Ayesha Madon's Girlfriend Magazine Cover Has My Teenage Brown Self Doing A Happy Dance

As a journalist and editor with over a decade of experience in Australian media, I'm glad to see more of this diversity spill onto the covers and pages produced by legacy media brands.

Ayesha Madon on the cover of Girlfriend magazine. Photographed by Alex Wall

In a pre-social media and internet era, a young girl's gateway to learning how to be her best self was often in the form of magazines. These glossy publications became your best friend on your bedside table, teaching you how to nail that lip gloss trend, answering your puberty questions, giving you a rundown on the best movies to watch at your next girls' sleepover party, and providing many a poster of Chris Hemsworth (the Home & Away days, anyone?) or the Backstreet Boys for you to plaster over your bedroom wall.

Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, I begged my parents to buy me every issue of Girlfriend and Dolly, as well as their showbags at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. And yes, I'd sometimes go to the local Westfield as a spectator when their model search competitions took place.

Reading these mags from page to page was a teenage rite of passage, and I yearned to be just like the cover girls of that time such as Delta Goodrem, Hilary Duff and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

What I perhaps didn't realise back then was there could be an opportunity to relate even more to these publications if they featured more women who looked like me. Perhaps, I'd grown so accustomed to not seeing people who resembled my brown self in TV and film, that this had just become the norm. Perhaps, this meant that it didn't even occur to me to question it at the time.

Fast forward over 20 years later, and as Girlfriend magazine — amongst the rest of print media – adapts to a fast-paced online landscape, its choice of cover stars has also evolved.

This month Heartbreak High star (and fellow South Asian woman) Ayesha Madon features on the cover of Girlfriend's digital issue, and my younger self is doing a happy dance back in her childhood bedroom. It seems 26-year-old Madon is in the same boat.

"Used to read Girlfriend religiously so to have shot this cover the day before my birthday was very full circle," the actor and singer wrote on Instagram. "Thank you for having me @girlfriendmag , little Ayesh is on the floor."

Accompanying the stunning cover is a very well-suited 'Confidence' issue theme, because after all, a lot of us have navigated dips in our confidence thanks to our curry and roti lunchboxes at school, having our surname mispronounced at a corporate event, or feeling on the outer just for simply being brown.

"I was always the class clown and liked to make people laugh. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m neurodivergent, and I was a brown person at a school predominantly full of white people," Madon told the publication while reflecting on her teenage years.

"I think those things contributed to me feeling small and a bit stupid, and a bit incapable, and probably not as pretty or valid as the people around me."

With this issue sponsored by skincare brand La Roche Posay, Madon spoke about feeling confident on the inside and out. As to whether she feels confident in her skin now, she said, "Sometimes yes, sometimes no.I have days or moments where I feel amazing and capable and pretty, but it’s only natural to have days where I’m not feeling comfortable in my skin, or want to be someone else, or look a certain way, or be better at what I do."

As a journalist and editor with over a decade of experience in Australian media (many of which have been in women's media), I'm glad to see more of this diversity spill onto the covers and pages produced by legacy media brands.

Feeling confident is something we all continue to grapple with, but knowing that this new generation of young brown girls can see themselves more represented in youth media is just the confidence boost I need today.

@girlfriend_au Heartbreak High's @Ayesha Madon’s star is on the rise, but she hasn't always rocked the confidence she has today. Check out Girlfriend's special digital 'Confidence Issue' where she shares how she found her voice and main character energy. #ayeshamadon #girlfriendmagazine #larocheposay ♬ original sound - Girlfriend