘you have to learn this.’

[But this is] just a natural discovery of, like, this is a free after school thing. If it’s for you, you’ll like it. You’ll continue.

If it’s not, then you won’t continue.

It’s kind of like what I said before. Are you exposed to it? Or are you not? And when you are exposed to it, does that hook you? That’s what I like. I love supporting things like that where it makes it easer for people to discover their passion – and grow it from there.

I’m a firm believer of, rather than preach to everybody, go there and be the person that doesn’t exist yet, so that other people can see that this exists.

“One of the panels that I often do is, ‘try to beat Faye Mata at Super Smash Bros Ultimate’. I tell them straight up, ‘I’m not going to go easy on anybody and this is out of respect for you as a gamer’. It’s very important for me to say that, because I don’t want to look at a child or a girl or like whatever the stereotypes are and then just predetermine that I’m going to go easy on you because of what you look like. It goes however it goes.”

Faye Mata on how she breaks stereotypes through gaming

I have a young daughter, I want her to grow up and have all these opportunities, the same that boys have and men have. Shoutout to Hannah Marie who writes about Apex Legends and more, and she made the point, reporting from a HerStory event, that there is tokenism around some women in esports campaigns, which can create ‘an illusion of equality’. I feel that’s important to note.

I do see different perspectives on this, and I’ve had many conversations about this over the years. My own perspective has changed many times.

I used to be ‘one of the boys.’ People would tell me ‘you’re not like other girls’ and that was something to take pride in, for some reason! It’s silly.

In a group of friends back then, they might be like, ‘he’s the smart one, he’s the athletic one, he’s the funny one, she’s the girl.’

They’ll give everybody things that they’re known for, but why isn’t the girl [known for being] also the smart one or the athletic one? What that does is it creates an identity for that person, like you’re the girl.

So if another girl comes along, they’re immediately a threat to their own identity in a group. And that’s so silly. I’ve seen it so many times in eports where they’re like, ‘oh, you’re a girl that plays this character’ or whatever, and another girl comes along, and guys are always like, ‘you guys need to play each other and see who’s a better girl.’

My point is, I think my mindset has grown over time. I always wondered why were people so catty sometimes? And I think that kind of explains it, the people around you, even if you think you’re not doing anything wrong, by saying ‘you’re one of the guys’ or ‘you’re not like other girls,’ like, what does that even mean? That’s just putting down more girls.

And women say that to other women, like, ‘yeah, you can really hang. You’re like a bro.’ It’s just silly.

But yes, sometimes people don’t like it when they feel tokenised, because they’re like, ‘oh it’s for women only,’ but I think there’s different camps.

So, in my first tournaments, when the only girls that ever showed up were girlfriends of people, they needed something easy to get into, something that felt more like a safe space where no one’s going to judge you, no one’s going to stomp on you. I don’t think it should just be for girls, but it could be for new players.

But after interviewing a few different girls that were minorities in the community, they said they felt safer being able to talk to people of the same skill level, and oftentimes girls with girls, that was just more comfy for them.

Whatever gets people to play, I support that! And if it’s not for you, you don’t have to support that. But I don’t see any harm in doing that either, as we grow and change and learn, because what that does is it gets them into it, at least. They’ll spread the word whether or not it’s for them. They’ll talk about their experience and maybe somebody else gets into it and then you see more of this, and there will no longer be a need for something like women-only tournaments.

In the end it’s just encouraging more people. It’s like the after school programmes that I support, it’s like, ‘hey, this is something where you can discover if you like this or not’.

And it’s just that simple.

And if people knock that, I feel like that says more about them (laughs). Why not?

Lastly, what are your views on toxic comments or sexist comments on games? I used to hold the view of just block and report, but now people say to me ‘Dom, you should be calling people out if they make such comments.’ For me, game devs aren’t doing quite enough and they should be a bit heavier on the ban hammer, in my opinion. What are your views on that?

So as someone who has to be in public appearances often, I just do not give them any attention.

Not even a ban. Because that gives them a notification that says ‘you have been banned’ – and what they want is any kind of response, any kind of interaction from you. And if they get no response at all, they’ll go away.

Whereas people who say, not even just positive things, but maybe innocent questions or anything that is productive, I’ll respond to those. That is a reward in itself – you can see who I respond to and who I don’t. If it’s a negative comment, I’m just going to ignore it. What’s the point of responding to that? Especially when you know how the algorithm works.

If you respond to it, it gets pushed up and more people see it, and like, why would anybody want that? But that is online.

In person, I think that if you see your friend, your brother, family member or whatever, saying things that are unsavoury, you are in a position to change their mind. And I think you should use your relationship to push them in a safer direction, a more welcoming direction, to not isolate certain types of people. And sometimes people don’t know that.

It’s like what I said about the whole, ‘you’re not like other girls thing’, [people think] that sounds innocent but it actually makes someone think, ‘oh should I not be like other girls, okay, what should I be like then? I should be like guys then?’

So it’s really just checking yourselves and the things that you’re saying. And I’m not saying you have to be 100% politically correct or whatever society says you should be like, but rather make sure everybody’s comfortable no matter what background you have – or they have. If someone’s uncomfortable, try to learn why and look out [for them], just be empathetic, that’s really it. And that’s what it all comes down to at the end of the day.

smash bros ultimate
Faye Mata has played Smash Bros and Pokken competitively in the past, at big tournaments like EVO

Faye, you’ve given me a lot of your time, thanks for the great chat. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

At these at these events, I often get asked, ‘how do I get started in X or Y thing?’

Either they’ve never seen it before or they’ve seen someone do it before and they want to know more. Google is your friend!

If you’re passionate about something, just go and start doing it – and don’t be afraid to fail, because failure is part of the process and you’ll learn so much just by doing things.

But of course, don’t do anything that would get you cancelled of course! Just be careful! (laughs)

Hobby wise, just go do it. Go try something. Try things out. If you’re into acting or you want to be a voice actor, that’s honestly one of my best pieces of advice too. If you have a role that has you voice a waiter, or you have your heart broken, or you’re feeling very angry because you just lost or something, [something that is like] all these experiences you’ve had throughout your life.

Let’s say you’re playing a video game and you lost, but they’re your friend and you have this mixture of, I’m upset because I lost, but I also don’t want to be rude to my friend, that’s something you might relate to, right? And you feel a little bitter.

But the way you say your next words might come out differently from the next person, who might not care as much about that game. And that’s unique to you and your own experience.

So when it comes to acting, you pull from those real experiences and put it into whatever fantasy or whatever it is, and it sounds real because it’s coming from your own real experience.

So think about that and go do things in life – and have fun!

Faye, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much!

You can follow Faye Mata’s channels here

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