HerstoryBound Leaders: L’Rell

I’m celebrating Women’s History Month with new bounds, or everyday cosplays, every week in March. The final week’s theme is Leaders.


High Chancellor L’Rell, Mother of the Klingon Empire is an antagonist turned ally of Starfleet in the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery (played by Mary Chieffo). She served during a time of constant clashes among the various Klingon Houses but was committed to building bridges from a young age. When asked to swear allegiance to either her father’s or mother’s house, and cut all ties to the other, she refused and remained the daughter of two houses, T’Kuvma and Mo’Kai. Her ability to find allies among her enemies allowed her to maneuver her way to leading the High Council.

I’d planned two outfits for this week, L’Rell and Queen Elizabeth I. But I wasn’t able to get together an Elizabeth look I was proud of (she’s on the long list for Costober). Still, I wanted to point out the similarities between these two women leaders.

Both Elizabeth and L’Rell were born to powerful feuding houses. They were not born to rule, but were thrust into power in young adulthood. As women, young unattached women, they were underestimated and dismissed and had to be clever and cunning to retain power. They refused to play the part of subservient, pliable, figurehead ruler that their council intended them to be. Both chose kingdom over personal relationships. Elizabeth declined to marry and reinvented herself as the Virgin Queen devoted to England alone. L’Rell faked the deaths of her paramour and baby and reinvented herself as Mother of the Klingon Empire.

I love L’Rell. She is exactly the kind of messy, complicated, difficult character that challenges the writers and angers the audience. L’Rell has a new role, which can be read as a new personality, every time she shows up in Discovery. She’s a supporting character and serves the plot more than it serves her, so it’s understandable, particularly in the early seasons of a series when the writers are still building the foundation. This lability makes her “unlikable” to a lot of the audience. To me it makes her my favorite.

I was on a panel with Mary Chieffo in the summer after Discovery‘s first season aired. The topic was Shakespeare and Star Trek, and you can see in the above photo how much enthusiasm Mary brought to it. Klingons are incredibly Shakespearean, were so even before General Chang claimed the Bard for one of their own. As a people, Klingons do everything with a flair for the dramatic.

L’Rell cycles through familiar roles: Lady MacBeth, Titania, Cleopatra, Juliet, and Elizabeth, for whom Shakespeare wrote. She contains multitudes, she’s contradictory, she’s real.

About My Look

Gersha Phillips, Star Trek: Discovery‘s costume designer, is a brilliant artist and she really shines in the looks she created for Chancellor L’Rell (and Emperor Georgiou, too). This is modeled after the gold dress L’Rell wears in the second season episode “Point of Light”.

The dress is one I purchased secondhand for a Belle Disneybound. I inverted the bodice so I could wear the skirt lower. The sweater was also purchased secondhand, as was the black stein. The bat’leth purse was purchased at a Star Trek convention in New Jersey, where I first contributed to the Shakespeare and Star Trek panel (put together by Amy Imhoff).

My ‘cape’ consists of two strips of gold fabric that were crafted to be worn with my Captain Killy cosplay, but I ended up not using them. I’ve previously worn the boots with my TOS uniform. The crown was borrowed from my daughter’s collection.

My daughter also drew the SJKWP (Social Justice Klingon Warrior Princess) L’Rell on my sweatshirt (and this pin that Mary wore to NYCC). You can see more of her art and cosplay on instagram.

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