princess-leiaWhen I was a kid, my world revolved around Star Wars. Star Wars posters hung on my wall and action figures littered my floor. The Millennium Falcon, Luke’s Land Speeder, and other ships were positioned on my shelf ready for battle. (I realize the land speeder did not go into battles.) On my floor, storm troopers surround the rebel army while Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and Leia hunkered down. The Storm Troopers rushed in for the kill. With a blaster in her hand, Leia always lead the attack. Han and Chewbacca blasted over my shoe, which in my Star Wars reality was a giant stone. Luke always spread out from the rear and attacked the Storm Troopers invading from the backside. These battles occurred daily.

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While other toys depicting women came with hair design accessories, Leia came with a blaster. And boys like myself grew up believing Leia was just as capable of kicking butt as the men. Princess Leia was more than a character in a great film. She was a groundbreaking figure. Leia was not a supporting character. She wasn’t a woman whose purpose was to shine a light on the men. Leia did not take orders and do as she was told. Leia was not only a princess, she was a warrior and a leader.

Like the rest of the world, I am mourning someone I never met. Carrie Fisher and I never crossed paths. We never talked. We had no correspondence. I have lived 42 years, and she had no idea I existed. Yet, she was a big part of my life and helped shape who I am.

Over the past several years, Carrie Fisher was outspoken on mental health issues. She was diagnosed as being bipolar in her early twenties and battled the disease privately for many years. Her battle led to abusing prescription drugs. In an interview with Diane Sawyer in 2000, she came out bravely by disclosing she was mentally ill because of a chemical imbalance and needed up to 30 Percodan a day. Many people looked at mental illness as not being a real disease. In the fight to normalize mental illness, Fisher channeled her Leia character and led the fight. She became a champion for those that felt looked down upon or who themselves wondered if they were normal. As groundbreaking as Princess Leia was, so was the woman who portrayed her.

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