The Little Leia: An Ode to Carrie Fisher
⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛
I’m not sure how I managed this moment.
This is what little fangirls’ dreams are made of. Most girls grow up with frilly pink dresses, Barbie dream houses, marriage dreams — and everything has a sparkly bow on top. I’m not saying a dash of my dreams did not contain such things, but I was more of the Han-Solo-blaster-toting, short-story-writing, future-house-planning space princess.
The trees sway with the spring breeze as one Luke and two Leias climb the small hill at Ninny’s old house, past the garage my dad built and Puffy’s gravesite. The orange Han Solo blaster is in my right hand, and my cousin Will wields a camouflage faux gun he found in Ninny’s collection of toys. My little sister, five years my junior, still has her plastic jeweled dagger in its sheath. She wants to be Leia, too, and she is the only other girl I have ever allowed to have the same Leia identity as me. As we reach the top of the hill, the trees look just like Endor.
“There’s the Death Star!” Will screams. And we can almost hear the Ewoks say “yub yub.”
Hannah and I look to the sky, and we see the imaginary second Death Star, too, in its incomplete glory. We’re a group of little Rebels with our own cause: to find the shield generator in the middle of Ninny’s woods. We replay scenes and create our own storylines, like the time will never pass and IV, V, and VI will be the only “Star Wars” movies we will ever watch.
When Hannah and I arrive home, our dad is in the backyard mowing the grass with his gray Craftsman lawnmower. We race each other to the wooden swingset with its blue swings. Our cat, Oreo, watches us with scared golden eyes near my dad’s ladders in the woods. She’s too frightened by the lawnmower to venture to our galaxy far, far away.
The rattle of the lawnmower sounds like Darth Vader to us, and that is who my dad becomes that spring day, and he didn’t even know it. To continue with our “Return of the Jedi” theme, Hannah and I recite the Luke and Leia conversation on the wooden boardwalk in the Ewoks’ village. I use the fact that I was born first to my benefit, so I crown myself “Queen of the Leia Lines.” Hannah can take the Luke ones.
“I have to face him,” Hannah says, not sounding like Luke Skywalker in the slightest.
“Why?” I ask, in my most dramatic Princess Leia Organa voice.
“He’s my father.”
Suddenly, our mom interrupts our conversation as Luke and Leia to tell us that dinner is ready. So, we jump off our swings in unison, and our black-and-white cat follows us up the deck stairs into the house.
I have collected Carrie Fisher photos since I was 7 years old. Here are some of my favorites.
Twenty years had passed, and here I was, in the midst of this horde of “Star Wars” fans, waiting in line to meet Carrie Fisher. Somehow, I had shaken the nervousness of my 7-year-old self. I analyzed the event’s logistics in line to ease my impatience.
I saw Carrie Fisher’s life story play out in front of my eyes when I watched a Lifetime special in the 1990s. I learned about her failed relationships, substance use and abuse, her mental-health diagnoses, and her love/hate relationship with Hollywood.
She said there was no underwear in space?
As a little girl, holding my Bespin Leia figurine from the 1997 Special Edition action-figure collection, I remember thinking, “Not only is she the best and prettiest princess in the universe, BUT Carrie Fisher also had a carousel in her house. I want to be be this woman when I grow up.”
I was the crazy girl who bought Bermuda Sunset eyeshadow from Revlon because it looked identical to the eyeshadow Leia wears in “A New Hope.” I measured my age in how old Carrie Fisher was when she filmed all three classic “Star Wars” movies, and I have never been offended by her slave-girl costume (another story for another day). I’ve kept every Leia item I have ever owned, from my Slave Leia cardboard standup to my original Leia costume I wore in the 1990s to news clippings from magazines. (I have been collecting media placements since I was a small child.)
The fact of the matter is, I still want to be like Leia, an immensely strong female character in a dense world of mirages. While the sociological factors influencing my life have been aplenty, I still give some credit to a certain strong, independent princess from a galaxy far, far away for my assertiveness and no nonsense wisecracks toward all the Han-Solo types. (Although, who doesn’t love a good smuggler? And I am still eternally envious of the fact that Leia gets Han.) So, this little girl grew up, and now, I’m a public-relations-practicing, business-owning, eternal fangirl. I haven’t changed too much — just my hair has gotten a little blonder over time.
My hands were barely shaking, oddly enough. My caffeine binge put me at a strange ease. Mom and Ninny were behind me, watching as I handed the photo of a 1976 Carrie Fisher to a lady working the event. Then, my eyes met Princess Leia’s, and all I could think about was how I dreamed of this moment. When I was nine, I wrote in a journal that Princess Leia was my favorite movie character and that my goal in life was to meet Carrie Fisher. I also wanted to be a killer-whale trainer, but we all know that never happened.
