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."
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"
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."
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.
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."
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.