Sunday Top Ten: There’s A Childhood Hero, If You Look Inside My Heart

Welcome to Sunday Top Ten, a list of completely random and undoubtedly self-indulgent things that may or may not be published on a Sunday or number “ten.” This feature is a continuation of the Sunday Top Tens I used to write in 2006-2008 on the earth-shattering personal blog Autowin

Top 17 Childhood Heroes

17. Ramona Quimby


I don’t know if Ramona was my “hero” so much as she was my long-lost sisterwife or twin. I’m not 100% sure how we didn’t end up in the same womb at some point during the gestation process (Sidenote: I only know the word “gestation” because I played a lot of SimLife in the early ’90s.). Was Ramona Quimby my fashion icon, or was I Ramona Quimby’s fashion icon? Big questions, elusive answers.

16. LeVar Burton

Actor Levar Burton Wearing Blue Hooded Jacket

Basically LeVar Burton was living the dream: 1. Famous, 2. Star Trek: The Next Generation, 3. Reading Books on Television. Seriously what if your job was to read books on television? WHAT THEN.

15. Debi Thomas


I did figure skating for just long enough to convince my Mom that skates were a good investment and then immediately stop skating, thus proving her point about my overall personality being The Worst. The problem with skating is that I sucked, which was really disappointing because I really wanted to be either Debi Thomas or Kristi Yamaguchi and instead I was just me, doing eggbeaters in my snowpants.

14. Shirley Temple


Just gazing at Shirley’s curly locks transports me to the buoyant Good Ship Lollipop, where I’d spend all my days tap-dancing with kind strangers and being told I was the most talented little girl in the whole world! I just wanted to be the most talented little girl in the whole world, you guys.

13. Jodi Foster

28 May 1990 (Image by © E.J. Camp/Corbis)

28 May 1990 (Image by © E.J. Camp/Corbis)

Jodi Foster directed AND starred in Little Man Tate, which really appealed to me as I’d also harbored this strange desire to control everything all the time since birth. Also, Jodi Foster was a child star, and as a fellow child star (albeit an undiscovered one), I really felt a strong kinship with Jodi. Or you know, it was just a gay thing.

12. The Mickey Mouse Club

future members of "the party"

Future members of “The Party”

I wanted to audition for The Mickey Mouse Club, but unfortunately my parents were fascists who had maybe noticed that I couldn’t sing or dance. Instead I simply admired from afar and performed “Summer Vacation,” a hot track from The Party’s debut album, on my futon. I still know all the words. Summer, that means it’s party time, me and the crew [something something] behind… hot suns hot buns it’s a [something] situation, yo man, let’s take a vacation. SUMMERTIME.

11. Louisa May Alcott / Jo March


Louisa May Alcott was totally badass, especially because in my head she was also Jo March. I took classes at The Alcott House in Concord where we got to make an Alcott Sisters Newspaper, which was probably my root.

10. Jackie Robinson


I made “42” my lucky number because of Jackie Robinson and asked for the number “42” for all the sports teams I was on. Nobody ever understood the reference, because I was Misunderstood. Furthermore, I was obsessed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in general, eventually leading to me spending all my allowance on a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey at The Buckle. One of my favorite YA novels, which I still own, is Bette Bao Lord’s In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, which I suggest you purchase for any children that might live in your home. The protagonist’s name is Shirley Temple Wong, which means I just brought it back around.

9. Pocahontas


Okay so, I’m one of the many humans somehow related to Pocahontas, a fact of which the whole patrilineal side of my family is EXCEPTIONALLY proud. Obvs this meant the release of the Disney film was nothing short of an all-out first-rate mind-blowing family tragedy, remedied only by watching my Grandpa’s favorite Pocahontas documentary eight more times. I thought she was so brave and badass and basically my great-grandmother, perhaps due to a shaky understanding of how time works. It wasn’t until I was a grown-up that I learned the story was much darker than the one I remember.

8. Sally Ride


You guys, Sally Ride! THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMAN IN SPACE! I wrote about my childhood obsession with Sally Ride when she died last year, you should read it. Like many other childhood heroes of mine, Sally Ride coincidentally turned out to be a big homo.

