Ladies Geeking Out

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The most active geek club for women in the Lafayette, IN area! Join us if you want to geek out and have a great time!

Geek Girls are Real: Andrea De La Ossa

Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by introducing Andrea De La Ossa (28), an amazingly talented makeup artist! Ever since she was a little girl she has been a geek, although she prefers to describe herself as "awkward and obsessive". Her family introduced her to geek culture when they collectively played Zelda on the original Nintendo. Because of this, gaming was her first geek interest. Like she said: "What wasn't attractive about Punch Out?". Agreed. Nowadays, her interests have expanded: "It's a rad time to be alive! I love Doctor Who (or the BBC in general), Sandman, Harry Potter, Zelda, Supernatural, horror films, everything Marvel is doing, DC on occasion... I'm one of those people who will never be happy with Batman because I had Michael Keaton and Kevin Conroy"

Even though Andrea has lots of interests, she confessed that she really likes Sandman. She said: "It was the first series of comics I'd completed that made me feel lovesick afterwards. Each time I re-read the series, life has happened in its gloriously complicated way, and I'll find a portion of the narrative I didn't notice or didn't appreciate before. It grows with me. Or I grow with it."  In addition to her love for Sandman, she also shared how Kevin Smith has been a huge influence in her life and creativity: "I was 12 years old when I saw Dogma and that movie was talking about a lot of things. It started a conversation in my soul and I'm still having it. Not one of an existential crisis but more like *How the hell do I tell a story LIKE THAT?*. I've watched the *An Evening with Kevin Smith" recordings where he fills probably 2 hours and answers maybe 4 questions. THAT is what an amazing storyteller is."

When she was little, Andrea remembers that the word "geek" felt very negative: "...jocks yelled it at skinny boys in movies".  Something she can identify with since she was bullied in school because of her geeky interests: "I've been called nerd and usually it was when a popular girl felt I should understand my lot in life. I was myself. I didn't dress fashionably (still don't) and I read a lot of books". These days, she feels the word geek is more like a replacement for "enthusiastic" and she is glad it is no longer a derogatory word.

Staying true to herself has definitely helped Andrea achieve her goals. With more than 39,000 Instagram followers, Andrea consistently shares amazing creations and has become an inspiration for many artists. She uses her own face as a canvas to create truly stunning works of art. When asked what her favorite makeup creation has been so far she shared: "I haven't made it yet. I know how that sounds, but it's true. Give me a week and I can hate my most recent look because I am never satisfied".

Andrea has been interested in makeup for as long as she can remember but it was the behind the scenes footage of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video that made her realize someone was doing what she loved for a living. Andrea said: "Someone was making these things! I used to check out stage makeup books from the library when I was a kid just to read. I never thought I could be included." But two years ago, she decided to go for it and start sharing her art: "I decided I was going to make a hard run at it. I thought, why not me? I have the Cosmetology background, I can learn. So I created an online presence just by posting. It kept me motivated".

Like many talented and successful female creators, Andrea has unfortunately been a victim of sexism in the industry: "I've been accused of only being interested in things to impress men on several occasions. Apparently I'm not a nerd, I'm just another whore with glasses". But even though she's had to deal with these types of comments, Andrea continues to work on her art and pushes herself to make more ambitious creations every single day. Thanks to her determination, talent, and courage, she is quickly becoming a force to be reckon with.

Andrea had the following advice for aspiring artists:  "FUCKING DO IT! That's half the battle! It's so easy to look at someone's success and not even try because how could you get there? I see Jordu Shell all the time, blowing raspberries on clay and there... he just made a masterpiece. And of course your instinct is to compare, but your behind the scenes footage can't be compared to someone else's highlight reel. You have something they don't. You have your story, your voice, your experience. You just need the hours in the craft. Whether it be music, painting, stand up, calligraphy, WHATEVER... you just need to learn by doing!". This geek girl is clearly an inspiration and proof that you can accomplish anything by putting the necessary effort, time, and passion. She is not an unicorn, she exists, she is amazing, and she is living her dream.

 

Make sure to follow Andrea on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

 

 

Geek Girls Are Real: Leandra Jacoby

 Photo by Aurora Cruz

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by introducing Leandra Jacoby (33), an amazing hair stylist, mom and geek!  Ever since she was a little girl, Leandra has been interested in geeky and quirky things. She explained: "Because I was the oldest of four kids, I was often left to my own devices so I watched a lot of TV. I always enjoyed things that are really funny and smart. Witty humor"  Her favorite shows included Alf, MacGyver, Punky Brewster, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Thundercats. She said: "When I was little, my mom didn't allow me to watch The Simpsons but she would let me watch The Kids in the Hall on Comedy Central. A lot of the things I find hilarious were totally influenced by that show too."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Leandra is also a self-proclaimed horror geek. She absolutely loves monster movies and anything related to zombies: "I will go see most horror movies no matter what. I don't care if they are good or bad, I’ll see them anyway. I like the thrill and the artistic expression of the monsters. I love how the mood can be set in a horror movie by just using light and color. They can paint a story even before you get to hear something." But even though she is obsessed with horror movies, there's one specific type that she doesn't enjoy. She jokingly said: "Paranormal movies scare me, they make me feel unsure about what’s crawling on my ceiling at night. I’m not scared of what’s underneath my bed, but I’m scared of what’s crawling on my ceiling when I’m not paying attention".   

