Juliana Joel has made history as Disney’s first-ever openly. transgender character. Image via Twitter @Thejulianajoel

‘I claimed a dream’: Disney Channel introduces first openly trans character

Juliana Joel was introduced as Nikki on Disney’s ‘Raven’s Home’, starring actresses Raven-Symoné and Annelise van der Pol.


Juliana Joel has made history as Disney’s first-ever openly. transgender character. Image via Twitter @Thejulianajoel

Disney Channel has made history by introducing its first openly transgender character in of its live-action shows. American actress Juliana Joel plays Nikki in an episode of Raven’s Home, a spin-off of Raven-Symoné’s That’s So Raven which aired between 2003 and 2007. Ahead of the episode’s premiere, Joel penned a powerful message where she shared her life-long dream of being on Disney Channel. 

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Raven’s Home is a sitcom that was originally released in July 2017 and centres around Raven Baxter (Raven-Symoné), a single mom who is raising her children with her friend Chelsa (Annelise van der Pol). Symoné and van der Pol played best friends in That’s So Raven

In season 5, episode 15 of Raven’s Home, Juliana Joel, aka Nikki,  is introduced as a new employee at Raven’s fashion company. The episode originally aired on 8 July. 

Juliana Joel is best known for her roles in Hex & Rage, Full Beat, a short-film about a transgender teenager. 



Sharing a snap of the Raven’s Home script, Juliana Joel said as a child, That’s So Raven was her favourite show and Raven Baxter felt like her best friend. 

“I’d never seen an out trans actor or character on the Disney Channel. EVER. Needless to say, I cried in my dressing room after walking onto that set the first time. It was a moment where it hit me that I not only get to live out my childhood dream on a version of my favourite show…I get to do it as my authentic self and with a character that is openly trans,” wrote Joel. 

“But it was really more than just being on the show. With all of the anti-trans hate and narratives in media and society, it was a win. I claimed a dream and space for myself while so much of the world is trying to erase me & my community.”

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In March, Disney executives promised that there would be an increase in LGBTQI+ characters in its shows and films. 

As per PinkNews, Allen Martsch, production coordinator at Disney Television Animation said the team was also working on including transgender and gender non-confirming characters in animations. 

“It’s not just a numbers game of how many LGBTQ+ characters you have. The more centred a story is on a character, the more nuanced you can be with their story. Especially with trans characters – you can see if someone is trans. There’s not one way to look trans,” said Martsch.