For high school student Mikhaila Nodel, there’s no better way to express an idea than through art. That’s why when she wanted to spread body positivity and self-love among her peers, she started the Tumblr Cosmic Cuties.
“I created the characters because I believe everyone should love themselves and feel confident,” the Brooklyn native, 17, tells PEOPLE of the plus-size women she draws emblazoned with positive messages. “Cosmic Cuties are basically these feminist goddesses who protect women – trans women included, of course – all over the universe.”
But Nodel hasn t always felt so strong. In the past, she struggled with bullying and remembers feeling “extremely insecure.”
“I was bullied a lot in sixth grade,” she says. “I had no self-esteem whatsoever and I had no friends to support me. It was really hard.”
After getting involved in her school’s feminism club, Nodel says she realized her self-worth and wanted to help inspire other girls to become more accepting of themselves.
“I realized that all the reasons I hated myself were just stupid societal norms that don’t matter,” she says. “All women are different. No one is going to have the exact same body or personality.”
Nodel finds inspiration for her illustrations in her own everyday experiences and those of her friends, and she says she plans on creating at least one artwork a month, despite her busy school workload.
“No one should be disgusted by their own reflection,” she says. “I hope that with my art, maybe people can start to realize how amazing and beautiful they are.”