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Leandra also really enjoys anything related to superheroes, her favorite being The Hulk. And like she said:  "...not just because Mark Ruffalo is a total fox". The reason why she loves The Hulk's as a character is because she identifies with the struggle between being vulnerable and tough at the same time. She explained:  "When you’re guarded, sometimes you don’t realize that you’re acting that way and start creating your own green monster. I like being able to embrace both sides of my personality and having them be compatible within me. The Hulk says: "I'm always angry" and I love that because for me it means that you can’t control the green monster inside of you until you accept it." In fact, Leandra loves The Hulk so much that when she played roller derby under the name DollFace Nutcase, her tagline was: “You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry, Dollface smash!”.

Photo by Aurora Cruz

For Leandra, being a geek means being passionate and excited about something no matter what it is: "If I'm geeking out about a piece of cake, it means that I really love that piece of cake. You can tell when somebody is a geek just by talking to them. Being a geek doesn't have a genre. You are a geek if something makes you want to high five people and scream HELL YEAH!". She appreciates how supportive the geek community is and how the people in it respect each other no matter how weird or out of the box their interests are. When she was younger, Leandra mentioned that she experience bullying for being different, which is why finding a community that celebrates differences is very important to her: "When I was in high school I remember being picked on because I had this awesome astroturf green Pumas that made me feel like a badass. I would hear people talk about them and make fun of them. I hate the fact that it made me doubt what I liked. Nowadays, I am more confident in liking what I like and not apologizing for it. I would totally wear those shoes today." 

Photo by Aurora Cruz

As an adult, Leandra mentioned some of the challenges she encounters when openly admitting she is a geek. As a single woman, she often has to deal with the fact that men consider her "one of the guys" and sometimes fail to acknowledge her feminine side:  "A lot of times I meet someone that I think is cool and I‘m placed in the friend zone very quickly because of my interests." She explained that this is a form of sexism:  "It's sexist to assume that I am less feminine because I like comic books, zombies or things that are considered to be boy stuff. As soon as we tell someone what they are allowed to like based on their gender, that's sexism. I'm still feminine even if I like those things." 

Photo by Aurora Cruz

When I met Leandra, I immediately knew I would become friends with this fellow lady geek and not only because she is responsible for giving me the best haircut I've ever had. She is indeed extremely talented. Before being a hairstylist, Leandra was actually a nurse's assistant. After spending some time in that profession, she realized that she wanted to follow her real passion. That's when she decided to pursue cosmetology: "I always liked doing my hair and giving people advice on how to do their hair. Now that I'm a hairstylist, I absolutely love being able to make something new every day and make people feel amazing." 

Leandra is an amazing woman, geek, artist, and proud mom of a little boy and girl. She allows her kids to be who they want to be and is the best example not only to them but to everyone that as long as you are yourself, you will be happy. Like she said: "I want my kids to like what they like and be as weird as they want to be. I want them to be comfortable with who they are." Wise words. Leandra is definitely not an unicorn, she exists and she is extraordinary.

 

 

Geek Girls are Real: Linda Grant

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by introducing Linda Grant (36), a self-proclaimed SciFi geek! When she was a little girl, Linda's mom introduced her to Star Trek The Original Series. Both of them would watch the re-runs together and go see the original movies in the theater. Linda explained: "My introduction to science fiction was definitely through my mom. Watching Star Trek definitely led me to investigate other aspects of geek culture." In addition to introducing her to science fiction, Linda's mom also gave her valuable advice while she was little: "She taught me that it's OK to like things that not everyone likes. If it makes you different, that is completely fine." Nowadays, Linda's favorite shows continue to be science fiction shows. They include Star Trek (of course!), Firefly, True Blood, Lost, among others.

Photo by Aurora Cruz

What attracts Linda the most to science fiction is its uniqueness, originality, and the fact that she can visit different places through it. She also enjoys the acceptance of different people and cultures in science fiction and how they work together to achieve a common goal: "I’ve never been good at being what society expects of a female. I remember I would cut the heels off my Barbie's shoes because to me that was more comfortable for her. Stuff like that made me feel different from other girls. That’s why I like Star Trek and most science fiction shows, because even though everybody is different, they still get along, accept each other, and work together".

Aside from science fiction, Linda also loves vampire stories. She is absolutely obsessed with "The Black Dagger Brotherhood" book series. She gushed: "I am a huge fan of J.R. Ward. She has created this intricate world with a whole vampire society. I just think it is amazing that it all comes out of her brain. I admire people that can create a world and completely make it their own. It’s like visiting a different place every single time. She also has a way of writing her characters that makes me feel like they are people I might know in real life." In fact, one of her favorite characters of all time is Wrath the Vampire King: "I’ve been reading the books for so long and that is my absolute favorite character. He is so interesting, I want to meet him." She is indeed a fan. In her apartment, she has all the books and even one signed by J.R. Ward.

