January 27, 2016
“You are the Stormtroopers. You are the keenest weapon in the Emperor’s arsenal.”
— Line from the movie, Star Wars
It was a dream come true for a diehard Star Wars fan and pizza lover.
Philip Figueroa, 31, of Banning had always wanted to outfit the faceless, shock troops of the Galactic Empire. So he combined his two loves and fashioned a Stormtrooper uniform out of Domino’s Pizza boxes.
The inspiration came to him while studying at Mt. San Jacinto College. Figueroa entered the 2015 Recycled Art & Fashion Show in Temecula, which routinely features the creations of MSJC students. He won first place for his Stormtrooper outfit.
He’s been a sensation ever since:
- Fans mobbed the artist and clamored for “selfies” at Disneyland when he wore his Stormtrooper helmet.
- The costume is on display at the Domino’s Pizza world headquarters near Detroit.
- The Mt. San Jacinto College Foundation will fete Figueroa and other fashion-minded students during a Feb. 6 fundraiser called “Building a Sustainable Future.”
“It’s so surreal,” Figueroa said. “Star Wars fans just love it when they see this outfit.”
Pizza boxes morph into art
A local Domino’s Pizza donated more than 20 boxes when Figueroa explained he was making the costume for a contest. Then, Domino’s Pizza bought the Stormtrooper outfit for $1,000 and gave Figueroa lots of free pizza. His favorite is a thin crust pizza with pepperoni and jalapeno.
“When I saw the artwork on Instagram, I knew we had to have it,” said Amanda Platt, Domino’s spokesperson.
Figueroa has expressed himself through art from an early age. By age three, he was sketching real-life features like the family’s camping trailer.
“Art is a way to share your personal insights with the world,” he said.
Over the years, Figueroa grew as an artist and began challenging himself. Some of those projects include painting a large eagle, MSJC’s mascot, on the side of a building at the San Jacinto Campus. He has also painted full-scale murals in downtown Los Angeles.
Eileen Doktorski, chair of the Art Department on the San Jacinto Campus, praised Figueroa not only for his creativity, but also for his character.
“Philip uses his imagination all the time to develop original ideas and then puts in the time and care needed to make his work stand out,” Doktorski said. “Beyond this he is civic-minded, inspiring and supporting other students to do the most with their own ideas.”
The making of a `Stormtrooper’
It seems everything came together for Figueroa when he plunged into creating his Stormtrooper masterpiece. He started by having his mother help him with patterns for the iconic Star Wars outfit.
Figueroa then launched into a trial-and-error process that took about 40 hours before finishing the Stormtrooper uniform. The full helmet, with its odd shape and slits for the eyes, was the most difficult part.
Since then, Figueroa has labored long hours to create Stormtrooper costumes for his sons Jedi, 5, and Jordan, 2.
And while perhaps we’re not in a galaxy far, far way, Figueroa’s efforts echo a famous line from Star Wars about perseverance. In Star Wars Episode IV, “A New Hope,” arch villain Darth Vader finally confronts Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in a showdown with lightsabers. As their brightly lit swords clash on screen, the villain tells the old master:
“I was but the learner; now I am the master.”
And so it is with Philip Figueroa and his art!
Tickets to see the “recycled” fashions designed by students and alumni at the MSJC Foundation Gala are available at www.msjc.edu/gala or by calling 951-487-3171. The event includes live music, a fine dinner and silent auction. It is the Foundation’s signature event to raise funds for student scholarships.
The gala, held at the Pechanga Resort & Casino, will recognize the following with the Alumni & Friends Award:
Outstanding Staff Member – Becky Elam, Vice President of Business Services at MSJC
Outstanding Faculty Member – Jeremy Brown, interim Dean of Instruction, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Menifee Valley Campus
Outstanding Community Members – The Hemet/San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce
Outstanding Alumni & Friend – John & Yvonne Branchflower, longtime MSJC Foundation supporters and contributors. Mr. Branchflower served on the MSJC Foundation board for more than 20 years.