Gina Mei
March 18, 2015 12:56 pm

Following endless buzz about her much-anticipated new music and Monday’s announcement that she will be the first Black spokeswoman for Christian Dior, Rihanna has officially added “trailblazing voice actress” to her resume — and we’re totally stoked.

Yesterday, it was announced that RiRi is the voice behind Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, the lead protagonist in DreamWorks’ upcoming film, Home — the first 3-D animated feature to ever have a young Black woman as the lead. The film, adapted from Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday, follows Tip’s search for her mother (voiced by Jennifer Lopez) after Earth is taken over by the Boov, an alien race looking for a new home planet. Along the way, Tip meets Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons), a banished Boov just trying to keep his race alive, and the two form a wonderfully odd and unexpected friendship.

From what we can tell based on the trailer, Tip is all kinds of awesome. She’s smart, witty, vocal about her opinions, and clever enough to evade a planet-wide alien abduction (no big deal). Basically, Tip is going to be an awesome new cartoon hero for kids everywhere. But as Indiewire pointed out, she’s also DreamWorks Animation’s first human protagonist of color since 1998 (The Prince of Egypt) and the only other female protagonist the studio has had aside from Monsters vs. Aliens’ Susan Murphy. This is a huge deal.

In the words of Shonda Rhimes, we’re due for some “normalizing.”

According to Mic, a University of Southern California study from 2013 found that “across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8% of speaking characters are black,” and that “the percentage of underrepresented characters in animated movies remained below 13%.” Bringing diversity to the screen is essential — not just for the sake of filling quotas, but for the sake of representation. Nowhere is this more essential than for children’s movies and television!

Women are already underrepresented in movies and TV — and women of color even more so.

In 2014, The Representation Project analyzed the top 500 films of all time (based on box office numbers) and found that only 6 featured a woman of color protagonist. They also analyzed all wide release movies from 2013 and found that less than 5% starred women of color. The only way we can change this is to create more roles like Tip.

Kids need more WOC protagonists

It should be noted that 5 of those 6 movies from The Representation Project’s study were cartoon features — which just goes to show how significant these movies are for kids!

Every kid deserves to see a hero who represents them on the screen.

Let’s just take a moment to collectively “awww” over this photo together — and then take another few moments to acknowledge just how ridiculously important having POC cartoon characters is.

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Home comes to theaters March 27 — and we can’t wait to watch.

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