The Cheetah Girls were icons of the 2000s for young people craving representation and fierceness.
What is that quality of being Cheetahlicious? It's confidence and self-love. It's friendship and loyalty. It's looking fabulous in whatever makes you happy.
When I was growing up on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, it also meant that I experienced seeing incredibly talented young women who I could, although not completely, identify with more than most other characters on my favorite shows. It meant that I saw movies where the stories about friendship and girls at the forefront, where the goals of the main characters were their career success and to remain honest to themselves.
From body inclusivity and the representation of WOC on screen as global pop stars, the Cheetah Girls movies were incredibly heartening to see as a child. I still get chills when I watch the first movie and see the four girls making their way through the uncertain world of show business.
For the naysayers, for those that doubt the importance of a Disney girl group, I cite my own experience listening to the Cheetah Girls and gaining the courage to write my songs. Those songs later developed into the poetry and writing that is the baseline for my career as a creative person.
If you didn't grow up with these movies or music, I highly recommend that you kick your feet up and binge them all. Then, will you understand the impact of having a girl group like these Cheetah sisters as role models while growing up.
1. To value myself for what lies under the surfaceGiphy
I was fortunate enough to grow up in an environment and be surrounded by people who recognized the value I have underneath the surface area of my skin. I was told from a young age that I was smart and kind. Watching the Cheetah Girls perform and keep spreading the message that someone's character and empathy matters most of all, even more than what you look like or what you achieve hammered that in even further.
The final act of the first Cheetah Girls involved the girls encouraging one of their sisters to be open and honest with them about her home life. Although she isn't necessarily unhappy, she's embarrassed to have less than the others. I always remember the importance of the scene when she's comforted by her friends and they tell her that her character matters more than what she owns.
2. To embrace myself for the whole and unique person I amGiphy
The Cheetah Girls had another major message in their movies and music, which is that you can be loved and have friends even though you may be different from those around you. I had chunky, not-yet-trendy black-rimmed frames, and depending on the school I went to, didn't look the same as the other kids around me.
Again, hearing these words on a major TV channel brought me some happiness.
Some of my favorite lyrics are, "Cause we are sisters, we stand together. / We make up one big family, / Though we don't look the same."
To grow in confidence and take inspirationGiphy
I learned that just wishing for something or watching lots of movies and reading books wouldn't be enough for me to be the creative I wanted to be.
Although I could take inspiration from the media I consumed, I learned that the true manifestation of what I'm observing comes through when I sit down and actually put in the hard work.
I saw that in the movies, no matter how fictional, that the girls channeled their energy from the "Cheetahlicious" vibes. But, that vibe was very little of their ability because the rest came from the hard work they put in.
4. To not judge myself or anyone else for enjoying "girly" thingsGiphy
I would hear chastising and judging of other girls around me. "I'm not like other girls," was a statement made from a place of pride. The sad part is that girls around me were taught to hate what defines only part of us.
It was upsetting to learn, additionally, that enjoying personal care and occasional, deserved self-indulgence was something to look down upon.
The Cheetah Girls taught me that I could enjoy the different aspects of my personality and all the things I enjoy — even the "girly" things like shopping.
5. To remember that those who truly love me will have my backGiphy
I think the best lesson that I learned growing up and then was later cemented by the Cheetah Girls was "those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
Basically, I was comforted by the idea that someone cared for me if they encouraged me in all my pursuits and stood by me, unless they knew that something I was doing would be detrimental to myself or others.
The Cheetah Girls and their movies will always be an important part of my creative starts and I am thankful that these characters were created for television so that young audiences could watch. As a writer now, my goal is to create characters with similar importance and impact for the next generation.