"I hope Nella teaches young girls to have confidence, be inclusive and have compassion for others," says 12-year-old star Akira Golz

By Christina Dugan
February 06, 2017 08:30 AM

Nick Jr. is gearing up to introduce their newest powerhouse princess, Nella — a tiny, but courageous royal who occasionally turns into a knight to save the day (or night!).

Unlike many princesses before her, Nella the Princess Knight appears to be of blended ethnicity. She’s also a pint-sized spitfire (no damsel in distress here). And, according to Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami, she stands foreverything our world needs.

“This is hopefully representative of what our country actually does look like,” Zarghami tells PEOPLE. “I think that we are telling authentic stories about real kids and real families — even though they’re animated and fantasy-based. We’re really trying to reflect what kids see every day … real kids who look like you and me.”

She also notes, “Girl empowerment is really a part of Nickelodeon’s DNA, so a girl who transforms into a knight to save the day sounds exactly in line with what we believe is our mission.”

Nella, voiced by 12-year-old actress Akira Golz, is an adventurous 8-year-old who is not afraid to speak her mind and embrace her distinct qualities.

“She’s totally unconventional,” Golz tells PEOPLE. “She has the real qualities of a princess, like grace and compassion, but also the courage and determination of a knight.”

Credit: Nickelodeon Group

Besides her ability to kick butt, Nella embraces her physical differences as well.

“One of the things we’re talking a lot about is how adults would characterize it and how kids would characterize it,” Zarghami explains on how Nickelodeon would define Nella’s race or ethnicity. “The answer to the kid front is, here’s somebody that looks like somebody I might know. I’m growing up in a world that is full of different kinds of families and people of different race, religion and ethnicity. So it looks very authentic to these kids. To us, it looks like we’re doing something cutting-edge and different and innovative. To the audience it’s like, ‘That’s what they’re supposed to look like.’ ”

Golz also says she’s learned a lot about herself since starting the show.

“I’ve learned that I have some things that I can work on, too,” explains Golz. “Nella’s a great person, she’s always super sweet and has a lot of confidence. I feel like ever since I started Nella, I feel like I’ve been a little bit more outgoing and little bit more confident in myself just from seeing all the things she’s done.”

She adds, “I hope Nella teaches young girls to have confidence, be inclusive and have compassion for others.”

Nella the Princess Knight premieres Monday at 10 a.m. ET on Nickelodeon.