With the launch of Disney+, it has never been easier to dip back into our favourite childhood shows. For me, this has meant working through the 100 episodes of That’s So Raven, reliving my tween memories of her warm and confident character and obsessing over her iconic outfits.
Gifted with the power of clairvoyancy, Raven navigates sticky situations alongside her best friends, Chelsea and Eddie, with the show using a significantly Black cast for mid-00s Disney. Despite the Atlantic Ocean-sized gap separating me from Raven’s world, I felt, and often still feel, as though Raven is my cool older cousin – a Black girl to look up to.
Her trendsetting noughties style has had a resurgence, and throughout the show, there are examples of Y2K outfits that any teen today would definitely appreciate. Raven’s bold orange and teal outfit with an Afghan coat to match in the opening sequence establishes her as stylishly confident – and she knows this, quipping “yup, that’s me” at the end. Many of Raven’s funky outfits are designed and handmade by her, a pleasant display of a Black girl enjoying her creativity.
“Its exploration into ethical issues facing Black girls and women is what makes it influential to this day.”
It isn’t just my love for Raven’s expansive collection of flared jeans that makes the show so amazing to me. Its exploration into ethical issues facing Black girls and women is what makes it influential to this day. Through the medium of a vivacious and imaginative Black teenager, the show is able to open up discussions pertinent to its audience such as ones about self-image and discrimination within the fashion world. What distinguishes this show, however, is its ability to unpack these topics without the need for traumatic or painful storylines.
Whilst the plots vary from being juvenile and relatable to totally comically outlandish, the two-time Emmy nominated show succeeds in creating entertaining and didactic experiences for its viewers.
In True Colours of Season 3, Raven experiences workplace racial discrimination at a clothing store. Despite her extensive skills in fashion design and her bubbly personality making her perfect for the job, Raven is rejected from the role of sales assistant. It is through this rejection that Raven makes the painful realisation that life as a Black girl in the predominantly white fashion industry means facing racism and she expresses the hurt this causes her with little equivocation. In typical fashion, Raven, through the help of Chelsea, is able to capture the manager admitting that they “don’t hire Black people” and justice is served with the manager being fired.
This restorative ending is important; it clearly shows young Black people that racist people, especially in influential positions, should be called out and suffer the repercussions of their behaviour. It is worth noting Chelsea’s role in this episode wearing a hidden camera in order to record the managers racism – a playful way of displaying the supportive nature of successful allyship.
Part of the beauty of That’s So Raven is the fact that Raven is a full-figured Black teenager and, unlike other contemporary Black shows such as Moesha and Girlfriends, this doesn’t become a source of jokes and ridicule. The show addresses Raven’s weight in That’s So NOT Raven of Season 2 with Raven’s psychic powers revealing to her a scene where she sees that her body had been photoshopped into a smaller figure in a fashion show magazine. In the nine seasons of the show, this is pretty much the only time that audiences witness Raven’s confidence rocked as she turns to an excessive exercise regime in order to rapidly lose weight. However, with the loving words of her family and friends, Raven realises that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her appearance.
This episode commendably addresses body shaming and self-esteem issues in the fashion world and the dangers of trying to lose weight fast – as well as tackling sizeism towards Black girls and women. As someone who can deeply relate to Raven in this episode, it is comforting to know that in the same way I felt the all-embracing love and acceptance by the end of the episode, other young girls also experienced it too. This can be felt throughout the seasons of That’s So Raven and the messages instilled in many episodes are incredibly validating for me as a young Black person, as I watched it before and as I rewatch it now.
“Her character has paved the way for other Black girls to joyfully exist on prime-time TV”
The premise of That’s So Raven isn’t an unusual one; there are countless other tween sitcoms with a supernatural theme. What distinguishes the show is Raven’s charm and uniqueness which beams through her clothes and her behaviour. Her character has paved the way for other Black girls to joyfully exist on prime-time TV like Keke Palmer and Skai Jackson who continued to maintain the legacy of well-dressed Black girls on Disney Channel. The character of Raven returned to our screens in a new show called Raven’s Home as she tackles single motherhood and divorce in a way which its younger audience can appreciate exemplifying the eternal relevance of Black characters on our screens.
I appreciate That’s So Raven for all the happiness it brings in its display of Black joy and for the wistful tone with which it educated me. To this day, I aspire to have wardrobe as cool and authentic as Raven’s and the ability to wear it with the beautiful coolness that Raven did.
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