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Even though Linda learned from a young age that being different was absolutely fine, her experiences in school presented a challenge. In her own words: "I was bullied when I was younger because I was different. I was really tall, I wasn’t very girly, and I always had my own views and opinions. Which is not necessarily a bad thing." Due to these experiences, Linda felt hesitant to call herself a geek: "I didn’t want to call myself that word because of the negative connotation it carried. When you are in school, you try really hard to fit in, everyone wants to be cool, so calling myself a geek wasn’t a priority to me." She used to associate the word with science and technology only, but today she defines geek as someone that has a passion towards something really cool, anything really. She said: "My definition has definitely changed. After I turned 30, I decided to not care about what people thought.Today, Linda can confidently say she is a proud geek. She feels welcomed in geek culture, at least within her fandoms: "I’ve been lucky enough to not experience any negativity from other geeks regarding the things that I like."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

After joining Ladies Geeking Out (LGO), Linda's perspective on geeks and the culture in general has improved even more. She said: "It has been great to find more people like me out there. Before, if someone talked to me about Comic Con I would have a different perspective and think that I wouldn’t have anything in common with them. But now, I know I do." In addition, the friendships that she has cultivated in LGO have allowed her to feel more comfortable with female friends: "I used to be leery of female friendships because I had the impression that girls were catty. This perspective was hugely influenced by how society portrays females and my previous experiences in high school. But the girls that I’ve met through LGO have all been nice, with similar interests to mine, and they have never been mean to me." Interestingly, Linda was one of the first women to join LGO and she has always been a great help to me and to anyone in the group who needs a hand. She is always willing to boost others up and offer her friendship to every single person in the group. She is kind, compassionate, and caring. She is not a unicorn, she exists, she is a geek and she is absolutely amazing.

Geek Girls are Real: Chelsea Eales

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! This week we continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by introducing Chelsea Eales! A graphic designer who considers herself "a big old nerd" Chelsea was first introduced to geek culture when she was 9 years old and joined the Odyssey of the Mind, an educational program in which kids compete by solving problems using their creative and logical skills. Shortly after that, the Harry Potter books were a phenomenon and she became obsessed with them. But throughout her life, Chelsea's geek interests have varied depending on what she was going through at specific times: "As I've gone through my life different things have resonated with me. When I was 16, anime was big in my life. When I was in college I got really into Buffy and nowadays I am REALLY into Hannibal and Game of Thrones." Chelsea confessed that she has a dark sense of humor which is why she gravitates towards shows and movies that are "a little bit twisted". She explained: “I think that horror and psychological thrillers are a great way for society to explore taboos. Like for example, Buffy was an allegory about how high school was literally hell and when you are in high school it does feel like hell sometimes, like you are going against giant scary monsters every day. That type of dark humor allows us to conquer controversial subjects in new and interesting ways."

Photo by Aurora Cruz / Artwork by Chelsea Eales

For Chelsea, being a geek can be defined with one word: passion. She believes a geek is someone who is genuinely enthusiastic about something, it can be anything: "When someone is willing to show their passion and enthusiasm about something, it’s unusual, it’s exciting, it’s interesting." Chelsea admitted that she has struggled in the past with calling herself a geek: "I almost had trouble claiming that title. I felt that the things I liked, objectively, were clearly geeky but for some reason I felt outside of that because I didn't feel like I was the "stereotype". People always referred to me as the “artsy” type but once they got to know me they’re like “Oh, you’re a huge geek” Chelsea is artsy indeed, a creative geek. When she was in middle school, she was given a project where she needed to alter a photo of herself by using Photoshop. She loved it so much that she took a photography class in high school and continued learning how to use photo editing programs. When she realized this was something that she could turn into a career, she decided to become a graphic designer: "I would find myself having fun creating websites and not sure what to put in them afterwards. For a while I thought it was a deficit of character but then I realized that it was something I could do and get paid for."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Chelsea's previous hesitation to call herself a geek originated from early negative experiences with geek culture. When she was 16 years old, she dated a huge anime fan who introduced her to anime culture. Unfortunately, her experience wasn't the most welcoming: "One of his friends took it upon himself to let me know that I was just being a sycophant and that I wasn't really into Anime. According to him, I was there just because I wanted them to like me. He posted on his live journal that I made him irrationally angry just because I was apparently pretending to like Anime. It was terrifying for me and it made me question myself." Due to this negative experience, Chelsea became reserved regarding her interests in geek culture: "It’s kind of hard to get over that immediate rejection from the culture. But I have since found many people that have welcomed me with open arms and it turns out that I do really like Anime so that guy can suck it." She mentioned that certain geek communities still have room for improvement regarding the acceptance of women like the gaming community and STEM: "Girls are hesitant to join STEM because of the inevitable sexual harassment they are going to get. This is a college degree, this is jobs, it is affecting their lives in a major way and it is extremely problematic."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Nowadays Chelsea is proud to call herself a geek and embraces it. She is a fan of Batman and it is not afraid to show it. She has worn her Batman costume to the movies and even has a life-size cutout of Christian Bale's Batman in her cubicle at work. When she moved to Lafayette after finishing college it was difficult for her to find friends that shared her interests, that’s why she joined Ladies Geeking Out (LGO). After joining the group, Chelsea admits that her perspective on geek culture has definitely improved: "The main takeaway from the group is how such disparate people can come together over geeky topics. It's one of the most accepting groups that I've come across in real life, and I think for a woman that is very important since there’s a push in society to make women compete." The group has also improved her perspective on female friendships. She mentioned that when she was in high school she got along with guys more than girls, but as the years passed she has befriended great women: "I got over that high school mentality."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Photo by Aurora Cruz.

