I have a pretty impressive number of Facebook likes on my page. Over 140,000 at the moment. And a verified account with a fancy blue checkmark. But unfortunately it has nothing to do with blogging and everything to do with making and wearing the infamous Princess Leia gold bikini costume, also known as the “Slave Leia” because she happens to make her first appearance wearing it while chained to Jabba the Hutt as his captive.
It all started in 2001 with an idea to make Princess Leia’s iconic gold metal bikini from Return of the Jedi. This was before I attended conventions, so every year I tried to make an amazing Halloween costume and then win as many contests as possible. I would go from bar to bar, sometimes three in one night, planning out my evening according to when they had their contests. A couple of my other big contest winners were Aeon Flux (the MTV Liquid Television version, not the movie) and LeeLoo from the Fifth Element.
I had never seen anyone wear the Leia costume before and this was WAY before you could buy one. It would be a few years before there would be hoards of them at conventions, traveling in groups and swarming Jabba statues for group photos. It was even before Amazon and before it was easy to get cosplay materials. I made the whole thing out of suede, cardboard, welting cord, wire and an old belt. I made up how to make it as I went along.
I loved the way making the costume challenged me to think outside the box on the materials. I used a lot of random pieces that I had around the house. The gold plates were old USPS Flat Rate envelopes. The domes on the plates were the aluminum bottoms from tea light candles. I used a spoon and carpeted floor to squash them into a dome shape. The details were done with dimensional fabric paint. The base for the top was a bra and the skirt was built on a wide belt that I cut oval shapes into the sides. It took me four months to make that costume the first time. I would later get it down to three days.
I wore my finished masterpiece for the first time on Halloween 2001. It was chilly in San Diego so I also made a matching velvet cloak to keep me warm. I still remember the way the crowd erupted when I walked on stage still wrapped in the cloak, then dropped it to the floor and did a little spin to show the whole outfit. The place went crazy and the DJ announced “Well I think we know who won this contest!”
Fast forward a few years to when I started attending DragonCon. By then I had actually started a business making and selling Slave Leia costumes on eBay. The very first one I made, the same one I wore for that contest, sold for $501. It was that sale that sparked an idea to start making costumes for other people, and soon I built an entire business around that one costume. Business was booming for a while until one day FedEx showed up with a very scary cease and desist letter from Lucas Films. I was no longer allowed to make “Slave Leia” costumes. Soon after that another costume company released the first officially licensed Slave Leia costume, and it was awful. The demand for a decent costume was high so I changed my design a bit and started making “Sci-fi Slave Princess Costumes” and never heard another peep from Lucas.
That letter changed things for me though. I realized if I wanted to really have a business, I needed to make more than just one costume, and I needed to be careful about copyrights. That was the start of the Three Muses Clothing website, which I grew into a full retail site and later into a boutique. I ran that business for 11 years, and could still be doing it now, but honestly I was ready for a break from it when my son came along and changed my world considerably.
But when I started, I was passionate about making Three Muses a success. I wore various styles of the Slave Leia costumes to tons of events and got a LOT of pictures taken in it to promote the business. I jumped at every opportunity, every photoshoot and interview. The first time one of my costume pics was published was in 2005, in a German book about Star Wars fans.
When I wore the costume to San Diego Comic Con, there were so many people taking photos that the fire marshal kept warning people to clear the aisles. I did a group photo with a life size Jabba the Hutt statue and was interviewed by Spike TV and G4 while in costume.
I also did the group photoshops at DragonCon, and it was a few photos from that gathering that put me on E! Entertainment in their Top 25 Most memorable Swimsuit Moments. The gold bikini was #16 and they showed several clips of me in my costume. This was on TV every summer for several years and every time they put it back in rotation, I would start getting calls and e-mails from friends asking if it was me, and did I know I was on TV?
It was also around this time that production started on a movie called Fanboys. A few images from the movie were released early, showing actress Kristen Bell wearing a Slave Leia costume. As soon as I saw the photos, I recognized it as one of mine. They had bought one off eBay to use in the movie and I had no idea! Unfortunately I could tell from the photos that it was one from the first round, when I was still making them with cardboard pieces, and I could see certain parts were crushed. I contacted the director through his MySpace page asking if they would like a new costume, but filming had already wrapped.
There was also a documentary in the works, all about Star Wars fans. They were going to be filming at DragonCon and wanted to know if they could interview me. Of course I said yes, and that’s what eventually brought me and my costume into the mainstream. After the interview they asked if I could send a few photos for promotional purposes and I sent a few recent pics. I had no idea one was going to end up on the cover, forever cementing my geek covergirl cred.
Jedi Junkies was released in 2010 and was available on Netflix and Hulu for a while. You can actually still rent the movie on Amazon. This is when my Facebook page and Twitter blew up. (Remember I was actually writing about that?) While the film was on Netflix, my inbox was filled every day with people contacting me to tell me they saw me on their TV. My Facebook page grew to over 200,000 likes at one point, and my Twitter to over 100,000. I ended up with an IMDB page with a movie credit, and Facebook awarded me with a little blue check mark designating my page a verified Public Person.
I started getting a lot of international likes too. And with the bigger numbers came a lot of foreign spam accounts trying to find pages they could leave comments on, so I had to start blocking certain countries. This still continues daily! It’s either targeting by spam bots, or I’m crazy popular in Turkey. The likes have slowed down over the years, but I still get days with 20 likes in a row, all from far away places.
After the DVD, I also ended up in several magazines, books and the Morgan Spurlock Comic Con documentary and book, ComicCon Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. I appear as Wonder Woman in the book and as Slave Leia in the movie.
So that’s where the big flood of fans came from- years of dressing up as Slave Leia culminating in a DVD cover seen on millions of TVs. And that’s why I’m struggling to get better engagement on those accounts now. Most of them weren’t fans of Geek Mama Candy Keane, they were fans of a skimpy Star Wars cosplay costume.
I’m happy to say at least half of my audience stuck with me through the transition of sexy cosplay girl to (sometimes still sexy, I hope) Geek Mom. I do find when I post “mom stuff” on Facebook, I will see a drop in fans as more fanboys discover I’m not just posting hot cosplay pics anymore. There are plenty of younger cosplay girls out there right now posting their naked or nearly nude “lewds” for money on Patreon. I’m glad I moved past that scene when I did, before it became less about the costume and more about how much of it was missing.
I haven’t worn the costume for years, but my Princess Leia past will always be a part of my life. It was the costume that changed my career path from budding journalist to costume designer. It was a great ride, but I’m happy to be finding my way back to my writing roots, while still being able to enjoy cosplay as a hobby.
And while I may not wear Slave Leia anymore, I do still dress as the famous intergalactic princess. Just now my costume is a little more family-friendly and straight out of Sesame Street! For the last Star Wars Celebration, we did a Star Smores group and I was Princess Parfaita, complete with Oreo cookie hair buns.
So now you know the whole story of how I became “geek famous” and why Star Wars will always be such a big deal to me. And the reason I have a heck of a lot of “fans” for a mom blog. I jumped into this with a pretty good following already! The trick is trying to keep the old crowd interested while I navigate this new territory. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who has stuck with me from sexy cosplay girl to cosplay mom. And a Hello and Thank You too, to the new crowd that has joined me on this journey.