Throughout high school, I had friends telling me to go to Dragon*Con. They thought that I would like it and considering I’d lived a mere 15 minutes from Atlanta my entire life, it was basically Gorram crazy that I hadn’t been. I’d always brush off the suggestion saying that I was too busy or not cool enough or crowd-averse. Well, three years ago, that all changed.
I attended my first ever Dragon*Con in 2013. I waited in an absurdly long line (I opted for a one-day pass, which meant getting my badge the day of), and struck up friendly conversation with the guy next to me. We talked about our fandoms, how he’d started attending Dragon*Con, his experiences as a black nerd, and tips for navigating the Con. As we were entering the Marriott hotel to receive our badges, he left me with a parting thought: I should follow a Twitter account called BlackGirlNerds. I thanked him for the wonderful conversation and advice, and went on my way. Luckily, I was meeting up with a good friend and Dragon*Con veteran, who showed me around. As we navigated the hectic Atlanta streets, hitting up different hotels and panels, and weaving our way through the labyrinth that is the Vendor Hall, I was more than a little overwhelmed for a one day pass. I thoroughly enjoyed myself for my first-time Con experience and knew this was the beginning of a new tradition for me.
With the arrival of Dragon*Con 2014, I was positively giddy and felt comfortable enough to go for the entire weekend. I went over to a friend’s house to get into our cosplays as we readied ourselves to take on the day in an epic morning that definitely beat prepping for school dances! I navigated most of the Con on my own, met up with some friends throughout the weekend, and even took pictures for my school paper. The highlight of my weekend though, was meeting Osric Chau, who plays Kevin Tran, advanced placement student-turned prophet of the Lord, on Supernatural, one of my all-time favorite shows. I literally ran up to him as he was getting off of Marta with a friend and practically blurted out, “YOU’RE OSRIC CHAU!!” Precious gem that he is, he seemed to be pleasantly surprised and not at all taken aback that this random girl was screaming his own name at him. I asked for a picture and his friend politely offered to hold whatever I had in my hands at the time. I suck at selfies and told Osric so, to which he replied, “Luckily I’m pretty good at selfies.” (Guys, I swear I.) He snapped a few pictures.
- Osric: “So what are you cosplaying as?”
- Diondra (sheepishly): “I was supposed to be a steampunk vampire, but I couldn’t get the fangs to work today.”
- Osric: “Oh, that’s still really cool!”
- Diondra: “Thanks.” awkward silence
- Osric: …
- Diondra: awkward silence
- Osric: “Well, enjoy the rest of the Con!”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the dear sweetheart that is Osric Chau. He’s universally adored by the Supernatural fandom, as well as by Jared, Jensen, and Misha. And I was so flustered that my powers of awkwardness came through full-force and I couldn’t even think to ask him if he improvised “Kevin-Freakin-Solo.” Sigh Despite my awkwardness, I am still ridiculously excited about that moment and consider it a highlight of my life at this point.
Even taking into consideration that brush with fame, I would say last year’s Con, Dragon*Con 2015, was the most amazing Con I’ve attended, and ties my somewhat limited Con experiences thus far together. In the time between 2013 and 2015, after hearing about BlackGirlNerds and following the account on Twitter, Jamie put out a Bat Signal for help, and I so glad I was able to answer the call.
When Jamie came down for Dragon*Con 2015, her first ever Dragon*Con, I got to meet her and even hang out with her and other awesomely blerdy twitter peeps! My weekend started when I picked up Duane, Jamie, and Revetta at the airport. After two delayed flights, we all finally met, had some food in the airport, and headed to Castle Blerd!
I didn’t stay the weekend at Nerd HQ, but I hung out at the Blerd Meetup at Joystick Gamebar and joyfully shuttled folks around Atlanta’s near impossible and frustrating one-way streets. I spent the rest of my Con time meeting up with friends, taking pictures, and searching for the panels with the shortest lines.
I was even able to show another one of my friends around for her first Con. Not bad for a three-year Padawan learner, if I do say so myself. We got stuck in the badge line for longer than I anticipated and we couldn’t get a clear line of sight for the parade, but we made the most of it by wandering aimlessly and taking pictures of cosplayers.
Overall, I couldn’t believe this was happening! Although I was only able to do a Saturday badge, just the fact that I got to meet Jamie as not only a part of the BGN team, but first-and-foremost as a fan of the work she is doing to increase visibility for Black Girl Nerds everywhere was totally awe-inspiring. The fact that I get to be a part of such an amazing team of black women who care so much about fandoms, books, and social justice is luck, fate, coincidence—whatever you wish to call it—I just call it amazing.
Would it have happened if I had been too scared to go to Dragon*Con in 2013, if I hadn’t met that friendly nerdy guy in line, if I hadn’t seen Jamie’s tweet about needing interns? I for sure couldn’t say. I do know that Dragon*Con and BlackGirlNerds gave me a new home three years ago, and I encourage all nerdy women of color to never stop being yourselves! Go after what you love and seek out new and exciting opportunities! And if you live in Georgia, for goodness’ sake, try to attend Dragon*Con as soon as possible! You’ll have a blast with some of the closest members of your fandom–whichever they may be!
Bonus Level: I know that my life isn’t a movie, BUT sometimes life has a few surprises in store. On Sunday, I ran into Leigh Willis, aka, the nerdy friendly black guy from the long line at Dragon*Con 2013 (he was hanging out with Elektra)! We talked about the Con, I told him about all that had transpired since that fateful conversation three years ago, and we took a few pictures together. He was thrilled that I was involved with BGN and wished me luck in my future endeavors.