Representation matters, everyone. When you grow up not seeing realistic depictions of your life and identity in popular media, it has an effect on how you see yourself and how you’re perceived by others. While good representation of women beyond romantic interests and bombshell babes is already pretty, well, pathetic, it’s even worse for women of color. And queer women of color? Pfft, forget about it!
But every now and then those movies come across that are actually pretty empowering for young women of color. I recently–or should I say, finally–took a look at Beasts of A Southern Wild and I was blown away by how amazingly powerful and inspiring the story of its young, black, female protagonist, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis). There are definitely some other movies out there that invoke the same burst of power as a woman of color, just with different tales and different cultures. If you’re looking for that in a movie, check out these eight empowering movies for young women of color.
Bend It Like BeckhamJess, the daughter of Punjabi Sikhs, is a soccer (er, football) fiend who idolizes David Beckham. Her parents forbid her from playing football for cultural and religious reasons, but that doesn't stop her from joining a local girls football team. This movie is a great example of the cultural push and pull that first generation children of immigrants experience. Plus, so many of the topics discussed in this film are relatable for South Asian folks. This movie rules so you should watch it already if you haven't yet!
Gotta Kick It UpThis Disney Channel Original Movie doesn't get enough love! It tells the story of a group of Latinas from at a Los Angeles high school who want to start a cheer squad despite the obstacles hurled in their way. It's one of the few DCOMs that actually feature a mostly Latina cast, which is awesome...but something like this wouldn't be made on Disney Channel these days, unfortunately.
Just Another Girl On The IRTIf you want to watch a movie about a no-nonsense, badass black chick who is all about being in control of her body, her sex life and her personal goals, then you have to watch Just Another Girl On the IRT. It's a little known gem that really deserves more attention than it gets. Also, the early '90s fashion in the movie is amazing.
The Joy Luck ClubIt's really rare to see movies that depict Asian families outside of Asia. Yes, even in 2014 it is rare. Seriously, think about it. Yep, you probably can't think very far past Mulan, right? Well, The Joy Luck Club is great because it tells the story of multiple generations of Chinese woman. Wow, a movie about...Asian-American women living their lives and sharing their stories? Yes, such a movie exists! Sure, it's sappy and will definitely get you a little welled up, but it's a great movie to watch with other awesome women in your life.
SelenaSelena remains a hero and a household name for so many Latin American families. And, surprisingly, this biopic of her short life (starring JLo) doesn't suck. If you want to learn more about an inspiring, talented Latina who kicked musical ass in the '90s, definitely watch Selena.
PariahPariah is an awesome movie that will probably make you cry, without fail. It's the story of a 17-year-old girl, Alike, who is struggling to keep her identity as a butch lesbian under wraps from her conservative mother and her seemingly aloof father. It's a powerful film that explores queerness in the black community in a way that really isn't explored too often.
PersepolisPersepolis (based on the graphic novel of the same name) is a movie about a young girl growing up in Iran in the '80s, during the Iranian Revolution. She's super rebellious and enjoys western music and style on the DL. She eventually moves to France for school where she is met with a new set of challenges because she is treated as an outsider. This movie is really rad and elements of the story are definitely relatable for many Muslim young women out there.
Real Women Have CurvesOkay, we can definitely talk about how the title of this movie is problematic (because it is), but the story behind it is awesome. It's about a teenager named Ana who dreams of going to college right after high school, but she worries that she'll be stuck working in her family's stifling borderline sweatshop instead. She also struggles with body image issues and young love.
What other movies are empowering for young women of color? What about TV shows and books? Tell us in the comments!