Michelle Waxman and her 73-year-old mom are both members of the all-volunteer Rebel Legion, a global costume charity organization that stations Stars Wars characters at movie premieres, conventions, gatherings for charity and high-profile events upon request.
Members of the Southern California-based faction where Waxman serves as executive officer, Sunrider Base, will be trooping at Cinemark at The Pike Thursday through Saturday for the premiere weekend of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” final episode of the nine-part saga.
But it’s not as easy as simply showing up to events in store-bought Star Wars apparel, you have to prove your passion to be a member of the Legion.
“When there’s a theatrical release we’re very carefully looking at all the costumes in detail, and we’re trying to replicate those costumes to meet or exceed theatrical standards,” explained Waxman.
To join, members must learn to make their own costumes, to precise specifications, under an assigned mentor. From matching the number of plates on a belt for Princess Leia, to the length of the sleeves on a Jedi’s tunic, all costumes must be up to par with the Legion’s standards in order to troop, the term used to describe showing up in full garb to the delight of fans, whether they be movie goers or hospital patients.
While May the 4th is the Rebel Legion’s busiest time of year—“It’s like Christmas for Star Wars fans,” said Waxman—having the release of a movie and being right in the throes of Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian, requests are up for Legion members to spread the Star Wars cheer.
“It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan,” she said.
Waxman sees Rebel Legion as the perfect intersection between her “super nerdom,” having grown up with her mom’s love of classic Star Trek and attending those conventions as a kid and teenager, and charity work. She brings her mother, who is half European, half Cantonese, with her to events a couple times a month.
“Rose Tico was one of the first really big Asian female [Star Wars] characters and my mom went crazy for her and created a Rose Tico costume,” she said. “She’s one of our oldest troopers.”
By day, Waxman makes a living as senior vice president of business development for a market research firm, E-Poll. On weekends, she drives to events all over Southern California to appear as Princess Leia. Over the past year, Waxman estimated she’s driven 21,000 miles for the Rebel Legion, as well as the 501st Legion, a sibling organization where she’s a Stormtrooper for the “dark side.”
“Folks in these groups tend to enjoy the fandom, the cosplay, but the charity component just puts it over the top,” Waxman said. “I think a lot of our folks describe those visits as some of the most precious things that you can do.”
For these events, Waxman becomes more than a weekend warrior.
“I took half a day off on Halloween to troop in the pediatric ward at a hospital,” she said. “We got the heads up that one of the patients was terminal, and that would be his last Halloween. Going there and being a part of that was absolutely incredible, to just bring some fun to this kid and his family.”
Characters from the Rebel Legion’s Sunrider Base and 501st Legion will pose for photos and add atmosphere to opening weekend of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night at Cinemark at The Pike; 99 S. Pine Avenue. For movie tickets, click here.
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