Follow TV Tropes


Used to Be a Tomboy

Go To
An Always Female trope where a feminine character is shown to have been more boyish when they were younger.

If the character is not introduced in this way, it'll often come in the form of a flashback or other form of reveal. It's typical for her to be on extremes of the gender expression scale — going from very butch and androgynous to a Girly Girl.

A common variation, especially in comedies, is Old Friend, New Gender. Sub-trope of She's All Grown Up and related to Girliness Upgrade. The inversion is Tomboyness Upgrade. Compare Former Teen Rebel and Tomboy Angst.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Asteroid in Love, Ao is introduced as a tomboy with Boyish Short Hair and a relatively masculine speech pattern to the point that Mira mistook her as a boy. Puberty turns her into a girly girl (mostly); at present day she is quiet, demure, and wears Girlish Pigtails.
  • In the Yuri Genre one-shot Blushing Girl, a girl meets her old friend Ichigo (pictured above), who moved away in early middle school. She was a trouble-making Dirty Kid but when they meet four years later she's much more feminine than before, has grown her hair out, and is more polite. She's still a Lovable Sex Maniac though.
  • The protagonist of Boku no Futatsu no Tsubasa is surprised to find her cousin, Makoto, appear as a teenage girl. She knew her as a boy when they were younger. Turns out she was mistaken for a boy because she was born with a penis and was raised as a boy until puberty hit.
  • Bokura no Hentai:
  • Sora Takenouchi from Digimon Adventure is a mix of One of the Boys and Team Mom. In the sequel Digimon Adventure 02 (where most of the previous Chosen Children are teenagers), she has become a Girly Girl, and more or less keeps it in Digimon Adventure tri..
  • In Dirty Pair when Yuri was a little girl she is shown playing in mud and catching frogs and lizards with her bare hands, as an adult she is much more feminine but she can kick a lot of ass if she needs to.
  • Fairy Tail: Lucy is shocked to learn that Mirajane, the titular guild's resident Silk Hiding Steel Team Mom used to be a punk girl who was bitter rivals with Action Girl Erza. It's explained that this happened due to the apparent death of Mirajane and Elfman's younger sister, Lisanna.
  • Inverted with Family Complex's Fuyuki. She was first introduced as demure and feminine, sporting Girlish Pigtails and wearing dresses. As she grew up and got over her shyness, she cut off her hair and started wearing boyish clothes, becoming a Bifauxnen instead. When she reappears in the manga's sequel Princess Princess, Akira's friends mistook her as Akira's brother.
  • Played with in Family Compo, somewhere between this and Old Friend, New Gender. Masahiko once met a boy at a grave site years ago, who played a joke on him and he is bitter towards the memory even years later. It turns out that was his cousin Shion. Shion looks feminine most of the time but is implied to be genderqueer and sometimes still dresses as a boy.
  • Henkyou no Roukishi Bard Loen: As a child, Lady Aidra Tersia was inspired to become a warrior, but gave up on that dream, along with that personality, after wandering into the forest nearly getting herself killed by a wild Kijiel.
  • Hungary from Hetalia: Axis Powers was shown to have been a Bifauxnen Cute Bruiser who thought she was a boy when she was a child. As an adult she's a Team Mom who wears frilly dresses and sports hair decorations. Noticeably the series averts the common cliche that they get weaker when they become more girly, in that Hungary actually got Took a Level in Badass when she grew up: as a tomboy she got defeated at least twice off-screen, while as a Girly Bruiser she's never been defeated.
  • I'm A Fool is a Yuri Genre oneshot that revolves around a woman meeting the 'prince' of her old high school, who has grown out her hair and looks more conventionally feminine. She only noticed her due to her distinctive beauty mark on her ear. The woman is noted not to be terribly comfortable with stuff like wearing stockings yet.
  • Isabelle of Paris has a hilarious example. The titular Isabelle begins the anime by announcing that she has left her tomboy habits in the past and is now going to be a refined Proper Lady, like her sister, as she's a fifteen year old Bourgeoisie Ojou and must act the part. Then, France falls to the forces of Prussia, so Isabelle cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy to help La Résistance.
  • Played with in Kemono Jihen. Haruka wore baggy clothes and kept her hair short when she met Robara as a kid, but while she wears openly girlier clothes now, her mannerisms remain the same.
  • Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club: Fashion model and rather flirty Karin Asaka was a mischievous tomboy back when she was a little girl on her home island. As shown in Nijyon Animation, her interest in models and desiring to be a Cool Big Sis in a big city is what lead Karin to becoming the girl she is in the present day.
  • Naruto: Ino, known for being the biggest Girly Girl out of the Konoha 12 and being The Fashionista as well, was a tomboy a few years prior to the series beginning. She was a short-haired, confident Bully Hunter and the tomboy to Sakura's shy and unconfident girly girl. By Part 2, their roles have been reversed.
  • Yuki from No Bra is in love with her childhood friend Maa-kun. It turns out her friend wasn't Masato, but really Kaoru who is a girl and is Masato's girlfriend.
  • Inverted in Pokémon Adventures with Sapphire. She wore a pink lolita dress as a little girl and was very feminine. She decided to change after Ruby got hurt saving her. The opposite happened to Ruby—who used to be more rough and tumble as a kid, but is now an effeminate guy whose primary interest is fashion design—making them a Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy duo.
  • The protagonist from Prism is stuck in the past about a boy she spent time with one day in late elementary and fell in love with. On her first day of high school she gets hugged by a random girl. This girl, Hikaru, tells her she was the "boy" she met all those years ago.
  • Riku from the oneshot Tender Tear was a tall Lesbian Jock with Boyish Short Hair in high school. Because her school had no boys many classmates were drawn to her. After high school she grew out her hair, began wearing dresses, and learned how to use make-up. Riku notes that after she stopped being androgynous suddenly straight girls didn't take notice of her anymore.

