Long Live ‘The Cheetah Girls,’ Disney Channel’s Most Revolutionary Film (2023)

Untouchable.” “Grammy-worthy.” “Ahead of their time.”

These are just a few ways Twitter and TikTok have described The Cheetah Girls in recent weeks. The platforms have suddenly been saturated with clips from the beloved Disney Channel movies, as fans are determined to give the titular group their flowers, again, 20 years after their debut.

The Cheetah Girls film trilogy boasts a major legacy, with the franchise’s first film reportedly reaching 84 million global viewers and subsequently propelling the eponymous girl group to worldwide fame. Released in 2003, it was also Disney Channel’s first musical feature film, paving the way for the success of films such as High School Musical, Camp Rock, and Teen Beach Movie.

But unlike the more commercially successful franchises that followed, The Cheetah Girls has gained an online following that’s still invested in the group’s music—analytics suggest the group still garners over half a million Spotify listeners per day, despite splitting up in 2008.

(Video) Music Video Playlist from Cheetah Girls 2 🎶 | 🎥 Cheetah Girls 2 | Disney Channel

The group’s ongoing revival stretches beyond music alone. The fandom focuses on visual aesthetics, performance pedigree, and the establishment of “icon” status—all of which the group excelled in. Fans on social media do everything from curate perfectly coordinated replica looks inspired by the group, to recreate that iconic “Strut” scene in Barcelona. On Twitter, memorable lines from the franchise have been recycled as reaction pictures and videos. (I imagine there’s nothing more devastating than someone dismissing you with Galleria’s iconic line, “Let’s bounce, girls.”)

Why has The Cheetah Girls held a decades-long grip on social media and a generation of Disney Channel-loving kids? Hold onto your hats, people. I know talking about race is scary, but we’re going to do it anyway.

An almost-universal experience amongst non-white girls who grew up in majority-white regions is being “Taylor.” No, not Swift—McKessie. When “playing” High School Musical on the playground, we were always assigned the role of Taylor McKessie, even when we desperately wanted to be Sharpay Evans. Why? Our brown skin, obviously. How dare we ask to play someone else?!

This was always slightly confusing to me, because I knew I was South Asian, while Taylor was African-American. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that, to some people, we were both simply “the other.”

But when we girls would pretend to be The Cheetah Girls, I was suddenly presented with choices. I looked like most of the characters, so I could be whoever I wanted. I was Galleria, belting my heart out to lyrics like “my knight in shining armor is me.” I was Dorinda, dancing like nobody was watching. I was Aqua, strutting around the playground, pretending I was in scenic Barcelona. I was finally seen.

(Video) The Cheetah Girls - Cheetah Sisters (Music Video)

The Cheetah Girls series, based on the books by Deborah Gregory, follows the journey of four New York teenagers who dream of superstardom. The cast for the Disney Channel adaption was led by Raven Symoné, who had recently established herself as the first Disney it-girl by starring as her namesake in That’s So Raven, the first program on the channel to run more than 65 episodes. Its huge viewership allowed it to air 100 episodes over four seasons and spawn the first Disney Channel spin-off with Cory In The House. Symoné starred alongside 3LW members Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams, as well as Sabrina Bryan, real name Reba Sabrina Hinojosa.

Visually diverse, featuring four women of different skin tones, cultural backgrounds, and body types, the group would unknowingly revolutionize children’s television for the better.

Before The Cheetah Girls, there were no live-action Disney Channel productions exclusively aimed at kids of color. By the late 1990s, the broadcaster had almost mastered the formula for a successful original series: an all-American, white-picket-fence type of family, centered on the trials and tribulations of a teenager as they navigate those awkward adolescent years. Shows like Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire were hits, prefacing a golden era of original series that would dominate youth culture.

Kids of color tended to play a small part in this formula, often relegated to supporting roles. The channel’s film roster was similar. Disney Channel did feature some ethnic minorities as leading characters, though generally in those productions that centered entirely around issues of race discrimination and white tolerance. Movies like The Color of Friendship, the story of an unlikely friendship between a Black American and a white South African during the apartheid, were praised for the “real world” lessons they taught their younger audience.

With some exceptions, like the recently rebooted, fan-favorite cartoon The Proud Family, the overarching message was clear: If Disney Channel was going to “do” racial diversity, it would be to teach its viewers—predominantly the white ones—a lesson.

Enter The Cheetah Girls, a film centered on the unbreakable bond between four Black and brown teenagers as they pursue superstardom. It went against the grain of the established formula in every way, and yet, 20 years later, it remains one of the channel’s greatest successes.

