I was almost five years old when the first episode of That’s So Raven aired on Disney Channel in 2003. However, I had discovered the show a year later (when I was actually able to control the remote in my auntie’s house when I was six). It was my first time scrolling through channels on the television, and I remember being frustrated with not finding a good channel to watch. That was until I eventually saw a Black girl who looked like me on a show that would ultimately become an integral aspect of my childhood. That show was That’s So Raven, and it was the first time that a shy Black girl from Illinois was able to truly see herself represented on her auntie’s television.
If Moesha provided a representation of Black girls growing up during the 90’s, then That’s So Raven certainly provided a blueprint for Black girls growing up during the early 2000’s. The latter follows the life of Raven Baxter, portrayed by the talented and often controversial Raven-Symoné, as she manages the typical teenage situations while having the not-so-typical psychic abilities. Although supernatural series like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch aired during the same time, one starring a Black girl in the early 2000’s was truly ahead of its time. And it was the main reason why I was often prevented from watching it. I was raised in a devout Christian household, and anything dealing with supernatural powers and spirits was immediately written off by mom as “something of the devil”. There was even a time when I was forbidden from watching the show entirely because my mom didn’t want it to influence me.
However, I eventually found a way to secretly watch the show because I saw myself in Raven Baxter. No, I didn’t have psychic abilities, but Raven Baxter gave space for Black girls to dream about themselves beyond the physical. Her existence was held tightly to mine. She was everything I wanted to be: witty, confident and the owner of an impeccable fashion sense (highlighted by flame-embroidered pants and wild prints that simply wouldn’t work today). Raven Baxter ultimately became someone I could try to emulate, and that’s something that a Black girl, who previously never saw herself represented in television, desperately needed.
Furthermore, the success of That’s So Raven greatly proved that more representations of Black woman-led shows on Disney Channel needed to exist. It became the highest-rated original in Disney Channel history. Running from 2003-2007, That’s So Raven was the first Disney Channel series to produce 100 episodes, breaking Disney Channel’s 65-episode mold for live action and animated series. It was also nominated twice for Outstanding Children’s Programming at the Emmys. That’s So Raven’s unprecedented success truly led a trailblazing plath for the success of shows like Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place. But the unprecedented success of a Black-women led Disney Channel series certainly paved the way for other Black Disney Channel stars like Zendaya (K.C. Undercover), China Anne-McClain ( and Skai Jackson to lead their respective TV shows.
That’s So Raven gave the world fragrances, a clothing line, bedroom sets, books, video games, the legendary cultural reference “Boyz N Motion” and two spin-off series ( Corey in the House and Raven’s Home). But, more importantly, it simply gave a six-year-old Black girl like me the freedom to dream, which is something I would eventually learn wasn’t regularly afforded to Black girls growing up.