Since things can often seem overwhelming in the news, I wanted to share with you an inspiring story that I came across this week.
I surprised to receive a cosplay entry over at www.almostnerdy.com for a little girl a couple of weeks ago. Generally, we have an unofficial rule here that features should be 18 or older but I reached out to her mom since she took the time to enter. To say that what I received in return was a bit unexpected. Jacquelyn was funny, articulate and a budding interviewer (watch out Barbara Walters!).
I hope you take the time to get all the way through and see how Jacquelyn's mother feels Star Wars has changed her life. The more I read this, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I sent some emails, I responded to some more. I have no idea whether or not I can play a part in helping Jacquelyn score the interview of a life time but I plan to try. I am crossposting here in the event that any one is out there in Koslandia is able to help me. Please contact me at qoftu AT yahoo DOT com if you have ideas or can forward this piece to someone you know that might be able to help a special little girl meet her idol.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Jacquelyn as much as I have!
[This part is written by mom: Jacquelyn was so excited about this interview and adamant about typing her own responses. Took her longer than her regular homework and she even skipped taekwondo tonight to answer them all]
1. Was this the first time you dressed up in costume? Have you always liked dressing up or is this something new?
No I dress up all the time. I discovered Star Wars dressing up when I went to first meet my kindergarten teacher and I dressed up as Darth Vader because I was scared and being someone else in costume helped. I also went to Disney World Star Wars weekends a couple years ago dressed up as princess Leia and got to learn lightsaber fighting from a real Jedi and I got to fight against Darth Vader. I also dressed up a couple years ago at Fandays as Padme Amadala in her white battle costume from the Attack of the Clones Star Wars second movie. But my mamma wouldn’t let me have the tummy ripped open place in my costume (but I wanted it).
2. Are you a member of the 501st? If so, what is that like? (you know everyone LOVES them in cosplay, right?) :)
I am a member of the Galactic Academy as number CBH-0298 Leia Boushh in the FireBrands Company. It is really fun. They are just for kids who want to participate in Star Wars costuming. I also get be called a Cadet In Training with the 501 Legion Star Garrison North Texas Squadron on some of what they call kid friendly troops. I just got to do my two very first troops this weekend at the DFW Walk Now for Autism Speaks benefit, and the DK Star Wars in your Stocking Tour in Frisco. And I am allowed to get to troop this next weekend with the grownups in the Dallas City Lights show, then in December for the Snowball Express and a Fort Worth Book fair charity for homeless kids. It is really cool. I get to make people smile but I did scare a few children at the Autism show. The 501 people grownups are all very, very nice to me and awesome. They all have given me their 501 trading cards and I put them on my wall. When my mamma saves her money, she is going to either be a Royal Guard or a Bossk. Then, we can troop together as Boushh and Bossk the Bounty Hunters! That would really be cool.
[This part is written by mom: Jacquelyn has Sensory Integrated Dysfunction (SID), a neurological spectrum disorder similar to Autism. Regressing developmentally at age 3, she was not verbal or walking. We did occupational therapy with some amazing physicians, but she was making very little progress and I was shattered as a parent, thinking she would remain locked in her little world for the rest of her life. However, when Jacquelyn was 6 years old (mobile, but still not talking at all or walking too well yet), I took her to a movie theater opening where members of the 501st (3 storm troopers, a female biker trooper, and a red Royal Guard) and Peter Mayhew were doing a meet & greet and signing autographs. While she didn’t quite understand who or what they were... all she knew was those guys were soooo cool and she followed them around in the cold wet snow for 3 hours in front of that theatre that night. We didn’t even get to see the movie (I think it was supposed to be Alvin & the Chipmunks or something). One of the storm troopers let her hold his blaster gun (I snapped a picture at that moment and have it framed on her bedroom wall - attached), and from that moment on she was totally and completely hooked. And I kid you not, it’s common knowledge that within a only few weeks she began talking and asking about those, “…neat white guys from space.” And for 4 years later, she begs to watch at least one of the six Star Wars movies each and every weekend (to my immense 'enjoyment' …I have those darn movies memorized by now :-P).
I say a prayer each night to George Lucas for helping me give me back my child from the locked-in world she was in. No, Star Wars didn’t do it alone; Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Taekwondo (she’s also a 2nd degree black belt – click to see DMN story), the 501st members and Star Wars all did.
Now, I know the rules of the 501st Legion and North Texas Star Garrison not allowing anyone under the age of 18 to participate. I understand it is for insurance reasons, and it’s their club’s obligation to keep our children safe. But to a child who has been bullied her young little life for being ‘different’, it is the very equivalent to hanging a sign in front of your club, and all other Star Wars clubs, and saying “Kids Stay Out! Star Wars is for adults only!” She didn’t understand; she just wanted to belong somewhere. If you’ve seen the movie Martian Child with John Cusack, then you’ll understand my child. After reaching out to the local 501st members at Irving’s Fandays last month, in a few short weeks the 501st Legion’s Star Garrison North Texas Squadron has become like a second family to her (and me). They have ALL been so wonderful. And next weekend I get to finally meet and give some long overdue hugs to those five 501st members who helped give me back my child that cold wet night 4 years ago.
