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From Fan to Family: My Journey to the 501st Legion

One Woman's Journey to the 501st Legion

From the first moment Princess Leia appeared on screen I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe it was her buns on the side of her head, her white dress, or her defiant attitude standing up against the big Darth Vader. At four years old it was my destiny to grown up and be Princess Leia, buns and all.

My father shared his love of Star Wars by taking me to see the original movie when it was released in the theatres. Nothing could have prepared me for how much of an impact it would have on my life, both then and now.

Finding Star Wars merchandise as a little girl of the seventies was not quite the same of today. Left to play with Barbies and dolls because action figures were deemed just for boys left this little girl secretly hiding her inner Star Wars geek just waiting to emerge.

Jawa and a Stormtrooper switch buckets DZ25293 and TK71114

Growing up a closeted Star Wars geek left little room to enjoy Star Wars like all the other fans truly did.

Not once can I recall a shirt, dress, earrings, purses, posters, toys, or costume related to Star Wars in my closet. Not as a little girl. Not as a teenager. Not as an adult.

When you marry someone who has the same interests as you, it matters. Not once did we discuss Star Wars before marriage or even in the early years after. It took having kids and searching to buy their first video game to get the conversation rolling. Even though they were young, we knew the LEGO video games would be a perfect match. Right before our eyes was the one video game we were all excited about. LEGO Star Wars. I asked my husband what he thought and he was surprised I thought of it.

501st Legion Member with her sons from the Galactic Academy

“I LOVE Star Wars!”

Those four words changed our family’s life. My husband looked at me with wide eyes and had absolutely no idea I liked the movies let alone felt this passionate about it. He was the same way, yet it was not something we had discussed. Ever. It was like we fell in love all over again.

The boys were hooked on Star Wars from the moment they played the video game. R2D2 was my youngest son’s favorite character and my oldest son’s favorite was General Grievous. Not much has changed all these years later.

Although the boys were not old enough to watch the movies just yet, they knew all six movies and all the characters from just playing the video game.

When they were old enough we surprised them by watching Star Wars together as a family for the first time. A huge gasp followed by “They’re real!” brought smiles and laughter as we watched our boys utterly and completely fall in love with Star Wars.

Just one video game changed our family’s destiny, and mine

It turns out I was raising two future Star Wars geeks and married to a secret one too. Countless figures, games, books, and movies later Star Wars became not just a shared love of a movie but a way of life. Shirts, socks, and even underwear all had the markings of the Dark Side, yet it was all for them.

Jawa reading Star Wars The Clone Wars book in the library

Still the closeted Star Wars geek remained

Then last year something magical happened. Our little Star Wars family of four slowly began to expand to include other members. One by one our galaxy that seemed so far, far away became bigger and bigger. At Phoenix Fan Fest, my then 11 year old son won the grand prize in the Dune Sea Garrison’s droid hunt: an official Stormtrooper bucket. That was the final proof we needed that we had indeed turned to the Dark Side.

A children’s Boba Fett bucket sitting on the playroom shelves was modified and turned into a custom piece of art work. Red glitter and a pair of Minnie ears was added to transform my first Star Wars bucket into my own Minnie Fett, which was debuted at our Star Wars Disney Side party. Members of our Star Wars family came to our house for the party. It is not every day you have members of the 501st Legion come into your house dressed as Stormtroopers, a Tusken Raider, Clone Trooper Echo, a Tie Fighter Pilot, and even a Mandalorian.

Albin Johnson Founder of the 501st Legion
At Star Wars Celebration Anaheim I met Albin Johnson, Founder of the 501st Legion.

Just days before we attended Star Wars Celebration, we hand made my 11 year old’s Stormtrooper costume and debuted it at the conference. There was an all Star Wars costume photo shoot, which meant I could wear my Minnie Fett bucket. Walking to the photo shoot with my boys in a bucket did not quite make sense so my boys let me borrow one of their Sith robes. My husband captured the moment of us walking together and we like to call it parenting done right. It is not every day you see a mother dressed up, along with her children and encouraging their love of Star Wars, only it was the children who came first with costuming.

Then we went to Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World. The parade confirmed what I already knew in my heart. One day I was going to be a member of the 501st Legion. It was my destiny. We already knew so many members in our local groups, let alone from other states. That was just the moment that confirmed my dream.

