In the second part of BLIX.GG’s interview with Dota 2 host Sophia Mapua, she covers her who she views as her role models, the growing presence of women in the game, becoming the host for the Southeast Asian DPC Winter Tour, and more.
Role models and presence of women in Dota
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: You mentioned Sheever as one of your biggest role models. Is she the only role model within your following of Dota? Or is there another person you have in mind that fits that bill?
Sophia Mapua: Back in the day, I was a big fan of SirActionSlacks (Jake Kanner) as well. I remember he used to do this one Dota YouTube series. I actually have a picture with him from the Manila Major and I think he was wearing some cool Dota tie. Slacks was a big inspiration of mine and I actually enjoy what he does at tournaments such as how he runs up to people and starts messing with them.
That stuff is good fun because it bridges the gap between the fans and the talent and the pro scene and everything. He makes it a lot more enjoyable and he's very shameless when he does it. He does everything 100%. As for anyone else, Kaci was really sick too. I have a lot of love for a lot of female talent because it's just girls supporting girls. I love them a lot. There are a lot of people who inspire me and help me out nowadays, so it's a very long list of people.
BLIX: We're seeing, in recent years, more inclusion of women into this game specifically. We're having more people work on the front desk. What do you think about this ongoing trend that we have of more women joining and working within Dota specifically?
Mapua: I think it is about time because this should just be the norm. Every time I see a talent lineup, it's eight or so guys and one girl. The majority of people who play Dota are definitely male but there definitely is talent out there. There is female talent and they're just waiting to be seen. I think it's definitely about time and these women are just as qualified. And sometimes, you also have to give people a shot. Like, nobody starts out perfect.
I definitely am not perfect. I had a bunch of mistakes. I know I have to do so much better for the next season of DPC but nobody starts out perfect and you have to give people a shot so they can prove themselves. It's crazy to me that it's taken so long to finally have more women talent in the Dota scene in general, but there are so many amazing talents like Sheepsticked, NatTea, Ephey, maggiekarp, and everyone else. I love all the girls. They're so great.
Becoming the host for SEA DPC
BLIX: This recent season of the DPC was your first as a host. How did that come about? For someone who's mostly been concerned with content creation and streaming, how were you contacted into working as the host for this past DPC?
Mapua: After TI, I knew that was the time when they would start to announce who the tournament organizers are, so I asked my good old pal johnxfire if he knew who was doing SEA DPC and he said it was EPULZE. I knew that I wanted to do something. I wanted to finally host. I wanted my shot at hosting a DPC season since it's kind of starting from scratch, right? When you start from Tour 1, you get new talents and you're going to a new tournament organizer so I figured they were looking for new talent. I also really want to represent Southeast Asia because I feel there is also a lack of SEA talent in general.
There's a lot of talent from Europe, the US, and Australia so I was really hoping [to be there]. I went over to John and I was like, "Can you send my hosting reel over for me to them?" and he was like, "Okay, send it over." And so I gave John my hosting reel which is garbage by the way because there are different kinds of stuff there. I've hosted videos for Talon, I worked for another esports organization before them, other stuff I did in the Philippines, and the female Dota league of the FSL which I hosted.
A month later, I still hadn't heard anything from them, and then all of a sudden, John messaged me and he's like, "EPULZE is trying to reach out to you," and I was like, "What? I never got any message. No one messaged me on Discord or Insta on anything," so I asked him to give me their Discord. And so I messaged them and I'm like, "Hey, John told me you were trying to reach out to me" and then they were like, "Oh yeah, we want to offer you the hosting role for the SEA DPC'' and I was like, "Oh my God!" It was a very memorable night.
I was going to eat at Haidilao and I could barely eat because I was busy messaging about everything. It happened so fast because I found out and I wasn't at home. I was with my family in Singapore for Christmas. I got back home four days later, I had to pack and go. It happened so fast.
BLIX: Did you ever expect that you were going to be selected?
