All posts by Chrysalis

Traveler. Photographer. Artist. Christian. Professional Travel Consultant. Fan of Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, Harry Potter. Explore the world with me!

Harnessing the Power of Fashion at the 6th Annual Her Universe Fashion Show

Ashley Eckstein, founder of Her Universe, believes in the power of dreams.  And she has dreamed bigger than anyone may have dared.  She built a brand and a fan community based on positivity and is always looking for new ways to give back. 

Thus, what started as a novel programming addition to the San Diego Comic-Con lineup in 2014 has grown to be a destination of its own.  Welcome to the hottest runway for geek couture – the 6th Annual Her Universe Fashion Show at the 50th Anniversary of San Diego Comic-Con.

DJ Amanda Jones returns to set the beat for the Fashion Show

Showcasing the Power of Fashion

Thousands of cosplayers and fashion fans of all ages gathered at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on July 18, 2019 to celebrate the hottest couture reflecting their fandoms.  DreamWorks’ animated series: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (on Netflix) inspired the theme.  Twenty-four finalists were chosen to present their creations on the runway, showcasing this year’s theme: the Power of Fashion.

Through the Her Universe Fashion Show, Ashley Eckstein has created a supportive community of fashion creatives who uplift one another.  Year after year, we see designers return – whether as judges, or as finalists – ready to cheer each other on.  This is truly rare in the world of fashion and retail.

But, this is Ashley’s Universe.  And she has invited us all to join in.

Judges and Sponsors

We saw some familiar – and some new faces – at the judging table this year.  Her Universe Fashion Show partners Hot Topic, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, and Disney Parks were represented.  And following tradition, the winners from last year’s Fashion Show also returned as judges.

Here was the distinguished panel.

Ed Labay (VP, GMM, Hot Topic) – and key partner of Her Universe

Liz Munoz (CEO, Torrid)

Merit Leighton (Voice actor, “Frosta” in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power)

Michaela Dietz (Voice actor, “Amethyst” in Steven Universe)

Lisa Baldzicki (VP Parks Merchandise & Product Development, Disney Parks)

Meghan Camarena (geek culture influencer @strawburry17)

Cynthia Kirkland (@athel_artistry, 2018 Judge’s Choice winner)

Jane Burson (@janemakesstuff, 2018 Singer Sewing Winner), and

Kristi Siedow Thompson (@ksiedowthompson, 2018 Audience Winner)

At stake: two designers win a contract with pop icon retailer Hot Topic to create an exclusive licensed apparel line.  This year’s winners will design a Her Universe fashion line for Wonder Woman: 1984.

Last year’s Fashion Show winners (from left) Kristi Siedow Thompson, Jane Burson, and Cynthia Kirkland created a Marvel Avengers: Endgame fashion line that became one of Her Universe’s best-selling ever. 

Cartoon Network and BoxLunch again sponsored this year’s Junior Designer Competition, themed to Steven Universe.  Created in 2018, this separate contest allowed younger designers to show off their fandoms and skills.   

Swag bags

Guests never leave the Her Universe Fashion Show empty handed.  Swag bags have been a tradition since the beginning. 

This year, the bags included She-Ra swords or tiaras…empowering us all to join in.  A copy of Pop Insider magazine featured an article on Her Universe, and a back cover feature.  Performa provided a Marvel Avengers ‘Iron Spider’ shaker bottle.  Coupons, pins, buttons, and stickers rounded out the gifts.

Some lucky attendees also won gift cards from sponsor @BoxLunchgifts.

‘For the honor of Greyskull…’

Every year, Ashley Eckstein unveils an astounding gown to open the Her Universe Fashion Show.  In previous years, Ashley showcased an Ahsoka gown made from LEGO bricks, a shimmering Cinderella gown, even a Funko POP gown made from Jack Skellington heads. 

This year, Ashley amazed with a transforming gown based on DreamWorks’ She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.  Starting as ‘Adora,’ she walked on stage and said the magic words…

“For the honor of Greyskull…’   

With smoke effects, she transformed before our very eyes into She-Ra. Even her hair transformed! 

Ashley welcomed us all to celebrate an evening where fashion has the power to uplift your mood, and help you express your true inner geek.  She also announced that she will be voicing one of the characters in the Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

Just in case you weren’t there, here’s our YouTube video of the transforming gown.

Collaborative genius

And the genius behind Ashley’s curated couture looks?  It is none other than Andrew MacLaine (@andrewmaclaine), Audience Winner from the very first Her Universe Fashion Show in 2014.  Andrew has worked with Ashley’s demanding traveling schedule over the past five years, sometimes creating gowns without a fitting until the very end.  And the results are pure magic.

This She-Ra transformation gown took almost a month to create, with over 5,000 hand-sewn beads.  Andrew shopped multiple stores to find the perfect fabric that would not wrinkle when packed in.  He explained that the white gown is ‘hidden in plain sight’ – inside-out, and tucked into the jacket. 

There would have been more beads, except they started catching on the red Adora jacket during the transformation rehearsals.

Ashley also enlisted the help of designer Harmony Leiker (@harmonylanddesigns) to create the metal accessories and complete the She-Ra look.

Harmony Leiker is a four-year veteran of the Her Universe Fashion Show (last year, presenting her Rapunzel-inspired gown).  Using self-taught expertise in metal work, she fashioned She-Ra’s golden gauntlets and transforming winged tiara.

Andrew is quick to give credit to Harmony, and emphasized how this was truly a positive collaboration.  They exchanged sketches, color concepts, even beads to ‘plus’ the design.  In the end, they forged a new friendship.

Together, Ashley Eckstein (‘She-Ra’), with Andrew MacLaine (‘Bow’) and Harmony Leiker (‘Glimmer’) were unstoppable.  The end result was nothing short of spectacular.

See the introduction of Andrew and Harmony in our video here: 

New fashion lines

Ashley then announced their newest fashion lines, now available at and  One of my favorites was the new Loki dress.  With an interwoven bodice pattern and gold foil Loki accents, this piece was stunning. They also presented new Star Wars and She-Ra-inspired looks.

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Kiki’s Delivery Service, Her Universe revealed new Studio Ghibli separates with accessories like the Kiki’s Delivery Service cross-body purse and jewelry.

For the first time ever, Her Universe announced a Harry Potter fashion line to let your House spirit shine.   Models walked the runway in sweater dresses and comfy unisex hoodie robes, available for each House in Hogwarts. 

Her Universe also presented three dresses inspired by heroines in the Potterverse:  a powder-blue satin Fleur Delacour dress with shoulder cape, a Hermione Granger Yule Ball dress, and Luna Lovegood’s lavender Christmas party dress.

