6 AM Saturday morning. The sun begins to rise on this sleepless city and I continue to work through my sleepless night. Progress has definitely been made, but there is still much to do. The pieces are wearable, but the details need to be finalized. ODB treks across the Casino to get us coffee and a muffin to kick start the morning. 9 o’ clock rolls around and ODB really wants to go to the One Day at a Time panel. So they leave while I continue to finish our ballgowns. Because the panel is much more interesting than what I was doing, I am going to let ODB talk about what happened at it.

This was the first main panel that I got to attend. This year, before each guest came onstage, ClexaCon played a montage of scenes on two large screens

The best picture I could get of this moment while crying uncontrollably

at the front of the ballroom from whatever work the guests were representing at this convention. As the One Day at a Time montage came onscreen showing Elena in her white suit for her quinceañera I felt tears welling in my eyes and, as I tried to wipe them to see the next slide, I caught a glance of the room. Everyone’s eyes were glassy, some already red faced with tears rolling down their cheeks. I felt the collective sigh as the video montage ended and, communally, we were ready for the emotional roller coaster which was this panel. I mean this in the very best way as actress Isabella Gomez and the creators of One Day at a Time, Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce came out in tears as well, taking a moment to collect themselves at their chairs before questions began. I can honestly say as a non-binary identifying Hispanic individual with mental health issues this panel meant everything to me as each topic was covered with the same genuine compassion that it is represented with in the show. Despite being the token ‘white guy’ on the panel, which he openly admitted, Mike shared some deep connection with the show as it followed his own daughter’s coming out during filming. She was his inspiration with Elena’s character and the entire team went through an awakening about sexual and gender identity which was well displayed in what was affectionately referred to in the panel as the “pronouns episode.” IMG_20180407_104345121Tears, just tears all around the whole panel. I felt totally embarrassed having sat with the press as I was a sobbing mess while topics were covered relating how the non-binary character was addressed to the strength of Latinx women preventing them from ever seeking medical or psychological help. This portrayal in the character of Elena’s grandmother and her reaction to Penelope’s PTSD was great representation of the cultural bias. It was so important to the writers that the message get out that it was okay to seek help for these issues. I highly suggest going on ClexaCon’s YouTube if only to watch this panel. It was so heartfelt and emotional, the ethos of it was so impactful. This experience got to continue for me as all three panelists filed into the press room for some more intimate questioning. I did get a question in to the team regarding costumes:

ODB: What input, if any, did you, Isabella, have in the costuming decisions particularly the dressed up and the very dressed down looks?

Isabella: I just go in and go: I love it! It’s funny though, the original, my very first wardrobe fitting that I did, Elena was in a bunch of like crop tops and beanies and I was like ‘oh my god.’ Now I gotta go do some ab workouts or something. Yeah, but I love it. I love that its so unlike what I dress like, but the amount of stuff I take from set…

Gloria: What? WHAT? No wonder a bunch of it was cut

Isabella: No, but it’s so cute and I really like it and I enjoy that it’s kind of an expression of who she is but also not at all what she’s like thinking about. Like I’d never put something on and think Elena really thought about this outfit. This is what she’d wear and I love the suits. I love the suits and now I want to wear suits to everything.

IMG_20180407_115403921Gloria: That’s definitely the writers in the room who are strongly–I do the rack check so I’m the one who decides what they wear for all the characters–But its influenced by what the gay women are wearing off set based on their experiences. So that to see we really hear allot about what they –Becky says dress her like a ten year old boy. Is that what a ten year old boy would wear? Put Elena in that. So, I try to thats how personally I take it.

Isabella: And then Michelle Padilla, if you look at my Instagram the suit that Elena wears this season, the blue suit. She literally had it in her closet and then wore it to set with me, but I remember when I had to finish she was like I own that. And I was like, I love this.

Gloria: Michelle also does, like 95 year old grandma chic. You know, full plaid jumpsuit with like a rose and its amazing on her.