Behind the scenes from a troop with Darth Vader SL32407

Phoenix ComicCon had a special shirt just for Star Wars and it was in my hands as soon as I saw it. No questions asked. It is my favorite shirt of all, mostly because my Darth Vader head necklace lands directly over Darth Vader’s head on the shirt.

Knowing that I had finally figured out my costume, my family surprised me with birthday presents fit for a closeted Star Wars fan. The sweetest ones were Imperial and Rebel earrings, a Stormtrooper purse, and my first Funko Pop. Seeing the little Jawa Funko Pop confirmed that my boys saw me as a Jawa, even though my costume was just a bolt of fabric waiting to be sewn.

Somehow the closeted Star Wars geek did not need any encouragement to share her love of all things Star Wars anymore

It took nearly two years to figure out what costume I wanted to make, plan, and save for it but only two weeks to complete from start to finish. Not the typical time frame in costuming, but definitely important for me to make a screen accurate costume worthy to walk onto any Lucasfilm movie set.

Wendy Wright as a Jawa in the 501st Legion

I am a Jawa

On October 5, 2015 this closeted Star Wars Geek was accepted as a member of the 501st Legion, the Lucasfilm preferred Star Wars Imperial costuming group. The very next day I was also accepted as a member of the Rebel Legion, the Lucasfilm preferred Star Wars costuming group for the Rebellion. I am member of both the Dune Sea Garrison and Mos Eisley Base. We are the bad guys doing good, volunteering our time dedicated to our Star Wars fandom.

National Adoption Day with the Dune Sea Garrison TK61281

I officially became a member of the Star Wars family and a Star Wars Ambassador

In two month’s time I have appeared for official 501st Legion events on stage at the Phoenix Symphony, marched in a costume parade at the Phoenix Zoo, started the line at the Walk for Wishes, a block party for Halloween, made my debut on TV, appeared in a Phoenix ComiCon Fan Fest video, celebrated nearly 300 adoptions at National Adoption Day, nominated as Her Universe’s Fan Girl of the Day, and too many pictures to even count but none of that compares to the joy of wearing my costume alongside my boys in their costumes. We do all of these events together as a family and the boys are so very proud to tell everyone they can that their mom is a Jawa and they are members of the Galactic Academy.

As a fan, wearing my costume into Disneyland for Mickey’s Halloween Party was an absolutely fun time. There is nothing quite like riding Star Tours dressed in a Star Wars costume seated next to your family also dressed in Star Wars costumes. If you ask nicely and promise not to steal the Death Star balloons, you might even get a chance to hold them like I did.

Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland

Spreading the love of Star Wars one smile at a time across the galaxy

From seeing Star Wars with my father to taking my children to see their first movie in the theatre next week with The Force Awakens, life will have come full circle. Except for Princess Leia. Turns out that this little girl did not grow up to become Princess Leia. While my son wants me to wear the Slave Leia outfit, he will just have to be content with the Jawa that sold R2D2 to Luke and helped saved the Princess.

Droids at Fan Fest

The dream to become Princess Leia still exists but it will just take a few years more. You see, Princess Leia in The Force Awakens proves that women are better with age and one day I will be old enough to properly be the Princess in an approved costume for the Rebel Legion. The little girl’s dream still lives.

This is an awesome time to be a Star Wars fan, especially for women.

From closeted Star Wars fan to fully embracing being a Star Wars geek and then becoming a member of the Star Wars family, the fun is just beginning.

DZ-25293 reporting for duty. UTINNI!

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Wendy Wright

Head Geek at Plugged In Family often found at Comicon, Disneyland, or online increasing her gamer score on Xbox. As a member of the 501st Legion, Wendy spreads her love of Star Wars across the Galaxy in her handmade Jawa costume volunteering for charities with her husband and two sons.

One thought on “From Fan to Family: My Journey to the 501st Legion

  • February 23, 2016 at 11:51 am

    That is such a cool story!!! To be a fan and then ambassador. i love it! So exciting. There really is something magical about Star Wars-it brings together multiple generations, it brings together families–it’s just a very special movie. It even brings our country together (from the first movie and now again with the latest episode).


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