If you're not singing the That's So Raven theme tune right now, who even are you?
I kid, but That's So Raven was a major show for those of us who grew up with Disney Channel in the early '00s. The show embraced inclusivity and spoke about important topics including diversity, race, body shaming and more.
A personal favourite - and likely a favourite for many - was an episode when Raven enters a competition to have a dress design of hers featured in a fashion show. Raven wins, and is led to believe that she'd be modelling her dress in the show, until she's told by the show coordinator/fashion editor that she didn't have 'the right look' to feature on the runway. Raven being Raven gives no fucks, puts her (freakum) dress on and slays it on the catwalk, unapologetic of her body. I was probably seven or eight when I saw this episode, but it resonates with me for two reasons. For one, these kinds of body shaming situations happen all the time in real life, and secondly, it was probably the first (and one the last) time I've seen something like it, where a bigger girl was allowed to embrace herself and be proud, rather than letting beauty standards win.
Raven was one of the few characters that I, as a chubby kid, felt like I resonated with on some level when I watched TV. I felt like my body, when I hit my teens, would be similar to that of Raven's, and this thought alone made me love her even more.
Basically, That's So Raven was a gift to us all, and Disney struggled to release something as incredible for children to grow up watching. Having said that, Raven's Home, the show's spin-off, has just hit Disney Channel and hopefully will have similar impact.
Recently, Raven-Symone spoke to People about the experiences she had as a child star, many revolving around her body. Talking about her stint on tour with the Cheetah Girls (excuse me whilst the nostalgia hits me in every direction), she opened up about people's doubts in her ability as a result of her size:
“[They said] I was too big to be doing an hour and a half concert. ‘I don't know how she can dance being that big.’ And I was like, ‘I still did it!’ I was on tour forever because it's not about your size, it's about what you have to say, if you can sing or dance, and performing. It's not about your size.”
“The world is too big to have one sort of view to show beauty, because then you are literally destroying society. You are literally destroying it,” Raven said of the industry and its battle with beauty standards. “And then you want to talk about how we are judgmental to each other and this, this, this. But it's being created in the industry that we're in. So why not break the mould?”
Looking back on her past, growing up in a time where body positivity wasn't as prevalent as today, Raven admitted to wishing she was younger person now, and how she 'probably wouldn't have so many mental issues' as a result.
Raven, much like her on-screen character, is a big fan of diversity and is optimistic towards the future of body positivity, inclusivity and diversity, adding: “I love embracing your body. In this day and age you have all kinds, and it's funny, it's serious, it's every color, it's every head shape, it's every hair. And there's androgyny, and there's LGBT coming in, and it feels good'.”
“We didn't have it enough last time and I guess that's what the past is for — to make sure the present is what it needs to be.”