Editor’s Note: Out of respect to the Jolie-Pitts, we have referred to the eight-year-old using gender-neutral “they” pronouns, as have many other publications.
When I was four, I decided I didn’t want to be me any more. I wanted to be a dashing hero named Prince Max. Prince Max was handsome, and kind, and smart, and he stuck around for a good two years, much to the amusement of my sisters and the tired acceptance of my parents.
If they called me by my birth name — Lola — I would correct them, refasten my little blanket-cape around my neck, and storm off with my toy dog (also called Prince Max, because originality is hard when you’re 4) in tow.Lola.
In 2008, actor Brad Pritt recounted having a similar experience with one of his children. His eight-year-old, Shiloh, prefers to be known as John. If Pitt called his child ‘Shi’, he would be corrected with an “I’m John!”.
In a 2010 interview with Vanity Fair, John’s mother, actress Angelina Jolie, said, “She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”John Jolie-Pitt
And, to the credit of the entire Jolie-Pitt clan, they’ve respected and accepted this. The whole family uses the name John, and for years, Brad and Ange’s oldest biological child has dressed and seemingly acted in traditionally masculine clothes and behaviours. The whole brood seems happy to accept John’s wish to be a boy.
Now, I remember my time as Prince Max very well. He was a huge, huge part of my identity– but he was just that: a part of it. I wanted to be like him, yes, but I knew he was a made-up character I used to have adventures. He was never me, and I never needed him to be. I was still a little girl, and happy to be so- I was just a little girl who loved being a prince and doing princely things.
Unpacking it now, as an adult, I can hazard a guess that it was something to do with the stuffy prince and princess gender roles that existed (and still do exist), that I wanted no part of- where Snow White cleaned and then passed out, her Prince rode a freakin’ cool horse and did what he wanted; while Ariel lost her voice, then her legs, and almost her life for a man, Eric, who got to play a piccolo and wander the beaches and sail the seven seas.Lola when she was little.
Eventually, I got to primary school and realised that none of my friends cared when I – ‘I’ being Lola, not Prince Max- played a prince and saved a girl from whoever was being the monster that day, and that I could be a girl AND be a hero. So I quickly said goodbye to Prince Max and said hello to myself once more.