Chelsea has also embraced aspects of femininity that she looked down on when she was younger, including makeup: "It is color theory, it is painting, it’s aesthetics but there’s so much baggage surrounding it that I just never wanted to be involved with it. But now that I have opened that door I am getting pretty good at it and I really enjoy it." In our society, there are still people that criticize women who wear makeup and are also feminists. There’s also a misconception that women wear makeup because they are insecure with their appearance. Chelsea explained that for her embracing femininity is empowering and that she doesn't wear make up for others, she wears it because she enjoys it: "The fact that I own blue lipstick is evidence that I wear make up for me. I do it for fun. I don’t wake up an hour early to put on make up for work but if I’m at home with some time to kill, I'll try to learn how to put on false eyelashes. I wear glasses so 90% of the makeup I wear nobody else sees but me. When I have done my makeup and I feel good about it, it changes the way I carry myself. I am more confident and outgoing; it has a lot of positive effects on the way that I behave."  Chelsea brings her geeky side to her make up too. She has a Nicholas Cage-themed lip gloss, a Benedict Cumberbatch cheekbone contour powder, a Hulk redness reducing powder, and an Emperor's New Groove eye shadow,among other amazing products. Chelsea also shared that she believes there's a double standard when it comes to makeup and that men should also be allowed to have fun with it without any of the stigmas society has on the subject: "I see women walking around without make up and no one is pointing at them or making fun of them, but if a man wears make up he will be criticized or even in danger in some parts of this country. It is a shame that they are not allowed to experience it." 

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Chelsea is a smart and creative woman that proves that you don't have to fit a specific mold in order to call yourself a geek: "I feel that society has a very preconceived notion of what a geek is and there's a lot of people that think they are not geeky enough because of that. If you think you are not geeky enough, you are definitely a geek. If you’re having that fight in your head, you belong with us. Anybody that obsessively collects data about sports is a geek. I think the word geek encompasses a lot more than what people give it credit for."  She is also proof that you can be feminine and still support equal rights between genders. She understands that is not about one gender being better than the other, it is all about choosing what you want to do and being whoever you want to be. Femininity should be embraced instead of being seen as a weakness: In our society, we have to be beautiful but we are not allowed to do anything to make ourselves that way. You have to be a woman but not so much that it is thrown at people's faces. It is frustrating, it is a tight rope. But I decided that I don’t have to pick. I am all of those women any given day. I like to jump on that tight rope, be on both sides of it, even trip on it. There are some days that I want to go to Taco Bell in my sweat pants and greasy hair and that is fine. There are other days that I spend three hours getting ready and looking amazing and that’s fine too. That’s the whole point.  I get to choose what I want to be." Wise words to live by. Chelsea is definitely not a unicorn, she exists, and she is SUPER awesome.

 

Geek Girls are Real: Kelsey Collins

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! This week we continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by introducing Kelsey Collins (25), one of the biggest bookworms you'll ever meet. Ever since she was a little girl, Kelsey loved to read. In fact, she admitted that she was often judged not for being a bookworm but because of the books she read when she was young. Her favorite book is "The Old Man and the Sea" which she read for the first time when she was in 5th grade. She explained: "I was always asked if I really understood what I was reading. And I would say just because I’m young it doesn't mean I’m stupid. Some kids might not understand some things while reading, but if they can at least understand some of it, it is better than nothing at all." Her love of books continued all the way through college where she studied English and History and eventually completed her senior thesis on "Dracula": "I have an entire section of my bookshelf dedicated to vampires and half of it is all Dracula." 

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Even though Kelsey loves many different types of books, she has a very special connection to one specific books series: Harry Potter. When Kelsey was 9 years old her mom passed away after battling cancer. She explained: "She started to get sick around Thanksgiving and by the time my dad convinced her to go to the doctor it was too late. It had spread too much for the doctors to actually do something. She tried chemotherapy, but it got to the point where she was getting too sick from it." Before she passed away, Kelsey's mom had purchased "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". After her death, Kelsey struggled with the idea of reading the books: "I was curious. My mom died before she got to read them. I toyed with the idea and then I decided to give them a chance. They helped me a lot. Without those books I don't think I would've been able to get through my mom's death."  She mentioned that the Harry Potter books opened her mind to new worlds and ideas. They gave her a healthy way to escape reality and live in their fantasy for a couple of hours. Kelsey's dad continued supporting her love of Harry Potter by taking her to the movies on opening night and watching them with her. He also took her to multiple book opening nights. She explained: "My dad kind of noticed that I was reading more than normal after my mom passed away but I never really told him why. I felt like it was my own thing to deal with"

