Anxiety and depression have prevented me from doing some normal day to day things for most of my life. Over the past five years, I’ve learned something very valuable; put me in armor or a costume and, despite my mental battles, you can see my natural personality shine.
This year, I started going back to school for my degree in Media Communications. The first week of my new class I was tasked with creating a video that showcased my goals and who I am. I had to upload it to YouTube as “unlisted” so my instructor and classmates could see it.
For the past three years I’ve been an avid Star Wars cosplayer. I’m a Clone of the Republic, a Jedi Knight, and I recently became a Bounty Hunter (who hunts clones…go figure right?). Each of these costumes has their own story and uniqueness about them that I love.
I was first introduced to the idea of Star Wars cosplay 10 years ago when I saw the 501st Legion suiting up outside of my Disney work location. Back then, I just thought they were cool and went about my life. After I was married, my husband and I both joked on and off about joining the ranks of the 501st Legion. We did some research and every time we saw what was involved, we ran the other direction.
Several years later, we attended Star Wars Celebration V. I was in awe over the 501st Legion room and the array of clone trooper helmets on display. It was then that I decided come heck or high water, I was going to join up.
Inspired by its predecessor, the TK Helmet Project, which raised over $50,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Celebration V, this project focuses on the helmets of Boba Fett and the Episode II Clone Troopers.
One of the men responsible for the project, Art Andrews, explained that the hardest part of the project, was choosing artists to participate.
“The Vader Project utilized famous pop and modern artists. The TK-Project was primarily Star Wars Celebrities and 501st members. I wanted to go after companies within the movie industry like Weta, Legacy Effects and Amalgamated Designs who have a track record of creating amazing and memorable props.”
Once the list of participating artists and studios was decided, they were each given either a Boba Fett helmet or an Episode II Clone Trooper helmet and told to create it, as they wished. This is one of the coolest parts of the project for me. With each artist given 100% creative freedom on their helmet, you know each helmet was a work of their own creation and not a prompting from someone else.
It’s taken over two years to get this project from idea to auction and it was one of the highlights at Celebration VI.
Every helmet in the project is being auctioned off online by the Make-A-Wish group, with all funds going towards their goal to give terminally ill children a wish.
Star Wars Celebration VI, the biggest Star Wars party in the galaxy, will be in Orlando, Florida this week and I’ve been planning and scheming for it since it was announced last year. The 501st Legion has been hard at work getting everything ready for this event and we can’t wait to show you all what we’ve done. To add to the fun, I have a special surprise for those attending…
Anyone who can find me and says “GeekMom rocks!” will receive a special GeekMom emblem patch! The patches were made specifically for Celebration VI, so you won’t find them anywhere else right now.
I’m really excited about everything happening at Celebration VI. From panels to parties, to red carpet premieres, you never know where I’ll show up next. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be there all four days and geeking out at all the Star Wars celebrities, collectibles and costumes. Did I mention that ThinkGeek has a booth this year? I’ve only ever seen them online, so you know I’ll be hitting them up like a Twi’lek at a dance off!
The patches are limited to 100 so if you want one, you better keep an eye out for me. Bonus points if you can find me in one of my 501st Legion or Rebel Legion costumes. To make it a little easier for you, I’ll be tweeting some hints on where you can find me. Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@Dak903) to stay updated.
So, if you see me and you want a patch, make sure you come up and say hi!
After trooping more than 50 events with the 501st Legion, I’ve come to realize a few things. The first thing is that most people don’t know the difference between a stormtrooper and a clone trooper. The second thing is that just as many people don’t know the difference between a tie pilot and Darth Vader. To help those who might find it all a bit confusing, I’d like to help you out. I’m not going to go into to much detail about their history, just what they look like so you can tell the difference if you ever run into one.
First up, is Stormtrooper vs. Clone Trooper
Stormtroopers appeared in Star Wars Episodes IV thru VI. The most popular version wears all white plastic armor (usually shiny) and have buttons on their ab plates (typically black, blue, or both). The helmet they wear is pretty unique as well. A stormtrooper’s eyes are separated, where as the clone troopers have a one piece visor. Some of the different variations of stormtroopers include the sandtrooper and stormtrooper commander. Regardless of the variation, stormtroopers are all bad guys and serve the Empire. Continue reading How to Tell Us Apart: A Public Service Announcement From the Empire
Growing up, my life revolved around Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and My Little Pony. As I’ve gotten older, my love of the toys never left me, but my collecting of them has. When I learned that the My Little Pony convention was going to be in Orlando this year, I jumped at the opportunity to go. At the same time, I also learned that the 501st Legion was going to be in attendance. That sealed the deal. There was no way I was going to miss trooping in a room full of ponies!
The convention has been in full swing since 2003 and it draws quite the crowd. The convention organizers spend hours planing and organizing this event for the My Little Pony fans of all ages. Fans and collectors come together for a 2 day event, dedicated to all things My Little Pony. The merchandise was interesting to say the least. All of the tables sold ponies from various generations and some sold artwork and other miscellaneous items.