    Comic Books 
  • It's revealed in Archie Comics (2015) that the "Lipstick Incident" between Archie and Betty is due to this. Archie was afraid his tomboyish girlfriend Betty was starting to become more feminine. They got into an argument on a date and ended up breaking up after over ten years together.
  • Initially Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark was a tomboy, who kept her hair cropped short, wore baggy clothes and geeked out over getting to meet her hero Wonder Woman. In her later appearances, especially in Teen Titans, she seems more like a stereotypical girly boy-obsessed cheerleader type who wears a skintight cleavage showing and midriff revealing outfit.

    Fan Works 
  • Back to 1987: When a time-displaced Jolyne Kujo and 5-years-old Haruno move to Sardinia, they encounter Trish Una. Rather than the feminine appearing teen she was in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, she's a brash tomboy that gets into fight with the boys who try to make fun of her for her fatherless background. Jolyne is quite surprised to learn that this was the past of the famous pop diva whose songs helped her in her teenage years.
  • Happens to Helga Shortman (née Pataki) in After the Jungle (by Flower princess11). Everyone remembers her as this hotheaded tomboy (with some girly interests) back in the original series, but she mellows out a lot as she gets older (especially after she and Arnold get married and have children) and also becomes girlier and more feminine as time goes on—but she still retains some of her more tomboyish traits and can also still be rather aggressive and also has really strong protective instincts towards her loved ones.
  • The LDD-fanfic, Bridge to Terabithia 2: The Last Time, reveals that Leslie took a further Girliness Upgrade, even more so than the 2007 film adaptation, where as a teenager she starts growing her hair past her shoulders, wearing makeup and lipstick, and becoming even more feminine in Jess' presence. The fact that her supposed death in the original story was retconned as being abducted by a human trafficking syndicate and subsequently cut away from society until she was rescued 5 years later, before eventually returning to Lark Creek and reuniting with Jess as a teenager, might be a contributing factor to her massive change in personality.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender fancomic How I Became Yours, set some years after the conclusion of the series, regular tomboy Toph has become more feminine with growing up, wearing dresses and makeup and developing a (relatively) more romantic temperament. The example is a somewhat downplayed one, however, since she still retains a lot of her rough personality under the polished surface.
  • Ashley in Glitter Reunion isn't as tomboyish as she was 20 years ago as a teen.

