In the year 2016, gay couples (in certain countries) are allowed to legally marry while women and men can change their genders entirely. A little girl shaving her head to emulate a TV character? It seems like we’re not there yet.
When Netflix released their hit series set in the ’80s entitled “Stranger Things,” everyone fell in love with the character Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a young girl with telekinetic powers whom the government was keeping hidden in a base for constant experimentation. Because of the tests performed on her, Eleven’s hair was shaved close to her head.
When publicity for the series came out, one of the most circulated stories was on how the 12-year-old actress was asked to shave her hair off. Her mother was against it at first, dismayed at the thought of shaving off her daughter’s lovely locks. “It took us 12 years to grow that,” she said in one of the interviews.
Brown, in an interview with Inquirer Super last weekend, was also surprised at the fascination with her shaved head. “My mum did not want me to do it. She said, ‘You’re not doing it, you’re a girl, you’ve got to have hair.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t. Society tells us nowadays that girls, they have long beautiful hair, but no. What if I want to be like a Charlize Theron (in “Mad Max”), or a Winona Ryder?’ So we did it.”
After some convincing, Brown’s mom gave in, and now Eleven and her shaved head have become one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture history.
At the recently concluded AsiaPop Comicon, men and women alike dressed up as Eleven, donning a pink dress, a blue jacket, striped knee-high athletic socks and the shaved head.
Men and women weren’t the only ones taken in by Eleven’s charm; a 7-year-old girl named Sophie Blanco loved her so much that when she found out that Brown was one of the headliners for AsiaPop Comicon, she begged her mom to let her dress up as Eleven—shaved head included.
Sophie and her mom, Czyka Tumaliuan, a 28-year-old art journalist, are huge sci-fi geeks. They’ve bonded over “Star Wars,” Legos and recently, “Stranger Things.” “I thought Sophie would love it because the protagonist has powers like ‘Matilda,’ which was the first novel she read,” said Czyka.True enough, “Stranger Things” was a hit with Sophie. They’ve been eating at Pancake House a lot, too, because Sophie wanted to eat waffles like Eleven did on the show. When Czyka explained to Sophie how comic-con attendees would dress up as their favorite characters, Sophie was game.
She loves dressing up. She attended a party as a Minion even though it wasn’t a costume party and once wore a bag with a puppy face print over her head the whole day, pretending to be a puppy.“When Sophie told me that she wanted to shave her head for Millie, I laughed it off and thought she was just playing a prank on me because she enjoys doing that,” said Czyka. Still, the young, single mom didn’t think twice about letting Sophie do it. “I want to shave my head for Millie! It will grow back naman, I can wear a wig,” said Sophie.
Czyka posted the conversation on Facebook, thinking it would elicit laughs. She was surprised when it caused a furor. “My mom was so angry about it. She told my daughter that she would never ever talk to her again. ‘You’re my princess. We’re going to a party tomorrow and I bought you a tiara. Hindi puwede! Bawal. Hindi kita kakausapin forever.’”
Czyka was crushed, but she encouraged her daughter to dress up as Eleven anyway, shaved head and all.
“I said yes to Sophie to show my daughter that I’m here to protect her and her dreams, even if they are not what’s expected of her, like being a princess. I want to show her that there’s absolutely nothing wrong in expressing who you are through roleplaying.
“I always tell Sophie that fashion is not about looking pretty, rich or nice —it’s about bringing your character and personality to life. Fashion is a playground. At the barber shop, I remember holding Sophie’s hand, and telling her that she should always do things out of love, not fear.”
Though Czyka was worried about not having the budget for passes to AsiaPop Comicon, a fairy godmother came through and gave them passes, an advanced birthday present for Sophie. By then, meet and greet passes for Brown were not being sold anymore and security was very strict.
Thankfully, stranger things were at play and a Comicon volunteer named Jenica saw “mini-Eleven” aka Sophie and brought her to the room where Brown was signing autographs. Still, security wouldn’t let them in because they didn’t have passes for the session.
However, when the fans saw Sophie, they started shouting to draw Brown’s attention to Sophie. “Hey, Millie! She shaved her head for you!”
When Brown saw Sophie, she smiled and said, “Come here! You’re awesome!” The two ended up having their photo taken together, with Brown posting it on Instagram after the event with the hashtag #mini11.
Czyka recalls how quiet Sophie was after that. When they left, Sophie said to her: “Thank you, mom. It’s the best thing that happened today. I won’t forget this.”
In the Facebook post that Czyka wrote to document the event, she said, “As parents, I think it’s crucial that we build a safe space for our children where they can hold a lightsaber and use the force on you, a universe where they can wear a dress even if they are expected to wear a suit and tie, a place where they can go naked, and be totally vulnerable with confidence.
“Every kid needs a home where they can be whoever they want to be without being shamed and tagged as a freak. Every kid needs an oasis that they can always turn to when the real world sucks the life out them. As parents, we must be this refuge. As parents, we must be our children’s sanctuary.
“If your kids tell you that they have powers or magic, believe them. Look them in the eye, and tell them that you believe them with all your heart and mean it. The world needs more dreamers, more supers, more warriors. We must let our kids do things out of love, fun and faith, not fear.”