Photo by Aurora Cruz

The Harry Potter books made such an impact in Kelsey's life that she considers J. K. Rowling her idol and inspiration: "I think J. K. Rowling is a genius. She created an entire world. She even created new words! I mean Quidditch and Muggle are now part of the dictionary! To be able to create something new, do it properly and make it last forever, I think that is fantastic."  Kelsey has so much gratitude and admiration towards J. K. Rowling that she decided to write her a letter: "I wanted to tell her the impact she made on me. I told her that without her books I wouldn't have made it through my mother’s death and that I was glad she wrote them." Even though Kelsey didn't receive a letter directly from Rowling, she was overjoyed to receive an actual response  thanking her for her words. For Kelsey that response letter is a treasure: "It made me feel good to let her know what an inspiration she is to me."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

 

Nowadays, Kelsey admits that her biggest fandom continues to be Harry Potter. This year she attended Wizard World Indianapolis and was able to meet James and Oliver Phelps, who played the twins Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter movies: "I almost passed out but it was great!" She has multiple versions of the books including every copy in paperback and hardcover, some of the British versions and some of the newest editions. She has up to eight signed photos of Daniel Radcliffe, a potions making kit, pillows, toys, board games, decorations, and even her own Nimbus 2000. She said: "My fiance knew I liked Harry Potter but it wasn't until he saw the boxes full of Harry Potter stuff that he realized how big my obsession was. I even have a bookshelf just for Harry Potter.For Kelsey, being a geek is all about being proud of what you like and enjoy being different. She is not afraid to share her passions and interests with the world. She is very proud of being a Potterhead.

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Kelsey confessed that it bothers her to know that due to the use of magic in the books, some people believe that the Harry Potter series are "evil" or a bad influence for kids and young adults. It upsets her to know that there are kids that have been deprived of reading the books because of that belief. As she so beautifully explained: "In the Harry Potter books, kids learn about friendship, family, and sacrifice. They show how the decisions you make in life make you who you are. I believe that if a book can touch a kid and make them want to read and gain knowledge, there’s nothing wrong with that. Banning books from kids in general is a shame. For me, books are very important and some of them actually make YOU feel important. Finding things that make you feel better as a person should be a priority."

When Kelsey joined Ladies Geeking Out, like many other members, she was looking for ways to meet new people with similar interests. She admits that after joining the group, her knowledge of geek culture has definitely broadened: "I have learned new things like gaming and even Steam-punk. I think that when you have the ability to actually talk to people, it helps to expand your mind which is great.She said that she enjoys the fact that within the group everyone interacts with each other like they are best friends: "Coming to the events I don’t feel like a complete stranger even if I haven't been to the meetings in a while.  It’s really nice to know that I can come back and it still feels like I’m accepted." 

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Kelsey is a great example of a woman that has been able to overcome difficult situations with strength and courage. She is also living proof that you should never be ashamed of the things that you are passionate about. If something brings happiness to your life, that should be all you need to actually enjoy it. Like Dumbledore very well said: "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light". Kelsey is an amazing role model for anyone that has gone through a rough situation. She is strong, independent, compassionate, and smart. She is not an unicorn, she's a geek, she exists and she inspires all of us.

Geek Girls are Real: Asia Thomas

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! This week we continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by introducing Asia Thomas (25), a very talented geek in our community. She is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Purdue University's Honors College, a position that she absolutely loves. She acknowledged that she enjoys shaping the narrative of designs and products that she strongly believes in, which include the Honors College and what they stand for. Her passion towards art and design started when she was a little kid. She would draw characters and whole cities with her sister in order to play with them and in them. They called it the "Paper Doll Game" and they would spend hours playing in the imaginary worlds that they designed. Due to their love of art, Asia and her sister started watching Anime, with their first introduction to it being "Digimon". She said:  "The drawing styles of Anime are what really attracted us to it. Digimon was so cool and weird." Nowadays, Asia is a huge fan of "Gravity Falls", "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", and "Adventure Time". In fact, one of her favorite fictional characters is Lady Rarity from "My Little Pony". She explained: "I never really considered myself a "girly girl".  Lady Rarity is girly but she is also nice. I like that they don’t play her as being a horrible person just because she is prissy. She has friends and cares about people. Sure, she can be selfish sometimes, but everybody is. She’s a real character, a true person. She’s a reminder that you don't have to stereotype characters, they can have dimensions to their personality."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

For Asia, a geek is someone that is really passionate about something; it doesn't need to be a specific fandom. She said that as long as you are invested in something and feel passion towards it, that should be enough. Asia has been a geek for as long as she can remember. She is not only an art geek but a music geek as well.  She attended a performing arts school from middle school to high school where she majored in piano. Because of her interest in music, art, and studying, Asia was often bullied. She mentioned: "The piano majors were considered the nerds because they consistently had the highest grades compared to everybody else. I was called a nerd just because I was in that major. There were some moments when the bullying almost got physical, but the teachers or other students would protect me because I was very shy and had straight A’s." 

