( photo : DTJAAAAM )

( photo : DTJAAAAM )

I saw Rogue One 3 times in theaters and it has been my favorite of the new Star Wars films so far. I am a rebel leader at heart. Like Jyn, I aspire to be a voice for justice and to always fight for what is right. It is inspiring to see her brave sacrifice for freedom in the galaxy and it brings me personal strength to embody her character. Plus, she's the only blue eyed brunette protagonist in the live action Star Wars universe!

This costume has taken the longest of anything I've ever cosplayed to put together. I usually cosplay Disney princesses so the pieces in a Star Wars costume are so much more intricate and complicated. I had a great deal of help. So Cal Costumes created my vest and Otherworldly Creations my screen accurate pants. The blaster is a 3D printed weathered replica and the gloves were yellow climbing gloves dyed brown, researched on the Rebel Legion forums. Additional weathering I accomplished with sandpaper, chalk, and alternating brown and grey acrylic paints. Hair extraordinaire, Jessica Mills added my real hair into a wig the day of and I smudged dark eyeshadow as dirt into my face. This is the first draft of the costume and I realize there are many inaccuracies and shortcuts. I would like to add the ski buckle flaps to the boots and the stitched circles to the gloves. I cheated by using a Hot Topic jacket so that definitely needs an upgrade. I even forgot my kyber crystal necklace in my car!!!

I couldn't believe the astounding response at Wondercon. I already know a lot of photographers and cosplayers, but so many of my friends didn't recognize me! I was also shocked how much I looked like the character when all was put together as I had been fretting about the details for so long. I got a slew of compliments and pictures. I wandered around with So Cal Costumes as Leia and we took some funny pics where I dove between Vader's legs to hand her the death star plans.

Apparently I was doing cosplay before I even knew what it was! Halloween was always my favorite holiday and my most memorable costume was a homemade Sailor Moon costume at 9 years old. I discovered it as an adult 5 years ago when cosplayer Jimmy Sherfy invited me to my first convention. I had just started a character company for kids and we had been talking online in a forum for business owners. I came to meet him and soon I became addicted! I own Smile and a Song Princess Parties, a company that provides singing entertainment to children's birthday parties and events. All of my performers are trained musical theatre singers and we provide not only beautiful princesses, but high quality impersonations. These days I have quite a few IG followers and it is always interesting to randomly have people in public come up to me and tell me how they admire my work or how it has influenced them to start cosplaying. Like Jyn Erso, I want to have a voice that inspires change, and I find with my newfound success and followers, I have an invaluable platform to spread my personal values of artistic expression and self confidence.

-- Joanna Bert