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Villain brings balance to communities in Colorado

Sebastien Chiu’s Kylo Ren serves all walks of the force

Sebastien Chiu as Kylo Ren. Photo credit: Katia Schiele

Kylo Ren is in your classroom. Sebastien Chiu is a junior at CU Denver and a film student participating as a part of CU Denver! Live, a student based committee focused on planning cultural and arts-based events on campus. He also loves “hanging out with friends, playing video games, and hitting the gym.” In his spare time, he interns at Dorsy Pictures, which is a reality TV production company. He also professionally cosplays as The Force Awakens primary antagonist.

Most importantly, he is a part of the 501st Legion, otherwise known as “Vader’s Fist.” The 501st Legion is an organization formed in 1997 completely made up of volunteers.  “We currently have over 12,000 active members, and are the largest active costuming organization in the world,” Chiu said. The main focus of the 501st is to promote interest in Star Wars, to facilitate the use of costumes, and to contribute to local and worldwide communities.

The 501st’s focus was originally to build the most accurate Star Wars costumes from characters based around the Empire or Dark Side of the Force, but now that focus has shifted more to charity. “Many of the organizations we work with directly, including Make-A-Wish, Children’s Hospital, and many disease-focused organizations such as autism, diabetes, and cancer [are designed to help communities],” Chiu said. In 2016, The 501st donated over $43 million to different charities.

All of the costumes they make must be 100 percent screen-accurate. They can cost anywhere from $200-$8,000, according to Chiu. Chiu’s costume is Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “The process from start to being approved was about one year and a half,” Chiu said. “Some of the pieces are handmade by myself, while others are sourced from around the world. His current position in the 501st is as a public relations officer.

His favorite Star Wars movie is The Force Awakens. “It’s because it’s the movie that made me fall back in love with Star Wars and introduced me to the 501st.”

Chiu also has very fond memories of his time at the 501st. “About two months ago, we received a special request from Make-A-Wish to attend a wish granting ceremony at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children,” Chiu said. “Brayden (7) requested to meet Kylo Ren. I had the opportunity to present the wish (which was to go to Disney World) and a lightsaber! His jaw dropped from the moment we walked out.”

Another memorable experience of his was when “A group of 501st, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs got to be selected for a Children’s Hospital Visit,” Chiu said. “Seeing their faces light up when we walked into their rooms was incredible and reminds me why I’m doing this.”

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