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Aside from the fact that she was labeled a nerd by other students, Asia also experienced bullying and discrimination after starting a relationship in high school with her best friend. She explained: "Being in a performance arts school some people expect you to be gay but at the same time you can’t be openly gay. There were many students that we knew were gay but we couldn't say it. I started going out with my best friend who was a girl and we had to keep it a secret. We would be together all the time and some people thought that we were just really good friends but other people started to notice that we were together. Some kids decided to make up these stories about how we were having sex in the bathroom and behaving inappropriately, which wasn't true. We got sent to the guidance counselor’s office and she threatened to expel us from school. She didn't even contact our parents and told us we couldn't be together. The rumors were enough to almost get us kicked out of school. It was not good. Our parents found out later and we broke up. Unfortunately, I did not get the friends in the divorce." In order to find a way to cope with this situation and express her frustrations, Asia started to get into comics. She didn't have a lot of friends, but the ones that she had were mostly art majors due to the fact that they all liked to draw together. She said: "Since I didn't have  a lot of people to hang out with, I would just draw. Ever since I was a little kid I've always been a storyteller and I've always wanted to do comics.

Asia identifies herself as gender-queer, meaning that she doesn't consider herself belonging to a specific gender. She confessed that she often struggles to find characters in geek culture that she can identify with, due to the misrepresentation of the LGBTQ community in the media and the stereotypes that continue to be promoted. She said: "There’s no representation and when you actually find it, it is usually hyper sexualized, fetishized, or over the top. Since I don’t see anybody like me, I decided to create it." Asia started a web comic called "Tabula Rasa" (which means blank slate) which she posts every Saturday on her Tumblr page. The comic is about three characters, one of them gender-queer, that gain superpowers and have to figure out how to use them .

Asia explained that the lack of representation and misrepresentation of different races and genders in geek culture contributes to the lack of minorities in the geek community. She said: "When a black person says they like Anime, people see it as strange, when it really isn't. Having only one specific race or gender represented in the media leads to a sense of entitlement in the geek community when in reality it should be for everyone. We need more diversity, we are tired of listening to the same stories anyway."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

In addition to the representation of different races and genders in geek culture, Asia mentioned that she has been the victim of sexism many times, especially in the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" fandom. She shared that her experiences especially with Bronies, which is a male-dominated "My Little Pony" fandom, have been for the most part negative. Men will usually mention they know more than women and accuse female fans of liking "My Little Pony" just because men like it: " I mean, it's ponies, it was made for everyone, but they come to the fandom and exclude us from it. I used to be part of a Bronies group on campus. They were all guys and I was the only girl. The group was not hostile but it was uncomfortable."  Furthermore, Asia has also experienced sexism and racism in conventions while cosplaying: "I didn't get the memo that black people can only cosplay as black characters. Also, if you are a girl in cosplay, it gives some people the impression that they have the right to touch you, take photos of you without your permission, or follow you around. I am not comfortable with that."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Asia acknowledged that she tends to get wrapped up in her art and work. That is one of the reasons why she decided to join Ladies Geeking Out (LGO). She was looking for ways to hang out with people that had similar interests as her. After she noticed the wide range of fandoms and backgrounds the members of LGO had, she knew she had found her group: "I like how we can all talk about geeky things but they don’t necessarily need to be the same thing all the time." Asia admits that after her general experiences in geek culture, she had kind of given up the idea of hanging out with other geeks, but after joining LGO she has gained a better perspective of the geek community and has seen that there are welcoming and non-judgmental people in it.

Ever since she joined LGO, Asia has always been able to put a smile on everyone's face. She has a great way of making people feel comfortable and accepted. She is also a great example of how someone can turn negative situations, like bullying, into positive and useful skills. She continues to work on her art and has become an amazing and talented artist (check out some of her artwork below!). Moreover, by creating new diverse characters and stories, she has proven to all of us that if you want to see a change in society, the best way to do it is by starting to push boundaries and make those changes. She is talented, funny, strong, and a role model. She is not a unicorn, she exists, and she is an amazing geek doing amazing things. 

Art by Asia Thomas

Art by Asia Thomas

Art by Asia Thomas

Geek Girls are Real: Bridget Isakson

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by shining a spotlight on Bridget Isakson (33), another awesome geek in our community. From as early as she can remember, Bridget has loved wearing costumes and she always looks for opportunities to dress up: "When I was little, I used to wear a black evening dress with sparkly heels and ride my big wheels around. I used to really glam it up to go big wheel riding." Not surprisingly, both of her parents love the theater and used to take her to the opera and to Renaissance festivals when she was little, which is one of the reasons that led Bridget to pursue acting.  She was part of a children's theater group until she was 13 years old and continued taking acting classes and performing throughout her high school years.

Aside from being a theater geek, Bridget is also a History geek. She loves researching historical facts, especially anything related to the Victorian and Renaissance eras. In fact, her favorite historical figure is the famous Anne Boleyn. Bridget said: "I liked her before she was cool. She is fascinating... We hardly know anything factual about her, but from what little we know she was very unusual for women at her time. She was highly educated and the fact that she rose from the lower ranks to become such an influential person in England, History and religion is amazing. I love her."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

When Bridget was 19 years old, she found a way to combine her passion for acting and History by auditioning for the Michigan Renaissance Festival. She said: "I was planning on becoming an actress/singer at the time and I thought joining the festival could be a good way to have that chance." Her first role at the festival was of a middle class woman that refused to be part of an arranged marriage. After her first year at the festival, Bridget's hard work led her character to be promoted to the "Royal Court" where she was the Queen's maid of honor for two years. She admits that working on a Renaissance Festival is a big commitment and a very expensive hobby, so after three years she decided to move on to other things: "Every once in a while I find myself missing it." Even though Bridget stopped working for the Michigan Renaissance Festival, she mentioned that she still goes to it every year to visit friends and she's been recently trying to find other festivals to go to.