Mapua: I didn't really expect it, especially because I didn't hear back from them in a month, but I also didn't think that it was like a 0% chance that I would get chosen. Because I've been streaming for a while, and I would say within SEA and the Dota community in general, I wouldn't say I'm a complete stranger.
I feel I've had a small impact on the Dota community. I'm confident in my abilities and I was confident that, if I was chosen, I could bring a lot of energy, a new face, and something new and different to your typical DPC broadcasts.
BLIX: In being a host, you were surrounded by various notable figures from SEA, Europe, and North America. I saw your day in the life video throughout your social media that you worked with people such as ninjaboogie (Michael Ross Jr.), Tsunami (Neal Khandheria), AvoPlus (Alvaro Sanchez Velasco), NatTea, and everyone else. What was it like working with all those people as the host in that regard?
Mapua: It was pretty intimidating at first because I just wanted to do the best job I could and I didn't want to step on anyone's toes. I was kind of a bit nervous the first day, so on the second day, Avo gave me a really good talk about how no one's perfect and you just have to believe you're doing a good job and be confident.
Ever since then, I felt a lot more comfortable and the longer the season went on, in spending time with everyone and getting to talk to everyone, there was so much good advice I got from a lot of the other talents, especially Tsunami and Cap. They're very insightful and I look up to their work a lot. They're very professional as well. Everyone and all the talent are just really nice. They're really nice people. It's like a big Dota family.
BLIX: What is the biggest piece of advice that you received throughout this past season?
Mapua: I think just to be confident and believe in what I'm saying. I guess confidence is always something that I've struggled with. I'd always just say whatever I wanted to say or just be whoever I wanted to be but I wasn't really confident in what I was doing. I was just hoping that it would be the right thing and I just have to believe in myself and believe that I can do it. I've been learning and getting there. I've been becoming stronger and more confident. It's very important to get the basics down first, right?
Like, I know confidence is a very basic thing, especially with hosting and entertainment, but it's something that I kind of struggled with because I guess I'm kind of a perfectionist and I pick apart a lot of things that I say or the way that I act. Like little hand gestures or movements, I will just criticize myself for a lot of things. A lot of people really just don't care. A lot of people don't care about those little things that you're doing. It's not noticeable, it's only noticeable to me so I just have to kind of let loose and just be confident in myself, basically.
BLIX: What do you think is the biggest thing that you have to work on ahead of subsequent seasons in the DPC provided that you're still working as a host?
Mapua: My biggest thing is to expand my vocabulary because I am a Twitch streamer. I definitely fall back into degeneracy a lot of times and I can end up using a lot of Twitch emotes and other such Twitch lingo to cover up for my lack of knowledge of fancy eloquent words. That's definitely the biggest thing that I think I need to work on.
That way, I could look more professional because I think saying certain things like that, such as Twitch emotes is fine, is fine during the DPC, but if I want to go to a main stage and be more professional and ready for the big screen, then I definitely have to study up.
BLIX: Pop quiz: give me a long word right now.
Mapua: A long word? Onomatopoeia. I guess that's kind of long.
BLIX: All right. I'll allow it. That's good enough.
Mapua: Is that a decent word?
BLIX: Yeah, that's a decent word. I'll put that in.
Mapua: Not a very usable word though for hosting.
BLIX: I'm sure you'll find a way. In one of your YouTube videos, you talked about the matter of perspective while talking about how you went about streaming, not worrying about the viewer count and instead focusing on the things you want to do on camera. Have you worried at times about how the audience would perceive you as a host during broadcasts? And if so, how have you worked around that aspect?
Mapua: I think so. There's always been a point where I've worried about whether people are going to like me or how I will come across to all these people, but at the end of the day, I stopped caring as much because not everyone is going to like you. That's definitely one thing you have to know as a talent because you can't please everyone. There will always be haters or people who dislike your style because not everyone will like every style of hosting, paneling, or casting.
