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.
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.