Isabella: But she looks hot in everything she wears. If you put something like that on me…

Gloria: You’d look great in it too

@skyberry13: Meanwhile, I was sewing away, adding trims, lace, and decorative accents. We need to be ready to wear them for pictures at 3PM and I still need to work on the wigs. ODB comes back after the ODAAT panel and begins to get dressed. I manage to make the wig look decent and begin dressing myself. Corset? Check! Dress? Check! Make-up? Check! Wigs? Nope, apparently my mass of hair even under 3 wigs caps was still not small enough to squeeze into the wig we had purchased. That’s fine, my hair is a little redder than Elise’s, but it can pass for now, so I quickly throw it up into a similar hair style. IMG_20180407_163753We gather our things (and our skirts) and begin our trek through the casino, across the sky bridge, and to the back of the Tropicana where the convention was taking place. Needless to say, when wearing Victorian Era inspired ballgowns through the Las Vegas strip, you tend to garner some attention. We were asked if we worked on the strip, told to have fun at the masquerade, and I was called Cinderella (which is silly, Cinderella has no pink in any rendition of her dress. Obviously these people have no idea what they are talking about, but they were definitely drunk so I guess I can let it pass). On top of all of this, it was incredibly windy, to the point where I’m pretty sure I pulled a Marilyn Monroe at the top of the escalator of the sky bridge.

We did make it to the photo op line before it was too long and, apparently, I had done well enough that people knew who we were cosplaying. So, in this profession we call that a win. The quick pace we used and the corsets we were wearing did make us quite warm and a little breathless. So the opportunity to stand and collect our composure was nice. Being in close quarters with other fans however, did not help with the heat. The previous shoots were running a bit behind, but they quickly got us moving. We were around the middle of the line so quite a few people had gone before us. We kept telling ourselves, “If they love it, then it was all worth it.” Only a couple people in front of us now. We put our other belongings down and move towards the front of the line. 2018cc02504.jpgIt takes Elise about 0.5 seconds to recognize what we are wearing. “Oh my god, it’s me!” 5 words was all it took to make every minute of lost sleep and pricked fingers worth it. Natasha was just about speechless. They said they had not seen any other movie cosplayers and that their costume designer was going to be thrilled. They begged us to let them hold the masks in the picture. We took our photo and let the line continue. The whole interaction probably lasted a minute but it was one of the more gratifying minutes of my life.

IMG_20180407_155558858As I hinted at before, these costumes were far from comfortable, so after walking through the con for a little bit, we returned to our room and changed into more casual clothing. As it turns out, when you remove certain pieces from the Carmilla dress you quickly turn into Ursula from The Little Mermaid. After returning to styles from this century, we went back to the con to wait for the Hollstien panel to start. This was our favorite panel and we were excited to see how it went this year.

One of the perks of being press was that there were reserved seats at the front of the room, providing us with a great view of the stage.We settled in, eager to see what Dana Piccoli had planned for everyone as she hinted at some things during our interview with her. She did not let us down. She warmed up the panel with some though provoking questions before giving everyone what we really wanted. New scenes for Natasha and Elise to act out! They did not disappoint. There was a scene from Glee with Becky and Santana which Elise immediately got excited about putting up her hair in a cheerleader ponytail which thoroughly confused Natasha. They finished with the Titanic death scene which was way better than the original! It took a while to get everyone to settle down after the scenes, but eventually they did and Natasha and Elise were able to take questions from the audience. At the end, they announced that both of them would be attending ClexaCon London 2018 at the end of the year. I highly recomend that you watch this panel on YouTube. Unfortunately, there was not a press room opportunity after because Natasha and Elise had to immediately get ready for the Cocktails for Change event that started in 30 minutes.

We once again, returned to our room and prepared for the evening. ODB absolutely loves crab and the Hooters Hotel and Casino happens to be right next to the Tropicana, so we headed over for dinner. After stuffing our faces we made our way to the MGM Grand. I had been looking forward to this moment since Thursday morning and it was finally here. It is not every day that you can cross something off of your bucket list, but today I could. I was finally going to see a live performance of Cirque Du Soliel production, KA. As you get closer to the entrance of the theater the atmosphere changes from a common casino to an entirely different world. As you get closer to the house doors you are surrounded by costuming tidbits, and storytelling architecture. You are greeted by Gatekeepers, where the real storytelling begins. What lie beyond those doors was the most magical evening of my life to date. It was more than I had ever hoped for and I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to witness it. But enough about what we did outside of Clexacon.

Because we were speakers at the con, we got an invitation to Ascension, the official afterparty. The party took place in the Tropicana’s Havanna Room, seeing out into the pool area and featured 3 DJ’s and 2 bars throughout the night. Much to ODB’s displeasure, I’m not much of one for the nightclub scene so we did not stay long, but the party went well into the night. Fortunately, Sunday’s programming did not begin until 11. We returned to our room where, once again, I concluded the night with the sewing machine to attempt to finish one more costume. (Spoiler alert: it did not get done)