A ‘Royal’ co-host

Ashley enlisted co-host Tiffany Smith (@tiffany_smith), who recently played Meghan Markle in the Lifetime movie “Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal.” 

Together, we tapped into our inner She-Ra to open the Fashion Show.

Geek couture making headlines across the galaxy

Twenty-four finalists were chosen to bring their geek couture to the runway at San Diego Comic-Con.  Their creations were inspired by fandoms ranging from Disney to Star Wars, Marvel to Lord of the Rings.  Here were some of the (mostly Disney-related) highlights.

Ericka Angiuli’s (@Eangiuli) Avengers gown was truly Marvel-ous.

Kimberly Burns (@Kberry723) packed a galaxy of Star Wars details into her Jyn Erso-inspired gown entitled “Heart of Kyber.”

Olivia Mears (@avantgeek) presented a multi-layered She-Ra pantsuit that embraced the theme of the evening.

Jill Nofziger (@jillnndesign) infused color into her Maleficent gown.  

Brianna Casper (@Ghost_Banana) added a touch of the macabre to her Queen of Hearts interpretation “Off With Your Head.”

Duck Couture (Wooo-Ooo!): Liz Todd (@ambrose_cosplay) created a transforming gown worthy of Scrooge McDuck, complete with a money bag, gold coin sequins, and Scrooge McDuck dollar bills lining the jacket. 

“The Spirit of Hope” tapped into Lisa Truong’s (@a_siren) inner Jedi.

Hailey Jensen (@haileyjensenart) was ready for the ball with her Cinderella gown, “Dreams Come True.”

Who carries a Han Solo-in-carbonite purse? Why, it’s Heather Smith (@Geekanista5) in her Boba Fett pantsuit.

Even Oogie Boogie was celebrated with Wes Jenkins’ (@artofwesjenkins) glowing gown with parka.

There were so many other notable entries. Here are Lizard Leigh’s (@HeyLizardLeigh) Steven Universe transforming gown, Kathryn Henzler’s (@fullmetal_flamingo) Galadriel interpretation, and Andrea Ohnesorge’s (@spectacular1771) colorful ‘My Unicorn.’

Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Batman at the San Diego Comic-Con Museum

The Her Universe Fashion Show was honored to be included in an inaugural display at the San Diego Comic-Con museum.  Celebrating 50 years of SDCC and 80 years of Batman, Ashley Eckstein was asked to wear something appropriately themed to the opening gala.

She called Andrew MacLaine, and he created this stunning Batman gown for her in just one day!  A new record, even for Andrew!

This full-length sequined gown was black and gold and sparkling all over.  I loved the prominent Batman symbol, as well as the details in the neck line. 

50 Years of Happy Haunts, and there’s room for a thousand

Judge Ed Labay and co-host Tiffany Smith called upon Madame Leota to introduce Disney’s Haunted Mansion fashion line for Hot Topic.  Answering the call, Ashley materialized in a Haunted Mansion-themed bridal pantsuit.

This look was designed by 2015 Audience Award Winner Leetal Platt (@leetal_weapon).  It was, she explained, a modern interpretation of a Victorian wedding gown. 

Accompanying Ashley were models sporting the new Haunted Mansion separates.

Mental Health Awareness

Her Universe has always stood up against bullying.  This year, Ashley Eckstein is also shining a light on childhood mental illness.  Did you know what one in five children lives with a mental illness? 

Along with Nationwide Children’s hospital, Ashley wants to break down stigmas associated with mental illness. She is an active partner for children’s mental health advocacy and research.  “Because we don’t wear our thoughts on our sleeves…” just talking about mental health helps the #ONOURSLEEVES movement.

Using some of the icons from Nationwide Children’s hospital, Andrew MacLaine created a custom-printed fabric to create a unique look for Ashley.  The fabric came back with different qualities than expected, so he couldn’t create the original butterfly concept gown he had originally sketched. 

Going back to the drawing board, Andrew made four new dresses before he was happy with this last one that Ashley premiered at the Fashion Show.  All this, in five days.

Ashley announced a new shirt with these icons, declaring “I Break Stigmas.”  Proceeds of this shirt will benefit Nationwide Children’s for behavioral health research and advocacy. 

Junior Design Competition Winners Announced

This year, there were so many excellent Steven Universe designs from the Junior division, that the judges chose three Winners and three Honorable Mentions.  Here they are pictured with Ashley.

Winners: Emerson (in green), Emily (in pink ombre), and Kayla (in royal blue). Honorable Mentions (from left): Canada, Mercy, and Wesley.

Fashion Show Winners Announced

All the finalists were invited to walk down the runway one last time before the winners are announced.

And the envelope please ….       

Judge’s Winner:  Adria Renee (@adria.renee) – Destination: Isla Nublar – Jurassic Park

Adria is a self-taught designer, and a five-year veteran of the Her Universe Fashion Show.  Armed with cocktails, Adria Renee was ready to enjoy the resort island of Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park.

Her design was glamorous, yet playful – not something you would necessarily expect to be paired with dinosaurs.  The bodice contained carnivorous dinosaurs as well as tropical plant details, all enhanced with delicate beading.  Beads on the front spelled out: ‘dinosaurs eat man.’

To complete the look, Adria created a burn-out fabric scarf with the Jurassic Park banner – “WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH.” 

These were Adria’s other fantastic entries in previous years of the Her Universe Fashion Show

2015 – “It’s Bigger on the Inside” – Dr. Who TARDIS design – Judge’s runner up

2016 – “Diana on the Town” – transforming Wonder Woman gown

2017 – “The Haute of Te Fiti” – inspired by Moana

2018 – Rebellion Reborn – inspired by the Last Jedi

Audience Winner: Sarah Hambly (@officialhambly) “BODAK Green – Marvel’s Loki”

Sarah is also a self-taught designer, and a four-year veteran of the Her Universe Fashion Show.  Her entry was a Loki-inspired silk taffeta pantsuit with a flowing skirt and wide-brimmed hat.

The pantsuit is studded with over 121,000 bohemian crystal rhinestones, heat-pressed onto the fabric 2,600 at a time and arranged in an ombré pattern.  Sarah did a custom-embroidered golden Loki helmet on the back bodice, and on hat. 

Gold foil accents trimmed the skirt, with Loki helmets printed on the interior lining of the skirt.

The look is completed with a Tesseract purse, and Loki boots from Hot Topic (with extra crystal bling). The entire project took three months to complete.

These were Sarah’s other fantastic entries in previous years of the Her Universe Fashion Show

2016 – “Hannibal’s Design” – inspired by Hannibal

2017 – “Annville’s Revival” – Preacher

2018 – “King Couture” – inspired by Black Panther

Here’s our video of the winner announcements:    

Closing thoughts …

Congratulations to all who participated in the Her Universe Fashion Show 2019!  There were so many gorgeous designs, I could not include them all here.  If you’re interested, I also have more videos on my YouTube channel @ChrysalisTravel.