Photo by Aurora Cruz

While working at the Renaissance Festival, Bridget found another way to continue acting and dressing up through role playing games (RPGs). She was introduced to RPGs through Dungeons & Dragons, which she played for the first time on her 20th birthday. Later she was introduced to online medieval fantasy RPGs by her roommate at the time and eventually met her husband through a live action role playing (LARP) game. She mentioned that one of her favorite characters to play was a socially awkward thief that eventually evolved to be the commander of the ranger division in the story.

Bridget said that she finds people fascinating and that is one of the reasons she loves acting so much. Being able to create characters and their background stories gives her the chance to explore people's psychology and motivations. She explained: "I get to think about what makes my characters be who they are and why they do the things they do. And again, any excuse to put on a costume is good with me."

Photo by Aurora Cruz

For Bridget, being a geek is all about being passionate about something and being able to enjoy it even when people are making fun of you: "It can be something that not everyone thinks it’s cool or maybe it is. It can be anything." When she was little, Bridget remembers that kids used to make fun of her because she loved to sing in public. She said: "Teachers would write in my report card “she won’t stop singing in class”. I pretty much lived in a musical." But following her parent's advice, Bridget was always willing to ignore people that were making fun of her. As she explained: "If you rise up to their level you are actually giving them power." In fact, Bridget has every reason to sing in public since she is a great singer and performer. She recently made all of us at Ladies Geeking Out (LGO) proud by having the courage and determination to audition for the TV show "The Voice".

Photo by Aurora Cruz

When Bridget joined LGO, she was looking for ways to be more social. She admits that even though she loves to perform and act, she can also be shy: "It took a little bit of courage for me to go to the first event but I never regretted it." Before joining LGO, Bridget mentioned that she sometimes found herself intimidated and in competition with other women. She explained: "I often felt that girls always seemed to be surer of themselves. I also had trouble with my self-esteem because of my weight. I didn’t feel I was pretty or attractive and I felt other girls were so much better than I was. As a result I spent more time with guy friends because I felt they were more willing to see me for what I was and I though they weren’t going to be as judgmental as girls. As time went on, I developed better self-esteem and I’m more comfortable with who I am now. Meeting my husband was a big part of that. It also helps that the members of LGO vary in size, race, and age. That has helped since everyone is always welcoming. This group has definitely changed my perspective of women in general".

Photo by Aurora Cruz

Bridget also mentioned that before joining LGO she felt uncomfortable with the definition of feminism, since she thought it was all about women being better than men. She said: "Being in this group has helped open my eyes to the things that people go through in geek culture. My view has changed and I now identify as a feminist with the understanding that is not the same as man-hating." Bridget is a firm believer of equality and one of her role models is the amazing John Barrowman: "I love that he has crossed through so many mediums. He can sing, act, dance, everything. But he also stands for equality and he’s a strong representation for the LGBTQ community. I think he is amazing in that respect."

Bridget is a great example of a woman who is proud to be a geek and is not afraid of sharing her interests and passions with other people. She is always a great source of not only historical facts, but inspiration for the members of LGO since she has demonstrated to all of us that you should never stop pursuing your dreams. She brings humor and grace to all of our events and is always welcoming to everyone in the group. She has a kind heart and a fierce spirit. She is talented, creative, confident, and strong. She is not a unicorn, she exists, and she is absolutely amazing.

Geek Girls are Real: Megan Redlawsk

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by shining a spotlight on another lady geek in our community. Megan Redlawsk (27) is an officer in the United States Navy. In her family, serving in the armed forces has become a tradition. Her father served in the Marines and the National Guard and her mother served in the Navy. In fact, Megan's mom has always been the dominant figure in her life and consequently inspired her to pursue a career in the Navy. Megan said: "I knew that what I wanted to do in the Navy was to be on a ship and part of that was because my mom always had great sea stories. After high school, Megan decided to apply for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Course Scholarship and after receiving it, she completed a Bachelor's degree in History and has served the Navy for the last 6 years. She mentioned: "The main reason I like being on ships is the people I get to serve with and the people I get to lead. It’s also a great experience to drive a warship." Megan is very proud to be able to serve her country with the Navy and absolutely loves what she does. Like she said: Nothing beats a sunset at sea. When I am away from land, there’s no light pollution and I look up and see the stars and the Milky Way… There are many careers I can do to serve my country but just being one of the few officers on a warship it’s a great opportunity. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been to eight countries either.”

