First of all, the cute factor is off the charts with little Lily Bushelle. But it was more than cuteness that drew the attention of the national media. After NPR ran a story on Lily’s many photos dressed up as famous African-American heroines like Tony Morrison and Mae Jemison for Black History Month, the story went viral.
The combination of a cute little Black girl and courageous Black woman icons was addictive, something to be shared with every person you know.
Among the news outlet that did stories on 5-year-old Lily were Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and HLN network.
After the extensive reaction, Lily’s parents, Janine Harper and Marc Bushelle, are back at it, taking more shots of their adorable daughter. This time they chose iconic politician Shirley Chisholm and rapper/actress Queen Latifah.
“The popularity of this project has been very encouraging,” Bushelle told NPR’s Code Switch.
In the shot of Chisholm, who in 1968 became the first African-American woman elected to Congress, the family used Lily’s stuffed animals as supporters while the little girl throws up the peace sign just like Chisholm did when she ran for president in 1972.
To prepare her for the Latifah pictures, the parents told NPR they had her watch the video for Queen’s Grammy-winning song U.N.I.T.Y.
They got the idea from a project Janine Harper saw one day on the internet, where a photographer had taken pictures of her daughter dressed up as famous white women such as Coco Chanel and Amelia Earhart. Harper showed the project to her photographer husband, Marc, and they decided to borrow the idea. They said they wanted Lily to “see herself in the story” of Black history.
For each photo shoot that followed, Lily learned about a different figure from Black history—women like aviator Bessie Coleman, model Grace Jones and Adm. Michelle Howard, the first female four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy and the highest ranking African-American woman in the military.
“We hope that by making these associations early we will instill a strong pride in her that will fortify her against any discrimination she may face in the future,” says Harper.
Bushelle said the pictures have already begun to bolster their daughter’s self-esteem and motivation.
They plan to keep coming—but they won’t say who Lily will be next.
It will be a “fun surprise,” Bushelle said.