Even in a world of Kardashians, a wealth of role models for our daughters

I just got done talking with Nastia Liukin, the 2008 all-round gymnastics gold medal winner who is in Chicago this weekend promoting a new clothing line.Supergirl by Nastia is a comfortable, modest and affordable collection aimed at the preteen set and infused with a message of empowerment and strength. (Read our interviewhere).

This was a fun interview for me. I should start by saying that I’m a huge gymnastics fan. My own career was tragically short — it lasted about six weeks back in 1989, followed by equally short stretches in Girl Scouts, ballet and ice skating — but I’ve stayed a fan.

When I interview people I’m personally impressed with, I usually manage to stay professional. But I may have slipped a little on this one. And by slipped, I mean I actually said “I’m a huge fan.” And then, promptly followed that with: “I saw you on ‘Gossip Girl.'” Add an “OMG” and I basically posted on her Facebook wall.One of my finer moments as a reporter, to be sure.

But here’s the thing: I am a big fan, and an even bigger fan after our chat. Nastia was gracious, well-spoken and earnest about her goals with the Supergirl line: to empower young girls.

“My experiences and my accomplishments all started with a dream — to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal — and I want them to realize that that’s how all big things start, with a dream. I want them to feel like they can do anything.”

It’s nice to be reminded every now and then that there are still plenty of good role models out there for young girls, some of whom are actively working to reach them. (On that note, Nastia will be meeting fans and signing autographs at the Woodfield Mall on Saturday from 2-3:30 p.m.)

New York Times’ columnist Gail Collinstouched on this topic last week, remarking in the wake of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding that the Clinton and Bush families had both managed to raise pretty terrific, well-adjusted and generous kids doing good work. Nastia’s path to celebrity was different, and I won’t pretend that launching a girls’ clothing line is in the same vein as working for UNICEF or at anAIDS hospital in South Africa. But role models come in all shapes and sizes and anyone using their influence to help people is okay in my book.

During our chat, Nastia talked about the influences behind her superhero-themed line:

I feel like boys have always had Superman and Batman and all these superheroes, but girls haven’t really had that one superhero to relate to, to look at and think, ‘I’m inspired by this.’

I think they’ve found one. Well done, Nastia.

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