Moments That Showed How Important Representation Is For Kids

From Barack Obama's hair touching moment to the impact of "Hamilton," these examples highlight the power of diversity in children's media, toys and more.

It’s been said many times, but it always bears repeating: Representation matters. Seeing people who look like you or have had similar experiences in movies, advertising, politics and other influential areas is especially impactful for kids.

Study after study has touted the value of exposing children to media with positive role models they can look up to and relate to, but many movies, Tv shows, books, games and the like still rely on harmful stereotypes

While we have a long way to go, memorable examples of the impact of diversity and inclusion on kids have emerged over the years. Below, we’ve rounded up 12 moments that underscored the power of representation.

1
"Hair Like Mine"
Pete Souza/The White House
In 2009, then-White House photographer Pete Souza captured a powerful moment when 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia met Barack Obama and asked if the president's hair was like his.

“This photo is one of my favorites,” documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter said of the image .“It speaks to the importance of representation. When children see people who look like them in places of power, it lets them know their dreams are absolutely possible.”
2
The Release Of "Black Panther"
Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters
The 2018 film “Black Panther” was monumental; it was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster to feature a Black superhero in the lead and have an almost entirely Black cast.

Its importance for representation was evidenced by the reactions of Black students across the country. This photo shows Ron Clark Academy sixth-grader De Ja Little watching the film with classmates at a theater in Atlanta.
3
Target's Viral Display
A year ago, a boy named Oliver Garza-Pena, who has caudal regression syndrome and uses a wheelchair, was struck while shopping at Target by a display featuring another boy who uses a wheelchair His mom shared the meaningful experience in a viral post on his Facebook page.

"Today Oliver stopped me dead in his tracks and turned back around to see this picture that he spotted! He just stared at it in awe!" she wrote. "He recognized another boy like him, smiling and laughing on a display at Target. Oliver sees kids every day, but he never gets to see kids like him. This was amazing!"
4
The Inauguration Of Kamala Harris
When Kamala Harris was sworn in as the nation's first female, Black and Asian American vice president, it was a significant moment for girls, and especially girls of color in the U.S.

Retired NFL player Torrey Smith illustrated this when he shared a photo of his 2-year-old daughter Kori wearing a shirt that read, "My VP Looks Like Me" on Instagram. "I'm so excited for my daughter!" he wrote in the caption. "Anything is possible but it's different when you see it!"
5
The Diverse Casting Of "Hamilton"
After the release of "Hamilton" on Disney+, Eliza actress Phillipa Soo tweeted a sweet video of a young Asian girl declaring, "It's me," when she sees her on screen.

"Little Jenna here is exactly why #representationmatters," she wrote. "I am so grateful for this show, that so many young people can watch this show and say, 'It’s me.'"
6
The Release Of "Wonder Woman"
The 2017 film "Wonder Woman" was a big moment for representation as a female-led, female-directed superhero movie in an overwhelmingly male-dominated genre.

Many young girls showed their support for the film and fearless women everywhere by channeling their inner superhero and dressing up as Wonder Woman.
7
This Viral Post About Dolls With Disabilities
Lindsay Filcik, whose daughter Ivy has Down syndrome, shared a post about the power of representation in toys on Instagram, where it quickly went viral.

"Every single human being deserves to see somebody who looks like them in movies, books, commercials, and toys," she wrote. "Unfortunately for far too long that has not been the case. People of all races, abilities, body types, genders, religions, etc. need to be represented in what we watch, read, and play with."
8
JoJo Siwa's Coming Out
JoJo Siwa rose to fame as a child star who promoted positivity and anti-bullying messages. In January, she came out to her millions of young fans as a member of the LGBTQ+ community -- and many were quick to point out the powerful impact of the announcement.

"idk but if i was 10 and saw jojo siwa coming out as gay .... the impact that would have on my mental health and confidence as a little girl who just knew she wasn’t straight," read one viral tweet responding to the news. "i am so proud of jojo for always being herself and helping a new generation of kids be themselves too."
9
The Casting Of Joshua Dela Cruz In "Blue's Clues & You!"
In 2019, Nickelodeon announced that Joshua Dela Cruz would be the new host of the "Blue's Clues" reboot, "Blue's Clues & You!" The casting of Dela Cruz, who is Filipino American, marked a victory for Asian representation on TV .

"As a little kid, I NEVER saw an Asian dude on the kiddie shows (or any shows)," tweeted internet personality Tim Chantarangsu. "I’m bout to watch this new Blues Clues just to support my PEOPLES! We out here in 2019!"
10
The "Star Wars" Character Rey
The character Rey's appearance in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was groundbreaking both within the male-dominated realm of the fictional universe and in the real world, as she inspired countless young girls with her heroism.

One little girl's reaction to seeing Rey at Walt Disney World, as shown on this video, illustrates the impact of writing strong female characters in big franchises.
11
The Cochlear Implant In "Toy Story 4"
Pixar's decision to include a character with a cochlear implant in "Toy Story 4" garnered praise from parents, children and disability advocates.

"This is amazing," tweeted Deaflympian Claire Stancliffe. "Thank you @Disney @Pixar @toystory for the inclusion and visibility."

"My 6yo couldn’t be happier," wrote Australian media lecturer Belinda Barnet in another tweet.
12
Simone Biles And Gabby Douglas' Olympic Feats
The 2016 Olympics were very impactful for Black children who watched gymnasts Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas win medal after medal. Many parents shared photos of their daughters watching the gymnastics events or trying their hand at the sport.

"My daughter told me she wants to be like @gabrielledoug & @Simone_Biles," tweeted dad Prince Miller. "You all make a difference! Thank you!"

This story is part of a HuffPost Parents project called “I See Me,” a series for parents and kids on the power of representation. We know how important it is for kids to see people who look like them on the biggest stages, including politics, sports, entertainment and beyond. Throughout February, we’ll explore the importance of representation in teaching kids about difference, acceptance, privilege and standing up for others.