(Video) The Cheetah Girls 3 - Dance Me If You Can (Official Music Video)

The ethnic makeup of the cast has been a talking point since the original premiere, sometimes as a point of ridicule. A 2003 review reduced the movie to a “culturally diverse morality lesson disguised as a musical fantasy.” This narrative followed the group through to the franchise’s final installment; a New York Times journalist described the premiere of The Cheetah Girls 3: One World as “less like [a] typical Hollywood cast party than some sort of United Nations session.”

Today, however, the diversity of The Cheetah Girls makes up a large portion of the group’s popular appeal and longevity. The ensemble’s energetic performance was, at the time, a novelty that helped fill a large gap in children’s entertainment. It was a much overdue inclusion of Black and brown girls in cinema as complex characters, liberated from the cruel lens of racial analysis for the entertainment of white audiences.

It’s important to note that the ability to withstand the test of time isn’t just rooted in the fact that the group was racially diverse. It’s more dependent on the fact that each member’s differences were present and celebrated, not without defining the characters themselves.

This nuance is perhaps best evidenced in the portrayal of Chanel (Bailon) in the second film. Chanel’s Hispanic heritage was an obvious difference from the norm, both in her medium-brown skin tone and her ability to switch between Spanish and English with ease. She acted as a translator for the others as they navigated Barcelona, correcting Aqua’s incorrect pronunciation of the Sagrada Familia (sorry, Sagrrrrrrrada Familia - roll those ‘R’s, people).

Chanel was, simply, Hispanic, and at no point did she shy away from this fact. Her identity was never exaggerated for comedic effect, and it didn’t present an inherent obstacle she would have to overcome. This was a straightforward, yet significant, portrayal, which taught a generation of young girls to normalize their differences too. This was a universe where girls from minority ethnic backgrounds could thrive without question.

Long Live ‘The Cheetah Girls,’ Disney Channel’s Most Revolutionary Film (1)

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(Video) The Cheetah Girls - Cinderella (Music Video)

It’s this tasteful type of inclusion that made the group a safe space for marginalized children, and it’s this sense of safety that allows the franchise to thrive. For women of color, The Cheetah Girls are one of the few sources of true, pure nostalgia.

That, perhaps most of all, is why the group is able to experience a social media takeover in 2023. Contemporary entertainment and pop culture is defined by nostalgia. This isn’t limited to those watered-down reboots of your favorite childhood shows; it also manifests as the revival of Y2K fashion and the reemergence of in the mainstream. It’s a yearning for the younger version of ourselves, and rediscovering those first inklings of our identities.

When on-screen portrayals of teenagers of color are scarce, women of color are left without anyone to directly relate to. In an era where nostalgic entertainment reigns supreme, we’re left in the dark.

And with this in mind, the recent explosion of The Cheetah Girls content on social media makes so much sense. We have found solace in what was one of the only children’s franchises of the early-2000s that presented a nuanced and accurate representation of Black and brown girlhood. The group and its actors personified a feeling of uninterrupted, unapologetic joy for those girls who couldn’t find themselves on screen elsewhere, and they still inspire a sense of pride in their long-serving fans..

It’s this unparalleled sense of inclusion within the group that makes the franchise precious. Symoné, Bailon, Williams, and Bryan showed a generation of girls the values of self-love, self-empowerment, and self-belief. For that, we’ll always be thankful to The Cheetah Girls—and singing their hits.

FAQs

Who are the 4 Cheetah girls? ›

The Cheetah Girls were an American girl group consisting of Adrienne Bailon, Kiely Williams, Sabrina Bryan, and Raven-Symoné. The group was created by Disney, and were made famous by the eponymous Disney Channel original film and its sequels, The Cheetah Girls 2 and The Cheetah Girls: One World.

What was ravens name in Cheetah girls? ›

In 2003, Raven-Symoné starred as lead singer Galleria Garibaldi in The Cheetah Girls, a Disney Channel Original Movie about four city girls who dream of becoming superstars.

What is the plot of Cheetah girls? ›

How old was the Cheetah girls in the movie? ›

The girls played teenagers in high school, but their real ages were 17 (Kiely), 18 (Raven), 19 (Sabrina), and 20 (Adrienne). The Cheetah girls are mostly seen wearing leopard print the entire film.

Is cheetah a boy or girl? ›

The cheetah is a sexually dimorphic species though it is difficult to identify cheetahs' sex by appearance alone. Male cheetahs are slightly bigger than females and they have larger heads, but they do not display the same degree of physical difference between the sexes of other big cat species like lions.

Which Cheetah Girl was pregnant? ›

Sabrina Bryan's little girl is about to become a big cheetah sister! The Cheetah Girls star, 38, is pregnant, expecting her second baby with husband Jordan Lundberg, she revealed on Instagram Tuesday.

What is Raven's gender? ›

Raven (given name)
A Common raven
Pronunciation/ˈreɪvən/
GenderUnisex
Language(s)English
Origin
5 more rows

Who is the white cheetah girl? ›

Sabrina Bryan was born on 16 September 1984 in Yorba Linda, California, USA. She is an actress and producer, known for The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006), Sydney White (2007) and The Cheetah Girls (2003). She has been married to Jordan Lundberg since 6 October 2018.

