LET’S TALK ABOUT PRINCESS LEIA
I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. One of my best friends growing up wanted to watch it, and I was actually pretty against it because it looked “weird and scary,” or some other stupid excuse. So we started with Return of the Jedi (aka completely out of order) because, in her words, it had cute little aliens that looked like teddy bears in it.
Long story short, I owe a lot to Stephanie because Star Wars had a massive impact on my childhood — especially Princess Leia, played by the inimitable Carrie Fisher.
Carrie Fisher died yesterday after suffering a heart attack before Christmas, and I just want to take a moment to reflect on her impact… on me, on Hollywood, on women, as an actress, an author, an advocate and a general badass. Because, by all accounts, that’s what she was.
A badass and a princess. Think about it: I’m eight years old, and I’m watching this chick literally take matters into her own hands and strangle the gross space alien holding her captive. Can we also talk about when she went to rescue the dude she loved disguised as a bounty hunter? Or all the times she saved Han and Luke’s skins? Or when she got promoted to General and basically just ran everything in The Force Awakens?
Star Wars, and Carrie, gave me one of my very first Strong Female Role Models, and she was smart and sassy and diplomatically skilled and got to kiss Harrison Ford, all of which is pretty cool. At just 19 years old, Carrie was thrown into a global phenomeon and proved she wasn’t just a princess, but a queen. You know, in the “yaaas queen” sense, even though that saying wouldn’t even be a thing until decades later.
More than that, though, I truly admire Carrie Fisher for being so authentically herself. She was born to Hollywood royalty (her mother is Debbie Reynolds) but her life wasn’t always a walk in the park. She struggled with substance abuse around the time Star Wars premiered and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 20s. I haven’t yet read Wishful Drinking, but it just shot to the top of my list (as did her novel Postcards from the Edge and recently published memoir The Princess Diarist). Carrie has been unflailingly open about her life — her whole life, from the good parts to the messy parts. She is also one of the OG advocates for mental health and erasing the stigma of mental illness, which is still a difficult thing in Hollywood (and society).
Yet even with all the messy parts of her life, she remained spirited and feisty and a force to be reckoned with. In her own words: “I don’t believe in regrets. I know they’re human and I have them sometimes. But I don’t like to hang out with them. The only stuff I regret is any discomfort I caused someone else.”
Carrie will live on on in her writing, in Leia, and in girls and women everywhere who are inspired by her and will strive to be as authentically, unflailingly ourselves as she was. We love you, Carrie. But I bet you knew that.
P.S. — I’ve been listening to the official Star Wars “Princess Leia” playlist on repeat since I heard the news, and it’s pretty great in an incredibly bittersweet way.