I feel if I am just being me and being authentic and genuine, I feel some people will like it. I don't feel I'm a super hateable person. I just want to be the most authentic version of me that I can be. I don't want to be fake or someone that I'm not because I think once you're acting like that, it's very obvious. People are not dumb. They can see through who you are on camera unless you're that good of an actor. I mean, maybe some people can get away with it, but for me, I just wanted to be honest, genuine, and authentic, all three words that share the same meaning.
BLIX: Given that you were able to be a host in your home region, what is your ultimate goal? In your eyes, what do you see as your "end all be all" goal in Dota?
Mapua: It's funny because I didn't really think that far ahead. When I was younger, I wanted to be a host so I have now checked that box. My childhood dream, I guess, has kind of come true. But to an extent, eventually being able to be on a main stage for TI would be insane, of course. That is the goal one day, but honestly, I think the goal is just to be able to live off of doing what I'm doing right now. To be financially stable from streaming, content creation, and hosting because I really do love all those three things.
They involve some kind of form of entertainment. Hopefully, getting to pursue voice acting would be amazing. I've just got so many dreams and so many things I want to do. There's not particularly one thing that's just gonna be like, "I've done it. I can chill for the rest of my life. I don't have to achieve any more dreams." There's definitely a lot of stuff and I'm one of those people that pick up hobbies all the time because I'm just curious about what's doing this or that.
Just getting my foot in the door in a lot of different things would be my dream and to be able to live off of it. And to be happy! I think that's the biggest goal actually, just to be happy.
BLIX: You mentioned voice acting and that is something I want to ask about. Have you heard of Sergeant Malick? [Sophia: No. Who's that?] Oh, I'm glad you asked. Let me send it to you now. You might not remember.
Mapua: Yes, yes! Okay, so I took a voice acting class in college and we just went through a lot of different kinds of demos, read a bunch of different scripts for samples, and then we just uploaded them. When I was in college, I loved my voice acting class. But nowadays, it's just so hard to balance a lot of different things at the same time.
It's hard to balance editing content, having to post my content, stream, and then sorting through the content. And then with hosting, I do studying. There's just so much to do nowadays and it's very overwhelming. It would be nice to have a manager or something of the sort for help.
Reflection and advice to aspiring esports women
(Credit: Sophia Mapua/Twitter)
BLIX: From your life starting out as it did to now, did you ever think you would be in this position?
Mapua: I think some form of this, yeah. I think doing what I'm doing right now is kind of along the lines of what I thought I would be doing. There was also the possibility that I wouldn't be doing any of this and I'd be living some normal 9-5 corporate job because this didn't really seem like a possibility back then. When I went to high school, it was very competitive and I wasn't the brightest in the bunch. I wasn't a straight-A student but that was kind of the thing in my high school.
It was cool to be smart, so for me, I was very well-rounded but I wasn't the smartest of the bunch. I didn't want to get sucked into where I thought we were all just gonna kind of conform to this normal life where everyone from my high school goes to do some business, engineering, or doctor job. But the fact that entering entertainment was a possibility. I knew it was there and I knew it was possible, but I didn't know how.
BLIX: What kind of advice would you give to other women who are aspiring to pursue a profession within the esports scene?
Mapua: My advice is to just go for it. Don't let anyone hold you back. Don't let what people say hold you back. There's been a lot of doubters in my life, even people close to me, but I think if you really want to do something, if it's really what you want to do, then just go for it. The only person stopping you is yourself. I know it's very corny to say this.
I also think you should just be a nice person. I guess this is both for men and women, not just for girls. If you're a nice person, it will go a long way and more people will want to work with you. You'll seem more approachable. People like nice people so everyone should just be nice to each other and be PMA! It's something that we lack in the Dota community. We should be positive. We should be friendly. We should cheer each other on!
Just in case you missed it: hear more from Sophie in part one of our interview.