I’ve been thinking a lot over the past two months about how I could best describe what Iden Versio has meant to me since we first met her at Celebration Orlando back in April. For ages, I couldn’t seem to find the right words. Yes, I’ve talked about representation and how important that is to me and for the other Asian and mixed-Asian women out there. Yes, at this point just about everyone has seen the IGN video where I got to talk about my love for Iden and actually meet Janina Gavankar. And yet, I still didn’t quite find the right words even though my voice jumped an octave and I cried. (And then cried again two weeks later thanks to the DLC and The Last Jedi.)
I think I finally have.
For me, watching Iden Versio have her world view shattered and then find her new place in the galaxy is how I imagine it felt for some women to watch Wonder Woman storm across No Man’s Land, to watch the lightsaber fly past Kylo into Rey’s hand, to watch Peggy Carter tell everyone that she knew her value.
Characters that you connect with on that deep of a level don’t come around very often and it’s even more infrequent that you share a passing physical resemblance to them especially when you’re biracial. Iden Versio felt like a godsend to me because she was both. At first, I was just excited to have a character that I not only actually somewhat looked like but who had a badass costume to go with her take-no-crap attitude. The more we got to know Iden, the more I realized that connection was there. Finally.
Iden Versio is important to me because when we first meet her in Inferno Squad, she’s more concerned with getting the job done well than with being voted World’s Nicest Person. Iden Versio is important to me because of how she deals with high parental expectations and with forming relationships with others. Iden Versio is important to me because multiple friends reached out to say that some of her book and game lines reminded them of me. Iden Versio is important to me because while I never expected her to change sides, her belief in doing the right thing even if it costs you everything is inspirational. Iden Versio is important to me because I finally truly understand what it’s like to see yourself represented in a galaxy that you so desperately love.
I’ve been nothing short of lucky to have a character like Iden in my life and not just because of representation reasons. Thanks to a flippant tweet combined with my lack of chill that led to building version 1 of the costume in two months, I’ve had some fairly surreal experiences since April. I still remember how it felt knowing that people who worked on Battlefront 2 were excited about my costume and when I first read how Janina signed a copy of Inferno Squad for me and called me the first Iden Versio. And of course nothing can ever top getting to go to San Francisco and actually getting to meet Janina. Every single experience that I’ve had because of my love for Iden has been special and, at times, humbling.
At times, it’s been difficult not to scream when people have told me that Iden’s not the “right kind” of representation or when others have whined about how her story is repetitive and boring but in the grand scheme of things, those opinions don’t matter. What does matter is the happiness that Iden Versio has brought me and how others out there might also finally feel like they’re represented in Star Wars. In the end, that’s what really counts and I can but hope that we’ll get more stories about Iden (and her daughter Zay) in the years to come so that others might feel the same.
So I’m going to savor this moment and this feeling. Characters like this don’t come around very often and even when another one does… she’ll be no Iden Versio.