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

In addition to her amazing work serving our country, Megan is also a geek. One of her earliest memories entails a tradition her family used to have when she was little: Family bonding time meant we had dinner, do the dishes and then watch Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Megan is also a self-proclaimed bookworm. When she was 12 years old; her parents gave her "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" for Christmas. At first, she resisted reading the books because she was turned off by all the hype they were receiving. But, being a bookworm, Megan couldn't resist for long and decided to give them a chance. She said: I thought they were AMAZING! The story, the magic and all the possibilities! That’s why I love fantasy, because anything is possible. It makes you want to read more.”

In addition to her love of Harry Potter, Megan is also a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and anything related to the Dark Knight himself, Batman. Furthermore, one of her role models is Mayim Hoya Bialik. Megan explained that even though she can relate to Mayim's character, Amy, on "The Big Bang Theory", she mostly admires her as an actress, activist, and neuroscientist. She said: I love that she’s smart and is very passionate about her religion, her beliefs and her vegan lifestyle.”

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

For Megan, being a geek means liking things that are not necessarily conventional, feeling passionate about something, and not being afraid of expressing that passion with others. She said: You can geek out about anything, it could be sports too.” She also mentioned that part of being a geek is finding like-minded people that can challenge you and introduce you to new things. Megan remembers being called a nerd and a geek in grade school because she enjoyed reading during recess and took her studies seriously: They called me all sorts of things and when you’re 10 years old, it is really hard to deal with that kind of bullying.” As an adult, Megan mentioned that she has been called a geek and nerd as a joke, but she has learned how to respond to it: I don’t take it as an insult; I take it as an opportunity to educate and explain.”

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

As an officer in the Navy, Megan has definitely learned the proper ways to deal with bullies. Being in a male-dominated line of work, she has experienced various sexist situations that have allowed her to learn how to stand up for herself as a woman and as an officer. From sailors blowing off her orders and unjustly criticizing her job performance to high rank officials making sexist jokes and references in her presence. She said: "I’ve grown a lot in the Navy and when I realized that I love what I am doing and that I am good at it, I decided that I wasn’t going to allow another person to speak to me in an unprofessional way. For these types of situations, you have to take care of it on the spot.” Megan confessed that she knows dealing with difficult people in her line of work will remain a problem, since the old school "boy's club" mentality is still prevalent in the armed forces, but she also admits that the culture is slowly changing for the better: My first ship we had a 60-40% male to female ratio in the enlisted ranks and we had 8-9 female officers on board. I think the military is realizing that they need more women. We’re getting there.”

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

Aside from the fact that she's had to deal with a few bad apples outside of geek culture, Megan enjoys being a part of the geek community and all of her interactions with other geeks have been positive and welcoming. When she joined Ladies Geeking Out (LGO), she was looking for an outlet to get out and meet people that shared her interests. She explained that after joining the group, her geek interests have definitely expanded: I never read comic books or had seen Doctor Who before joining the group. Dungeons & Dragons?! I thought that was way too nerdy for me, but then I decided to stop being judgmental, and try it... and I actually enjoyed it!” Megan also said that her perspective on female friendships improved after joining LGO. Due to her profession, she acknowledged that there aren't many opportunities to hang out with female friends and that her professional relationships are predominantly male. She said: "I’ve always been a tomboy too, so I never felt like I fit in with “girly girls” and I always thought female friendships were drama. But after joining LGO, I actually prefer to hang out with females, we understand each other.”

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

Ever since Megan joined LGO, she has shown great interest in exploring new fandoms, sharing her knowledge with others and creating many lasting friendships in the group. She recently hosted a fabulous Harry Potter celebration for LGO members which included Harry Potter-themed dishes and where she also encouraged attendees to dress up as their favorite Harry Potter characters. Megan is also passionate about social issues and she always supports fairness and justice. She is a great example of a woman that is not afraid of being herself and sharing her geeky side to the world. She is also a woman that is able to stand up for herself and others.

She's strong, brave, and compassionate. She's a leader. She's a geek.

Geek Girls are Real: Tessa Hutchison

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by shining a spotlight on one of Ladies Geeking Out's most active members, Tessa Hutchison (29). She is a crochet artist and an amazing mom who considers herself an eclectic geek since she can love many things at once, including video games, fantasy/horror novels and arts/crafts. When she was little, Tessa wasn't allowed to play video games so she would sneak out with her sister to go play at her friends' houses. She jokes: "I wasn’t allowed to have a Nintendo so I compensated by buying my kid a PS4. He’s already playing Little Big Planet and Lego Batman and we are working on getting all the other Lego games."  But, above all, she is a huge fan of J. R. R. Tolkien. She started reading his work while she was pregnant with her little boy. As she explains it: "My cousin kept trying to get me to read Lord of the Rings for the entire time I’ve known him. I had seen the first movie and didn't like it and couldn’t get into the books because of that. I finally caved in with The Hobbit. I read it and thought it was amazing, which led me to read the rest of the books."

Photo by: Aurora Cruz

When Tessa talks about J. R. R. Tolkien, her whole face lights up. She loves the fantasy of the books, as well as the story of how the books were inspired. The fact that Tolkien was a WWII soldier who wrote fantasy stories in order to distract himself from the war horrors he was experiencing, makes Tessa have a lot of respect for him. She admires his ability to turn an idea into something amazing that will carry on for years to come. She says: