Did Raven Baxter see this one coming? On Friday (July 8th), Disney Channel's 'That's So Raven' spinoff "Raven's Home" debuted its first openly transgender character, Nikki.
The Puerto Rican actress, Juliana Joel announced her big debut via Instagram, sharing photos of her script, the infamous Chill Grill, and her chair on set. According to Joel's Twitter, the actress had been keeping the role a secret since March 31st of this year before officially joining the cast.
"Ready to watch an out trans character/actor on @DisneyChannel !? Well, I've joined the Season 5 cast of @RavensHome ! Tune in tonight at 9 p.m. PT to meet Nikki #RepresentationMatters... [couldn't] wait to be able to share about this role"
Joel and Nori Reed, the show's new openly queer writer who wrote the episode, were both able to live out their childhood dreams on season 5 episode #517 titled, "The Fierce Wakening" of Disney's "Ravens Home".
Reed announced her script for season 5 via Instagram and expressed her gratitude for finally belonging in the world.
"Now a young queer person in rural America can pop on the Disney Channel and witness a funny, nuanced trans character that they can relate to. And I pray in my heart that they hear the very clear message: You belong in this world and are included.”
The episode showcases how Raven Baxter's love for fashion never changed and soon she started up a new fashion studio but needed assistance. Joel's character, Nikki, is interviewed for that assistant position which happens to be an unpaid job.
Joel wrote in an emotional Instagram post shared on the day the episode aired: "Growing up as a kid in Florida (like many other kids) I dreamt of being on the Disney Channel, specifically on That’s So Raven. It was my favorite show & Raven Baxter was my best friend in my mind. It was my escape from what I was going through internally. Coming from a typical Puerto Rican family, I didn’t think being an actor was possible esp for someone like me, I thought you had to be born into that world. Fast forward to becoming an actor I then told myself I wasn’t young enough to be on Disney anymore & even if that wasn’t the case I’m TRANS."
"I’d never seen an out trans actor or character on the Disney Channel. EVER. Needless to say I cried in my dressing room after walking onto that set the first time. It was a moment where it hit me that I not only get to live out my childhood dream on a version of my favorite show…I get to do it as my authentic self and with a character that is openly trans. But it was really more than just being on the show. With all of the anti-trans hate and narratives in media and society, it was a win. I claimed a dream and space for myself while so much of the world is trying to erase me & my community. And now I get to be that person I wish I had to watch on TV growing up. So never tell yourself it can’t happen because it can, in ways you never dreamt possible."
According to IMDb, Joel is no stranger to the big screen. Her first acting role was showcased in the 2018 trans film, Full Beat. She later starred in Disney's Televisions Discover: Talent Show in 2021. Her best-known roles this year feature her in Absolute Dominion and American Gigolo.
We want to see Nikki in more seasons of Raven's Home and hope that Disney continues to recognize more queer creators in the world.
Gayes, have you seen it?