I was seven years old and we were playing Spice Girls. I always had to play the role of Scary Spice because I had curly hair, even though I wanted to be Ginger (I think I identified more with her personality).
I zig-a-zig-ahed, danced along with my friends and loved every second of it and not just because it was fun to be a kid who got to pretend they were in the biggest girl group in the world, but because Mel B, Mel C, Victoria, Gerri and Emma had created a place in the mainstream media for little girls who wanted to be about girl power while still embracing their love for cheetah print crop tops and platform sneakers.
That representation mattered to me. That and the fact that they were 5 very different women who all had very different personalities, but could still be friends, meant everything to me. Seeing strong, powerful women in the mainstream media (one of whom who had curly hair and darker skin like I do) felt like it told me I could be anything.
Every generation needs that representation. It’s important to know that there are people who you identify with on whatever level doing amazing things and helping to cement the belief that maybe you could do whatever they’re doing too.
Don’t believe me? Look at this interaction between Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot and a little girl at San Diego Comic Con recently. Just a warning: it might make you cry.
A little girl, dressed as Wonder Woman, went up to get Gal’s autograph at the convention and burst into tears because she was so overwhelmed by meeting the woman who played her hero. Gal responded beautifully and comforted the little girl by saying “There’s no reason to cry, now we are together.”
It’s such a heart-warming moment between a girl who loves a superhero and the actress who plays that character.
READ MORE: Why Gal Gadot isn’t my Wonder Woman
And remember when Ghostbusters came out and little girls everywhere got to see some badass women kicking some paranormal ass while also looking great and being funny? This photo from the premiere of that movie just went viral with these little girls looking at Kristen Wiig like she was their idol.
But it’s not just kids that need role models, it’s grownups too.
Every time I see a formerly marginalised group represented in mainstream media, I get butterflies, because IT’S SO IMPORTANT.
Case in point: when Viola Davis performs her Oscar-worthy snot cry in How To Get Away With Murder, representing older black women who are still gorgeous and sexy even after a “certain age”, Laverne Cox shows off her acting skills as the only black, trans woman in a woman’s medium security prison on Orange Is The New Black, or even when Krysten Ritter plays a woman with PTSD in Jessica Jones.
They are relatable, they are fully-fledged people, they are important. It’s so important to see characters who are portrayed by people who look like you, have the same issues, or come from the same kind of homes that you do.
Lupita Nyong’o once said that she was so grateful to stars like Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg for “planting the seed” and showing her that people who look like her could be heroes on screen too.
Image: Cookies and sangria
Imagine if Oprah and Whoopi never did The Colour Purple and Lupita was never inspired? Never became an actress because she saw them doing it? We wouldn’t have had her amazing performances in 12 Years A Slave and Queen of Katwe or her upcoming role in Black Panther.
Telling people that their place in the world matters is important and we need to keep doing that. So support the films like Wonder Woman or Ghostbusters that tell us women can be heroes too. Let people know that their issues are real and need to be represented in the mainstream media. We all deserve to be validated.