People Are Sharing The First Time They Saw Themselves Represented Onscreen, And It’s Heartwarming

·11 min read

We all know Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to representation. But, over the past few decades, even though it seems to be going at a snail's pace, there has been some progress.

Uninterrupted / Via giphy.com

Recently I asked the BuzzFeed Community to share the first time they felt represented onscreen. Here are the responses:

1.Yvie Oddly from RuPaul's Drag Race

Yvie Oddly

"I have a rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos, which affects my connective tissue. I'm now 30, and since being diagnosed at 15, most doctors don’t know about the condition. I'd never seen it on TV until Yvie. It was the first time I’d ever seen another person with the same condition. It was wonderful to see the representation, and on the most inclusive show around!"

—anonymous

World of Wonder

2.Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Willow and Buffy with the words, "And I think I'm kinda gay"

"I grew up with this show, and seeing her character come out and grow into her sexuality really resonated with me. It helped me with my own sexuality. I loved that the show, while making the audience very aware she was gay, didn’t make that her main characteristic. She was still just Willow. Seeing that representation when I was younger helped me with the confidence to come out and be myself as I got older. When I came out to my parents, I even used her line from one of the early episodes: 'And I think I’m kinda gay.'"

lummis7

20th Television

3.Chrissie from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

kids surrounding a woman in "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood"

"Not me but my son. He is nonverbal and wears ankle foot orthotics (AFO). When he saw Chrissie talking about her AFOs and showing them to Daniel and his friends, my son used his AAC tablet to say 'shoes.'"

toomanykidsnotenoughtime

PBS Kids / Via youtube.com

4.Simon from Love, Simon

Simon smiling by a car

"As cheesy as it may be, I related very much to Simon. It was the first time I truly felt safe in my own skin, and I could finally be me freely. What an awakening."

jordey

20th Century Studios

5.Nick Nelson from Heartstopper

Nick Nelson looking concerned

"I really resonated with that initial confusion and questioning of your sexuality, especially when being attracted to more than one gender. I have second-guessed my sexuality for years, and I still have moments when I question my attraction to one gender or another."

jeffbuckler33

Netflix

6.Gabriella from High School Musical

Gabriella standing at a mic

"It was the first time I saw someone who looked remotely like me in a leading role. While she was nerdy (as am I), she was also the main character, beautiful and desired. Vanessa Hudgens’ Filipino heritage wasn’t mentioned in the movie. Her character, Gabriella, existed in a world where ethnicity wasn’t her only character trait. She wasn’t a stereotypical Asian character, but they also didn’t pretend that she was white. It took me a long time to realize why Gabriella stuck with me for so long — representation matters!"

—anonymous

Disney

7.Mirabel from Encanto

Mirabel waving

"I'm 30 years old, and I still cry whenever I see her onscreen because I spent my entire childhood wishing to see someone that looked like me. I wasn't Middle Eastern like Jasmine, and I only recently found out I'm a quarter Native American, but Pocahontas didn't look like me. To finally see a girl onscreen with short curly hair like me, glasses like me, and brown skin like me is truly a dream come true."

beckichino

Disney / Courtesy Everett Collection

8.Florence from Sex Education

Florence talking to a counselor

"When Florence goes to talk to Jean for counseling at school, and finally has the vocabulary to describe herself and understands why she has been feeling the way she's feeling, really reflected my experience learning about asexuality. It was so validating."

—anonymous

Netflix

9.Emily Fields from Pretty Little Liars

Emily smiling at a girl

"The first time I ever saw a girl that likes girls on TV was Emily on Pretty Little Liars. Seeing her changed my life."

clairbearclawcutie

"Having a boyfriend while slowly falling for her best friend, and struggling with the whole thing, was really relatable to me."

—anonymous

Warner Bros.