7. Whoopi Goldberg

Set of Jumpin' Jack Flash
For fun I used to create programs for imaginary plays based on my favorite books, mostly because I wanted the chance to cast my books and also to make things with paper and markers and pictures — and ANYWAY my point is, I pretty much cast Whoopi Goldberg in every single one of my imaginary plays (other popular choices included John Candy, Kevin Costner, Levar Burton, Geena Davis, Sarah Polley and James Earl Jones), because as far as I was concerned, Whoopi Goldberg was the best actress in the whole world because she was in every movie I liked. For example: Sister Act, Sister Act 2, Sarafina!, The Little Rascals, Made in America and obviously the criminally underrated Eddie. Are those movies actually terrible and problematic? I haven’t seen any of them since the early ’90s, except for obviously Sister Act and Sister Act 2, which are definitively amazing. She was even on Star Trek: The Next Generation and did voices for Captain Planet and The Lion King! I was sure we’d be best friends one day.

6. Joan of Arc


To be honest I definitely conflated the actual Joan of Arc with the woman who played Joan of Arc in the classic ’80s film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

5. Anne Frank


Basically having strong Anne Frank feelings was an inherent consequence of going to Hebrew School.

4. Oprah

Oprah Winfrey Holding an Emmy Award

I make this same face all the time especially when holding Emmys

You guys, my Mom would not even let me watch Oprah (it wasn’t on PBS, so), yet I managed to idolize Oprah mostly by reading tons of books about Oprah. She grew up in Chicago just like my Mom and then built a Media Empire and beat Phil Donahue, which was very exciting. I did a school presentation in 5th grade where I dressed up like Oprah and told them all about my life. I wore leggings, a white turtleneck and my Mom’s black-and-white checked blazer (accented by streaks of primary colors that looked like errant lines of paint, as was the style at the time). Probs I looked just like her.

3. The Rockford Peaches as portrayed in “A League of Their Own”


Yep, all of ’em. Rosie O’Donnell probably also belongs on this list, but I’m running out of space.

2. Amelia Earhart



1. Marty McFly


This dude had it all — cool sneakers, lots of layers, Calvin Klein underpants, a rad jean jacket, a time traveling machine and a hot girlfriend. In the early 1990’s my family went to Universal Studios Hollywood, where they had a Back to the Future soundstage attraction. Two audience members would be selected as stand-ins for Marty and Jennifer and the guide would subsequently demonstrate to the audience how the DeLorean is manipulated and filmed in order to become Movie Magic.

So, the guide asked for volunteers to be Marty and Jennifer and obvs my hand SHOT into the air, and the guy pointed at me and called, “the guy in the back in the backwards hat” and I was like OMG THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I jolted down to the stage and settled in next to my Jennifer, who was like, omg, what is this eight-year-old lesbian doing in my DeLorean. Once he could see me clearly, the guide shot me a look of pure horror that he’d accidentally picked a girl to be Marty, and I’m sure the whole room was super uncomfortable, but I did not give a shit because I was going to the motherfucking future, bitches!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.


  1. LeVar Burton. Yes. He taught me that I could go anywhere if I took a look in a book because READING RAINBOW IS TOTALLY NOT QUEER. PBS tried to be sneaky but they didn’t fool anyone.

    • I was actually on a LeVar Burton binge today, reading a bunch of stuff about him and watching some old interviews, so this is serendipitous! (“Serendipity” was one of the books they made us read together-all-at-once in grade 4. A brutally slow read if you have to listen to the teacher read, but valuable for information about pink sea serpents or becoming a Guardian of the Seas.)

      I suspect that Reading Rainbow could’ve improved “Serendipity” immensely. If only we could get Burton to do a series redeeming books that’ve been half-ruined by school?

  2. Marty McFly ftw, I was convinced I would be exactly like him when I got to be a teenager, time travel and all. Also the only time my mother would let me curse was when I was quoting Back to the Future, so.

  3. Admittedly some of these make me feel like a senior citizen (or maybe that’s the lower back pain?). But I’m so psyched you loved In The Year Of The Boar And Jackie Robinson! I must have read that 15 times a kid. This may have led to a lifelong obsession, though I ended up disappointed that my “42” tattoo didn’t get me into the movie for free this year.

  4. Holy sh*t The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robison brings back some childhood memories. I haven’t heard or seen that book since I last read it in elementary school, I think. That book is great.

  5. I got side tracked by the book I didn’t see you the rest of the post for a second. Another thing we have in common, we both played the Marty McFly. He made the older lady stop short with me cause I was like 9-10 a the time :=/

    • !!! i loved it so much that i then helped write a back to the future inspired play for my theater class at jewish day camp so i could play marty mcfly again, but i think i may have ended up getting stuck playing Doc, which perhaps is a more accurate casting choice w/r/t my personality

      • When I was in elementary school my best friend called me Doc and I called them Marty. We were a little obsessed.

  6. LeVar Burton is the sole reason I ever started watching Star Trek TNG, which was my gateway drug to watching Voyager, which I still maintain is the best Star Trek series ever. I mean… Janeway! Seven of Nine! B’ellana!