I love Andrew MacLaine’s comments about Ashley Eckstein. 

“She-Ra…shows the other people that are in trouble how to help themselves, and that they are heroes too, and that they had it in them all the time…  This is what Ashley’s doing, she’s kinda like She-Ra…And she’s helping all of us to realize the powers that we have.”

Ashley finds strength and beauty in everyone she meets, and consistently uses her platform to lift others up.  From fashion designers to writers, she provides opportunities to make dreams come true.  Standing up for causes such as anti-bullying and children’s mental health, Ashley is not afraid to tackle tough topics.

Perhaps that is why she is a real-life Princess.

Ashley and David Eckstein

This Article was initially published on on July 26, 2019. See more on my Author Page here.

For more on the history of the Her Universe Fashion Show, see our articles from 2018, 2017, and 2016.

Celebrating Disney’s Easter and 35th Anniversary at Tokyo DisneySea


I’m catching up on posting my articles written for  Here’s an article I wrote from our last visit to Tokyo DisneySea, highlighting their Easter celebrations in June 2018. 

Disney’s Easter usually lasts an entire season at Tokyo Disney Resort.  This year, with the new 35th Anniversary festivities at Tokyo Disneyland, all of Easter was focused at Tokyo DisneySea.  This nautical-inspired Park also enjoyed special décor and a commemorative water pageant for 35th Anniversary.

Parades and Shows

Tokyo DisneySea runs more parades and shows than any other Disney Park that I know.  It’s truly a challenge to see the Park, experience the rides, and catch all the water parades that are held at the park-front Mediterranean Harbor.  And that doesn’t include the stage shows.  You’ll certainly make your step-count goals on a DisneySea day.

During Disney’s Easter season (March 27 – June 6, 2018), DisneySea has the “Fashionable Easter” parade twice daily.  New also is the 35th Anniversary “Happiest Celebration on the Sea” parade, scheduled twice daily.  As darkness falls, don’t miss “Fantasmic,” an impressive water spectacle staged entirely on moving boats. 

That’s five parades.  No wonder the first parade starts only 30 minutes after park opening. 

Then, there are five showtimes each of stage shows: “Big Band Beat” and “Out of Shadowland.” Plus continuous showings of “My Friend Duffy” from 9:30 am to 5 pm.

35th Anniversary Water Pageant

Tokyo DisneySea is celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Tokyo Disney Resort.  The “Happiest Celebration on the Sea” parade features Mickey and friends on one float that circles Mediterranean Harbor. 

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy are wearing their 35th Anniversary costumes that match their “Dreaming Up!” parade costumes.  Since this is Tokyo DisneySea, they are joined by Duffy, ShellieMay, Gelatoni, and their newest friend, ballerina bunny StellaLou. 

The performances we saw were modified due to weather, so we’re not sure what else would have been included.  Many Tokyo DisneySea parades incorporate jet skis, flying kites and fireworks.  Here’s video from the parade:  

And the finale:   

“Happiest Mickey” Statues    

In honor of the 35th “Happiest Celebration,” Tokyo Disney Resort had multiple Mickey statues placed throughout the Parks.  ‘Mickey marks the spot’ on the DisneySea Park map.  Here are some of our favorites, complete with nicknames. 

Admiral Mickey guards Mediterranean Harbor, under the watchful eye of Mount Prometheus.

Arabian Nights Mickey enjoys a drink in front of the two-story Caravan Carousel.

Gone Fishin’ Mickey is on the lookout for the next big catch in Cape Cod on the American Waterfront.

Lost River Delta Mickey takes after Indiana Jones in seeking forbidden treasures.

Hola, amigos! Sombrero Mickey greets you in front of Miguel’s Cantina. It’s so endearing that cast members use phrases like ‘Hola, amigos’ and ‘Adios’ to greet guests in Lost River Delta.  They also used Italian greetings on the gondolas in Mediterranean Harbor.

Snorkeling Mickey conducts his underwater orchestra in front of Mermaid Lagoon.

This playful Mickey gets squirted in the face by a stowaway fish. The lights of Mermaid Lagoon glow in the background.  I can’t decide if this Mickey looks like more like a sailor or a gondolier. 

Searching for Captain Nemo! Mickey explores near the Nautilus on Mysterious Island.

Stylishly steampunk Mickey has a giggle near “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

Disney’s Easter with a 35th Anniversary Flair

Throughout the Park, there were so many decorations custom-branded with both 35th Anniversary and Easter.  “Disney’s Easter 2018” decorated the entry portal with flanking 35th “Happiest Celebration” medallions and banners.  Travel tip: for a less crowded experience, go on a rainy weekday.

Guests loved taking pictures with this grand egg display in Mediterranean Harbor.  “Fashionable Easter” is the theme at Tokyo DisneySea.  This special Easter egg commemorates the event.

In true attention to detail, even “Fashionable Easter” umbrellas in were branded with “35.”

On the American Waterfront, two large Easter baskets drew crowds in front of Tower of Terror. Everyone queued patiently for their turn for a photo. 

The queue was so long for this gazebo photo op, I thought it was for a character meet and greet! This photo is from the Tokyo DisneySea website.

What amazes me is the attention to detail, and the budget TDS spent on decorations.  Everything 35th and Easter can only be used during this year’s Easter season.  Imagine buying new custom umbrellas for your tables and using them for only two and half months.  This sure makes an impression.

Easter Egg Hunt and Park Decorations

Similar to other Disney Parks, Tokyo DisneySea had an Easter Egg hunt.  Buy a map. Find all the eggs. Get a prize.  These were some of the delightfully decorated eggs.

Nigel steals the show with Nemo-themed eggs next to the SeaRider attraction. See Bruce and Destiny?

This Saludos Amigos egg rests in Lost River Delta.

This restaurant – now Miguel’s El Dorado Cantina – has been re-themed since the release of CoCo.  It showcases beautiful art on the walls and the egg. 

Mickey and Minnie eggs welcome guests at the entrance to Tokyo DisneySea.


Vibrant Easter banners color coordinate with floral blooms in Mediterranean Harbor.

Intricate eggs with stained-glass shells also dotted the Park.  We found Chip and Dale, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy eggs.  They glowed elegantly at night.


The Easter spirit carried on – all the way to the monorail.  Monorail Pink was Easter-themed as well.

High Fashion on the High Seas

The “Fashionable Easter” parade at Tokyo DisneySea changes slightly each year.  It is always an array of color and high-energy fun.  Incorporating a cast of 115 performers with Disney characters on five boats and three stages, “Fashionable Easter” is certain to lift your spirits.

Disney characters and their friends are dressed to represent each of the themed lands – or ‘ports’ – of DisneySea. 

They all sport their bunny ears on their hats. 


Tokyo Disney Parks have a much bigger emphasis on female characters and sidekicks than our domestic Parks. Clarice escorts Chip and Dale.  Daisy dances alongside Donald.  Max boogies with Goofy,


Saludos Amigos friends play prominently in the Lost River Delta.

Duffy and pals are absolute celebrities at Tokyo DisneySea.  This is the first time I’m seeing StellaLou, their newest bunny friend.  She was first introduced for Easter 2017.


 The boats have floral balloons that suddenly inflate to add decorative flair.

Here’s another glimpse of the parade in our video:

Tokyo DisneySea always holds a special enchantment for me.  It’s the only Disney Park of its type in the world.  What do you think of “Fashionable Easter: at Tokyo DisneySea?  And the themed-in 35th Anniversary festivities?

A visit to Tokyo Disney Resort would not be complete without exploring the 35th “Happiest Celebration” Tokyo Disneyland. Or getting a peek at crave-worthy Tokyo Disney merchandise. And eating your way through delectable seasonal food offerings.  Ready for a glimpse?  Follow along as we take a closer look at the Tokyo Disney experience.

This article was originally published on June 11, 2018 on  See all my articles on my author page!

Her Universe Fashion Show Dazzles at 5th Anniversary Milestone


What started as an implausible idea has grown to be the top “geek couture” event of the year.  What’s this?  The Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic-Con. 

For five years now, Ashley Eckstein – accomplished actress, author, and founder of fashion icon brand Her Universe – has spearheaded the Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic-Con.  Each year, this event grows in size and scope, as hundreds gather to celebrate the height of geek fashion. 

Ashley’s determination to pay it forward

Ashley Eckstein has worked hard for every inch of her success.  As the voice of “Ahsoka Tano,” a then-new Star Wars: The Clone Wars character, she wasn’t initially embraced by all.  When she saw a lack of apparel for female fans and applied for a Lucasfilm license, she was initially turned down. 

These stumbling blocks never stopped Ashley in her determination to pursue her dreams.  As she writes in her new book, It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make it Happen: “Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘No, you can’t.  [T]he universe is truly yours to take hold of and…you have the power to make anything happen!”

Ashley Eckstein

What’s uncommon in Hollywood – but second nature to Ashley Eckstein – is her spirit of giving back and creating opportunities for others.  After founding Her Universe, she recognized a need.  Fashion designers didn’t have a platform to showcase their talents and passion for their fandoms. 

This was the birth of the Her Universe Fashion Show.  Partnering with pop culture retailer Hot Topic from the beginning, Ashley created a runway and a prize: work with the Hot Topic team to create a new fashion line to be sold in its 693 stores nationwide.  Winners from previous years’ Fashion Shows have gone on to successful fashion and art careers, including costuming for Marvel Studios.

Bigger and better than ever

The 5th annual Her Universe Fashion Show exceeded all expectations.  Fans queued up in eager anticipation for hours at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on July 19, 2018. 

This year’s Fashion Show was about celebrating milestones.  It’s the 25th Anniversary of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Can you believe the Powerpuff Girls turn 20 this year?  It’s also the 10th Anniversary for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  (As a gift to fans, executive producer Dave Filoni announced the return of The Clone Wars earlier in the day).

The waiting area was decorated with displays from sponsor, Loungefly.   


Loungefly – creator of coveted accessories such as the sold-out Rose Gold Minnie backpack at Disney Parks – brought cases of hot new merch to the show.


Quickly, the ballroom filled to capacity.  Guests in the overflow area were treated to a live simulcast on screens outside the ballroom.  No one was left behind.

DJ Amanda Jones returned, adding grace – and bass – to the Fashion Show. 

The swag bag

This year’s swag bag was the biggest yet.  Of course, everyone went home with a copy of Ashley’s book It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make it Happen.  Guests also received a glasses case from sponsor Zenni Optical with a voucher worth $250. 

Studio Ghibli was represented with a My Neighbor Totoro T-shirt.  Guests also collected a Star Wars Performa shaker drink bottle, Hallmark Itty Bitty plush, DC Pumps miniature superhero heels, a Loungefly pin, and discount codes from sponsors Hot Topic and Espionage cosmetics.

An eye for fashion – introducing the judges

Each year, the judges choose one Her Universe Fashion Show winner.  A second designer wins by Audience Choice.  This year, a third designer was chosen by sponsor, SINGER® Sewing Company based on excellence in sewing / construction.  Our distinguished judges were

  • Cindy Levitt: Senior Vice President of Licensing for Hot Topic, BoxLunch, and Her Universe
  • Todd Keller: Merchandising Manager for Loungefly
  • Joanna Fogt-Sohn: Senior Creative Director for Licensing and Merchandising at Cartoon Network
  • Olivia Mears: SINGER® Sewing Ambassador
  • Jane Francisco: Editor-In-Chief of Good Housekeeping
  • 2017 Her Universe Fashion Show winners: Rose Ivy, Grace Duvaland Lindsay Orndorff 

Premiere of the Her Universe “Destination Disney” line

The show started with the premiere of last year’s Fashion Show winners’ Disney Princess designs. Entitled “Destination Disney,” each of the winners chose two Princesses as inspirations for their head-to-toe fashion lines.


Rose Ivy created a Rapunzel-inspired ombré dress and Tiana cold shoulder romper.  Lindsay Onrdorff is modeling her Mulan green hoodie vest and jogger pants.  She also designed a Moana layered top with print skirt. 


Grace Duval is wearing her Ariel design: purple smocked shell top and green denim jeans with scale details.  Her second Princess was Jasmine, creating a powder blue off-the-shoulder crop top and pants to match.  The Destination Disney line – complete with make-up brushes, eyeshadow palette, purses, earrings, and “Mu-shoe” – is available at Hot Topic and online at Her Universe.

Ashley models the first-ever Funko Pop! Gown

Ashley Eckstein has been known to set records with her Fashion Show gowns, designed the last four years by 2014 Her Universe Fashion Show winner, Andrew MacLaine.  In 2016, Ashley wore the first-ever LEGO Ahsoka couture gown.  Last year, Andrew created the dreamy Cinderella gown in just three days.

This year, Ashley challenged Andrew to set another record: make the first-ever Funko Pop! gown.  In honor of the 25th Anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas, the gown was made from Jack Skellington Pop! heads.  Wow.


This gown was a true labor of love.  After days of brainstorming, Andrew worked an average of 9 hours daily for three weeks to construct this piece of art.  It weighed 40 pounds, and contained 500 Jack Skellington Funko Pop! heads.  One large Jack Skellington Pop! accented the front of the gown.  Each Pop! head had to be pre-drilled, then assembled with heavy gauge wire from the hardware store. 

There were three versions of the bodice, explained Andrew.  An earlier version had slivers of the Pop! heads lining the outside, but he found the edges to be too sharp.  The final bodice was custom sewn from fabric, then then layered with white textured foam pieces using epoxy, rubber cement, and contact cement. 


In case you’re wondering: no, Ashley can’t sit down in the gown. And Funko sent Andrew just the heads, so no Pop! figures were harmed in the making of this dress.

As a testament to Andrew’s skill, he created this custom gown without a fitting, as Ashley was on her nationwide book tour.  Of course, Andrew crafted his complementary Oogie Boogie suit, made from burlap.

Want to see Ashley’s gown reveal?  Here’s our video:

Clone Wars 10th Anniversary fashion line premieres

Ashley enlisted her fellow Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice actors for a photo shoot showcasing the new Clone Wars fashion line.  It includes Her Universe and Our Universe pieces including an Ahsoka Tano dress and scarf, Darth Maul jacket, Obi-Wan long Jedi sweater, and Padme jacket. 

Matt Lanter (Anakin) and Dee Bradley Baker (voice of all the Clones) joined Ashley on stage to model the Anakin hoodie and Captain Rex jacket and T-shirt.

Let the contest begin…

Twenty four fan-inspired designs walked down the runway.  There were so many outstanding entries.  Here were some of the highlights.

Marvel-inspired gowns included ones from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther.       

Disney gowns were well represented.  This is the first Disney Parks attraction gown, featuring Space Mountain.

Pocahontas, Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, and Rapunzel gowns graced the runway.       

Pixar films lit up the stage, with these interpretations from Wall-E (Eve) and Coco (Alebrijes).   

Star Wars proved most impressive with these runway hits from The Last Jedi.   

Other cinematic inspirations drew from Godzilla and Harry Potter.  The Godzilla gown came complete with pockets and a ‘tail’ (removable train).  The Fawkes gown transformed from ‘ashes’ into a fiery Phoenix.

New Junior Designer Showcase – empowering the next generation

Ashley premiered the Junior Designer Showcase during intermission, sponsored by Cartoon Network.  This contest gave young designers aged six to seventeen a chance to create a look inspired by the Powerpuff Girls. 

Four contest winners were paired with professionals and taken through the fashion design process – from concept drawing through final creation.  Ashley has found yet another way to pay it forward. 

Miranda Robles-Tuttle, Zoe Chavez, Jelly Austin, and Corina Marie Smith walked the runway in their original designs.  They will now create a Powerpuff Girls piece to retail at sponsor BoxLunch.

The Doctor is in the house!

Jodie Whittaker, the 13th Doctor, made a surprise appearance at the Her Universe Fashion Show.  Jodie was in Hall H earlier in the day for her BBC Doctor Who panel.

In an impromptu performance, she donned the new Doctor Who trenchcoat by Her Universe and walked the runway with hood drawn.      

It so happened that Ashley had a sonic screwdriver on hand – the moment was perfect.

Jodie Whittaker spoke of her new costume, saying “Any age, any gender…anyone can wear it.  You’re not dressing as a girl and you’re not dressing as a boy.  You’re dressing as The Doctor.”

The results are in…

After much deliberation, the votes were tallied.  Here’s a look at all our designers and their models as they took one last walk down the runway.

Ashley pulled the winning envelopes out of the Loungefly bag.

The Judge’s Winner:  Cynthia Kirkland, “The Couture of Water” – The Shape of Water.  This gown’s gilded edges were achieved with painted gold pigments. 


Singer Sewing Winner:  Jane Burson, “Howl-in’ For You” – Howl’s Moving Castle.  Jane modeled her own design, which incorporated 120 yards of feather trim.


The Audience Choice Winner:  Kristi Siedow-Thompson, “PWL Chic: Ripley in the Powerloader” – Aliens.  Mesh details incorporated into the jacket created translucent panels. 


So many emotions were apparent as these designers and models took a final bow.

See the winners announced on our video here:  

The designers went to work the very next day to work on an Avengers 4 collection for Hot Topic. 

It’s a wrap!

As we wrap on another Her Universe Fashion Show, we wanted to share some last photos.  Ashley Eckstein has created an incomparable platform for talented fans to showcase their fashion design skills.

The prize is real, tangible work in the fashion industry with pop culture powerhouse Hot Topic.  The results are long lasting, not just because of the fashions created.  But because of the friendships made.


In the process, Ashley has promoted a culture of support and collaboration.  It’s visible in how the designers and models are truly happy for each other.  After every Her Universe Fashion Show, participants gather to share their design journeys with guests and celebrate together. 

Ashley summed it up best in her recent Instagram post. 

“I work tirelessly to create a safe and uplifting community for Her Universe and I do believe that positivity is contagious… Our show is a competition, but instead of having a catty, backstabbing and competitive environment, I’ve witnessed a group of incredible people who support, empower and help each other. Everyone came together to genuinely support one another. This is the message I am choosing to take away from SDCC 2018. Let’s keep this going!”

Thank you, Ashley.

This article was originally published on on July 25, 2018.  See my Author Page here.   

Want more, see our articles on the Her Universe Fashion Show 2017 and 2016.

From Tikis to Princesses – the Latest News from Her Universe

While my latest article from San Diego Comic-Con was just published on, here is a look back at our WonderCon update from her Universe …

What are the newest creations from the winners of last year’s Her Universe Fashion Show? We gathered at WonderCon 2018 to find out. For the first time, they announced the theme of the new fashion line: Disney Princesses, to be sold exclusively at Hot Topic stores.  It was worth the wait.

But first, a little background. To say that Ashley Eckstein – founder of Her Universe – has a devoted fan following is an understatement. This fangirl-turned-entrepreneur has worked tirelessly to be inclusive. And generate opportunities for others.

From creating endless wardrobe options for fangirls around the world, to giving designers a chance to bring their dreams from ‘runway to retail’ – Ashley Eckstein has justly earned her massive fanbase.  And now she gets to share her story.

This article was originally published on 

Dreams Really Do Come True

Ashley has worked tirelessly to make her dreams come true.  From actress to self-made entrepreneur – she could not have imagined that she would be working with Disney and Hot Topic, while helping others along the way.  She created the Her Universe Fashion Show – now an annual event at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) – to give designers a platform to showcase their intricate cosplay designs. 

“If you can dream it, you can do it,” is what she learned from Disney.  And reality grew to be even bigger than the dream. 

Ashley just completed her book: It’s Your Universe – You Have the Power to Make it Happen, releasing on May 8, 2018.  She also announced her nationwide book signing tour, spanning cities from Orlando to Anaheim. 

Our ‘Ultimate Fangirl’ wanted to share her story, to “give back what Disney gave to me.”  She hopes that her story will inspire others to be “Dream warriors…To believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you no.”  Ashley’s message: “Yes I Can.”

She really practices what she preaches, as the rest of the Hot Topic team attested to.  It’s really hard to tell Ashley ‘no.’  But she is all about working together. “It takes teamwork to make the dream work!”

Ashley’s Hot Topic Team

Introducing: Our Universe

After the huge success of Her Universe, guys felt a little left out of the fan-fashion trend.  Now, Ashley has included everyone in the family with Our Universe.  This newest line features lifestyle clothing in fun themes. 

At the Disney Store launch last month, Our Universe featured activewear for kids and tweens with Black Panther and Princess themes.  Pictured below are new Star Wars lightsaber-themed activewear pieces for the whole family. (Although, “this is not my family,” Ashley remarks with a smile). 

Behind this Our Universe Star Wars line is the mantra: “The Young are often underestimated. But when destiny calls, the chosen have no choice. Believe in yourself or no one else will. You are a Force in training.” ~ quotes from Star Wars: Clone Wars.

We have also seen a few Our Universe men’s items at Hot Topic-owned Box Lunch stores. 

Saying Aloha to a new Disney Tiki Line

photo from Hot Topic website

Her Universe introduced their Disney tiki-inspired line, just released on March 24th at Hot Topic stores and online.  These come in four prints: Moana, Lilo and Stitch, Mickey and Minnie, and Peter Pan’s Mermaid Lagoon.  Ashley is wearing the red Lilo and Stitch tiki dress in her photo above.

For the first time, the collection will include coordinating men’s Our Universe aloha wear, as well as matching shoes, handbags, and accessories!  Ashley admitted that she squealed with joy when she saw the Lilo and Stitch heels.  

Avengers Infinity War Lifestyle Collection

Are you excited about Avengers Infinity War?  I can’t imagine combining that many characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe all together in one film.  We’ll finally see what they’ve been teasing with each of the Infinity Stones, and Thanos’ gauntlet. 

Well, designing a fashion line around Avengers Infinity War was difficult, because of the very fact that there are “thirty relevant characters.”  Someone will be disappointed that their favorite character was not represented. 

That is why the collection is designed around each of the Infinity Stones, and not around individual characters.  Here are the six Infinity Stone colors, and their meanings.

  • Purple: Power
  • Blue: Space
  • Red: Reality
  • Yellow: Mind
  • Green: Time
  • Orange: Soul

And to tie them all together: the gold (reversible) jacket representing Thanos’ gauntlet.  Ashley is also wearing an Avengers logo tee that has symbols of the individual characters.

Fashion Show winners create new Disney Princess line

Remember our SDCC Her Universe Fashion Show winners from last year?  Relive the moment here in the announcement video:

Well, Grace Duval, Rose Ivy, and Lindsay Orndorff (from left) have been hard at work creating not just fashions, but also accessories in a head-to-toe Princess line for Hot Topic.

The new line is titled “destination Disney.”  As Ed Labay (VP GMM, Hot Topic) explained, the Disney Princesses have a deep emotional connection for many people… that ‘ahhh’ factor.  They take you back to a special place – a destination where you want to go.

This Disney Princess line will allow guests to ‘take cosplay into the real world,’ and ‘embrace Disney in their everyday life.’

Each of the Fashion Show winners chose two Princesses.  The panel revealed a concept drawing (by artist Ashley Taylor) of three creations.  Designers then described their projects, although no other visuals were provided. 

Ashley introduced us to Symantha Perrera (originally from Think Geek), lead fashion designer at Her Universe / Hot Topic.  Have you fallen in love with the Disney Dress Shop Collection at the Disney Parks?  Thank Symantha.

She described her creative process in constructing new fashions, as she brought Grace, Rose, and Lindsay to meet the Hot Topic and Disney licensing teams.  It’s a complicated balance, involving intellectual property and fashion research. 

It was remarkable, hearing each designer talk about their music choices, and sources of inspiration for each of their designs.  Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect.

Ariel and Jasmine

Grace Duval chose Ariel and Jasmine. Ariel’s theme is “Ready to Stand.”  The collection features jeans with fish scale details and Ariel’s castle in a holographic print.  The scalloped top has purple shell details. Holographic print shoes embossed with Ariel’s castle complete the look.

Grace also designed an dinglehopper makeup brush set for Ariel’s collection.

Jasmine’s design includes a crave-worthy flying carpet suede purse, with metal handle details. 

Rapunzel and Tiana

Rose Ivy chose Rapunzel and Tiana.  Rapunzel’s theme is “Live your dream.”  Rose incorporated the sun emblem around the dress neckline, since light was such a strong motif in the film.  Rapunzel chased the light, but ultimately found that the light was within her, she explained. The dress features a lace-up back for perfect fit and ombré shading from purple to pink.

Pascal earrings (that look like Pascal is sitting in your ears) and a Flynn Rider bag complete the look.

Tiana’s theme is “Make it Happen.”  Rose admired her focused, hard-working drive.  The collection will include ‘super cute flats.’

Mulan and Moana

Lindsay Orndorff chose Mulan and Moana.  Mulan’s theme, “Warrior Reflection,” will come complete with “Mu-shoes” – Mushu high-top sneakers. It is a Ping-inspired leisure outfit, mixing both masculine and feminine elements.  The sleeveless top has a hood, with armor and sword details.

Mulan’s collection includes a sword-shaped makeup brush.

Like Mulan, Moana also set off on an adventure to discover who she really was.  Her collection will include perfume, and a Hei Hei bag with wacky eyes.

Release date for Princess Collection

The design task included creating clothing, shoes, make-up, and even perfume.  Since each of these manufacturing processes work on a different time table, the complete Princess collection is scheduled to land a week before San Diego Comic-Con in July. 

Fifth Annual Her Universe Fashion Show

Meanwhile, the team is busy planning for the 5th Annual Her Universe Fashion Show at SDCC, hosted by Hot Topic.  Submissions for design entries will be opening up online “soon.” 

Since there has been so much interest from junior designers, Ashley hosted a junior design workshop at WonderCon. 

For the first time, there will also be a Junior design contest during intermission at the Fashion Show, hosted by Cartoon Network. 

Calling all dreamers and doers out there.  Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of Her Universe’s new fashions. Get your designs ready for the Her Universe Fashion Show coming this July! We’ll see you there!

This article was originally published on on March 30, 2018.  See this article and more on my author page at



Step Aboard Hōkūleʻa: How this Real-Life Voyaging Canoe Inspired Moana


Moana has been such an inspirational force for so many people around the world.  The film has touched not only Polynesians, but people from every walk of life.  So, what inspired Disney filmmakers to send a teenager on a wayfinding quest in a voyaging canoe?

In their research for Moana, Ron Clements, John Musker and Osnat Shurer gathered an “Oceanic Story Trust:” a collection of cultural elders and expert advisors.  One of these experts was Nainoa Thompson, Pwo (master) Navigator of Hōkūleʻa: Hawaii’s real-life voyaging canoe.

Nainoa consulted on wayfinding techniques, and must have also shared experiences from sailing Hōkūleʻa.  Here is a painting of Hōkūleʻa by artist and founder of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), Herb Kawainui Kāne.

Hōkūleʻa painting by Herb Kane

See any similarities with the bigger voyaging canoes in Moana?

Mālama Honua – a Voyage of Goodwill and Stewardship

Hōkūleʻa has just returned from an epic world-wide voyage: Mālama Honua (‘Caring for Island Earth’) from 2014-2017.  During that voyage, Hōkūleʻa sailed 40,300 nautical miles, visiting 23 countries and more than 150 ports of call.

245 crew members worked tirelessly as a team to accomplish this goal.  Overarching was a message of living sustainably on the earth and sharing the Polynesian culture.

Ko Olina Welcomes Hōkūleʻa

Hōkūleʻa was welcomed in Ko Olina Harbor – on the West side of Oahu – on January 3, 2018.  This was part of her mission to thank Hawaiians for their support (Mālama Hawaii), and for public education about their voyages.  Crew members were greeted with flower and Ti leaf lei in an official ceremony.

Guests even brought extra-long plumeria lei as gifts for Hōkūleʻa.

Nainoa was interviewed by television crew.

A Tour of Hōkūleʻa: Layout of the Canoe

Crew members of Hōkūleʻa were so gracious in hosting free impromptu tours for anyone who wanted to visit.  Just drive up to Ko Olina marina, climb aboard, and talk story.

First impression: she is not very big.  As someone who loves ocean cruising, I enjoy having my own cabin comforts.  But even more so, I’ve been on some rough seas. And even on a large ocean liner, you can occasionally feel the motion of the ocean.

This voyaging canoe is made of two floating hulls, with flat deck planks across them.  As I walk across the deck, I notice that there is little to no shade covering.  If I look carefully between the planks, I can see the open water below.

Steering is accomplished with a large rudder paddle at the aft. The rudder (hoe – pronounced ‘HOYee’) is so large, that four crew members at a time may be needed to move it.  (The Hawaiian word pahoehoe (‘pah-HOYee-hoyee’) describing swirled / rippled lava derives from the word hoe – since this type of lava resembles paddle ripples in the water).

Honoring kūpuna

It is said that you can feel the mana, or life energy, of Hōkūleʻa when you sail onboard.  On one of the hulls, there is a plaque acknowledging the kūpuna (elders / ancestors) that have come before.

First is Pele – goddess of fire and volcanoes.  According to legend, Pele sailed across the seas from Tahiti in a canoe, searching for a home.  After a long voyage, she discovered Hawaii, (and now resides in Kilauea volcano on the Big Island).  Next, the plaque honors artist and PVS founder Herb Kāne.

There is a special memorial for Eddie Aikau.  Eddie was a lifeguard and big wave surfer who was lost at sea in 1978, trying to save the crew of Hōkūleʻa after the canoe capsized off of Molokai.

Sailing and Navigating

Hōkūleʻa has two strong masts with sails.  One flies the Hawaiian flag.

There are two Navigator seats towards the aft of the ship.  If you look closely, this one has Nainoa’s name carved into the wood rail on the side.

Culinary Magic

How do you feed a crew of twelve – and keep them happy – for weeks at a time?  Here is the Galley on the open deck, with a propane-powered stove.  The ship’s chef is an expert at cooking everything from seafood to baking cakes on this stove.

Where does the food come from?  Fish are caught on fishing lines, as crew member Mariah is holding up for us.  These are long lines that are trailed behind Hōkūleʻa as she sails through the seas.  Crew members attend to these lines, and wind them back up when a fish is caught.

Mariah is also modeling a life vest used aboard Hōkūleʻa.  Behind her, you can see solar panels on the far aft of the ship.  These are to power satellite phones for emergency communications, and charge camera / video equipment to document their journey.  Nothing else is powered on the ship, as everything is completely manual.

Living Aboard Hōkūleʻa

If you’ve ever been on a boat, the marine head ‘toilet’ takes some getting used to.  Imagine not having a physical toilet on the ship.  How do you go to the bathroom?  This is a question that astronauts often encounter.  Crew members were kind enough to share.

The ‘toilet’ area is at the rear hull, behind the navigator’s seat, near the ship’s name.  There’s a procedure to follow before you can go.  You must alert at least one crew member.  You put on a lifejacket and harness yourself to the boat.  You close the curtain, climb up on the ledge, lean overboard, and aim your ‘okole downwind.

The ‘shower’ is also in this area, as crew members use buckets of sea water to rinse off.  Mariah explained that warm tropical rains allow for welcome fresh water ‘showers’ on deck.

After a long day, you may be looking forward to bedtime.  There are ten bunks placed on boards, each measuring six feet long. Five are arranged end-to-end atop each of the two hulls, covered only by canvas tent material.

If you are taller than 5’10”, things get uncomfortable trying to sleep in these quarters.  If it is raining, or when seas are rough, water soaks through the tent covering.  For a crew of twelve, there are only ten bunks, so people sleep in shifts.  Someone must continuously sail the canoe.

Bunks are laid on flat boards across access openings into the hull.  Mariah showed us an open access port below a bunk, with an artistically-decorated cover.  I peered down, and found it remarkably deep inside the hull.  This is where drinking water, shelf-stable food, and medical supplies go to stay dry.

Safety on the High Seas

What happens if someone falls overboard?  (It’s happened!)  Sailboats don’t exactly have brakes, and can’t turn very easily.  Crew members throw a floatation buoy towards the person and try to pull them in.

Hōkūleʻa always voyages with her sister support ship, the Hikianalia – a modern Polynesian voyaging canoe which has solar and wind energy, and satellite communications technology.  The crew of Hikianalia are there to observe, but do not interfere or assist with the navigation of Hōkūleʻa.

Satellite tracking from Hikianalia allowed the world to follow Hōkūleʻa’s GPS coordinates on the Mālama Honua worldwide voyage in real time.