10.Kamala Khan from Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan wearing a tiara and smiling

"I'd seen Pakistani girls/women on the screen before, but it wasn’t until this show that I truly felt represented. It was the first time I saw a non-white-washed version of what it means to be Pakistani, what it means to be an immigrant, what it means to come from a Muslim background, and how much more our culture, art, and people have to offer."

—anonymous

"I’m a Muslim who doesn’t cover her head and has a relatively normal relationship with my family. So to know there is a Muslim superhero who doesn’t wear the hijab and has normal teenage issues warms my heart. It’s so nice to see people from my community in the mainstream and depicted as having lives beyond the worlds of home and prayers."

—anonymous

"She was the first Muslim Pakistani girl onscreen who believed in herself and had a supportive (Desi) family and a group of friends. I’m sick and tired of seeing the trope that Muslims are either oppressed or repressive, lead some sort of tragic life, and are forced to wear the hijab. Shoutout to Nakia too. She’s religious but also fierce, independent, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in."

—anonymous

Disney

11.Emma from Red Band Society

Emma looking in a mirror

"She was one of the first (and few) depictions of eating disorders that felt somewhat reflective of my own struggles. It's nowhere near a perfect representation, but the focus on her internal barriers rather than simply wanting to be thin was refreshing."

hiitsnicetomeetyou

ABC

12.Riley from Inside Out

Riley looking sad

"I saw the film a few years after I moved from North Carolina to Seattle. I remember sobbing in the theater because the film so perfectly captured the grief I had felt after moving. I remember feeling like I had lost my sense of self when we moved. Seeing Riley's core memories collapse taught me that it was okay to feel lost and sad."

—anonymous

DIsney

13.Rebecca Bunch from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Rebecca putting makeup on

"I watch her songs about borderline personality disorder anytime I need an extra voice reminding me I’m not only okay, but I’m fucking amazing. Not only does she do a perfect job of showing a very confusing and VERY stigmatized disorder, but she does it as a woman who also looks like me. Honestly, watching this show is the closest thing anyone can get to knowing what it’s like to live with BPD."

—anonymous

"I have BPD, which I rarely talk about because it's highly stigmatized. Watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for the first time five years ago literally saved my life. I have never connected so much with a character as I did with Rebecca, which was both uncomfortable (because she does make plenty of mistakes and questionable choices) and extremely freeing (because she is so human and relatable). I stopped beating myself up for who I am and how intensely I feel things because Rebecca showed me I'm not alone. It's an amazing show regardless, with tons of great representation, but seeing such an honest, authentic, and loving portrayal of my mental illness was a game changer."

—anonymous

Warner Bros.

14.Issa Dee from Insecure

Issa smiling and holding a beverage

"She's a college-educated Black woman fumbling her way through her early 30s. We never get those stories. In Hollywood, we’re either super poor or super successful, but no one reflected me and my friends quite like Issa in Insecure."

kennedymorrison

"I was told I 'sounded like a white girl' growing up and was treated differently because of it. On top of that, I sure as hell don’t look the way I sound. Issa is a beautiful dark-skinned woman who makes me feel seen. I learned to laugh about things, and to just keep moving forward (with a smile)."

—anonymous

HBO

15.Elena from One Day at a Time

Elena saying to two women, "This is terrible; I can't be 'passing'; I'm a pround Latinx"

"She is a very fair-skinned Latina, and they addressed what that means on the show. I understood her feelings of gratitude for not experiencing racism, but also the weird discomfort that that same thing brings — like you don’t feel 'Latin enough.' It’s imposter syndrome, really. Seeing her go through everything I do was really heartwarming."

yeosie

Netflix

16.Max from Happy Endings

Max saying, "I'm not at a point right now in my life where I can be taken seriously"

"As a gay man, it meant a lot to me to see a gay character with mostly straight friends who wasn’t fashionable and didn’t have a stable career. At that point in my life, I felt like a failure because I didn’t live up to the vision of a 30-year-old gay man that was stereotypical of TV and movie characters at the time. It might seem strange to put so much stock in a fictional character, but it made me feel better about the fact that I was still figuring things out."

