Stormtroopers have always been my favorite Star Wars “characters.” I not only have a collection of Stormtrooper action figures, but that collection even incorporated custom heads under the helmets, including some female stormtroopers!
So, when someone I know became a Stormtrooper in real-life, I thought it was the coolest thing ever and had to ask her (yup! It’s a girl!) about the experience.
Check it out below!
Ashley …I mean…uh…TK-25752, real life Imperial Stormtrooper and hero of the Galactic Empire! While we were unable to interview her in person, she’s was able to answer our questions via Holonet communications!
GeekADD: Ashley, what’s the origins story? Was there a moment in time when it just clicked for you and you said “I want to be a stormtrooper”?
Ashley: Yes, the moment that it clicked was actually the first time that I watched the original trilogy. Believe it or not, I didn’t watch the movies until 2006. At the time, I had recently gotten engaged and my father-in-law could not believe that I hadn’t seen Star Wars. He felt a strong need to rectify the issue and sent us to the dorms with all 6 movies. I loved them! I remember watching and saying out loud, “I need a stormtrooper suit.” There’s just something about stormtroopers. They’re faceless, nameless, and expendable. I find a huge amount of appeal in their anonymity.
I didn’t get serious about costuming until after I finished school in 2015. I found out about trooping with different Star Wars costuming organizations right in the midst of all the excitement about Episode VII.
G: We’d love to know about constructing the suit. Was there some kind of kit that you used? Built from scratch? What kind of tools and materials did you need? Anything frustrating about it?
A: My costume is the Legacy Era Female Stormtrooper based on Jes Gistang from the Legacy comics. When you choose to build Jes’s armor, you have to choose between the comic book version and the version that is seen on the Jes Gistang statue. The differences are really minor and unlikely to be noticed by anyone who isn’t acquainted with the 501st guidelines for this costume. I have the statue so I decided to build the statue version.
The kit is made by Kevin Weir of KW designs. The plastic is vacuformed and all of the pieces need to be trimmed and sanded prior to assembly.
The main tools/supplies that were used were: acrylic cutting scissors, a dremel with attachments, various grit sandpaper, a drill with bits, a snap setter, clamps, a heat gun, painter’s tape, and various adhesives. Safety goggles and a mask to prevent breathing in plastic dust are also a must. The only thing frustrating about the process is how long it takes, but in retrospect that just makes me appreciate the costume even more. I worked on it everyday for at least a couple hours and it took me 5 weeks.
G: Is the helmet difficult to see out of, or are there any limits to your mobility?
A: Not only is your peripheral vision gone, but you can’t see anything that is below waist level unless you bend over. This might not sound like a big deal, but when you’re out and a small child approaches you, you might not see them! It’s very easy to run into things. I think I have decent mobility in mine. I can do stairs very slowly and carefully. I also figured out that I can do a very awkward jog in my armor. I found this out because I was running late to my Carrie Fisher photo op at Wizard World Chicago. When the princess is waiting, you find a way to RUN. Sitting is really difficult. And if you have to pee, just forget about it. You go pee before you put the suit on, and then you just have to hope for the best.
G: How much support do you need to put the suit on? Can you do it by youself? Are you able to carry any personal effects (cell phone, car keys, etc) with you while in the suit?
A: I can do every part of my own armor except the shoulders. I usually just ask a fellow trooper to help me with that. I am able to carry a few small personal items with me in my belt boxes, but that is unique to the Legacy female armor in comparison to other Stormtroopers. Having functional belt boxes is awesome, and my male stormtrooper friends have told me that they are jealous on multiple occasions.
G: How do you store the suit?
A: I store and transport my armor in a 50 gallon mobile toolbox.
G: Star Wars weapons are usually lightly-modified versions of real weapons. What weapons do you carry and how did you go about getting them?
A: I carry a DLT-19, which is what Jes Gistang carries in the statue. In the comics she carries a BB-23. Either way, it’s a big blaster! She’s the heavy weapons expert for her squad of stormtroopers and I think that’s awesome! I got my DLT-19 from Hyperfirm Productions. They make excellent blasters out of a dense rubber material which makes them lightweight. The DLT-19 is huge but it only weighs about 5 pounds. I also have a plastic E-11 type blaster made by Disney which I painted pink just for fun!
