Happy Birthday, Chase Masterson (February 26)!
Chase Masterson made an indelible mark on the Trek world with her portrayal of Leeta on Deep Space Nine. Over the course of the show we got to see Leeta as a character who was sexy, but importantly, had control over her sexuality and used it to her advantage (check out this Valkyrie Directive post for more on this). We saw she was also smart and assertive and inclined to see the buried potential in those around her.
But my respect for Chase Masterson has only increased since the show went off the air, and the more I learn the more I see her as a truly inspiring role model.
It started when I heard her speak at Geek Girl Con in 2011. She was so open and honest with the room. A lot of fans were moved to tears when she shared the dark side of playing Leeta, which for her was epitomized by a really scary episode.
During her time on DS9, Chase regularly mobilized her fan club to raise money for kids with AIDS. Someone in her club whom she’d worked with on this project set up a fake matchmaking page for her using her real name, phone number and address. I didn’t take notes at Geek Girl Con that year but here is Chase talking about the incident at Comic Con 2011:
So I subsequently received a threat from somebody who I knew had my home address threatening to really stalk and rape me and hurt my son. And so, this was right after Star Trek, it was absolutely devastating. Beyond devastating. It was horrifying and suddenly I was on the run. This person made it very, very, very clear that he was going to do bad things. And my son was deeply impacted and so I took time off to make sure that my son was okay, and make sure we were safe, and file a lawsuit against Matchmaker.com because they had allowed this.
Sadly, she lost the case as the court ruled the hosting provider wasn’t responsible. In the Geek Girl Con session she talked about not just the legal fallout but also how some people seemed to think this was something she should expect because of being an actress and the “sexy” role she was playing on TV.
The trauma of the situation and the lawsuit fallout seriously impacted her career.
You know, just auditioning was something that I truly couldn’t wrap my mind around during those years. And what I didn’t realize, because I thought I could recoup it, what I didn’t realize was that it’s really hard to recoup when you take that much time off…Although I believe I did the right thing. I filed this lawsuit because I never wanted it to happen to anybody else ever again. And, you know, that’s how it goes. You have to do what you believe in and I did. And so I’ve had less than ten auditions since Star Trek ended.
But Chase Masterson is still deeply committed to using her skills, experience and profile to help others. She’s been mentoring former gang members through the non-profit Homeboy Industries since 2008, and she fundraises for them through her fan club and at conventions.
She is also working hard to fight bullying, including homophobic bullying and cyberbullying.
At last year’s San Diego Comic Con she rolled out the Anti-Bullying Coalition, which brings together prominent organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, the NoH8 campaign, Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up, Girls Scouts of America, the International Bullying Prevention Association, and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.
They had a big impact at SDCC and got a bunch of geek celebrities involved, and they plan to present at other conventions, including the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo this April.
Luckily it seems like things are picking up for Chase Masterson professionally, and all her dedicated convention and community outreach has resulted in an even more devoted fan base than ever. Most recently I saw her in August 2013 at Star Trek: Las Vegas, where she was one of the highlights of the musical revue night (picture at top).
I hope you’ll join me in wishing Chase Masterson a very Happy Birthday and many successful and fulfilling years ahead. She certainly deserves it.