    He also validated my preference for books over people as a child. It’s basically his fault I’m a total nerd now. A total gay nerd.

    And I couldn’t be happier about that. :)

    • I am so looking forward to seeing Voyager. I had watched (and LOVED) TNG as a kid and rewatched it this year. Still so much love! Everyone that I mention this to tells me to watch Voyager immediately. I predict a Christmassy binge.

      • I just got my girlfriend into Voyager since I’m rewatching the series with her. It’s so much better watching it with someone who’s super enthusiastic! I can’t wait to hit Season 4 onwards so we can drool over Seven together, but Janeway is fantastic the whole way through.

      • although Janeway in and of herself makes a great case for Voyager, which I also feel was really underrated

      • I know right?! I truly can’t imagine loving another incarnation as much. I mean Patrick Stewart has basically been imprinted on my young and impressionable psyche as the template for the benevolent father figure. I think I have too many trust issues to ever imprint on a TV series like this again!

    • I’m partial to Deep Space Nine, mostly because of Kira and Dax. I didn’t get around to watching Voyager until a few years ago, but it’s a great series too.

      The episode of Deep Space Nine where Dax kisses the woman that used to be her previous host’s wife is my root. I remember watching it in my room on a black & white TV and my brain completely breaking.

    • Everyone else is wrong because Spock.

      No, but actually the only Trek series I can’t really get into (besides the one of which we do not speak) is DS9. Also my parents were/are hardcore nerds and we watched TNG and Voyager together when I was wee. Captain Picard forever, man. And Geordi and Data and Q and Guinan. It’s too bad that pretty much every single other character annoys the shit out of me. Troi: pansy ass cliché of a terrible therapist. Worf: the “badass” character that is pretty much the opposite of badass, and also kind of sexist. Dr. Crusher: cloying and kind of…prissy? Plus that episode with the True Love with the host/symbiote alien and then basically having sex with Riker which honestly seems a lot more awkward/on my list of “not a line to cross ever Ever” than trying out the gay sex at least to see if the relationship still works, man that episode bugged me. Wesley: duh, awful, go back to the academy. Riker: just go away and stop being pompous and undermining and ugh. Yar: okay actually I miss her. I just can’t, you know.

      Whereas TOS…ah, the classic. See, I can sit through badly executed/problematic/dumb storylines and campy dialogue and terrible special effects/props/scenery if I love the CHARACTERS. And oh, how I love them. Every one. Well. Not Nurse Chapel. But she’s better in fic I swear! (Like Dawn Summers in that way. I mean, there’s really nowhere to go but up with those characters.) Plus, UR slash ship. Plus, Bones. Plus, George Takei. Plus, hilarious strategic shirt-ripping in every other episode. Plus, (often unsophisticated, but whatever) philosophical exercises thinly masked as plots. Plus, SO MANY TROPES. Plus, Vulcans. Plus, Amok Time. Plus, reboot. Plus plus plus.

      On the other hand, Captain Picard, John Delancey, LeVar Burton, Data, the Borg, peaceful diplomacy presented as a compelling drama, and I already said Picard but I just have to add: Patrick Stewart. Patrick freaking Stewart. He is my hero. Campaigning against domestic violence, acknowledging his rich white heterosexual male privilege, dressing up as a giant lobster for Halloween, pretending to be French despite obvious English accent, keyboard smash-inducing speeches (what Hamlet says with irony, I say with conviction…oh my god, I love you, you pulled off that painfully earnest expression of optimism with such dignity, how do you do that), getting married by his bff Ian McKellan, apparently and bewilderingly not knowing how to play chess I mean what you were trained as a Shakespearean actor and you induce nerdgasms worldwide how do you not know how to play chess

      okay so rambling. But anyway, TNG has its merits, I just haven’t gotten around to marathoning it yet and it doesn’t have a ship I can OTP enough to binge on fanfiction of it which would motivate me to actually do the marathon thing.

      Side note: Surprisingly, the quality of TOS fic (on the internet, at least) skyrocketed after the not-particularly-intellectually-engaging reboot. Like, what?

  7. back when I applied for this stupid retail job I still have, I had to pick a security question from a list of security questions for which the answers would be Not Obvious to me. figuring I was never going to see it again, I chose “who was your childhood hero?” then promptly forgot about it until I was called in to interview and sign on to my account. after a few painful minutes thinking I wasn’t gonna get this job ’cause I couldn’t answer this question ABOUT MYSELF, I remembered. who was my childhood hero?



