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Hailey's Story

19-year-old Hailey from Canada tells me all about her participation in fan culture and the convention industry

Hailey with Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire from ABC's Once Upon a Time

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Hailey. I'm nineteen years old and I'm from Canada. I'm passionate about travelling and the amazing features the natural world has to offer. I am just starting my undergraduate degree in Health Sciences (online) and I hope to continue my studies while I begin to travel again once COVID is over and I'm allowed.

When was your first experience with fandom/fan culture? What was it like?

My first experience with fandom/fan culture was in 2016 when I joined Twitter for my love of the TV show Once Upon a Time. It was scary at first since I was 15, and online with a bunch of strangers talking about actresses and characters from a TV show. But at that point in my life, I was at a very bad low. But I started making friends by sending out a tweet asking if anyone was interested. My first reply was actually you, which I am forever grateful for.

Social media plays a big part in fandom – what has your experience been like using social media as a way to communicate with other fans and create friendship/relationships with these people?

My experience using social media as a way to communicate with other fans and create friend/relationships with these people has been amazing. The first person I met through social media fandoms was you, of course! You reached out to me and we started talking. At first, I wasn't totally open with everything about me since I was talking to a stranger. I have also met others through the Once Upon a Time fandom that I continue to be friends with even though I am no longer in the fandom. I was lucky enough to meet these friends at conventions.

Hailey and friends at PeopleCon's Happy Ending Convention 2

When did you go to your first convention? What were your initial feelings before you attended?

I went to my first convention in Toronto, Ontario in May 2017. My initial feeling was excitement. I was ready to tell all the actors how much they meant to me. And from seeing people's experiences on Twitter, I was ready to develop a fan/actor relationship where they knew me by name. Boy was I wrong.

What was the experience like at your first convention? Did you enjoy it?

The experience I went through at my first convention was iffy. I mean, I had different experiences with the stars, but it wasn't entirely what I wanted it to be. I was at the convention all by myself. I met two of my friends but they had different seats than me, which wasn't entirely fun. My nerves and anxiety didn't let me be my cheery self during panels either.

What was it like meeting the big star(s) that you’d paid money to finally see? Was it a gratifying experience?

When it came to meeting the big star(s) that I paid money to finally see, it was different from actor to actor. The main actress I wanted to meet, Lana Parrilla, was "ill" that weekend. And I mean she had just done three back to back convention weekends. But I was not impressed. She was rude and didn't want people to hug her during photo ops, which is what I wanted. So my autographs with her and the photos were terrible. However, two of the other actors, Rebecca Mader and Sean Maguire, completely made my weekend. I had bought a meet and greet with Sean and he was amazing to me in there, considering I was the youngest. He also personally said goodbye to me before he left for the weekend and gave me a hug which was so amazing. Rebecca on the other hand, she was so kind to me and gave me the best hug during the photo ops and I had the kindest interaction with her at the autograph table. Overall, I'd say it was a gratifying experience in a way that I did not expect.

How many conventions have you attended?

I have attended a total of four conventions, including The Once Upon a Time Convention (Toronto), The Happy Ending Convention (Paris), Ottawa Comic-Con (2019), and Montreal Comic-Con (2019). I also would have attended Wales Comic-Con and London Comic-Con (2020) (and probably others this year) if not for COVID.

Did you maintain contact/friendships with the people you have met at conventions?

I have maintained contact with the people I have met at conventions. There are three that I have kept in very close contact with still. Others have sadly drifted away from me, despite me trying to keep in contact with them.

Hailey and friends with actress Lana Parrilla

Obviously, Coronavirus is having a huge impact on the convention industry – did you have any plans this year to attend any events?

I had many plans this year to attend a bunch of conventions. I had just moved to the UK in February of this year on a working Visa and had planned to go to as many conventions as possible. In the last year, I have expanded my fandoms into specific actors and a lot more television shows. Therefore I wanted to attend as many cons that I could reach from the UK and Europe since I was there and many actors attend European events.

Now many companies are choosing to run online/virtual events – what do you think about this? Would you or have you attended one?

The online/virtual events seem okay. Just for me, it's the in-person experience that means the world to me. I'm not sure if I would ever pay just to have a video chat with a celebrity when I could meet them in person for free at a movie premiere (which I did for the first time this year in February).

What do you think the future holds for the convention industry? Will it be able to recover from COVID?

I really hope that the convention industry will be able to recover from COVID. Conventions mean a lot to me, from being able to meet the celebrities that have helped me through things, to meeting friends, the merchandise you can get, and the travelling you do when going to the conventions. I don't think my life would be the same if it weren’t for conventions happening. I really hope that COVID won't stop conventions from being an in-person event.

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