Hercules has and will always be my favourite Disney Film. I was never a Disney princess kinda girl, I didn't like how all these girls were waiting for a guy to get them out of a sticky situation - I mean I like a good nap but Aurora love, that was a bit much.
But then Hercules came along and it was the first Disney film where I felt I could relate to a character - the feisty, funny, fuller figured Muse (yet I aspired to be the Muse with the amazing hair. I feel I have now achieved that life goal.)
I leant towards Pocahontas for a while but I was aware she was Native American and I was not - and my hair would never be that straight and effortless, the amount of times I get a curl stuck in my eye, even when its not windy...
Then in my twenties Tiana came along but she was a frog 90% of the time. Anika Noni Rose is a goddess but seriously...a frog? Mama Odie was my girl in that, a single, independent woman who ran her own business and owned her own place, albeit a boat in a tree. But Muse number 5 is still my number 1 Disney girl.
As a child I didn't think I was that aware but now looking back I see the realisation - I didn't see myself in the media. Until I grew boobs most people would say I most looked like a young Michael Jackson. I wish that was a joke. I remember refusing to pee on a nine hour flight back from America because in the queue the lady at the front turned to everyone and said, 'oh let the little boy go first'. I was wearing a Minnie mouse jumper, lady! The only girl I kinda felt like was the yellow power ranger but knowing little about afro Caribbean hair at the time I was pretty sure I couldn't grow braids like that. Or ride a motorbike.
I was an afro headed, dumpy, vaguely tanned kid who would sing o herself in the corner of the playground during lunch. I was too boisterous and competitive during playtime - if the game was tag, in my mind I was playing rugby league for New Zealand. I wore glasses and wasn't the fittest, needing an asthma pump during the winter months. I was doomed.
Then that kid grew up. I still am finding it difficult to find myself in the media though. So I'm gonna put myself there. The main reason why is for my niece (and any other daughters and nieces that may enter the picture). I don't want her to scramble for options of who she can relate to, I want her to be inspired by girls and women who look like her and also posses the personal traits that can allow her to lead a successful, happy life. My sis in law sent me a picture once of my nieces hair all in kinks and waves after they had braided it because she wanted hair like mine - last time I went to the hairdressers I asked for hair like hers! She's gonna be tall and lean and stunning and she's supee ethnically diverse. If she were in the industry she could be mixed, Spanish, Italian, Latin American, Greek, the list goes on, because she is the future of the world - a multicultural wonder.
I want to be a role model not only how comfortable I am with my looks though. There aren't a lot of girls who hit my main four features of being, tall, curvy, curly and mixed but if they see me and feel like even only one speaks to them, fantastic. But I want girls to see that AND someone who is reaching their goals. I want them to see a woman who has a university education, who has educated others and still wants to learn and teach daily. Black and mixed woman characters aren't always the strongest or smartest in the media. Often single mums, often rowdy, often living on estates - not always, all hail Viola Davis and Gugu Mbatha Raw - they aren't often aspirational characters. I am going to be those aspirational characters and a hopeful, inspirational person.
The future is becoming more mixed - I was with an Iranian guy when my 75 year old Nan sat me down and said 'Think about your children, their lives will be hard'. I retold this to my mum and she said 30 years prior my Nan said it to her too.
Times are changing. Slowly but surely and I am going to be a part of that. I have to be. I wasn't built like this, with a brain like this, a body like this, a heart like this, to sit on my butt and let the world go by. I was put here to show everyone that they can be anyone they want to be. Disney films are great, full of wonder, love and magic. Make your life a real life Disney movie and be the inspiration for the next generation.
Final note: I also wish this as well for my two intelligent, gorgeous, hilarious nephews. They too should have strong, hardworking role models to look up to as well. They're lucky they have me then 😉