  8. “omg, what is this eight-year-old lesbian doing in my DeLorean.”
    Dead. This is perfection.

    Also, Ramona!!! I loved/hated her, depending on the day, but I remember being totally mad about one of Beverly Cleary’s other books- Ellen Tebbits. She was such a little weirdo and it made me super sad that she never got to go outside and clean the blackboard dusters. In retrospect, she was a weird little overthinker, that didn’t really think she fitted in, so I guess she made sense to me.

  9. I am also one of the many people related to Pocahontas so now we’re related. Also,I can just imagine small human toy dressed up like Oprah and it totally works

      • wait did we talk about this at camp in the cafeteria during prom or is my mind playing tricks on me

    • Howis evrybody related to Pocahontas?? Okay, I thought she went to England? And no I’m not basing this on the vastly inferior sequel Pocahontas 2 (or at least I thought I wasn’t) I thought she went to England and nobody was entirely sure what became of her and she is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in England. It sounds like this may be worlds of wrong/imagined.

      Can anyone suggest a decent documentary or book as a starting point to remedy my ignorance?

  10. Louisa May Alcott was definitely Jo March in my head, just as Jane Austen was Elizabeth Bennet. This is probably part of the reason why I loved them both so much.

  11. I still occasionally scream/sing the Reading Rainbow theme song until my partner tells me to shut up, a habit which I have had since childhood (back in the days when it was my Mom telling me to shut up). Some things should never ever change.

  12. Harry Potter will always be the one childhood hero in my heart. A close tied-second would be Julie from the “Julie of the Wolves” books, and the kid from “My Side of the Mountain”. Apparently my dream was to be a wizard who ran away from home to live with wolves.

      • Have you tried re-reading The Boxcar Children as an adult though? Do not. It will ruin your childhood memories/desire for a boxcar to live in. So much sexism.

  13. Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus and all the women from Buffy were my heroes. I now realize I had the biggest crushes on them.

    • Fricking obsessed with Deanna Troi! Firstly, mind reading, obv. Second, I totally loved the fact that she had this whole independent version of the uniform going on, like her own interpretation of it. This blew my seven year old mind. Even Captain Picard has to wear the uniform. But yeah, Troi just rocks up to the bridge and is all “yeah, I decided to turn my uniform into a rara skirt, because, well have you seen these boots, and indeed, my amazing pins?” 24th century power dressing. Be still my beating heart.

    • Oh my goodness…haven’t watched any TNG or Voyager for so long. Totally forgot about all the ST ladies I swooned over. Pretty happy about this reminder.

      • OMG!!! It took me YEARS to figure out that Deanna Troi was the reason I thought therapists/mental health professionals could read minds!!! I totes thought they could tell if I was holding back or whatev. I was terrified of being caught out in a lie even though I wasn’t lying to them. My Mom’s a therapist and she can’t read minds so I really don’t know why this idea persisted for so long. Although I did kinda equate Deanna Troi and my Mom with each other. Back then it *did* seem like my Mom could read minds, lolz. Ah, fun times being sent to therapists because doctors think you’re making up your symptoms.

        Also I have very fond memories of watching Sesame Street immediately followed by Reading Rainbow. Although I was somewhat confused by how LeVar Burton could read when he was blind and didn’t have his fancy visor on.

        Btw Riese did you see Tina Fey as Marty McFly?

  14. I want a DeLorean because of Marty McFly.

    Also, I can imagine Riese in the DeLorean next to (your) Jennifer, looking over at her and with twinkle in your eye whisper, “Can you feel the electricity between us?” to which she shrieks “…1.21 GIGAWATTS!?”

    BAM. Lesbian back to the future sequel. Make it so.

    • YES THIS

      Also the Ramona miniseries where the lady who was Mrs. Whaley (?) plays bit parts in a bunch of shows/films and I get nostalgic every time


    so obsessed with LMA riese. so much. when we make the commune let’s be sure to stock duplicate copies of everything she’s written and all the biographies of her. good plan? good plan ok.

  16. One of my favourite things was The Girl from Tomorrow. We all ran around my school yard with our hairbands pulled onto our foreheads pretending we had telekinetic powers like Alana

  17. While this whole list is rather perfect, I am most partial to Number 3.
    That entire movie is my hero.

    For example, this gif is when Geena Davis caught my heart!

  18. Good to know someone else had strong feelings about Anne Frank, except I didn’t go to hebrew school.

  19. I had a deep connection with Ramona Quimby as a small, weird, little kid who thought about absolutely everything way too much. I might have gotten a pixie cut specifically to match hers when I was in fifth grade.

