Meet: Mikhaila Nodel, a 17-year-old high school student and activist from Brooklyn, New York.
Disrupting the default, one drawing at a time: Mikhaila’s body-positive Cosmic Cuties drawings are a viral sensation, earning coverage from People magazine to Cosmopolitan, Bustle, The Daily Mail, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Facebook page, and more. The Cosmic Cuties are ”born from space dust and slow down the universe to fight sexist crime.” They are “feminist goddesses who watch over all women and are there to protect them.” These cuties not only stand for feminism, but also self-love and body acceptance. At a time when young women’s sense of self-worth is often influenced by gender stereotypes and unrealistic media-perpetuated standards for female bodies, the Cosmic Cuties are here to empower and disrupt the default of our cultural beauty standards—as well as to showcase the power of one teenager’s voice.
How she got here: My mom is a feminist and so I never saw being a woman as a setback. But when I got to sixth grade I was bullied and it chipped away at my self-esteem. Although I made some friends in seventh grade, I realized I couldn’t find my self-worth through other people. Feminism really helped me to find my self-confidence without relying on other people’s perceptions of me. I realized all these things I hated about myself were just stupid patriarchal standards and societal norms. I just did not want to be in that mold anymore. I didn’t want to be like everyone else.
In high school I joined the school’s feminist club and came up with the idea of Cosmic Cuties at a zine-making day. A lot of people are bullied for their weight. I made these characters curvy because I think it’s important for all women to feel good about themselves and I thought thin people don’t need more representation; we have enough thin girls in the media already—there needs to be more representation of other body types.
I started making copies of my zines and leaving them in the girls’ bathroom at school. I want to help other girls feel better about themselves. I want girls to know they are awesome the way they are.
Why she identifies as a feminist: When I think of feminism I think of equality: socioeconomic, political, and, of course, gender. There are still people at my school who think feminism is a bad word and don’t identify with it. They think of feminists as crazy women who hate men. It is not required to be a vegan to be a feminist! I think celebrities like Beyoncé have really helped to normalize the word and that is a good step. You don’t have to do anything else to be a feminist other than embrace equality.