Sunday, April 29, 2018

Diva's Interview with Albin Johnson and R2-KT, guests of May the 4th Festival 2018

Two wonderful special guests will be celebrating Star Wars Day aka May the 4th Celebrations 2018 with the local Star Wars community in Red Dot Island next weekend. They are Albin Johnson, the founder of the international costuming group the 501st legion, and R2-KT, a compassionate yet spunky pink astromech droid who is also known as the pink beacon of hope.

Both Albin and R2-KT have made appearances in countless events through the years, especially focusing on bringing hope to seriously and terminally ill children at hospitals around the U.S.A. This time, the duo will be entering into hyperspace to visit the Red Dot Island, with a mission to bring more joy and hope to the fans and children here.

In fact, R2-KT has arrived a week early and is already on the island. She got her new power cells, oil baths, fancy polishes... basically, getting all prettied and prepped up for Star Wars Day.

Here she is, chillin' out before she charms everyone's feet off.

R2-KT holidaying in Red Dot Island (pic by Hansen Khoo)
Before it gets too wild at the May the 4th Festival next weekend, Red Dot Diva caught hold of both of them (via an efficient protocol droid through a secured channel, of course!) for a quick interview.

Red Dot Diva: Hi Albin and R2-KT, we cannot wait to meet you here in Singapore! How is it like in your part of the Galaxy right now?
Albin: We are so excited to finally visit Singapore. This is as big an adventure as you can get: the crossroads of Asia! And meeting fellow Star Wars fans is like meeting family from another land.
R2-KT: [*translated*] Affirmative. This part of the Galaxy is pleasant, but not so much adventure. Our crossroads here only lead to more roads. Sometimes I feel like I live on Tattooine. Your land is much more fun. 
RDD: I can promise you! It's going to be awesome at the May the 4th festival, just like the wild Ewok party after the battle at Endor 

RDD: Albin, did you ever expect the 501st Legion to burgeon into such a global scale; with garrisons formed in many states and countries? 
Albin: I would like to say 'yes,' but honestly even my wildest dreams didn't dare to consider a world presence. Early on we had a few interested fans from as far away as Japan and Europe, but hardly enough to guarantee growth. The concept was open for expansion, and our philosophy invited fans to create a part of the Star Wars universe in their own communities. Fun and goodwill were the recipe and the dream was a good one. Everyone hopes that their good ideas will succeed. Sometimes even hard work fails to secure success. For the 501st Legion, it was years and years of hard work and risk. But it took thousands of fans to make it a reality. It is all our shared dream come true.

RDD: Please share with us one or two of your favourite moments trooping as one of the 501st. 
Albin: In 2007 the Legion was invited by George Lucas to march with him in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. Mr. Lucas personally requested 200 troopers from all over the world. For five days I was surrounded by men and women from every corner of the globe, speaking different languages but sharing the same dream. Beautiful faces marching proudly with the insignia of their countries. And on the fourth day I was asked to pose with George himself for a photo. I thanked him for all he had done in creating Star Wars. He turned to me and said, "I created Star Wars. But you created this (gesturing to the troopers standing at attention). I was overwhelmed. To think I helped to contribute to such a beautiful saga in my own small way. It was all I could ask for. And to think we all did it together as a family. This is what Legion has meant to me all along.

In 2017 I was honored to be invited to visit Skywalker Ranch along with members of the Rebel Legion, Mandalorian Mercs, R2 Builders, and Saber Guild. There were also writers from Star Wars websites such as Jedi News and Rebel Scum. We were allowed to discuss matters close to the hearts of Star Wars fans and be a voice to those who make the magic happen. It was a wonderful time seeing Steve Sansweet's Rancho Obi-Wan and the Lucasfilm offices. But it was also great every evening having fellowship with the greatest Star Wars fans from all over the world! The Star Wars trivia games were at an all-time high level of competition!

RDD: Albin, personally, what are the things you have learned and gained from being a part of the 501st? 
Albin: The Legion has taught me that no dream is too big if enough people work together to make it happen. It has taught me that race and language and nationality are only words when humans feel a true love for something and a kinship built on hope. It has taught me that living in imagination can be a powerful thing if used to incite joy instead of dwelling in fear. The Legion has taught me that I have countless brothers and sisters who each own a piece of my heart. And it has taught me that child-like wonder is the only thing that can save this world, because wonder knows no limitations.