The only reason I am telling you all of this is if any 501st folks from other squads read your article on Jacquelyn, they’ll understand why the North Texas Squadron bent their rules for her to be allowed to “troop” at certain events as long as I’m there with her, with the understanding that I will officially join within the year.]
3. Was it weird that people want to look at your costume or take pictures with you?
No. I liked it. At the Autism thing this weekend a lot of the kids were scared of me at first but I have a music thingy on my costume that plays the Star Wars Cantina song and I danced around and tried to be silly and that made me seem not so scary. When I was really little many years ago I first met my first Stars Wars costume people. I was scared of them until they let me hold their blaster guns. Then I was not scared anymore. So I remember that. I liked making people smile and taking pictures of me with them. Some people had not even seen Star Wars before (how does that happen?) and so maybe by being in costume I can help them see the all the movies.
4. What is your favorite thing about dressing up?
It is fun. and you get to be like another person or an alien for a while. And you get to put smiles on peoples and kids’ faces. And with the Galactic Academy and the 501 Star Garrison you get to actually help people who need help. They do charitable work and get people to donate money to people who really need it. And I like that I get to help with that stuff.
5. Are your friends jealous that you get to do such cool stuff?
No because they like to dress up too. We got my costume done the week of my birthday and Fandays and my friends came over and tried on my helmet and they thought it was cool. I won the costume contest at Fandays and my friends they were a little jealous that I won a super cool humongous Star Wars AT-TE. It’s awesome!
6. Are you thinking of doing other costumes? If so, what? Do you help make them? (I keep wanting to learn to sew and still haven’t!)
No I really like mine right now. I did get to help my mamma make my costume. It was really fun. We worked on it all summer when she did not have to work. It was really hot work. We worked on my helmet for three months and I got to put on the salt and spray paint and I said what colors and stuff. I got to make my outfit look really dirty and worn a lot by dragging it in the grass and running over it a lot with my bike and spraying clear spray paint on the arm pits parts to make it look like Boushh had sweaty pits (that was my idea).
7. What advice would you have for someone your age that is interested in trying out cosplay?
Yes I have some advice. Help your mamma save up some money. I did some extra chores and it took a long time to save up for parts and paint. We shopped at goodwill and CCA and places for my shoes and belt and leather stuff. Always be looking at stores for stuff you can get really cheap because costume building is expensive. Also my mamma took parts off some of my old toys and transformers and Legos and we spray panted those for parts on my bandoleer and air tank. I was kinda mad at first, but I do not play with that stuff any more. So stuff from home can be used too. It was just a fun project to do with mamma because she travels a lot with her job and with this costume I got to spend a lot of time with her.
Do you have any questions for me?
Yes thank you. Do you like intervewing people? What is your favorite part about intervewing people? How many kids have you intervewed? Who do you want to intervew most ever? I would like to intervew Mister Samuel L Jackson one day. I like him a lot. He is my favorite. And I like the color purple.
Thank you Misses Queen Michelle Simpson
Jacquelyn Savannah Anderson
This part is for Jacquelyn from me:
Jacquelyn Savannah Anderson, you are quite good at this stuff! Here are my answers to your questions:
Do you like interviewing people? I love interviewing people. I think if you ask the right questions, you always learn something new about people and often they will tell you stuff they may not have told anyone else.
What is your favorite part about interviewing people? I get to learn about new people, places and sometimes characters that I might not have known about before. I think that is interesting.
How many kids have you interviewed? You are my very first kid to interview and you have done such a great job! Sometimes grownups forget to ask kids what they think about stuff and I think kids always have an opinion if someone would listen to them.
Who do you want to interview most ever? This is a really hard question. There are so many people that I would like to interview...just in the cast of Star Wars we could go on forever! I am a great big nerd and there are loads of nerdy TV shows and movies that would give me lists and lists of things to ask. I also like scary stuff (that your mom probably won't let you read or watch yet) so if I had to pick my top three people to interview it would be 1. Stephen King-he is a writer that writes the scariest stuff that I have been reading most of my life. I want to ask him if he has nightmares. :) 2. Samuel L. Jackson-he is on my list too. Aside from Star Wars, he has played comic book characters I like in Unbreakable and Iron Man. I see every movie he does because I think he is so awesome. 3. Robert Kirkman-he does comics about zombies. He has a show now called The Walking Dead and I am sure you don't get to watch it but it is currently my most favorite thing ever.
I would like to interview Mister Samuel L Jackson one day. I like him a lot. He is my favorite. And I like the color purple. - I agree with you on this, Mr. Jackson + purple lightsaber = the greatest thing ever.