    Films — Animation 
  • Asterix vs. Caesar: Asterix mentions in passing that the beautiful feminine Panacea used to be quite the tomboy as a child.
  • The Lion King (1994): Nala was a mischievous cub who could beat Simba in every fight. She was also very adventurous and restless. She loses her tomboyish traits as an adult and becomes more regal and mature, although she's still as capable a fighter as ever.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Teenage Ariel was a rebellious Tomboy Princess. In the sequel she acts quite queenly, becoming the Girly Girl to her daughter's tomboy.
  • The Swan Princess: As a child, Princess Odette is a tomboy who could keep up with Derek and Bromley. She becomes more of a girly girl as a teen and adult.
  • Toy Story 2: Jessie's previous owner Emily went through a cowgirl phase, and loved horses, cowgirl hats, and Wild West things. As she became a teenager, her interests shifted to makeup, music, and colorful '60s posters.
  • Up: Ellie was shown to have been a tomboy in flashbacks to her childhood. In her adulthood she was more feminine-looking.
  • Yuki from Wolf Children as a young child she loved to get dirty, fight with other animals and hunt them, and collected snakes, bugs, and animal bones, however once she began to go to school she freaked out the other girls with her hobbies and wolf tendencies, so in order to fit in she begins to act more girly and wear more fashionable dresses, she also rejects her wolf side.

  • In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes story "The Noble Bachelor," Hatty Doran is mentioned to have been a tomboy who liked to explore the California wilderness as a child.
  • Iria Gai from Alice, Girl from the Future was raised as the ultimate tomboy by a Why Couldn't You Be Different? father. Later, she married and became a girly enough mother, though her old skills are still there for Mama Bear mod.
  • Boys and Girls by Alice Munro; the main character starts out as a masculine farmhand, but soon comes to realize that she's "just a girl" and will never amount to anything because of it.
  • Haganai: The first oblivious offense of Kodaka the male protagonist. He does not remember the cool loner beauty Yozora from their time as children having played together before long period of separation. He thinks his friend, nicknamed Sora, was a boy.
  • In Northanger Abbey, Catherine Moreland's backstory states she was a tomboy as a child.
  • In Strike the Blood, Kojou and his Unwanted Harem find out that long lost friend, Yuuma Tokoyogi, is returning. The girls look at a picture of Kojou and Yuuma when they were kids and seem relieved at what appears to be a boy in a basketball jersey.. But when Yuuma actually shows herself later, she's grown into a very mature, very feminine, very beautiful young woman.
  • Wuthering Heights: Catherine goes through a Girliness Upgrade during her visit to the Lintons. When her childhood friend Heathcliff sees her again, he's all freaked out because he remembers her as a tomboy with whom he explored the countryside and had barefoot running contests. Ultimately, this change is portrayed as Catherine betraying her true self, and during her ultimate mental breakdown she yearns desperately for her past as a tomboyish child, "half-savage and hardy, and free."
  • Tolkien's Legendarium: Galadriel. Her mother-name, Nerwen, literally translates to "man-maiden", and she first came to Middle-Earth as a sword-swinging Action Girl in her uncle Fëanor's entourage, ready to conquer herself a nice little chunk of the world to rule. By the time Lord of the Rings rolls around, she's had a few millenia to mellow out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Penny from The Big Bang Theory was a tomboy, going so far as being the Junior Rodeo Champ, because her father wanted her to be a boy. After she got her first push up bra, she became a cheerleader and adapted the girly, low cut wardrobe and boy crazy attitude she has attitude she had at the series. However, she still has flashes of her roots, mainly in being able to do traditional "manly" activities like holding her own in a sports discussion, or gutting fish when her nerdy guy friends can't.
  • Robin from How I Met Your Mother was a tomboy growing up due to her father wanting a son.
  • In Pretty Little Liars in the episode Shadow Play, Aria tells Paige that she used to be a tomboy, and spent more time in trees than in her own room; she went on to say that she grew out of it once she fell in love for the first time. All of the four girls are feminine snappy dressers, including still tomboy and resident gay gal Emily.

  • In "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" by Neil Sedaka, one of the lines is "My little tomboy now wears satin and lace".
  • Invoked in "One Of The Boys" by Katy Perry. The protagonist is trying to become less tomboyish and more of a Girly Girl to attract a boy.