Does cheetah have a child? ›

WET AND WILD: Cheetah moms have four to six cubs. It's Mom's job to teach her cubs how to survive in the dry, open grasslands of Africa and Asia.

Why did the Cheetah Girls End? ›

A later article, published in February 2004, states that The Cheetah Girls sitcom was delayed due to the success of That's So Raven. The article stated that because of this success, Raven would not be able to do the sitcom. ABC did not pick up the series.

Is Marisol a Cheetah girl? ›

Marisol Duran is a famous Spanish singer who befriends The Cheetah Girls's Chanel. She is controlled by her mother throught her life. She is fluent in Spanish.
...
Marisol Duran.
Marisol
Portrayed By:Belinda Peregrín
First Appearance:The Cheetah Girls
Family:Lola Duran - Mother
FriendsChanel Simmons
3 more rows

Who did The Cheetah Girls Marry? ›

Israel Houghton

Who was the Purple cheetah girl? ›

Chanel Simmons | The Cheetah Girls Wiki | Fandom.

Who kills cheetah? ›

Predators. Adult cheetahs are rarely killed by predators — most simply flee the area if a conflict arises. In the wild only 5% of cubs may reach independence from their mothers, due largely to the extreme threat from lion attacks.

Are cheetahs asexual? ›

Cheetahs become sexually mature between 20 to 23 months of age, although some may mature within 18 months. Breeding occurs throughout the year. Females are polyestrous, with a typical estrous cycle lasting 12 days in which the female will be "in heat" for 1 to 3 days. Female cheetahs may mate with more than one male.

Who cursed cheetah? ›

In the "One Year Later" storyline, the witch Circe places a spell on Minerva that allows her to change her appearance from human to the Cheetah at will, even though she still remains in her Cheetah form in either guise.

Who is the Orange cheetah girl? ›

Sabrina Bryan
Bryan performing in 2008
Background information
Birth nameReba Sabrina Hinojos
BornSeptember 16, 1984 Yorba Linda, California, U.S.
5 more rows

Was there a 5th cheetah girl? ›

In the book series, there are five Cheetah Girls, but in the first film adaption and its sequel, there are only four, while in the third film installment, there are only three.

Does Chanel have a brother Cheetah Girls? ›

Pucci Simmons is the younger brother of Chanel Simmons. He is very annoying to the Cheetahs and is nine years old.

Is Raven half demon? ›

Raven (civilian name Rachel Roth) is one of the main characters of the Teen Titans series. She is a human-demon hybrid, originating from the parallel dimension of Azarath, and is one of five founding members of the Teen Titans.

Is Raven good or evil? ›

The raven is a symbolic figure in numerous Native American legends. In some indigenous groups, tales portray the raven as being mischievous and an evil omen. In the Pacific Northwest, Native American mythology depicts the raven in a positive light, as being the creator of the world.

Is Raven purple or blue? ›

The raven has highly glossed plumage showing iridescent greens, blues, and purples. Sometimes the feathers have an oily or wet sheen. Crows also have feathers with iridescent purple and blue, but with less sheen than the raven. Ravens are uncommon in populated urban areas.

Is Cheetah a hero or villain? ›

Type of Villain

The Cheetah is the name of five villains in the DC Universe, although the current Cheetah, Barbara Ann Minerva, is the best-known version of the character. She is one of the three archenemies of Wonder Woman (the others are Ares and Circe) and the central antagonist of the Wonder Woman franchise.

What type of Cheetah is Sarah? ›

Sarah, also known as Sahara, ( c. 2001–January 22, 2016) was a female South African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) that lived in the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sarah was known as the world's fastest land mammal according to National Geographic magazine.

Is Duma a real Cheetah? ›

So, perhaps even more incredibly, is "Duma." There really was a boy and a cheetah, written about in the book How It Was With Dooms, by Xan Hopcraft and his mother, Carol Cawthra Hopcraft. Even more to the point: This movie shows a real boy and a real cheetah (actually, four cheetahs were used).

Why did Barbara turn into a cat? ›

Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a gawky archaeologist who magically becomes an agile femme fatale, only to turn into a half-human, half-wildcat killer named Cheetah. Her transformation is caused by the Dreamstone, a powerful relic said to grant those who touch it their wish.

Can cheetah beat Wonder Woman? ›

Cheetah's durability doesn't protect her from bullets, lasers, or other piercing attacks. Superhuman Speed: Cheetah possesses greater speed than Wonder Woman, enhanced even further by training with Zoom.

What's a baby cheetah called? ›

Do The Cheetah Girls still talk to each other? ›

During a June 2021 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Kiely said that she still does not speak to Adrienne.

