From September 4, 1995 until June 18, 2001, viewers around the world were captivated by Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV series about Xena (played by Lucy Lawless), a once infamous warrior turned formidable defender of the innocent and champion of the greater good. NIA, a now 18 year old graphic designer by trade and talented artist by nature, was – and still is – one of Xena’s biggest fans. In lamenting the current lack of well-rounded female characters in movies and on TV for girls to admire today, NIA decided to draw her childhood hero… and lots of people took notice, including us.
When NIA’s drawing first hit WYSK’s radar, it was positioned as a Disney-fied Xena. We didn’t know the full back story, but were intrigued. If Xena was the kind of “princess” (i.e. multi-dimensional and kick ass) that could be added to the Magic Kingdom’s high court, then we were all for it. But as it turns out there was way more to NIA’s drawing than its subtle Disney-esque style. Here’s what we learned when we caught up with the talented woman behind the art yesterday.
“Characters like Buffy, Dana Scully and Xena just aren’t around these days, and girls need female heroes that kick ass.”
“I’m a huge fan of Xena and her story! I think she’s a timeless character and huge inspiration to women everywhere,” NIA told Women You Should Know. “She was my hero when I was a little girl and I think if she were to be revived she could be that for girls today.” She added, “Characters like Buffy, Dana Scully and Xena just aren’t around these days, and girls need female heroes that kick ass. If you asked a child to name male heroes they’d give you a whole list, but if you asked them to name a female, could they name anyone offhand besides Wonder Woman?”
As for the presumed connection to Disney that started circulating around her drawing, NIA clarified things for us. “When I first drew Xena, I simply said she was ‘Disney-fied’ because I based the animation style off of Disney’s Hercules. Quite a few people have taken issue with the idea of Xena being revamped by Disney – and trust me, I wouldn’t want Disney owning Xena either.”
She went on to explain, “If an animated Xena were to be done, I’d rather have it be by an independent studio that would keep to her story, keep to her culture, and have her be the first canonically LGBT ‘princess’. There are so many girls watching animated movies and wondering why there isn’t another option besides Prince Charming.”
So in addition to Xena, NIA also drew Gabrielle, the Warrior Princess’s trusty companion and favorite battling bard. For some context on their relationship and the latter part of what NIA shared with us, consider this factoid from Neatorama, “The [show’s] writers intentionally teased viewers with a the possibility of a lesbian relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, never affirming nor denying the homoerotic subtext. Executive producer Steven L. Sears said that ‘(Xena and Gabrielle) have love for each other. It’s up to the audience to determine what that love is.'”