  • Spoofed in John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme in a sketch about The Famous Five. A now-adult Julian runs into George (now going by Georgina) and repeatedly offends her by expressing surprise at how "feminine" she comes across, since he'd always assumed that she was either lesbian or trans. Georgina irritably responds that her tomboyish style was a completely ordinary prepubescent phase, but that she's now married (to a man) with three kids and is a full-time housewife. The sketch also hints at an inversion of this trope, since it's mentioned that Anne grew up to be far less ultra-feminine than Georgina, and is in fact a slightly unhinged artist with a recent history of vigilante violence.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Discussed and parodied in one of Paul F. Tompkins' routines, "Tomboy", where he notes that nearly every "bee-yootiful Hollywood actress" will mention this in interviews as a humanizing moment.
    "'I know, it's hard to believe because I'm so beautiful, but I was a tomboy! I used to walk around in overalls and a baseball cap, carried a slingshot, and I was constantly catchin' frogs!' [...] Everybody loves it, but nobody is on board with the reverse. Nobody is excited if — you know, like, Brad Pitt was on some interview and, like, 'Oh, what was I like as a boy? Oh, I was a sissy. Yeah, I was a total sissy. Threw like a girl, took violin lessons... uh, I was hurt by the sun. Um, played with dolls... let's see... yeah, I wore a little short-pant velvet suit everywhere I went. Big straw hat, streamers off the back. Why, yes, I did have a giant lollipop, thank you for asking.'"

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem inverts this twice:
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, it's revealed in Cynthia's conversation with Severa in the DLC map Harvest Scramble that Cynthia she used to be way girlier before her parents died when she was young and became determined to become a great hero like they were. Though she's only a tomboy in the sense that she likes being a dashing hero and fighting for justice - otherwise she still dresses, looks, and sounds *incredibly* girly, plus she begins in a traditionally female fighting class (Pegasus Knight) that only became unisex in the following game.
    • Fire Emblem Fates has Princess Hinoka, who used to be a Shrinking Violet before the Avatar was taken away and her father was murdered. She decided to cope by training hard and becoming an Action Girl.
  • This happens to Ann in Harvest Moon if you marry her. She grows her hair out, trades her tank top and pants for a dress, and becomes a housewife. She keeps her Wrench Wench habits though. This situation is averted in Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, where the wives aren't Palette Swaps after marriage anymore.
  • Jennifer Pleasant from The Sims had an identical personality to her older brother and was dressed in full soccer kit as her standard outfit. In The Sims 2, set 25 years later, Jennifer re-appears as a suburban wife and mother dressed neutrally in a tank top, mid-length skirt, and heels. Her bio states that she gave up on her childhood aspiration to be a soccer superstar, and now wants to be fashionable and stylish instead.
  • Tokyo Xanadu downplays this with Sora Ikushima. She's still by far the most tomboyish girl in the party, training in a karate club and wearing Boyish Short Hair. However, when Kou meets her for the first time since elementary, he's shocked by how much she has changed, remarking that she now even wears a skirt.

    Web Comics 
  • In League of Super Redundant Heroes it's revealed that in elementary school Buckaress was quite the sports star, and as a result she got bullied for not being girly. By high school she'd changed her shtick so thoroughly to girliness that in the present day she's not much of a superhero. Until another female superhero starts training her.
  • In Snowflake & Flower it's shown that as a kid Himawari had Boyish Short Hair and was a tomboy. After her Knight Templar Big Brother beat up some boys for teasing her she stopped having male friends, due to her brother scaring her, and became more feminine.
  • Yoona from Welcome to Room #305 was the tomboy to her sensitive little brother and at least once beat up other kids in order to protect him. She became somewhat more feminine with age, and her brother less attached and less of a crybaby, but she kept her temper and over-protectiveness. As the webtoon goes on her ladette qualities become more obvious.

    Western Animation 
  • Almost everytime we get a Flash Forward in Arthur, Francine is presented as much more feminine looking than she is currently.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Mishti, an old friend of Baljeet's from when he and his family were still living in India, comes to visit him in America for the first time in the Titanic-themed episode. When they were younger, they played in the mud together, and Baljeet is looking forward to her visit—and then she shows up in a gorgeous red dress and makeup. He panics and escapes.
  • Parodied in a mock Flash Forward in the The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "The City of Clipsville". The tomboyish Buttercup is portrayed as a feminine, boy-obsessed Valley Girl (along with her sisters) as a teenager. The scene in question is a joke about the fandom's typical older versions of the girls at the time.


Video Example(s):


Phineas And Ferb

Baljeet tells Phineas and Ferb that his old friend Mishti has "turned into a girl"

How well does it match the trope?

4.44 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / UsedToBeATomboy

Media sources: