Dressing as Madame Leota was inspired by many years of visiting Disneyland with my favorite ride being the Haunted Mansion. My family wanted to do a group costume for Halloween to participate in a local costume parade, so we chose this theme with various family members dressing as characters from the ride. My family has always loved Halloween and that’s how I got into costuming in the first place.
For those who aren’t familiar, the Madame Leota character calls forth the spirits in the seance room of the ride and is essentially a floating glowing head in a crystal ball above a card reading table. She was the obvious character for me because not only do I love her, but I also knew I could use my powerchair to my advantage with being at a lower table height and by having my chair support the table structure.
I could not hear a thing in my Madame Leota costume with my head in that globe with all the fans running, no one could hear me, and I couldn’t gesture from under the table. So, I had my husband and I connected through Bluetooth earpieces and he was the only one I could talk to or hear. All day people kept trying to talk to me, but it was like they had to go through my bodyguard!
We also spent some time waiting in line for the parade to start and I would just hold perfectly still letting people believe I was a table and prop- they even tried to lean on me- then I would slowly and eerily turn my head and make direct eye contact. I really startled some people with that! I maintained that eerie head turn during the parade as I rolled down the route and people couldn’t figure out if I was a real person or not until I looked them straight in the eyes!
In the current Disneyland ride, Madame Leota is basically a crystal ball with a disembodied head inside floating above a table, but in older versions, the crystal ball sat directly upon the table. I opted to pass on decapitation and emulate the older version, so I constructed a table surface to rest on my wheelchair frame and placed a large hole for the crystal ball to be placed.
I used tablecloths to cover the table, my body, and the wheelchair, including a table cloth with the wallpaper pattern from the ride. The crystal ball I used was a large acrylic globe meant to cover an outdoor light. It had poor ventilation, so I used small fans to blow air in and out of the globe from the table underneath and I cut ventilation holes into the table. I also installed battery operated lights around the globe hole shining upwards for added ambiance at night. I found the most amazing blue and white wig that was huge enough to fill nearly the whole globe and I added blue LED lights in the wig scalp to make it glow at night.
Of course, I had a couple of battery operated candles to set the mood, too. For make-up, I used white foundation and contoured with blue and green to emulate the glowing effect from the ride. And then I just scowled and sucked in my cheeks the whole time since Leota has cheekbones to die for!
Alas, I have yet to attend a convention in costume. It’s certainly a goal of mine as I would love to see all those amazing costumes in person. I am working on building up my ability to be in large crowded spaces which can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and take a lot of energy for me to navigate. I’m very thankful for Instagram and social media which have helped me to connect with the costuming and cosplay community online.
I always loved dressing up for Halloween and even as a child, I had a singular vision of how I wanted my costumes to look. That singular vision meant that I had to custom make accessories and clothing. So, out of a love of costuming, I learned to sew and became an avid crafter. As my health has become more challenging with time, those skills stay with me and for the most part, these craft hobbies are still accessible to me, though sewing has been on the back burner for a while.
My latest projects have been around personalizing my newest power chair, like making custom cushion covers and accessories for myself. I love looking at mobility aids not just as tools, but as an extension of the body which are to be celebrated and adorned. I love the growing community online that gets so creative with connecting costume and fashion with mobility aids.