Welcome to another installment of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQIA+ community and mainstream media.
Representation of LGBTQIA+ characters have often been found to be in the background or cast in stereotypical roles — seen as tokenized queer representation. Don’t get me wrong, LGBTQIA+ representation is still lacking, but it is headed in the right direction. Voices are being heard. We are starting to see more characters get highlighted and cast in leading roles where their sexuality, while present, is not the only character description or focus or where the story’s meaning gets lost. They are seen as they are and should be: a person.
Meet Mel Vera. She is outspoken and can be seen as bold and brash, an activist, intellectual, a strong Latina, and feminist, fiercely protective of those she loves, and yeah, she also happened to be a Charmed One. Mel is portrayed by Melonie Diaz (The Breaks) and is the first LGBTQIA+ main character to appear in the series.
She is in a relationship with Niko Hamada, played by Ellen Tamaki (Manifest), a Hilltowne Detective. When she and Mel met, there was an instant connection, one that grew to a point where Niko left her fiancé Greta (Carlena Britch) to be with her.
After the death of her mother, Mel became very angry convinced that she was murdered. That caused a rift in her relationship with her sister Maggie (Sarah Jeffery) and girlfriend Niko. Niko even ended their relationship because Mel was emotionally unavailable but was still there for her and loved her. They found their way back to each other after Mel discovered she was a witch, but that just placed Niko in a different danger.
Being a Charmed One, Mel and her sisters Maggie and Macy (Madeleine Mantock) continuously found themselves fighting off demons, using magic, and not being able to explain where they are going or what they are doing—for Mel, not being able to tell the truth to the woman she loves weighed heavy on her. Mel had a difficult time with having to keep that part of her a secret. She has never had to do that in the past about any part of herself. Finally, Mel decided to protect Niko. So, with the help of her sisters, she casts an erasing history spell that makes it as if they had never met, sacrificing her happiness to keep the one she loved safe.
“Our mom raised us without judgments. She knew I was gay before I even figured it out. And she made sure that I was always proud of who I was. So, I have never been in the closet. I never had to hide who I am from the people I love. It was the biggest gift she gave me.”
Later in the first season, Niko does reappear as a private detective trying to reunite Jada (Aleyse Shannon) with her parents. But there are a few things in her way, including Mel. After meeting at the local bar, The Haunt, Mel is now dating Jada, also a witch, and has become a member of the Sarcana. What began as an undercover mission to find out if the Sarcana killed their mother ended up finding out they were trying to protect her, and Mel and Jada getting closer. Even though Mel was in a relationship with Jada and Niko was engaged to Greta, since she never left her for Mel, they still found themselves being drawn to each other. Eventually, Mel’s relationship with Jada ended.
One day Niko overheard Maggie and Mel talking about magic leading her to confront Mel for the truth. Niko always had a feeling of the supernatural being out there and her connection to Mel. They found their way back to each other, giving in to their feelings. While watching her sister Macy try to control life and death and bring back their mother, Mel realizes that making a choice to erase Niko’s memories without consent was the same. Since Niko now knew Mel was a witch, Mel decided to confess to the spell that made it as if they had never met. Niko runs away at this revelation, then those memories trying to flood her brain and the current memories she had causes Niko to collapse and go into a coma.
At the end of the season, when everything is back to as it should be and not altered due to magic, Niko is somehow alright; the hemorrhaging has stopped. When we next see Niko, she is sitting outside a coffee house reading a book alone. Mel stops time, but Niko is unfrozen because she is still wearing the ring that Mel gave her that protects her from magic, even hers. Noticing that everyone around her is stopped, she looks up and sees Mel. Niko waves to her, but Mel releases her magic and is gone. Mel finally realizes she has to let Niko go. She just wanted to see her and make sure she was safe, even if it is from her and her life.
Unfortunately, Niko and Mel had no happy ending, but seeing their relationship normalized is significant. The couple was treated and shown like any heterosexual couple in the media, and we need more of that. The fact that the series made the conscious choice not to talk about their sexuality was the right call, in my opinion. In a 2018 interview, Diaz put it beautifully:
“We also have made the decision not to ever talk about her being gay. Ever. It shouldn’t be a headline. It shouldn’t be a topic. Who she loves is who she loves. It should be as natural as day. Her sexuality is a part of who she is, but it’s not everything. She’s a sister. She’s a human being. She’s a witch that’s trying to do good things. Her girlfriend is just her girlfriend. Just like, a guy would have a girlfriend. We’re really trying to normalize it because I think, too often, we make a thing out of it.”
Stay tuned for more Pride spotlights throughout the month!