Herb Kane painting of Hokule’a_2006

What did you think of this quick glimpse into life on a real voyaging canoe?  It’s remarkable that Hōkūleʻa’s voyages may have inspired some of Moana’s story!


Interested in more?  See How Far We’ll Go – Wayfinding Like Moana on Hawaii’s Hōkūleʻa, a revival of the lost Polynesian navigational culture.  Join us as we ‘Talk story’ with Women of Hōkūleʻa, as real-life Moanas share their adventures.  There are excellent resources and teaching guides on the Hōkūleʻa website.


This article was originally published on .  See more articles on my Author Page here!

Talk Story with Women of Hōkūleʻa – Real-Life Moanas Share Their Adventures


Did you know that sailing across the ocean in a voyaging canoe isn’t just something Moana did in a Disney animated feature?  And that some of Maui’s Wayfinding teachings are inspired by real-life Polynesian navigational techniques?

It’s true. All of it.

Welcome to true stories of Hōkūleʻa – Hawaii’s voyaging canoe – as told by her crew, our real-life Moanas.  Traditional wayfinding had gone extinct in Polynesia until Hōkūleʻa was built by the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) in 1973.

With hard work and sacrifice, Hōkūleʻa and her crew became the first to navigate across the seas as their ancestors did over 600 years ago, using only traditional wayfinding techniques.  Read more about Wayfinding like Moana here.

This was their latest achievement – a worldwide voyage. Continue reading Talk Story with Women of Hōkūleʻa – Real-Life Moanas Share Their Adventures

How Far We’ll Go – Wayfinding Like Moana on Hawaii’s Hōkūleʻa

Feel the cool sea breeze brush across your face. Smell the salty mist as waves lap against your canoe.  Squint into the mesmerizing glare as a thousand blazing suns reflect off the water.  See the possibilities beyond the horizon, where the sky meets the sea.  Be as one with the ocean, and the myriad of species she nurtures within her.  This was the inner calling of a Wayfinder named Moana.

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

This was also the calling of ancient Polynesian voyagers who populated the islands of the Pacific Ocean.  Europeans who ‘discovered’ the Pacific islands (on their large ships) found it miraculous that the Polynesian islanders had sailed thousands of miles across open ocean in canoes.  They navigated without GPS. Or a sextant. Or a compass.

How did they do it? Continue reading How Far We’ll Go – Wayfinding Like Moana on Hawaii’s Hōkūleʻa

Finding Places to Love at the LA Travel and Adventure Show

What’s your favorite type of getaway?  Relaxing on a secluded tropical island?  Exploring a historic European city?  Seeing the sun dip into the ocean from your private cruise ship balcony? 

Discover new places to love at the LA Travel and Adventure show.  This past weekend, we delved into the Travel and Adventure show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

I felt such a sense of community this year, with the Winter Olympics going on in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  We talked to people from far- off lands, including Japan, Africa, and the Cook Islands.  We even met the mascots from the Olympic Games. 

Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Mascots

For the same reason that I love Epcot’s World Showcase at Disney World, I truly enjoyed the Travel and Adventure Show.   Like the Olympics, they gather cultures together to show off their best.  

It’s more than just another convention. It’s a chance to experience things you may have wondered about, but haven’t had a chance to try.   Continue reading Finding Places to Love at the LA Travel and Adventure Show

There’s No Place Like Aulani for the Holidays

As we start out a new year, we reflect on the one we just wrapped up.  How were your holidays?  If you’re like us, Disney usually plays a large role in your holiday traditions.

Are you tired of the cold and the snow?  Have you ever considered a Hawaiian Christmas?  It’s never to early to start planning for the next holiday season!

This is our article, originally published on, about the magical combination of Disney, Hawaii, and the Holidays!


What are some of your most treasured holiday traditions?  Christmas trees, halls decked with lights and garland, or fresh-baked gingerbread cookies? Of course, everything is better when shared with your favorite Disney characters!  You’ll find all of these – and so much more – at Aulani during the holidays.

Aloha, Disney-style

Aulani – a Disney resort on the sunny southwest coast of Oahu – has been welcoming guests since August 29, 2011.  The resort presents a delightful marriage of Disney magic and Hawaiian aloha.  And it is all the more enchanting during the holiday season.

From the beginning, Aulani was designed with guidance from Hawaiian elders to accurately represent the native culture.  The Hawaiian word ‘Aulani’ translates to ‘messenger of a chief.’  Talented local artists were commissioned to tell the story of the Hawaiian Islands, and record music for this distinctive resort. 

Native Hawaiian-speaking cast members serve as cultural ambassadors, and create an authentic island experience.  And true to Disney heritage, you’ll find something for everyone in the family. 

Holiday Enchantment at Aulani

Ready to escape the snow and cold?  Aulani is a great destination to celebrate the holidays!  Enjoy tropical weather (an average 73o F) without sacrificing any of your favorite Disney holiday traditions.  Dive right into the Christmas spirit with festive decorations in the lobby entrance. 

Hawaiian Menehune (miniature mythological creatures) have certainly decked the halls in festive fashion! Continue reading There’s No Place Like Aulani for the Holidays

10 Amazing Reasons to Go to HawaiiCon

As if I needed another reason to love the Big Island of Hawaii… I just learned about HawaiiCon.  The Big Island is not just full of palm trees, beaches, and resorts.  It is home to Kilauea, one of the longest-erupting volcanoes in the world.  And, it is one of the few places on earth where you can ski and surf in the same day.  The Big Island has numerous cultural festivals – and HawaiiCon is one of them!

HawaiiCon caught this fangirl unprepared.  We found out about it while vacationing on the Big Island, thanks to a featured article in Ke Ola Magazine.  I had packed some Hot Topic tank tops, but not my wardrobe of Her Universe dresses.  Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to see a new con.

Even though I’d been to many conventions including San Diego Comic-Con, Star Wars Celebration, and D23 Expo – I found many reasons to love HawaiiCon.  Here are my Top 10 reasons why you should put HawaiiCon on your calendar next year.

This article was originally published on

1. Opportunity to really get to know celebrity guests

Celebrity guest stars were scheduled at multiple panels and activities over the HawaiiCon weekend.  This allowed a rare opportunity to really get to know them, and interact in a more informal setting.

It was personal ‘story time’ with your favorite celebrities.  This was my first encounter with Temuera Morrison (Chief Tui, Moana / Jango Fett, Star Wars Ep. II).  And Paul Blake (Greedo, Star Wars Ep. IV), who answered the question ‘Who Shot First?’  We enjoyed ‘solo’ time with Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett, Star Wars Ep. II).  Q&A was amazing during these small panel sessions.

Continue reading 10 Amazing Reasons to Go to HawaiiCon