Bang’jaQ pulls her blade back with a sense of pride after slaying a giant saber bear — an act that ensures her mother’s place in Sto-Vo-Kor.
Bang’jaQ isn’t real, though; she’s the original persona of Cree Myers, winner of this year’s Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant, an event held annually in Atlanta, Georgia.
“She is entirely my own invention,” Myers said. “I based her backstory on my own life, in a way.”
Meyers, coordinator of UNM’s Graduate Academic Advisement, said she became a Star Trek fan through her parents, who had loved the show from the first episode.
“My mother passed away several years ago, and my father is very sick now,” Myers said. “This competition kind of became something I was doing for them.”
Meyers’ earliest memories are of watching Star Trek and playing make-believe that she was on the USS Enterprise, she said.
“We had a crazy van that was set up for indoor lighting, and it had a ton of switches to control it all,” Myers said. “So when we would go on road trips, as far back as I can remember, we would all play Star Trek in this crazy van.”
Myers said her first foray into cosplaying – short for costume play – was in 2005, when she and a group of women joined together to create a roller derby team, she said.
“I was really excited by sort of the campiness of it.” she said, “In the beginning there were fights, and there were lots of opportunities to be someone other than yourself, which is part of the fun of costuming for me.”
Myers started costuming regularly two years ago and has continued practicing to perfect her form, she said.
The act of making and wearing costumes became a beloved pastime for Myers — so much so that she joined the Justice League of America–New Mexico, a local cosplay group that dons the outfits of superheroes from DC Comics and attends children’s charity events.
Miles Blackman, founder of the JLA-NM, said the group tries to find members who want to give back to the community, and Myers is one of them.
“Cree is an amazing artist, and just a great person in general … we’re so happy to have her,” Blackman said.
Myers has been with the group since 2012, and has been an asset, he said.
“She is an amazing role model for little girls and for women in general,” Blackman said. “She always has a positive attitude when we are doing events, and the girls and the parents love her.”
Myers’ character, Hawkwoman, is a very strong female and she represents it well, he said.
“If I had to describe Cree in one word it would be ‘genuine,’” Blackman said. “She is a genuinely nice, wonderful person; her heart goes into everything she does and you can just feel it.”
Nan Morningstar, co-owner of Free Radicals Clothing Store, said she has known Myers for 10 years.
Seeing her friend when the prestigious Miss Klingon Empire title has been exciting, she said.
“Oh my god, it’s so huge!” Morningstar said. “The whole point is that it’s fun and the only thing that matters in your cosplay is that you had fun that day and you enjoyed yourself. There has got to be an extra feather in the cap when everyone else thinks you were the coolest person in the room that day.”
Through her costumes, Myers is inspiring others to do something skill-related, which can make the people who try it and more interesting individuals, Morningstar said.
“Costuming is extremely difficult,” she said. “It’s a huge skill set to invest yourself in and decide that you are going to learn to do start to finish on your own.”
Not being afraid to begin this process yields great rewards for the beginner and never gets old for the veteran, she said. It’s hip to be a nerd right now because the media are portraying people who are into these shows and books as the norm, she said.
“The goal for all of us is to find that family, to find that grouping where we fit in, and Sci-fi is one of those fantastic options,” Morningstar said.
Myers is a great role model for those who look up to cosplay, she said.
“If I had to describe Cree in one word, it would be ‘fearless,’” Morningstar said. “She finds something interesting and she jumps in with both feet.”
According to trektrax.org, the three criteria that judges of the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant base contestants’ scores on are beauty, talent, and personality.
The prizes include an acrylic trophy on a solid wood base, an eight inch tall rhinestone tiara, a satin pageant banner and a fresh bouquet of flowers.
“It’s very silly on one hand, but I looked forward to participating in this for years,” Myers said.
Keeping her family in mind along with the feeling of loss kept her wanting to push forward, she said.
“Star Trek was so important to my family and such a big part of growing up, winning was just huge for me,” Myers said.
The costume itself is made of craft foam, rabbit fur and worbla, a material that melts and conforms to the base made for it, she said. It took her two full days to create the finished product, she said.
“I work full-time so I would sneak in little bits and pieces here and there, like on a lunch break or in the morning,” Myers said.
Myers will be signing autographs as Bang’jaQ at Free Radicals’ booth during the Albuquerque Comic Expo, June 27- 29.
Stephen Montoya is culture editor of The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @StephenMontoya9.