Since her debut in the hit Disney children’s series, the 18-year-old actress has become an unlikely feminist, human rights activist and LGBTQ+ icon.
Rowan Blanchard, New York’s youngest 18-year-old actress, is already known for two seemingly opposite things – her activism and support for LGBTQ+ and feminism, and her short work in the series Girl Meets World.
The series, produced by Disney Channel, was a sitcom about Riley Matthews (played by Blanchard), a typical teenager navigating New York City and high school. Being highly clichéd and politically correct, the series was popular among young people for its entertainment and believability, but was criticized for its lack of modernism and inclusiveness.
The series largely revolved around exclusively high school issues, such as trying to fit in with the popular crowd and thinking about hooking up with the cute new guy. As a child actress and former Disney star, Blanchard took up LGBTQ+ activism and support – a topic Disney had long stayed away from – and it was the most unlikely development.
Blanchard’s first steps into activism came when she spoke at the 2015 UN Women “HeForShe” conference, at just 13 years old, where she wowed the crowd with her maturity and eloquence.
@phippstea yes, I could like any gender in the future, so I identify as queer – Rowan Blanchard (@RowanBlanchard) January 16, 2016
She is currently a social activist (though she has stated that she does not like to be called one) of multiple movements, focusing mostly on feminism, LGBTQ+ and human rights. In 2016, when she was 14 years old, she admitted to being queer herself by posting a message on her social media page.
Her social media activity is a testament to her dedication to her cause. While many other stars her age cultivate a vanilla image to maintain public popularity, Blanchard is unafraid and unapologetic. She wears whatever she wants and doesn’t shave her armpits as a statement piece. She preaches to her 5.2 million followers on Instagram about various issues such as #BlackLivesMatter and gay pride.
One of her most controversial photos shows two women kissing in front of astonished soldiers while a portrait of Mao Zedong looks on. Such statements probably encouraged other teenagers to live their own lives, regardless of any existing cultural prejudices or traditions.
Her change has not gone unnoticed. Her Instagram posts are often accompanied by comments such as “my childhood,” “glow down” and “what happened to you,” indicating fans’ shock at her dramatic change.
Blanchard has gone from a long-haired, blue-eyed, clean-cut Disney girl to a thong person with a pixie haircut (she doesn’t support gender binary) in a few years, and her example sends a strong message to the world about the importance of being yourself and being confident.