When I was growing up, diverse America remained pretty hidden. The beauty standard for little girls my age in the late 1950s seemed to be blond hair, blue eyes. Not a hint of ethnicity.
Look at a photo of the original Mickey Mouse Club cast, and Annette Funicello stands out because her hair was dark, her eyebrows bushy, her skin olive. She was the only girl in popular culture who looked like me and my sisters and my cousins, all 100 percent Italian.
And she had an Italian name. Not shortened, not Americanized.
Thanks Annette, for showing a little girl that those of us who looked different could fit in on TV too, could find a place in this world, surrounded by the very American looking Karen and Darlene and Cheryl.
(S-R archive photo of Funicello with actresses who portrayed her in movie about her.)