Do you remember what it felt like to be 8 years old? Do you remember the messages you were seeing on TV in cartoons and ads every day, and how they made you feel? For me it's been decades since I was in those shoes, so I personally found it both inspiring and humbling to speak with Natalie McGriff, the award-winning co-author of “The Adventures of MoxieMcGriff.” Natalie recently attended The White House Summit on the United State of Women for her efforts to empower young girls to find their inner superpower and promote literacy amongst girls of color, and did I mention she's 8 years old? Natalie co-wrote the comic “The Adventures of MoxieMcGriff” about a superhero with superpower afro puffs along with her mother, due to Natalie hating her natural hair, the color of her skin and reading. After writing the comic, in which the heroine (based on Natalie) gains superpowers in her hair, Natalie realized the power and beauty in being unique and loving yourself.
What inspired you to write this book?
What inspired me to write was that I didn’t like my hair, and so I wrote this book about a girl who doesn’t like her hair and she saves the library with her red and blue afro puffs.
How did you come up with the red and blue afro puffs?
Red and blue is my favorite color, and they stand for fire and ice.
When they see me in the cartoon they’ll feel confident about themselves and learn to love themselves, because they’re seeing someone their color and someone who looks like them on TV.
Had anyone ever said anything negative to you about your hair?
Well no one said anything negative about my hair, but I wanted my hair to be straight because I saw other people with long and straight hair. So that’s why I wanted my hair to be long and straight.
I know a lot of our readers have felt that way about their hair at some point too, so I think this book will be really helpful. What would you say to other girls your age who don't like the way their hair looks or don't like the way they look?
To love the way their hair is made and have confidence in themselves.
What have your family and friends done to help you be more confident in yourself?
Every day my family tells me I’m beautiful, but it was when I wrote my book that’s when I really started liking my hair.
What do you think it'll take for other young children and children of color to feel self-love?
I think it takes kids seeing people like them, people their color doing things. So when they see me in the cartoon they’ll feel confident about themselves and learn to love themselves, because they’re seeing someone their color and someone who looks like them on TV.
What are you doing to promote literacy among young children?
Donating books, reading to children, having book drives where other people donate books. I go read to the Boys and Girls Club and I go into schools to read too.
What are you most excited about attending the United State of Women Summit?
Going to Washington DC, and meeting Michelle Obama.
Angie, Natalie's Mom: Maybe, maybe meeting Michelle Obama.
Natalie: Maybe. That’s on my list, my bucket list.
Can you tell me about the cartoon?
One character is based on my cousin Chris, he has hearing aids and we decided that could be his super power, good hearing. He uses his hearing aids to hear very long distances and he throws it as a boomerang.
Angie, Natalie's Mom: We came up with some more characters for the next book and the cartoon to add to the Moxie Crew, and a lot of those characters had insecurities or disabilities. So we used those insecurities and disabilities as their super powers.
What’s a talent or a skill of yours that you’re most proud of?
Track, running, and gymnastics. But mostly track.
Angie, what are you most proud of about Natalie?
Angie, Natalie's Mom: I’m proud that she’s starting to come out of her shell and really starting to love herself. Before she was infatuated, because I work with a diverse group of people in community organizing, and she would be fascinated with my friends that are Caucasian. She would say “I want long straight hair like Miss Meredith” and so we incorporated Meredith into the book. Every time she saw someone who was white she wanted their long hair, and I think that’s because oftentimes in television shows, in books, on clothing items and book bags all you see are girls like the ones from Frozen. So I’m proud that she’s ok with herself now, that’s sad to see your daughter having those insecurities at the age of 6, which is when it started happening. So I had to take a plan of action, which is why I encouraged her to come up with the idea of the superpower book. At first she wanted her superpower to be fire coming out of her eyes, but I said “what about your hair!” So then she came up with fire and ice.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Angie, Natalie's Mom: I really want to remind mothers and fathers to really speak life to their children. Even though me and Natalie’s dad aren’t together, when I noticed she was having self esteem issues I told him you have to start taking her out on dates and every day call her and tell her how beautiful she is because that goes a long way. I was never told that much as a child, and I think that had a negative impact on my childhood, which is why it wasn’t until I became an adult and graduated from college that I started to love who I was, being natural, being me, and being my authentic self. I think it’s very important that we speak life into our kids and start instilling in them a healthy sense of self love and self worth.
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You can follow on The Adventures of Moxie Girl on Facebook, Twitter @moxiegirlcomics and order the comic book online at moxiemcgriff.com.