This kid couldn’t find an avatar that looked like him — so he helped create one

CBC Kids News • Published 2021-03-31 06:00

B.C. graphics company, Pixton, responds to call for change


Karanveer Singh Anand didn’t know his class photo would lead to better representation for Sikh kids, but that’s exactly what happened.

Karanveer, from Newmarket, Ontario, saw there weren’t any digital avatars that represented him and his Sikh heritage when he needed an avatar for his virtual class photo this fall.

The 13-year-old student told CBC Kids News that made him feel “disappointed and sad.”

So, with the help of his teacher, he reached out to the company that designs avatars to ask for a change — and they delivered.

Natasha Angel’s class at York District School Board’s Elementary Virtual School, as represented by their digital avatars. Karanveer Singh Anand is in the back row, fourth from the left. (Image credit: Pixton)

How it started

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Karanveer’s Grade 8 class to go virtual this year.

His teacher at the York District School Board’s Elementary Virtual School, Natasha Angel, found a way to take a class photo anyway, thanks to a digital avatar company.

The B.C. company, called Pixton, lets teachers create graphics such as comics and novels online.

After her students created their class photo, Angel noticed something different about Karanveer’s avatar: it wasn’t wearing a patka.

What is a patka?

A patka is a fabric head covering sometimes worn by boys who follow the Sikh religion.

These turbans and head coverings are a few of the new Pixton avatar designs that Karanveer helped contribute to. (Image credit: Pixton)

Karanveer said there weren’t any avatars available that wore a patka like him, so he just chose one that “had short black hair.”

Pushing for change

He and his teacher decided that wasn’t good enough.

So, they reached out to Pixton to see if they would add Sikh representation to their avatar collection.

Building a new avatar

Pixton said yes and asked Karanveer to send in photos of things they should add to their avatar editor.

He selected photos of items from the Sikh culture to send in.

Two months later, they added the items to their online catalogue.

Karanveer’s newly-designed avatar, as seen on Pixton. (Image credit: Pixton)

How it felt

“I was so happy and so glad,” Karavaneer said, about seeing his new avatar for the first time.

“It’s really inspiring. I’m really happy I was able to make a change,” he said.

Karanveer said the fact that the company listened made him feel “proud, happy, accepted and adequately represented. Like I even made a change in the world.”

He said he hopes his story will help other kids like him wear their patkas with pride.

Karanveer has even been praised by a representative from the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

Balpreet Singh called him “amazing.”

With files from Talia Ricci/CBC

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