Ms. Marvel Shows Kids That They Can Be Superheroes Too

One tween learns to embrace her inner superheroine by cosplaying as Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel
Photo: Zoe Hansen

When I was little, I loved the Disney princesses, especially Snow White. But there was never anyone who looked like me. Mama and Papa say that once, when I was very little, I got really upset because I wasn't blonde like Cinderella or a redhead like Ariel. I couldn't quite explain at the time, but I know it meant that I felt left out—like I couldn't be the star of the show or save the day.

But then, when I was 4 years old, the Marvel comics series came out with a character named Kamala Khan, a Desi superhero who took on the role of Ms. Marvel.

I loved everything about her. The costume. The messy hair. The fact that she didn't look pristine when she woke up in the morning. That she was brown, like me. That she came from Jersey City, New Jersey, like me. That Jersey City was finally getting a superhero to protect it. (Instead of New York getting yet another one!) And that the superhero was a girl who looked like me, wore Salwar Kameez at weddings, just like I do, and had a million family members—at least three-quarters of whom she doesn't know the names of and pretends that she does, deflecting by saying, "Hey Auntie." Because everyone's an auntie.

Basically: I finally got to see a character that looks and acts like me. And has a lot of the same problems I did.

Papa and I started reading them together, and when I was about 5, I was hooked. We decided to go to Comic Con (with Mama's press passes!) and I would dress up like Katara, Sailor Moon, Princess Leia, Storm and X-23 from the X-Men. (And Papa cosplayed as Wolverine a lot—he usually already had the beard and yellow bodysuit. Random, right?) I remember one time, I freaked out because Papa was using this white spray to dye my hair for Storm.

But the character I cosplayed as the most was always Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel. The problem was, we could never find any Ms. Marvel costumes at Target or Amazon, because Ms. Marvel wasn't as big a deal to them—to most people—as it was to me. So we had to make a Ms. Marvel costume from scratch. Actually, my Dadima made me one from scratch—a long blue kameez paired with shimmering red leggings (instead of the salwar!), the signature shiny gold lightning bolt front and center. I loved that costume so much. She made me one practically every year because I kept outgrowing them. It was my favorite, and I loved wearing it around Jersey City and on the subway, and especially in the Javits Center during Comic Con, where, eventually, I started meeting other Ms. Marvels, too, though it was rare.

When the TV show came out, it was very different from the comics, but the basis was still the same. Desi girl gets mysterious powers trying to be like all the other kids, has to find a way to deal with it with her best friend Bruno Carrelli, who's secretly in love with her, but basically everyone can tell except for Kamala Khan.

Ms. Marvel has a very overactive mind like mine, and that is shown really well in the TV show, because she basically has a stop motion playing around in her head, which makes everything become glowy and more magical. Maybe she has ADHD, like me. Although neither of us are officially diagnosed yet.

Her family feels really familiar. And they're funny, like mine. A big, sprawling mess of people, crazy antics, lots of food and laughing. I love the show's music, and I keep downloading every track. And like mine, her family always tries to give her what she needs and connect with her. Their hearts are always in the right place and, let's face it, Bhada Hulk and Choti Hulk (pay no mind to the spelling) was the idea of the century. The point is: Kamala's parents are invested and want to have fun, and hang out with her. If I could give one piece of advice to parents, it would be to listen to your kid, learn about what they love, and try to enjoy it with them. At least sometimes.

Because in the end, Kamala got the message–and so did I. That I'd make a really good superhero. Albeit a bit absent-minded.

In the first episode, Kamala's mom Muneeba says, "Who do you want to be in this world, huh? Do you want to be good, like we raised you to be, or do you want to be some, you know, this cosmic head-in-the-clouds person?"

To which Kamala responds, after her mom leaves while staring at her glowy hand: "Cosmic."

Me, too, Kamala.

At first, Kamala says, "It's not really the brown girls from Jersey City who save the world."

But then her BFF Bruno, genius, says: "You're Kamala Khan. You wanna save the world, then you're gonna save the world." And then Kamala Khan does save the world. Multiple times.

And maybe someday I can too. As a brown girl from Jersey City with big dreams as well, Ms. Marvel makes it seem like anything is possible.

Kavya Dhillon is a 12-year-old seventh grader. Like Ms. Marvel, she is a brown superhero kid from Jersey City, New Jersey, where she loves to read books and comics, cook with her mama, cosplay with her papa and kid brother, and write and perform in musicals with her friends.

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