Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we are honoring Rowan Blanchard, who’s helping lead a new generation into a label-free world.
Blanchard started acting at age five, so she’s already a ten-year industry vet whose big splash came when she was cast as the lead on Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World, a sequel to the 1990s show Boy Meets World . The show aired its final episode in January, after spending three seasons following the highs and lows of Riley Matthews (Blanchard) as she and her best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) navigated friendships, school, and life in a somewhat idealized New York City. Despite her squeaky-clean Disney image, Blanchard has proven herself to be much more than just a sweet, pretty face.
A champion of equality, the 16-year-old actress/activist has written about intersectional feminism, gun violence and human rights as well as delved into more personal issues like self-esteem and how to stop over-apologizing, in both published articles as well as social media posts that deeply connect with her gajillions of followers. (She has over 570,000 of them on Twitter and over five million on Instagram.) Then, in January of 2016, she took a deep breath, and tweeted to the world that she considers herself to be “queer.”
She followed it up quickly.
In post-tweet interviews, she said that she even hoped her character (or some other character) would come out as gay or bisexual on Girl Meets World, and while that didn’t happen before the series was canceled, it was a brave suggestion from an actress whose has relied on the the Disney tween machine for most of her career – up until now.
With her Disney days behind her, she feels even more committed to speaking up about socio-political issues that are important to her. Big on her list is her confusion about the need to define people by their gender or sexual preference. As she told Cosmopolitan,
““To me, in the context of the people I've talked about it with who are my friends, queer means not subscribing to this binary of like, “You’re straight or you’re gay, and that’s it. There’s no in between. That’s all you’ll ever be. So, for me, it was no big deal, but for the rest of the world it was like, "Whoa!" like it was such a big deal. That kind of annoyed me. And the fact that it is still such a big deal.””
Her intelligent, thoughtful writings are what spiked the interest of movie director Ava Duvernay. The filmmaker eventually cast Blanchard in A Wrinkle in Time, due in 2018, adding her to a list of other outspoken female stars like Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon. Once they were on set, Blanchard asked if she could shadow Duvernay as she directed the movie. “I get asked to be shadowed every day, but most people don’t follow through,” said DuVernay. “Not only did she follow up, she shadowed me on three different days, which was a lot. I was wildly, wildly impressed. Whatever she decides to do, she’s one that attacks it with a real passion.”
Duvurnay nailed it. Whether it's acting in her next project, writing articles and opinion pieces, walking the runway, speaking at the U.N. or giving interviews as a former Disney star, Rowan Blanchard refuses to be labeled, and gives everything she does all the fire and passion of her open-minded soul.
Check out our Pop Chat interview with her Girl Meets World co-star and pal Sabrina Carpenter from early 2016. The Sabrina section starts at about 29:44.