For testosterone-driven sci-fi devotees in their 30s and early 40s (such as this reporter), the universe changed about 15 minutes into 1983's Return of the Jedi.
The Star Wars galaxy (and, in most cases, our own lives) were blissful, asexual realms of brave adventures and weapon-wielding heroes threatened only by their assigned villains and (if they weren't careful) "cooties"/"girl germs." Sure, Han Solo smooched Princess Leia a little inside that giant slug, but that's what heroes are supposed to do when there are no Sith Lords handy. Captain Kirk did the same thing with alien chicks to fight boredom when there were no Klingons to phaser. It was nothing we wanted to do.
Then, there was Jedi. Tattooine. Jabba the Hutt and his dark, foreboding palace. Lando in hiding. Chewbacca brought in as a prisoner by Leis in disguise. She managed to free Han from the carbonite, but (of course) she was captured. She was only a girl, after all.
Only a girl. Only a slave girl chained to Jabba's side. A slave girl in that outfit.
For some boys, the sight of Leia lounging in that gear proved that they were officially amidst the asteroid collision called puberty. For some others, the image suddenly introduced them to the possibility of looming reproductive maturity. "That's what Leia looked like under the thermal clothes of Hoth? She had abs? And breasts?" When she climbed the cannon atop Jabba's sail barge to let the desert winds blow her skirt aside, boys became men and were suddenly too uncomfortable to get up and get their Moms popcorn refills.
Professional belly dancer Amira Sa'id turned those hot, sticky memories into a cottage industry for herself. Donning a precise replica of that Leia outfit, she travels to conventions across the country to perform for enthusiastic fans who always wondered what Leia might have looked like shaking what her Padme gave her.
The Orlando, Florida-based Amira has been dancing since the age of 5, taking all the basic classes like tap, ballet, etc. She excelled in Irish folk dancing in her adolescence but had to put dancing aside to complete her college degree in physics.
But, there was no putting aside her lifelong love of science fiction and her frequent trips to various conventions around the country. When she returned to performing following college and discovered a new affinity for Middle Eastern dance, it soon occurred to her that her various interests met within the gilded beauty of Princess Leia's slave girl get-up.
"I danced in the outfit for the very first time at a Halloween show at the restaurant I perform at here in Orlando," Amira said. "I then wore the costume to dance at a 2006 sci-fi convention in Connecticut. It was hit."
As Amira continued performing for ever-growing crowds of Star Wars and Star Trek fans at her beloved cons, YouTube videos began to circulate -- building a little nerd buzz for the scantily clad nouveau celebrity. She was in demand.
"At first I made my own appearances and booked myself," Amira said. "Now the conventions are booking me. My dancing depends on what the convention wants. Usually, I'll do a couple days of panels and performances."
At Star Wars Celebration IV, Amira was named Lucasfilm's "official" slave Leia, hosting her own booth to sign autographs and pose for photos: "We had a green screen set-up, so I could add a Star Wars background with my computer, print out the photo and sign it for the fans."
"I taught the two dance panels at Celebration IV," she said. "I performed and got fans up onstage with me -- teaching them choreography to 'The Cantina Song.'"
All of this attention can spell trouble for a young woman dressed in a costume designed to tease the male eye. It may come as a great shock to some readers, but male sci-fi fanatics are not always graceful around the opposite sex. So, Amira must tread carefully lest a would-be Salacious Crumb try to chain her to his throne.
"Some of the coolest guys at the conventions bow to me, and others compliment me on my performance," she said. "But I have had some obsessed fans and some marriage proposals. I'll receive gifts from strangers, and there are guys that won't leave me alone."
Amira utilizes bodyguards now -- often recruiting honorable, upstanding members of various Stormtrooper divisions attending the cons.
When not at conventions, Amira performs at conferences and restaurants around Orlando. She's currently appearing in Disney's Indiana Jones Cairo Dinner Show at Disneyworld. She also teaches dance for up-and-coming Leias.
But sci-fi man does not lust for Leia alone, and Amira added other routines to her arsenal, including a dance as a green Orion slave girl for Star Trek fans.
For a look at Amira in action, we include three performance videos. Enjoy, and may the gold bikini be with you.
Amira's performance from Megacon 2007:
Leia and Padme dance-off:
Amira as a green Orion slave girl:
Photo courtesy Amira Sa'id