I’m from the TV generation: the ’90s. As soon as I got home from school as a child, I’d plop myself down with a plate full of Oreos (double stuffed, do ya hear me?), and hang out with my friends. When I say friends, I mean the characters I’d grown accustomed to spending time with every day, shown through the 30” x 42” dimensions of a glowing TV screen.

When I ask people their greatest influences growing up, the answers are usually the same. “My dad! My grandmother! My fourth grade teacher!” Sure, all these people shaped my life in an invaluable way, too. But I can’t help but acknowledge the huge part TV, movies and pop culture played in shaping my identity.

We all want to fit in somewhere, whether we feel comfortable with the homecoming queens or the rebels hiding out behind the bleachers. When I had a hard time finding people to relate to in “real life,” I turned somewhere else: my TV screen.

These are some of my childhood icons. They made me the big, funny, confident weirdo I am, and for that I’m forever grateful.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I mean, do I even need to explain myself? I can probably just leave it there, right? Everyone at school thought Buffy was a loner. Little did they know that she was this beautiful badass destined to serve a higher purpose for the good of mankind. I felt that way all the time growing up: confused, misplaced, alone… but knowing all the while that someday I’d play an important role somewhere.

I might still be looking for my place where I fit in, but I have faith (get it) I’ll find it some day. Buffy did.

And if you ever want to get into the Spike vs. Angel debate, let me know. Tweet me, email me, leave a comment here, whatever. Actually, lets just get into it. I’m Team Spike. There, I said it!

2. Helga from “Hey Arnold

Guys, I am SUCH a Helga! Helga was the poster child for gals who are incapable of being emotionally vulnerable. She knew how to do two things: have rage blackouts and build secret shrines to boys. She was completely out of touch with her feelings and had no idea how to relate to her classmates. I felt that way growing up, and continue to feel that way as an adult all the time.

Her inability to connect with others is exactly what I connected to. I never really had a grasp on my emotions growing up; I only really knew how to love or how to hate. I was a hormonal roller coaster. I was totally the girl (okay fine, still am) who was mean to the guys I was actually dying to be with. I ignored classmates I was intimidated by, when all I really wanted was to be their friend.

Sometimes I get angry when I don’t get what I want, or when I don’t know how to properly articulate my feelings. Helga showed me there were other girls like me.

I also kind of have a unibrow. Ugh. Such a Helga.

3. Betty Boop & Jessica Rabbit

“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” –Jessica Rabbit

To me, there are no greater bombshells than Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit. These two vixens knew how to drive men wild. I’m talking jaws dropped, eyes bulging out, steam blowing out the ears wild. They had a command over their sensuality that I hadn’t seen in real life before. I wanted to emulate it. Weird… I know.

Betty Boop was Queen of the flirt. It was all about the voice, the outfit and the little twist of her hips when she would sing ‘Boop-Oop-A-Doop’. She’s the original sex symbol of the cartoon screen and she always walked the thin line between innocent flirt and full-fledged bad girl. She taught me its okay to be a little bit of both.

And it does not get sexier than Jessica Rabbit. She knew how to use her feminine wiles to get what she wanted, while always being the one in control. Plus, you have to respect her for settling down with that goofball Roger Rabbit when she could probably have had any guy she wanted. Side note: props to Sophia Vergara for being her live action version

Most importantly, in a time when models were becoming more and more rail thin, these voluptuous divas made me feel better about my own body. They showed me that “real” women have curves. And if I felt I was having a fat day, so what? It’s not so bad….I was just drawn that way!

To see them both in full force together, I suggest watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit immediately.

4. Hatchetface from Cry Baby

“There’s nothing the matter with my face. I got character!”

Homegirl was confident and made zero apologies. She looked like she fell of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but that didn’t stop her from having a tough as nails personality and a super hot boyfriend.Not to mention everyone around her—including Johnny Depp in his most swoon-worthy role—constantly called her beautiful. Why? Because she believed she was.

Hatchetface taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. She taught me that it didn’t matter what you look like on the outside. As long as you strut your stuff and love yourself, you will be the most gorgeous person in the room, no questions asked.

Sometimes I’ll take a “mental health day” and watch these old shows to revisit my friends. I like to remind myself of where I came from, who shaped me, and why I am the way I am today.

My question is: who shaped you?

Featured image via Shutterstock; Body image via Shutterstock