December 25, 2014

Ms. Role Model

In a first for Red-Soled Fashionista, this will be a post unrelated to fashion. It has fashion-related beginnings, but the heart of what I want to say today is a comment on our culture. Flipping through FASHION Magazine's May 2014 issue, I came across a feature on Marvel comic book character Kamala Khan (alias Ms. Marvel).

Khan is a fairly new comic book character, who began headlining the Ms. Marvel series in February 2014. To explain more about her, I pass it on to FASHION Magazine writer Mishal Cazmi, who sums everything up wonderfully:

"She's a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim girl, a discernible dork who fangirls over comic books. Her strict parents are a buzzkill (no co-ed parties) and her school in Jersey City is made up of nerds and cool kids (not her). The brainchild of editor Sana Amanat and author G. Willow Wilson, Khan was brought to life by Toronto-based illustrator Adrian Alphona and is an anomaly among comic book babes for being sans brazen sexuality and neither buxom nor bombshell. 'Kamala is an Ellen-Page-in-Juno-type girl covered up with layers of clothing - hoodies and pleated skirts over jeans,' says Alphona. And then there's her Ms. Marvel costume, which is all fabric, no flesh - an electric-blue dress emblazoned with a thunderbolt worn over a red three-quarter-sleeve top, red tights, matching blue boots and a cape that modestly covers her neck...She's every girl who's ever felt left out, could not reconcile her identity at home with who she is outside and does not realize the potential of her own greatness."

I love it.  I love, love, love it.  For years, I have struggled to find women in media I could relate to. In my younger years, I was an avid chick lit reader, hoping to find a character I could connect with. But the more I read, the more I realized everything just always works out for women in chick lit. Even when they were outsiders, they still ended up enchanting the hottest, most popular guy with their striking beauty or personality. Technically, that's a good thing, isn't it? For me though, it wasn't reality. I needed a character who was awkward and unpopular, yet who was perfectly fine not getting everyone to like her, not getting the most covetable guy, and not getting everything society tells us we need to be successful. I needed someone who was confident enough in herself to tell me I didn't need to keep fighting to be accepted by others. Since then, I've stopped reading chick lit. 

Then I turned to entertainment, but that was an even more hopeless endeavor. Every character in entertainment is beautiful, intelligent, strong and accomplished. As just an average girl, I constantly find myself getting annoyed with female characters in media because they are so perfect. Putting glasses on a gorgeous woman does not a nerd make.

This is where a character like Khan comes in. A girl who isn't defined by the fact she is blatantly beautiful. A girl who is modest in her dress.  A girl who struggles with self-identity. A girl who doesn't fit in. Even though I am not a comic book reader, and therefore will never really know what happens to Khan, I am impressed by the premise of her character. I hope she is able to inspire and act as a role model for other girls like me - although considering the incredibly positive reception this new Ms. Marvel character has received, it seems Khan is already well on her way.

Luckily, I have my own happy ending. I recently found my role model in Ashley Perez, video producer at Buzzfeed.  Her confidence in herself and acceptance of all her quirks is what makes her so beautiful. For anyone else out there who struggles with being an outsider, hopefully this video will speak to you as much as it did to me. Realize you are never alone. Despite what the moniker suggests, the great thing about being an outsider is that there are so many of us out there. Together, we become role models for each other, proving that confidence in ourselves is what makes us all superheros.

Image Source: Photo 1, 2

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