I’m not sure how I managed this moment, in the middle of Louisville, on a hot August day.
“Kaylin,” Carrie Fisher said, looking at the yellow Post-It on my photo.
HOLY CRAP. LEIA JUST SAID MY NAME. She signs, “Love to Kaylin” and her name on my 11x17 photo.
“I’ve loved you since I was little,” I confessed.
Carrie, laughed. "Good. Keep loving me.”
"I have always been envious of Princess Leia, though, because she has Han Solo.”
"Oh, I wouldn’t get too envious about that if I were you,” Carrie smiled, her French bulldog, Gary, sitting beside her. He’s his own form of celebrity, especially on Twitter. His tongue permanently sticks out, and earlier, he kept licking her face. He was relentless, that Gary.
“Are you feeling better?” I asked her, casually, like I’ve known her forever. I saw on Twitter where she was sick in Florida at an appearance.
“Yes. I’m starting to feel better, thank you.”
“Thanks for favoriting my tweet on Twitter,” I told Princess Leia — I mean, Carrie. “You made my PR dreams come true, and you made me pretty popular there.”
“I always pay attention to my fans on Twitter and what they say.”
At this moment, I didn't care if she was just being nice. I heard these words coming from the woman whose voice I’ve heard almost my entire life. I cried when my original, pre-1997 special-edition “The Empire Strikes Back” VHS tape became lodged in my VCR. That meant I couldn't recite all of Princess Leia's lines from the movie. Luckily, I saved it from certain death.
“Thank you so much for being a positive role model,” I told Carrie.
“Kaylin used to pretend she was you all the time,” my mom said.
“You are so sweet,” Carrie said.
I know we said other things, and it was a lengthy conversation (more than others) for the situation. Later that evening, I stood for what seemed like days in the photo line; however, it was worth it. She was her typical Carrie Fisher self, kind and quirky. She immediately put her arm around me to pose for the photo.
“I have never seen a Leia shirt like yours,” she said, and my Bespin-Leia-loving heart soared. “And I love your necklace. Is that a little Eiffel Tower inside it? And an hourglass?”
So, here I was, talking to Carrie Fisher about my love for Paris and my business name. After our individual photo, with Gary and all, Mom, Ninny, and I posed for a three-generations photo with our honorary family member. The photographer took only one photo, but Carrie insisted, “Take another one.”
The photographer began to object, but Carrie said, “Just take another one.” The scruffy-looking nerfherder did what he was told. Carrie winked at us, knowing that she just gave us a free photo. I hugged her goodbye and petted Gary on the head.
When I saw her on the silver screen in "The Force Awakens," I felt a nostalgia not too many fans can feel. I MET PRINCESS LEIA. The aura of thankfulness I feel to have met such an icon and inspiration to me in insurmountable. I don’t think I have ever resurfaced to earth after being on cloud nine. It was a like Christmas Day for this “Star Wars” fanatic. I don’t care if she was under the weather. It’s Princess Leia. She could do what she wanted. And she taught me a little bit about how to do that, too.
On December 23, the news broke that Carrie had a medical emergency aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles. Five days later, on December 27, she passed away in an L.A. hospital. We collectively lost our breaths and our Princess at the same time.
The news of Carrie Fisher’s passing was — and still is — devastating to me. The universe lost its most favorite space princess, and I lost someone I have idolized since I was a little girl. Of course, her role as Princess Leia defined my childhood. She portrayed an independent, feisty, resilient Rebel Alliance leader and princess, and she was every bit of that in real life — and more. Not only did I idolize Leia but the real Carrie Fisher, for her acting talents, writings and advocacy for some of life’s most pressing issues, such as mental-health awareness. She was a beacon of hope to so many, and her loss affects of all us.
Thank you, Carrie, for being the universe's favorite princess, a role that you had a love/hate relationship with -- although it was mostly love. Thank you for your acting and writing talents, for your wit, charm, and resilience. Thank you for shining such a luminous light on the subject of mental illness and substance abuse and for fighting the stigmas that shape who we are, even when we don’t want them to do so. Thank you, Carrie, for showing little girls like me how to be just like you.
I'll love you forever.
The Ultimate Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher Fangirl
Here are some of our favorite Carrie Fisher memorial images, collected from across the Internet. Please note: We do not own these images.
Copyright © MMXVI Hourglass Omnimedia, LLC
This post was originally published on Dec. 28, 2016, the day of Carrie Fisher's death.
Kaylin R. Staten is an award-winning public relations practitioner. She owns Hourglass Omnimedia, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV.
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