—anonymous

Sony Pictures Television

17.Eloise from Bridgerton

Eloise saying, "Why must our only options be to squawk and settle or to never leave the nest? What if I want to fly?"

"She made me feel like it was okay for me to not want to get married or have kids. She made me feel normal and like I wasn't disappointing people for not wanting that."

carissamosness17

Netflix

18.Chidi from The Good Place

Chidi choosing a muffin

"I was in college when the show came out and had initially written the show off as silly and a waste of time, but it was Chidi’s character that made me stick around. He was smart and logical while also being highly emotional and sometimes irrational. I never felt more represented! He wanted what was best for everyone (even if he never exactly knew what that meant), and that’s all I want too. And like Chidi, I have my Eleanor, someone who can mellow me out and reel me back in. I appreciated the love for anxious people!"

ninablack

NBC

19.Alina from Shadow and Bone

Alina looking off into the distance

"I'm of Taiwanese and European descent, and I grew up thinking I didn't need physical representation because I could relate to people based on their behavior or personality. But I was 26 years old before I ever saw someone who looked like me on TV. Watching Jessie Mei Li play Alina really filled a hole in my life I didn't know was there. I can't describe the feeling of rightness and wholeness I got from watching that show. For the first time in my life, I was seeing someone who looked like me, not as a sidekick or a background character, but as a potential love interest (for two gorgeous humans), as a warrior, as a hero, and as a protagonist. I'm really grateful to that show for giving me the opportunity to see myself in the stories that I've loved for so long."

—anonymous

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

20.Elle Woods from Legally Blonde

Elle Woods smiling triumphantly

"I'm blonde and literally had a teacher say that no one would take me seriously. So seeing Elle kick ass and become a great lawyer is still so inspiring, as I became a corporate accountant that is very much taken seriously and very much blonde."

caseyd4c2d40982

20th Century Fox

21.Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Rosa saying, "This is not a phase, and I need you to understand that; I'm bisexual"

"I really connected to Rosa, a private person who normally doesn’t open up to people about herself, when she came out as bi. I really relate to what she told her dad after he said there's no such thing as being bisexual: 'Yes, there is. I know there is, because that’s who I am.'"

jessbruso

NBC

22.Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory

Sheldon sitting on a couch

"I'm autistic, and I know he’s sort of toxic, but I like that he isn’t perfect because I'm not either! I relate to a lot of what he goes through, and I love him because he isn’t exactly a charming person. He’s himself!"

christinaa447c2c45c

CBS

23.Selena from Selena (1997)

Three kids playing music and a man looking at them

"I'm a Mexican American and was born and raised in Corpus Christi. Even though Selena and her siblings are older than me and my siblings, the way the family dynamic was portrayed was so similar to the way my family was. The overprotective father, the expectations of success/fear of failure, the cultural expectations — it was all very relatable. It's like watching a version of my family."

jrmart91

Warner Bros.

24.John Silver in Black Sails

a man in pain while another man says they'll take care of him, and him saying that's the scary part

"I connected with John after he lost his leg. He grieved the loss of his leg the way I did the loss of my mobility in my leg and lower arm. Everyone treats the stages of grief like you go through them in order, but it's tumultuous and you revisit the denial and anger so often. There's a line he says when his crewmate promises to take care of him: 'You know what the scariest part is? We'll take of you.' The feeling of vulnerability echoed in my bones."

e_rose28

Starz

25.And finally, most of the dance team from Gotta Kick It Up!

cheerleaders cheering

"I first saw this on Disney Channel when I was about 13. As a half-Hispanic girl who looks Hispanic, I loved it. 'Sí se puede!!!'"

mochacurl

Disney

When was the first time you saw yourself represented in a TV show or movie? Or are you still waiting to see yourself onscreen? Let us know in the comments!

Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.