Disney has had some great women in its movies over the years. From courageous Mulan to hardworking Tiana to quick-witted Moana the Disney females are becoming more independent and sure of themselves. But there is one Disney lady that is left out in most conversations. She isn’t a princess and she doesn’t have the fancy ball gowns or even more than one short song in her movie. The movie she is in isn’t even about her. But she is strong in a desperate time and brave when the whole world seems to be conspiring against her.
She is Nani Pelekai.
Her whole world has crashed down upon her. Her parents die in a tragic accident and she is the only one left to take care of her little sister. She is struggling with the responsibilities of adulthood and holding down a job while taking responsibility of her six-year-old sister. While she is juggling all this she has Child Protective Services knocking at her door to make sure Lilo is in an adequate home. Her sister isn’t exactly an angel and acts like a normal six year old with temper tantrums and drama, as sisters tend to do.
Nani is seen sacrificing her relationship with her boyfriend David in order to keep a roof over her family’s head. She isn’t perfect, losing her temper with Lilo and becoming short with her a few times but she is caring and does her best to give Lilo a good home even after the addition of an alien and intergalactic troubles arise. Nani is seen again and again giving advice to Lilo and doing what she can to be not only a good sister but a good provider and mother figure. She has been thrown into this situation by tragedy and she responds with strength and hard work, even if things get rough every so often.
Nani is a lady who is not perfect, but is strong. A lady who struggles with life’s problems but is never defeated by them. A lady who might not always know the right thing to do but does her best to care for the ones around her.
I have seen the Nanis of the world. The single mother who works two or three jobs to keep her children fed and clothed. The older siblings who work after school and on weekends to contribute to the household bills. The child who takes care of his or her elderly parents. The grandparent who steps up and takes care of their grandchildren when they need to. The strength and courage that these people exude are inspirational. They sacrifice their dreams and wishes to take care of the ones they love.
So to all the Nanis out there, thank you. Thank you for caring more for your loved ones than yourself. Thank you for showing the rest of us what courage is. Keep caring for your ohana and keep showing us the beauty of strength.