Is Raven still friends with The Cheetah Girls? ›

'Raven's Home'

“I always love working with [Raven-Symoné]. We did the first Cheetah Girls movie when I was 19, and now I'm 38, so we've stayed friends for almost 20 years,” Adrienne gushed. “We laugh at the fact that we were playing the high school students … and now we're playing the parents. It's so bizarre!”

What happened to cheetah in Justice League? ›

Cheetah was originally supposed to be killed near the end of "Injustice For All", but due to an error she was shown alive at the end after the Injustice Gang had been defeated. She therefore appeared in subsequent episodes of Justice League Unlimited.

Did Raven left Titans? ›

Raven quits the team after she and Beast Boy end their relationship. Letting the others think she is leaving because of Garfield, Raven actually leaves because she has uncovered a secret of one of the other Titans.

Is Raven in s3? ›

Rachel and her demonic powers have been a mixed bag in previous seasons, but Titans season 3 finally gives fans the Raven they always wanted. Titans season 3 finally solves the show's long-standing Raven problem.

Is cheetah a true cat? ›

When many people think of the genus Panthera, more commonly known as Big Cats, we think of lions, tigers, jaguars and cheetahs. But, in fact, cheetahs are an entirely different genus than the other three. The cheetah is actually the only remaining species of the genus Acinonyx.

Did Cheetah Girls steal Cinderella? ›

The Cheetah Girls fans just can't believe that the group didn't originally sing the song! “Cinderella wasn't an original Cheetah Girls song. My childhood was a lie,” said one person. Another person tweeted, “I just found out Cinderella wasn't originally a cheetah girls song and I'm SHOOK.”

Was there a 5th Cheetah Girl? ›

In the book series, there are five Cheetah Girls, but in the first film adaption and its sequel, there are only four, while in the third film installment, there are only three.

Why is there only 3 Cheetah Girls in the 3rd movie? ›

So what's the real reason Raven-Symoné wasn't in One World? Back in 2008, the actor reportedly turned it down to focus “on her solo music and film careers.” During an Instagram Live video with another former Cheetah Girl, Raven opened up about what her experience was like working with the other girls.

What were The Cheetah Girls names? ›

The Cheetah Girls

Why is Raven not in cheetah 3? ›

Although "catfights" and "territorial issues" were initially stated to be the reason, Symoné revealed that she did not appear in the third film due to feeling "excluded" and "ostracized" on the set of the second film, likely due to the fact that the three other girls had spent so much time together after being put ...

Who is the White Cheetah Girl? ›

Sabrina Bryan was born on 16 September 1984 in Yorba Linda, California, USA. She is an actress and producer, known for The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006), Sydney White (2007) and The Cheetah Girls (2003). She has been married to Jordan Lundberg since 6 October 2018.

Is Marisol a Cheetah Girl? ›

Marisol Duran is a famous Spanish singer who befriends The Cheetah Girls's Chanel. She is controlled by her mother throught her life. She is fluent in Spanish.
...
Marisol Duran.
Marisol
Portrayed By:Belinda Peregrín
First Appearance:The Cheetah Girls
Family:Lola Duran - Mother
FriendsChanel Simmons
3 more rows

How old is Sarah the Cheetah? ›

Sarah was known as the world's fastest land mammal according to National Geographic magazine. She ran 100 meters in 5.95 seconds (more precisely, 5.9564 seconds and up to 61 miles an hour (98 km/h)) in 2012, when she was 11 years old. She died on January 22, 2016, at the supposed age of 15.

What is DC cheetah real name? ›

Dr. Barbara Minerva, also known as the Cheetah, is a British archaeologist who was empowered by the plant god Urzkartaga, giving her the ability to turn into a ravenous, cannibalistic cheetah woman. She is a frequent villain of Wonder Woman.

Who does Dorinda end up with Cheetah Girls? ›

Like Dorinda, Joaquin is a talented dancer. They dated all through The Cheetah Girls 2 and mentioned they broke up in The Cheetah Girls: One World. But, remained friends. After awhile they realize they both love each other and get back together.

Who was the Purple Cheetah Girl? ›

Chanel Simmons | The Cheetah Girls Wiki | Fandom.

Why did The Cheetah Girls End? ›

The Cheetah Girls ended for a variety of reasons. For starters, the group members were getting older and essentially aging out of the Disney market. The movie franchise had also run its course. When the group disbanded, they each focused on their own careers and went on to do great things.

Who is the Orange Cheetah Girl? ›

Sabrina Bryan
Bryan performing in 2008
Background information
Birth nameReba Sabrina Hinojos
BornSeptember 16, 1984 Yorba Linda, California, U.S.
5 more rows

Who is Pucci in Cheetah Girls? ›

Kyle Saunders

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