    Also, was anybody else furious with the movie adaptation of her with Selena Gomez as Beatrice? Because Ramona was definitely not the whimsical little fairy child that they seemed to make her.

      • I know! Beezus is an awkward overly serious teenage girl complete with zits and terrible haircuts, not a slightly grumpy perfectly made up Selena Gómez.

    • Agreed, she was such a babe! I went to see the musical version of Matilda and she was just as great as I remembered.

  20. I loved Ramona too! I was lucky enough to grow up in Portland, which is where Beverly Cleary is from. It made me feel really special to live in the neighborhood where such an amazing famous lady lived. Then when I was a teenager I loved Cleary’s memoirs (A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet). They’re a fascinating and honest look into her life during the Great Depression and WWII.

    • oh yeah the girl from yamhill was awesome! i should’ve put beverly cleary on this list too, actually.

  21. I’m starting to wonder if all queer women have the same childhood crushes… This is more than just pure coincidence, haha. I think I did every single elementary school book report on: Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Joan of Arc. Early signs? :D

  22. OH MY GOD, Ramona Quimby is totally the little Riese. All the stories I have heard of your adolescence suddenly make so much more sense.

  23. Whoopi Goldberg! I’m so glad she exists.
    Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, JK ROwling, and Marsha Linehan would be on my list :)

  24. So I recently found out that LeVar Burton and I have the same birthday and basically that means I’m changing my name to Geordi now. It’s possible I’m kidding about that. It’s…possible. (Also the same birthday as Kim Jong-Il and Ice-T?)

    And yeah, I used to wear a headband over my eyes and pretend to be Geordi as a kid. Because that seemed really awesome when I was five/seven.

    Additionally! HAS ANYBODY NOTICED THAT OF ALL THE GUYS ON TNG GEORDI IS CLEARLY THE STANDOUT FOX OF THEM ALL (well, maybe Picard because brainy is the new sexy and all, etc etc, BUT CONVENTIONALLY SPEAKING) AND

    (as far as I can recall)

    Like what’s up with that? RACISM IS WHAT’S UP WITH THAT. Like, fuck Riker, fuck Worf, Geordi owns their asses in the looks AND the awesome departments. I want to go back in time and a little over in space and hit some writers in the head until they write him a harem of love interests or at least every other guest star making eyes at him. “Ladies, please! I am married to my ship!” a la Nikola Tesla via Kate Beaton, sort of. I’d bang Geordi in a heartbeat. Oh my god. Not Reading Rainbow guy though, that would be like lusting after Mr. Rogers or your favorite uncle or something. Not that that doesn’t happen anyway? Pretty sure I had a crush on my aunt when I was six, and def wanted to marry my dad when I was four or five. TMI?

    My top “10” childhood heroes:
    1. Grover from Sesame St but especially from The Monster at the End of this Book
    2. Madeline (“In an old house in Paris all covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines”)
    3. Mulan (obvious trans guy choice? “Who is that girl I see, staring right back at me? When will my reflection show who I am inside?” etc)
    4. Matilda (of Roald Dahl fame) – incl movie version
    5. Harry Potter
    6. also Albus Dumbledore
    7. Luke Skywalker
    8. Samwise Gamgee (damn you Sean Astin you ruined this character for me, hopefully not forever)
    9. uh, probably LeVar Burton
    9 and 1/2. Snout, from the Bruce Coville alien books (“Aliens Stole My Body” in particular)
    9 and 3/4. Isabelle from the Ogden Nash poems
    9 and 4/5. also Custard the Dragon
    9 and 5/6. Ella from Ella Enchanted (who I always sort of wanted to get with her friend Areida from finishing school instead of the prince, even before I really realized it? Like, I loved Prince Char, but Areida. Same with Jane Eyre and Helen Burns. I don’t know, it was a thing I sensed, and I’ve never really even gotten into femslash, idk whatever)
    9 and 6/7. SE Hinton and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes – teenage novelist prodigies, okay? I wanted to be a famous published author by the time I was fourteen max. That didn’t happen, but still.
    10. Holden Caulfield (shut up I loved him no one understood his tortured soul like I did at age 12)

    • I realize that 9 and 3/4 should go to Harry Potter, but the number system got improvised after he’d already made the list, so.

      Also maybe the Geordi-never-gets-laid thing isn’t racism because Worf gets Troi? But anyway Geordi is way cooler/hotter/better than Worf in all ways and he and…Data?…should totally have fallen in love and gotten married after Data gets his emotion chip in for good this time. Semi-headcanon. Because of a fic, obvs.

      This one.

Comments are closed.