The custom ponies were amazing and many (for good reason) were in the price range of $200 or more. One thing I didn’t expect, was to hear that the exclusive merchandise sold out within a few hours of the doors opening.
This past March I decided to embark on my first solo costuming project, Aayla Secura. I wanted it to be a total surprise to my squad, so I referred to it only as Project X on Facebook. It was quite the journey and a quick one at that. My animated clone trooper took five months and four people to help get it fitting me right. Since I wanted to march in Star Wars weekends, this costume had to be completed in less than three months and this time, it was all up to me, myself and my husband to make it come to life. It was a tight squeeze, but we were able to make our goal.
The day to reveal my costume at Star Wars Weekends arrived. We planned on putting the paint on me at home and then suiting me up the rest of the way at Disney. One problem…our airbrush system stopped working! After texting back and forth with our friend Zach, he finally told us to bring everything with us to the park and he would help us out there. As soon as we arrived I knew I was in good hands. Several of my friends were already aware of the issues and were ready and waiting to help me out. After fifteen minutes, Zach had us up and working.
Known by his friends as the Master Painter of the FLG, Zach took charge of my paint job and forty-five minutes later, I was all blue. Once my body paint was complete, a fellow Rebel Legion member, Otter, helped me get into one of the air-conditioned buses that Disney gave us to stay cool (thank you Disney!) to put on the rest of my costume.
The one major downside to this costume is the headpiece. It’s held on by pressure from the head wrap and after about thirty minutes, I was hating life. The positive attention I received from everyone really helped keep me in a good mood. I still felt the pain, but it was easier to handle with so many of my friends around me.
Some people dreamed of growing up to be a storm trooper and some of us actually made it there. Since February 2011, I have been a proud and active member in the 501st Legion also known as Vader’s Fist.
The 501st legion is a worldwide professional costuming club that specializes in the “bad guys” of the Star Wars universe. We never charge for appearances and have shown up to everything from charity walks to formal weddings. In the past 12 years, the 501st Legion has grown to more than 5,000 active members worldwide.
As stated in Article 1 of the Legion Charter, “…The Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…”
There is no cost involved in applying or staying active in the legion. The bare requirements are being at least 18 years of age and owning a movie quality costume from one of the Star Wars films. The legion also accepts costumes from the expanded universe such as the books and video games. For a complete listing of costumes currently accepted by the legion, take a look at the visual guides.
To get into the legion is no laughing matter and for some it takes years of blood, sweat, tears and financial planning. My husband, Brian, has been working on a Jango Fett for the past year and he is still not done yet. Others have it a little easier and complete their builds (costume) in a matter of months. My animated clone trooper build took 5 months. With the expertise and guidance of Zach Winnermark, Dave Young and Shawn Oudit of the Florida Garrison, my clone trooper Denal was brought to life.
Since, I first received my helmet, it has been an adventure. I have learned patience, confidence and most of all I have made lasting friendships and touched the lives of children and adults. There is nothing like stepping out and seeing the look of amazement on a child’s face. It’s great to see the adults jumping up and down at our arrival as well.
Marching in parades is a fun past time of many troopers. Some parades we can be a little more relaxed and have fun with the spectators. In other parades we are instructed to act as a military unit (no waving or interaction with spectators). When the legion was invited to participate in the Rose Bowl parade in 2007, George Lucas was very specific on how he wanted everyone to look. To achieve a military look, he had all 200 legion members participating work with military drill instructors for 2 days.
For other events, such as Star Wars weekends at Hollywood Studios – Orlando, Florida, we might get together and decide to go military or just wing it. It takes a lot of skill and practice to pull it off.
My 6 year old son tells everyone that his mommy is a clone trooper. While marching in the motorcade during Star Wars weekends, I saw him jumping up and down from the side lines yelling “Mommy!” Sometimes he suits up as Captain Rex and troops alongside me. He is also very quick to correct people when they call me a storm trooper.
Conventions are another fun thing we participate in. There are many throughout the world that we attend. My home town favorites are Megacon, Dragoncon, Vulcan Events: Away Mission Orlando and Star Wars Celebration. Suiting up for these events is sometimes half the fun. At Megacon this past year I suited up in my hotel across the street and walked all the way into the convention center and then some to get to our booth. My total time suited up ended up being around four and half hours. It’s also interesting to see others have fun with their costumes and not always go movie accurate at events. My husband, for
example, only had his Jango Fett helmet completed around Megacon, so he improvised and trooped along side me as “Mob Boss Jango”.
Some of my favorite moments include talking to others while suited up. The first reaction of most people after hearing my voice is usually “it’s a girl!” One mom in an effort to explain why I sounded like a girl to her children said I was Princess Leia in disguise. My reaction is usually to laugh, but inside I’m proud. I worked hard to get to the moment of stepping out in front of the crowds and serving the empire and I hope to continue for a long time.
For more information and to find your local 501st garrison, please visit www.501st.com
Have you had a run in with the empire? Share your stories with us in the comment section.