There are a lot of great people out there and I recently got to meet one of those great people through becoming a leader in Outer Rim Brigade. Joe describes himself as a man with many hats. And he is that! If he isn’t helping fellow Star Wars nerds in varying capacities he is working on a Star Wars podcast! Get to know this great man and show some support. Joe, thank you for your positive attitude and inspiration! –Mala
Name: Joe Mignano
Location: Southern California
What got you into CAUSEplaying?
That’s a long story! Basically, after my wife passed away a little over a decade ago, I embraced a lot of the things I enjoyed most in life, as a sort of means of coping with the loss. I immersed myself in Star Wars, whereas before I was a fan but didn’t have many Star Wars things. I started collecting books, autographs, etc. Then, thanks to social media (which at the time was pretty much Myspace), I learned about conventions like Comic Con in San Diego, and groups of costumers that not only wore Star Wars attire, but also used their costumes for charitable purposes. I never knew at the time that there were such things, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. It’s a part of my life to this day.
What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
Getting to be the Star Wars figure that I always wanted to be as a kid, and being able to use that live action figure for a good cause, especially when it involves doing something positive in the lives of children, really keeps me motivated to contribute all I can, as much as I can, as often as I can, even if I’m not often able to.
What was your first CAUSEplay event?
I really don’t remember! I think, technically, it was at Comic Con in San Diego, in either 2007 or 2008. I had a silly little campy YouTube show at the time called “The Dark Side Chats,” in which I’d often wear a custom Sith get-up, and of course talk about Star Wars. It was my first foray into podcasting, which over the years would also
become a favorite pastime of mine. Star Wars podcasting, of course.
What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
I only have two outfits, believe it or not. I have a custom Sith and a Darth Sidious (prequel era, before Palpy got scarred for life by that traitor Mace Windu). Of those, I’d have to say I love my custom Sith, since it’s very non-restricting, breathes easily, and is rather comfortable. Plus, it’s something I concocted on my own, which gives the costume its own sort of uniqueness.
Most memorable CAUSEplay moment(s): There are so many. But I’d have to say that one of my most favorites was while I was wearing my custom Sith, and I was working a table for The Dark Empire at an event, which is something I don’t really do anymore (I’m more involved with the 501st Legion these days). I had started something up called HoloNet Audio Dramas, one of a few Star Wars podcasts that I do, in which I narrate well-written short family-friendly Star Wars fanfiction, and set it to music and sound effects – the idea being not just to have a fan audio presentation (sort of like fanfilms, but audio only), but to also target that media toward fans that may be blind, have difficulty reading, etc.
On this particular occasion, a blind woman was led to the table I was at, and her hand was gently guided along that props that were on display. Without any hesitation or guesswork on her part, she knew what a lightsaber hilt was and what a Sith holocron was. I described the outfit I was wearing to her, and let her feel the material. I was amazed at the expression her face made as she took in the details of the display pieces and costume fabric with her fingertips.
I then offered her a free audio disc of HoloNet Audio Dramas material; it had about ten stories on it, and I used to give them away regularly. She later told me that she thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories, and “seeing” what we had on display; she really experienced Star Wars in a way that she hadn’t before. That did it for me! I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ve given out close to 1,000 audio discs since, before retiring disc distribution last year. I still give free ones out on rare occasion, and I always think of that particular encounter with a blind Star Wars fan when I do.
What is your favorite cause to support and what have you done for them?
Hillsides children’s group home (an orphanage), is a cause that I’ve supported since 2011, having organized a Star Wars Day event for the kids there each year, now twice a year. I actually wrote a blog about it on the Star Wars website (link: http://www.starwars.com/news/celebrating-5-years-of-star-wars-at-hillsides-child-care-facility) , and it was mentioned in the Bantha Tracks section of the January 2015 issue of Star Wars Insider. Organizing an event like that for kids that depend on so much from volunteers means a lot to me, and I think it’s the reason why volunteers like us volunteer to do what we do.
The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
The silliest thing I’ve ever done was probably be Santa Sith one Sithmas, a long time ago…
Who inspires you in life or cosplay?
I’m inspired by all of the people that volunteer their time and efforts into not only enjoying w
hat they do, but using it to give back, as well. The story of Albin Johnson, his late daughter Katie, and a baby girl once known as Princess Leah when she was alive were and still my biggest inspirations.
Advice for CAUSEplaying: Always be professional, but also have fun! If you aren’t having fun, then you’re doing something wrong.
What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Hillsides every August is the single-most event that I look forward to, and also in December.
Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
Costumer. I think “cosplayer” is a term best describing a person that wears a costume for playful purposes, whereas a “costumer” doesn’t just wear a costume, they make it themselves and use it for a purpose beyond play.
What was your first costume/cosplay?
My custom Sith, or a very primitive version thereof.
What is your dream cosplay?
I’d like to do one or two more of the many fun outfits that are worn in the 501st Legion, and I’d really like to make some type of bounty hunter outfit at some point. The Royal Guard costume is really calling to me, but I’m also not sure if I want to demote myself from Emperor just yet.
How do you feel you have influenced the cosplay community?
Ironically enough, I think through podcasting. Although Dark Empire Radio is now its own entity, it once was the official podcast of The Dark Empire costume club, and I served as it’s main voice for a number of years, as well as the first PR Officer of that particular club. I’m now happily involved co-hosting and post-producing the 501stCast, the official podcast of the 501st Legion.
What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I wear many hats. Security guard, park ranger, voice over guy. I guess it all depends on which hat I’m wearing at the time.
If you could have any job what would it be and why?
If “philanthropist” were an occupation, I’d love to list my everyday job as that. I dream of being able to freely give as much as possible, without the hindrance of having to work hard to be able to.
Tell us something random about yourself: I love cheesecake. Immensely. Some say too much; I say hardly enough.
Star Wars or Star Trek: I love both, but it’s the Wars that inspired me to do what I do. It’s all about the Wars!
Marvel or DC: I loved Super Friends as a kid, so DC when it comes to old school comics. But, Marvel all the way otherwise!
Favorite Comic Series: Dark Empire, the FIRST “expanded universe” or Legends comic from Dark Horse!
Favorite Comic Character: Darth Talon. I’m a Sith. A male Sith. It was only inevitable.
Least favorite comic character and why? The rabbit fellow in the old Marvel Star Wars comics. I can’t remember his name, and probably for good reason.
Favorite Book: Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide, by Ben Burtt, with illustrations by Sergio Aragones. Think Mad Magazine and Star Wars together, and learn a bit of Huttese in the process. Major win!
Favorite Video Game: Battlefront II from 2004. Nothing comes close.
Favorite Convention: Celebration 6 in Orlando, Florida in 2012 was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had at a con. I’ve also enjoyed going to ConNooga in Tennessee, and San Diego Comic Con in years past. Alas, I’m conventioned-out anymore!
Affiliations (clubs or groups): 501st Legion, Saber Guild, The Dark Empire, Outer Rim Brigade