Billie Lourd Talks About Becoming the Keeper of Princess Leia

Billie Lourd has written a wonderful piece in Time Magazine about growing up with an extra person in her life, Princess Leia. She goes on to say that following her mother’s death, Princess Leia became her guardian angel and now it is now her responsibility to look after Leia.

Igrew up with three parents: a mom, a dad and Princess Leia. I guess Princess Leia was kind of like my stepmom–technically family, but deep down I didn’t really like her. She literally and metaphorically lived on a planet I had never been to. When Leia was around, there wasn’t as much room for my mom–for Carrie. As a child, I couldn’t understand why people loved Leia as much as they did. I didn’t want to watch her movie, I didn’t want to dress up like her, I didn’t even want to talk about her. I just wanted my mom–the one who lived on Earth, not Tatooine.

I didn’t watch Star Wars until I was about 6 years old. (And I technically didn’t finish it until I was 9 or 10. I’m sorry! Don’t judge me!) My mom used to love to tell people that every time she tried to put it on, I would cover my ears and yell, “It’s too loud, Mommy! Turn it off!”–or fearfully question, “Is that lady in the TV you?” It wasn’t until middle school that I finally decided to watch it of my own accord–not because I suddenly developed a keen interest in ’70s sci-fi, but because boys started coming up to me and saying they fantasized about my mom. My mom? The lady who wore glitter makeup like it was lotion and didn’t wear a bra to support her much-support-needed DD/F’s? They couldn’t be talking about her! I had to investigate who this person was they were talking about.

So I went home and watched the movie I had forever considered too loud and finally figured out what all the fuss was about the lady in the TV. I’d wanted to hate it so I could tell her how lame she was. Like any kid, I didn’t want my mom to be “hot” or “cool”–she was my mom. I was supposed to be the “cool,” “hot” one–not her! But staring at the screen that day, I realized no one is, or ever will be, as hot or as cool as Princess F-cking Leia. (Excuse my language. She’s just that cool!)

Later that year, I went to Comic-Con with my mom. It was the first time I realized how widespread and deep people’s love for Leia was, even after so many years. It was surreal: people of all ages from all over the world were dressed up like my mom, the lady who sang me to sleep at night and held me when I was scared. Watching the amount of joy it brought to people when she hugged them or threw glitter in their faces was incredible to witness. People waited in line for hours just to meet her. People had tattoos of her. People named their children after her. People had stories of how Leia saved their lives. It was a side of my mom I had never seen before. And it was magical.

I realized then that Leia is more than just a character. She’s a feeling. She is strength. She is grace. She is wit. She is femininity at its finest. She knows what she wants, and she gets it. She doesn’t need anyone to defend her, because she defends herself. And no one could have played her like my mother. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher. Carrie Fisher is Princess Leia. The two go hand in hand.

When I graduated from college, like most folks, I was trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life. I went to school planning to throw music festivals, but always had this little sliver of me that wanted to do what my parents pushed me so hard not to do–act. I was embarrassed to admit I was even slightly interested. So when my mom called me and told me they wanted me to come in to audition for Star Wars, I pretended it wasn’t a big deal–I even laughed at the concept–but inside I couldn’t think of anything that would make me happier. A couple weeks later I went in for my audition. I probably had never been more nervous in my life. I was terrified and most likely made a fool of myself, but I kind of had a great time doing it. I assumed they would never call me, but after that audition, I realized I wanted to give the whole acting thing a shot. I was definitely afraid, but as a wise woman once said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway … The confidence will follow.”

About a month later, they somehow ended up calling. And there I was, on my way to be in motherf-cking Star Wars. Whoa. Growing up, my parents treated film sets like a house full of people with the flu: they kept me away from them at all costs. So on that fateful first day driving up to Pinewood, I was like a doe-eyed child. I couldn’t tell my mom, but little sassy, sarcastic, postcollege me felt like a giddy, grateful middle schooler showing up to a fancy new school.

On that first day, my mom and I sat next to each other in the hair and makeup trailer. (Actually, she wasn’t really one for sitting, so she paced up and down and around me, occasionally reapplying her already overapplied glitter makeup and feeding Gary, her French bulldog.) Between glitterings, the hairstylist crafted what was to become General Leia’s hairstyle, then it was on to me: little Lieutenant Connix. Funnily enough, my mom had more to say about my hairstyle than her own. Even though she complained for years about how the iconic Leia buns “further widened my already wide face,” she desperately wanted me to carry on the face-widening family tradition! Some people carry on their family name, some people carry on holiday traditions–I was going to carry on the family hairstyle. So after we tested a few other space-appropriate hairstyles, we decided to embrace the weird galactic nepotism of it all and went with the mini–Leia buns. She stood in the mirror behind me and smiled like we had gotten matching tattoos. Our secret-handshake hairstyle.

Read the rest here, and be warned — there may be tears!

Photo: Ryan James Caruthers for TIME

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James is an active member of the Star Wars collecting community, and is the Brand Director for Jedi News. James is also the host of the Star Wars Collectors Cast, and co-host of RADIO 1138 on the Jedi News Network.