(Before I dive into today’s topic, I do want to acknowledge the fact that yes, I am aware that it’s been about a month since I did one of my regular blog posts. That was unplanned, but trust me when I say that I have a really good reason for doing so. Aside from work having been busier than usual at my day job, I also have been hard at work on a project I am writing. It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but stay tuned. Something is coming very soon.)
At this time one week ago, I was at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. This was my first time ever attending it, and it has also been a long time coming. Having originally bought my pass for it three years ago, I was originally supposed to venture to this all-“Star Wars” convention in the summer of 2020. For reasons that, at this point, everyone knows the answer to, it wound up being pushed back to May of this year.
In thinking about what to say on this take about Star Wars Celebration, I thought back to when I first went to San Diego Comic-Con, and how taken aback I was by the overwhelming amount of consumerism I felt throughout a multi-day event that’s to celebrate so many different popular stories. There was, for sure, plenty of that same feeling with this convention too, and at this point, I’ve accepted that that’s unavoidable with these kind of events. However, when thinking about how this experience differed than Comic-Con, it goes beyond COVID safety measures that were in place (and how many people loosely defied them). The overall experience – from the panels, to my social interactions, and the unique opportunities I was given – are what made this experience stand out.
For one thing, I love the fact that Star Wars Celebration exists at all. Originally dating back to 1999 in the lead up to the release of “The Phantom Menace,” to have a convention focused on one specific franchise that people from all over the world enjoy is genius, compared to Comic-Con and other conventions where they adhere to multiple different franchises. It’s a convention designed for the likes of me, who has been a fan of “Star Wars” since the age of four. I always loved the idea of going to it one day, but was never financially in the position to do so. That’s why following the previous one in 2019, I promised myself that wherever it would be next, I would attend. How fortunate that it would just happen to be in Anaheim, walking distance from Disneyland and in a region of California that I’m eyeballing to make my home eventually.
The longer than expected wait because of the pandemic definitely created more anticipation for it. Simultaneously (and surprising to me), the pandemic would have an effect on how I would navigate the convention too – so much to where by the end of the second day, I was feeling exhausted. This was the first in-person convention I’ve attended since 2019. I used to think I knew how to navigate such events, as well as the world at large. But the tiredness I was experiencing, as well as the subconscious stress from adhering to all the safety protocols for this pandemic that we’re still very much in, I felt like my mojo has been robbed within the last two years. Staying at home and isolating yourself to protect yourself and others can have both a mental and physical toll on someone, and I definitely felt that while in attendance.
With wanting to take in every single moment of this first Celebration, I went out of my way to experience it as much as I can, and I’m so fortunate that as a contributor to The Nerds of Color, that opened up opportunities for me I otherwise probably wouldn’t have had. With a media pass on me, every morning was spent on the floor level of Celebration stage, taking in some of the panels that were held in there; most notably, the Lucasfilm Showcase and the Mando+ panel. I was able to be among the first to hear announcements about upcoming projects, as well as continuations of already existing favorites. That even included seeing sneak peaks of upcoming works (or in the case of “Ahsoka,” works-in-progress) that have not been made available by Lucasfilm to the public.
There is a reason why I highlighted those panels in particular, and that’s because immediately following them, I was also fortunate enough to partake in the press lines for them. It’s one thing to have the creatives be present and speak on a panel, but then to provide your own questions for them afterwards about the stories they’re telling and contributing to is next level. My friend and The Nerds of Color managing editor, Laura Sirikul, asked the questions, while I filmed it all on her camera. This was my first in-person press experience in three years, and it involved getting to film my friend interview the likes of Ewan McGregor, Kathleen Kennedy, Jon Favreau, Pedro Pascal, among others. It most definitely stands out as one of the more unique experiences from this event.
And then there’s all the social interactions I had throughout my time there; connecting with friends who I previously only knew exclusively online, making small chatter with some of the other folks doing the press line, and the autograph sessions I partook in. Despite the pandemic, I was still able to make friends through some of the work that I do, and to finally start getting to meet them in person has been wonderful. The autograph sessions made for great opportunities to actually talk with the people I was receiving autographs from, which would not have been possible had I done the photo ops, and that led to such lovely interactions with the likes of Daniel Logan, Kelly Marie Tran, and Rupert Friend.
Despite the circumstances that more or less have been caused by the pandemic, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed myself at my very first Star Wars Celebration. It was a different experience than previous conventions, and the fact that it was an all-“Star Wars” convention, combined with the opportunities I was both given and created for myself, is what made it stand out. There’s so much to look forward to in terms of ongoing stories from the galaxy far, far away, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that it makes me that much more motivated to work towards being in a position where I too can be granted the opportunity to write something for this universe one day.
Next year’s Celebration has already been announced and it will be in London. I will be sitting out on that one. As much as I enjoyed this year’s event, I know that I will enjoy it even more so when I don’t have to wear a mask and take COVID tests before doing press lines. So I’m waiting until the pandemic is over before doing it again. Also, as much I like the idea of traveling overseas, I don’t feel compelled to do so if most of the time would be spent inside a convention center. It’s going to be hard, especially since I know there will be a lot to talk about by then, but I just want to be able to up the ante on what my next Celebration will be like.
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