G: Tell us about the groups you’re a part of and the events you attend
A: I am part of Rebel Legion which is the costuming organization for “the good guys”, and Vader’s 501st Legion which is for “the bad guys.” Each organization is divided into bases/garrisons based on your location, as well as sub-groups/detachments based on your costume.
For Rebel Legion I’m part of Nar Shaddaa Base (Illinois/Wisconsin). My Twi’Lek Jedi costume puts me into two sub-groups: Knights of the Jedi Order (for jedis only) and The Wretched Hive (for aliens). To make things even more confusing, Knights of the Jedi order is further divided into “temples”. The temple for Nar Shaddaa base is called Temple of the Howling Moon. This probably sounds like overkill, but there’s definite utility in being able to communicate solely with people near you, and/or to people worldwide with similar costumes, and/or to people near you with similar costumes.
For the 501st I’m part of Wisconsin Garrison. All the costumes for 501st are split up into 16 different detachments. Being a Stormtroopers puts me in the First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment (FISD).
We attend charitable organization events/fundraisers, sporting events, library events, and lots of other types of events. We don’t charge for our presence; all of us costumed folk are volunteers. We really appreciate it when those who request our presence make donations to charities in the name of our costuming organizations.
G: Is there a story behind the designation TK-25752?
A: 25752 is my initials on a standard telephone keypad.
G: Is Ashley TK-25752? When you put the suit on, are you and the other troopers putting on a performance and getting into character, or would you say your personality is fairly consistent?
A: I like to make it just bit of a performance. I like to stand near Vader or Kylo Ren when I can so it looks like I’m guarding them. Or find a random area that looks like it needs guarding. Or walking around on “patrol” with other troopers.
I certainly make sure to have responses to questions that kids ask at events. They want to know who we work for, where we came from, how did we get here on Earth, where are we going after the event is done, how come our blasters don’t shoot, or why our lightsabers don’t cut anything or injure anyone, etc. Other than that, my personality is the same.
G: Can people usually tell TK-25752 is a woman? Or do you have to speak or remove your helmet for people to know?
A: Both happen! I’ve had both kids and adults come up and ask me directly. Others are shocked when they hear my voice coming out of the bucket. Thus far the responses have all been really positive, especially from younger girls.
G: There’s a lot of imagery of female Stormtroopers decked out in impractical, or even hypersexualized, uniforms. Not only that, but there is a stigma of female cosplayers simply being “sexy” versions of established characters. Did that imagery or stigma affect you at all when you decided to become TK-25752?
A: To each her own. I’ve definitely seen some “sexy stormtrooper” costumes in my research for armor, and that’s just not the look I was going for. I got into Star Wars costuming so that I could get costumes approved, go on troops, and put smiles on people’s faces. If you want to be approved so that you can represent Star Wars and the 501st at events, you’ve got to have a costume based on the films, cartoon series, comics, etc.
I have seen some criticism of Legacy era female armor on the internet, from men and women alike. My costume is not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. We like what we like, and I like Jes Gistang!
G: Who would win in a fight…Jes Gistang or Captain Phasma?
A: I don’t think that we know exactly what Phasma is capable of quite yet. However, if Jes is doing what she does best (shooting a big gun from a long distance), I think Phasma is toast.
G: Do you have your sights on any other Star Wars characters? Scout Troopers? Jedis?
A: I currently have a Jedi that I can wear as a human or as a Twi’lek. I am also currently working on a Jawa! I have a huge soft spot for non-human characters. I think that most of us Star Wars costumers keep a mental list of all the characters that we’d eventually like to do, and my list is almost entirely alien.
G: If you could only give a single piece of advice to someone wanting to build their own suit, what would it be?
A: There’s tons of information out there, you just need to know how to find it! Go to the 501st website, find your garrison, show up to an event to see what trooping is all about, and make friends! Find your detachment’s forum and read lots of build threads and see how people put their armor together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice!
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So, there you have it, word from one of the Empire’s Finest on what it’s like to wear the armor. All the thought, effort, and time put into one of these costumes is pretty impressive. I could see myself doing this, though it would be hard to decide. Would I want to join the ranks of the many with a Stormtrooper or Scout Trooper outfit, or would I want to exercise a little personality with a Jedi or Rebel Pilot uniform? It’s a hard choice, that’s for sure! Thanks again to Ashley for being GeekADD’s first Guest Geek!
Be sure to follow Ashley on her future adventures, you can follow her on Instagram @thepoptrooper
Here is the homepage for the 501st Legion, which I highly recommend checking out!