Picture 1177About five years ago — eons in mom time now that my daughter is 11 and just an inch shorter than I am — we were shuffling through movie theater foot traffic when she spotted a poster pushing some new animated princess and gushed, “Oh Mommy, she’s sooooo pretty.” I bristled. I secretly rolled my eyes. I cocked one eyebrow so far up it could have easily become part of my hairline.

Outspoken soul sista that I am, however, I’m not so hardcore that I’d shut down a little kid in the middle of innocently expressing her adoration for a cartoon character. Instead, I immediately told her that she, herself, was more fabulous than any run-of-the-mill princess some artist could cook up. I also lamented internally that there would probably never be anyone to compete with the flowing long-haired, perfectly porcelain-skinned likes of Cinderella or Ariel for the affections of little brown girls everywhere.

But I stand corrected. And soon, I’ll also stand in line for The Princess and The Frog to witness the debut of Princess Tiana, who is the first black lady to be added to the lineup of Disney’s royal highnesses. Her story has been a long time in the making, partially because every other component of her development has been met with criticism and “oh no you didn’ts” from black folks privy to Disney’s behind-the-scenes plans to make the princess a maid and a domestic in white folks’ kitchen.

Her physical characteristics have also gone through more transformations than Vivica Fox and Lil’ Kim at a botox two-for-one: She’s been lighter, darker, fuller-lipped and wider-nosed with an assortment of hairdos and textures before her final look was settled. The results, I think, are commendable. She’s cute. But now a critic like myself can’t help but wait with a blend of hopefulness, curiosity and baited skepticism to see how many little girls wander past her picture announcing to their mothers that they want to look like her.

Will the introduction of a black princess really change the way little black girls think about themselves?

We’ve placed so much stock in the idea that Africanized versions of dolls and cartoons will have some sort of uplifting effect on our girls’ self-esteem. While studies have shown time and time again that there’s a clear problem with black girls associating beauty with anything but dark skin, thick lips and big noses, the Princess Tianas of the entertainment world will mean absolutely nothing if we —black mothers and our village of supportive relatives and friends—aren’t reinforcing the real-life beauty of who we are to our daughters everyday.

Someone can draw Tiana and erase her physical faults with the flick of a pencil end. I’m trying to teach my child that though she’s not flawless, her true beauty comes from embracing and celebrating her perfect imperfections.

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  • Boss Lady

    Self love starts in the home….i’m so sick and tired of people blaming the media: tv, radio, big screen on the way their kids are turning out. All Disney movies have an underlying POSITIVE meaning/lesson regardless of the characters color. I love all disney films and as a child i never wondered why their hair, skin or features were different from mine. I truly believe that is nonsense and poison the parents are pouring into the minds of innocent children….This is coming from a brown-skinned, big eyed, wide nosed, big forehead, sizeable lipped african american woman with natural hair and i’m still beautiful….and i love me (and so does everyone else -j/k)… Its a beautiful thing that now a black character was made the lead and millions still went out to view (enjoy it), but i’m tired of everything being a race issue amongst/within black america (or america period)…..ariel was a redhead, cinderella was blonde, snow white had black hair…no one made a big deal…..i feel that this is just the same…..lata!

  • my mother and I are going to see this on sunday when i go home for winter break. although i’ll be 19 next month, it’s still amazing that i get to go see this with my mom (who brought up the idea) i’m sure both of us will feel like misty eyed little girls again.

    Brilliantly done (excuse the caps)!

  • Phoenix

    Why is “standing tall” associated with being good. Can’t a sista be short and all that?

  • Anytime a culture see’s itself reflected in a positive way it has a positive affect. Especially on the children. The movie was a great start. The message was positive, in that young women should never give up on their dreams and that a man is the cherry on top of an already finely decorated, yummy cake!