Photo by NASA HQ Photo/Flickr
Representation matters. Especially for children.
When children see people in media and positions of power that look like them, it broadens their horizons and teaches them they can be whatever they like.
The presidency of Barack Obama showed people of color — across the globe — that a black man could hold the most powerful position in the world. And the Obama family was a powerful example of grace and dignity as they stood strong when faced with unrelenting racist attacks.
“When they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama famously said.
An recent example of the power of representation comes from Ella-Lorraine Brown, an eight year old living in the Los Angeles area. For her school’s Cultural Heroes Day, she dressed as Michelle Obama.
However, she didn’t dress up like the Michelle Obama from her days as first lady, but as a Princeton University student. “I loved it because by choosing to portray her hero as a college student, the focus was on Michelle’s accomplishments as an individual, not just as an attachment,” Ella-Lorraine’s mom, Karlyn Johnson Brown, who is also a Princeton alum, told Makers.
While Michelle Obama is best known for being first lady, don’t sleep on her previous accomplishments. Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She then moved on to work for the prestigious law firm Sidley & Austin.
Later, Obama became the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago and then, the Vice President for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Here’s Ella-Lorraine dressed as Michelle Robinson.
@MichelleObama Cultural Heroes Day 2018 finds our daughter celebrating you as a Princeton student. My incredible wife, also a Princeton alum, pulled off the magic with our beautiful, and eager, 8-year old. #MichelleObama#iambecoming#blackgirlmagic#sheroars#blackgirlsrockpic.twitter.com/66Ajga3c0J— Piano Bench (@PBMGLA) November 1, 2018\n
“We try to surround Ella-Lorraine with women who are go-getters like Michelle, women who are independent and smart, level-headed and loving,” says her father, Eugene Brown. Plus, “we make sure she knows about those who have gone before and have passed on.” pic.twitter.com/FRqwWr3ORN— MAKERS (@MAKERSwomen) December 7, 2018\n
Previously, on Cultural Heroes Day, Ella-Lorraine has dressed up like Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to desegregate an elementary school in the South, and pioneer pilot Bessie Coleman.
Ella-Lorraine loves to dress up as her female heroes, like Bessie Coleman and Ruby Bridges. "She knows that folks came before her that allowed her to be where and who she is today and we’ve encouraged her to not back away from embracing that history.” pic.twitter.com/gVv1TauA8r— MAKERS (@MAKERSwomen) December 7, 2018\n
Ella-Loraine’s parents have made representation a central part of her development as a child. “We try to surround Ella-Lorraine with women who are go-getters like Michelle, women who are independent and smart, level-headed and loving,” her father, Eugene Brown, told Makers. “Plus, he says, “We make sure she knows about those who have gone before and have passed on.”
While today she is a role model, representation played a big role in Michelle Obama’s path to success. She applied to Princeton University because she saw someone who looked like her get accepted to the prestigious university.
“The truth is that if Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn’t seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school — never,” Obama said according to NJ.com. “And I know that there are so many kids out there just like me.”
Here’s how Twitter reacted to Ella-Lorraine’s photos:
This is why representation matters— (@sicksadfiction) December 8, 2018\n
Now just imagine a kid dressing up as Melania Trump... pic.twitter.com/KxamAhkXGt— Cecily (@worldgirlalways) December 8, 2018\n