I have always said that teenagers can change the world. And whether she knows it or not, that's just what 17-year-old Mikhaila Nodel is doing with the body positive cartoons she draws for her Tumblr page called Cosmic Cuties. The comic-like characters that she has created have basically gone viral with the recent media attention she's getting from publications across the web and fellow proponents of positive body image.
Type in Nodel's name on Twitter and you won't find her own account, but you will find dozens of re-Tweets of her cartoons. The Internet recognition she's receiving is pretty spectacular, even if her personal Instagram account only shows 231 followers, and as her drawings originated on Tumblr, the official Instagram of Cosmic Cuties only has 126 followers. But the blog itself has certainly created a stir since its conception in November 2014, and this young New Yorker is making a difference in the way her peers and adults the world over view themselves.
According to the Tumblr Q&As that she has made public on her page, Nodel will also be producing monthly print zines that will be professionally made and available for purchase soon. The demand for her cartoons to be put into print is no surprise to me, as the topics Nodel has chosen for the zines so far (feminism, body acceptance, gender, and body hair) are among some of the major cultural issues of our time. Of course, she first delved into zines when she began hand-printing copies of her work and leaving them in the girl's bathroom of her school — which is just the kind of thing any adolescent (or any person, for that matter) needs to be seeing more of.
I've spent most of my adult life mentoring and championing teenagers, because from the time I was a teen, I have known that even just one voice can be as loud as a whole crowd when taken to its fullest potential. So it is an incredible reaction of both justification and pride that I feel when I read Nodel's blog and see her cartoons and the praise she's achieving.
While reading an interview Nodel reblogged with fellow Tumblr user Profeminist, my favorite part to take in was her explanation of who the Cosmic Cuties are:
"They’re born from space dust and slow down the universe and fight sexist crime. They’re these feminist goddesses that watch over all women and are there to protect them."
Not only is she making statements that influence this generation with her cartoons, but she's also demonstrating a certain creativity that is equally commendable. It brings a quality to her work that entitles her to not just be celebrated as a young person doing something amazing, but as a genuine activist and artist whose work could rival much of what's being produced by employed graphic artists twice her age.
The Cosmic Cutie characters and the mini lessons they teach remind me of the type of messages broadcasted to my 12-year-old self in the late '90s by the Sailor Senshi in the popular Japanese manga and cartoon Sailor Moon. Not to mention Nodel's choice to set her "cuties" in space, wearing fantastically precious super-heroine knee-high boots! I'm not sure who her artistic influencers are, but the girl has a style I can relate to and one that totally gives me all the feels of an adoring fangirl.
The image above is my favorite of Nodel's. It comes from her second zine published in December on Body Acceptance. I love how she's taken something that we women shame ourselves for (i.e. stretch marks) and spins such a cute and positive outlook on them. When I read that, even as an adult, I looked down at the stretch marks in my inner thigh and smiled, which then made me tear up.
That is something I'm sure Mikhaila Nodel would love to know she incited, because it's likely that every time I look down at those stretch marks again, I'm going to be thinking of her remarkable graphics and the inspiration contained within them.