RDD: Both of you have been travel buddies to many events held in various locations. How has it been like traveling with each other?  
Albin: Traveling with KT is a big responsibility. She has millions of fans and everyone waits patiently to meet her. Some want to meet a star from the Star Wars movies, some want to meet a symbol of love and hope. But mostly KT is like a 200 kilogram toddler: she needs constant care and supervision. And what a diva! She knows she is a star. She is pretty impressed with herself at this point, I'm afraid. She loves her fans, but she is cranky with those of us taking care of her. What a handful!
R2-KT: [*translated*] Traveling means I get to meet more beautiful carbon units. I love the small ones you call 'children,' they are pure joy. And I love the hugs. But I spend long trips in a box! And if Albin is around he talks a lot. I mean, humans talk a lot but Albin talks for hours. He is not the most intelligent creature, I'm afraid. He should spend more time drawing my oil baths and bringing me children to talk to. You really need to stop encouraging him. 
RDD: Don't fret, R2-KT. There will definitely be pod-loads of children for you to talk to at May the 4th celebrations next weekend!

RDD: R2-KT, I went back to watch The Force Awakens 3x to catch you on the Resistance base. What was it like being on set?  
R2-KT: [*translated*] Everyone on set was wonderful. Oliver Steeples and Lee Towersey were my handlers and they treated me like a proper princess! There were so many other droids to talk to and oh, the adventures we shared! I touched the Millennium Falcon and was able to talk to its onboard computer. She was quite the gossip and very clever. 

RDD: So, R2-KT - in terms of the droid heartthrob-meter... R2-D2 or BB-8? 
R2-KT: [*translated*] BB-8 has a youthful energy that really tickles my circuits. He can really make a girl laugh. But R2-D2 is so worldly, so experienced. He once sweet-talked the Death Star into dropping its tractor beam. Now that is one sophisticated droid! 

RDD: I’ve heard many times that little girls get bullied or teased because of their love of Star Wars. Could each of you give those girls out here some advice or word of encouragement? 
Albin: I think girls today are still suffering from labels the world wants to put on them. I tell my daughters that labels are useless unless YOU choose them. Girls are the true heroes of the human race, because they have the best ideas. So why wouldn't girls be excited by space and adventures?
R2-KT: [*translated*] Boys are only good for making noise and messes. Girls are the superior life form, so they should be proud. They carry the essence of the living Force within them, so they are the true fans of Star Wars.

RDD: Have you two planned to do anything special while visiting in Singapore? 
Albin: When I travel I like to see the world as the residents see it. And I love worldwide foods, so I'm excited to visit the crossroads of Asian cuisine. I'll try to visit as many hawker restaurants as I can, including the Indian and Arab vendors. And if there's time I would love to see the Gardens by the Bay.
R2-KT: [*translated*] I have heard that Cloud Forest is very similar to Naboo and Endor. I would like to see this place and feel the Force living within the trees. My Stormtrooper friends don't care for trees, they are afraid of Ewoks appearing. But I love nature.

RDD: What can the Star Wars fans expect from your appearance at May the 4th festival here in Singapore? 
Albin: Star Wars fans will be thrilled to see the finest troopers of the 501st Legion making their appearance. What greater experience is there than seeing Vader's elite soldiers in their armor? Join us at the F1 Pit Building for the May the 4th Festival and on May 5th for the big Star Wars Run! There will be heroes and villains and droids for everyone to meet. It will be terrific fun.
R2-KT: [*translated*] Hugs! So many hugs. I have many songs and sounds programmed to play for the children and for the adults. I will be there to bring the magic of a galaxy far, far away to those who believe. And I will be at the starting line for the Star Wars Run ready to cheer on the runners. It will be an unforgettable experience!

To have an idea of how R2-KT (with help from the R2-KT Ambassadroid and #ThePinkForce) brings the spark of hope to children in hospitals , here's a short video of her in one of her special heartwarming missions.

Wait, there's more. Whether you are aligned to the Dark Side or the Light Side, be part of the Pink Brigade and contribute to a good cause!

A very special patch has been designed and made for this year's May the 4th SG event. This patch designed by Desmond Tay (TK 88088), features R2-KT having a splash-off with Merlion, and will be available on site at SGD 10 per patch. The proceeds will go to the KKH Health Fund.

Red Dot Diva knows it is going to be a fabulous Star Wars party next weekend. Just remember to get dressed in your pink threads, and show the world what the Star Wars fandom can achieve!


Date: May 4th & 5th
Venue: F1 Pit Building
Time: 4th May: 3pm - 11pm; 5th May: 11am - 11pm
Admission: Free of charge (unless registering for the Star Wars Run)

For more information on the activities happening those two days, check out this RDD article!

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