2-year-old Kenzo's face lit up on seeing Antonio, a character from 'Encanto,' who looked just like him with curly hair and brown skin.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 10, 2022. It has since been updated.
Representations matter and an image of a 2-year-old son standing in front of the TV alongside a still from "Encanto" smiling from ear to ear is the reason why. Kaheisha Brand was watching Disney's "Encanto" with her 2-year-old son Kenzo when a character that looked just like him came on screen. Kenzo's connection with the character Antonio was almost immediate and couldn't help smiling. When Kenzo saw that his curly hair and brown skin matched the character's appearance, he was glued to the TV and followed Antonio's journey keenly. Kenzo thought he was seeing himself onscreen. His Mom, Kaheisha, shared an image of her son standing beside Antonio, all smiles. She also posted one of Kenzo watching 'himself' on screen. She captioned the Instagram post: "Check Kenzo out in the new Disney Movie 'Encanto' lol."
Brand says she couldn't help but smile seeing her son take to Antonio. "He immediately gravitated towards the image of Antonio," Brand told TODAY Parents. "It just made my heart smile because I do believe that he thought he was seeing himself because of the resemblance between him and Antonio." Brand said his eyes were fixed on the screen and he was smiling throughout.
Disney describes the "Encanto" as "the story of an extraordinary family — the Madrigals — who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical place called an Encanto. The magic of town has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift — every child except one, Mirabel." Brand says it just shows how important for pop culture to be inclusive. "He instantly lit up, and turned to us, and was smiling and that made me take the picture because it made my heart happy that it brought such enjoyment to him," she said.
Kenzo's father Keith Brooks and Brand say they're happy to have chosen "Encanto" for their child to watch. "One of the themes that it presented was family, and how strong family is, and how strong family can be when it's united," said Brooks. "To be able to see the people of Colombia and the different skin complexions they have and to be able to see yourself in other areas of the world that you didn't necessarily know about, I thought that was extremely powerful. And I thought 'Encanto' was the first movie film on any aspect that touched upon Afro Latina and Latinos and Colombia."
Kenzo connecting with Antonio is yet another example of how representation matters. In 2021, a Black doctor recalled a little girl jumping into her arms and hugging her after associating her with Doc McStuffins, a Black woman character from an animated children's television series that airs on Disney Channel. Dr. Rachel, who hails from Ghana, explained why that moment was just as much to her as to that child, saying she felt more accepted and celebrated than any DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives had ever made her feel. As we reported, she took to Twitter to recount her meeting with the little girl that made her day, writing: Little girl just jumped into my arms and rested her head on my shoulder in the ED. Her dad said, “she’s never seen a black doctor before and I think she thinks you’re Doc McStuffins.”
Little girl just jumped into my arms and rested her head on my shoulder in the ED. Her dad said “she’s never seen a black doctor before and I think she thinks you’re Doc McStuffins”🥺— Rachel Buckle-Rashid, MD (@RABuckle) June 13, 2021
She also touched upon the importance of representation and why it made more of a difference than DEI initiatives, which in many cases are customary. Rachel is a rising peds PGY3 and a future chief resident at Brown. "So now I’m thinking maybe Disney Junior has done more for me as a black woman in medicine than most DEI initiatives," said Dr. Buckle-Rashid in a follow-up tweet.