Izel Nava (she/her/hers)
Editorial Team Member

When I was ten, my dream was to design playgrounds. It’s not as if I didn’t have loving parents that made me believe I could be anything. Or, that I had yet realized that the world didn’t want someone that looked like me to be anything. Rather, my reality was a pencil, paper, and imagination, all tied up in a colorful bow of galvanized steel and aluminum. I could capture my past, present, and future in those nine hundred square feet. I was designing zip lines that flew over pools and a petting zoo with every animal so none felt left out. I’d draw my family in a castle with a moat around it, telling myself I’d buy it for them once I became the face of playground modelization.

But my dreams of exterior design disappeared with my self-proclaimed maturity. I was “too good” for many things I once loved by the time I turned eleven, including playgrounds, glitter, toys, and fun. My dream was now to be a woman and graduate from a prepubescent body. To come out in a pantsuit without a trace of femininity because that’s what my generation told me was powerful. The truth was, I loved the stereotypical girlhood I tried so hard to escape. I loved the pink, bows, makeup, clothes, and sleepovers. But I hated not seeing myself. I hated looking at the girls who embraced their femininity because they were always blonde, blue-eyed, and white. My drawings became limited to shades of nude and hot pink because that’s what I perceived as beautiful. And when that bubble popped, I was left with resentment. My Barbie Dream House was placed in an attic to collect dust and decay. Where girlhood became ammunition for society to throw in my face. “You Can Be Anything” didn’t apply to girls like me.

It took sitting in a theater while listening to America Ferrera’s monologue that I realized that resentment melted. I love film, but years ago I’d come to peace with the fact that I would never see a resemblance of myself on screen. But that little brown girl I had neglected sat through all 114 minutes with a stupid smile on her face. Daydreaming of a Barbie Dreamhouse with plush pink couches, a walk-in closet that magically refills outfits, a slide to the bottom, a maze made of red rose bushes, and plenty of treetop trails. Because simplicity is not a word in a child’s vocabulary.