this is what a disney princess could look like

Rupphire
  • Sapphire: Ruby, why did we just unfuse?
  • Ruby: Sapphire! I have a very important confession to make!
  • Sapphire: You like to steal my dresses and wear them while nobody is looking. You do not have to tell me, I already know.
  • Ruby: What? N-no! That's not it!
  • Sapphire: Then what could it be?
  • Ruby: Sapphire, you see, there are no proper words in the dictionary that can describe how much I love you, so I took the matter of finding a song that could help me find the words.
  • Sapphire: Oh, I believe I know where this is going...
  • (Ruby presses play button on boombox and holds it up in the air)
  • Boombox: OOGA CHAKA OOGA OOGA OOGA CHAKA OOGA OOGA OOGA CHAKA
  • Sapphire: Oh my goodness. Never change, Ruby.

While I am a white cisfemale, and have seen representations of my background in Disney (I’m Irish, and Merida being my new favorite princess), there’s parts of me that aren’t represented.
I was born with a cleft lip and palate and was left with an unsymmetrical nose and a deep scar on my upper lip after eight surgeries since birth. Growing up, I always wondered what I’d look like if I wasn’t born with this “burden.” I always saw beautiful women in media, Disney included, but I never felt I was one of them. In recent years, I’ve become more confident with my looks, and I don’t see my scar as a burden anymore, but now I have a goal: I want to inspire younger generations through my art and show them that they’re beautiful, no matter what “flaw” they have or what society and media will tell them. I plan to go to school for Illustration, intern at Disney, and hopefully work at Disney/Pixar as a storyboard artist. Maybe then I can bring diversity and intersectionality to one of the most influential companies worldwide. A girl can dream, right?

interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

Disney, Representation and My Work

So for my first post, I figured maybe I’d do something that I could use across blogs. That left

one option: Disney and Representation, something that influenced what I write about, how I write it and of course everything I had to do to change it. We all know what the Disney Princess lineup looked like prior to 2009:

External image

(Took a while to find one with Mulan and Pocahontas. Not surprised.)

So as a little girl who grew up watching all of these movies over and over again and spent all of her free time with a notebook writing stories about princesses, mermaids, dragons and fairies, this definitely started to have an impact. We often hear about how children “don’t see race,” and time and time again this has been proven wrong, something I can confirm, because this is a problem that followed me long after childhood, into high school and through college as well. We know the effects of not seeing yourself represented in media by now and this manifested itself in my work almost violently: my main characters were essentially Disney Princesses transplanted into different worlds–white, willowy, blonde and blue eyed and brown haired and conventionally pretty/beautiful, or “average” the way Bella Swan was “average”. Lost princesses and goddesses of vaguely-European kingdoms and worlds. My brown characters, often self inserts, were pushed off to the side: supporting characters, there to back up the main character. As I got older, I’d push in a few more, as main characters, protagonists and antagonists and characters that I clung to, in a sea of white characters of my own creation.

Binge watching Disney princess movies the way I did (Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella and most of the others), I wouldn’t have known I existed. The rest of the media I consumed had me convinced either brushed me off the way Disney did, or pushed me off to the side the way I did the rest of my black and brown characters. I never got through Addy’s American Girl books, because even as a seven year old, everything I learned about my race and culture that wasn’t from my parents went back to slavery, a narrative I knew was important but that I was already tired of seeing everywhere. I never got to be a princess, or a fairy or a mermaid that showed up for more than a few scenes or episodes. I remember agonizing over my hair in middle school–how it would never be blonde, or brown, or flowing down to my waist like the princesses in my favorite movies and stories, something it took me ages to unlearn.

So, like many others, I clung to the other brown princesses. A Pocahontas bedroom set, and a love for Jasmine I couldn’t quite explain. I was too dark for either of them, but they were all I had. I watched Tiger Lily’s portion of Peter Pan over and over again and could pretend to myself I was here instead of any of the others. I used to wish I was any race other than what I was, so that I could be special for a little while, too, not yet realizing these depictions were a complete bastardization of other people’s cultures and lives, and only starting to realize why people cared so much even later than I realized that. But it continued–I got older and found myself getting interested in almost any culture that wasn’t my own. I’d had so much antiblackness ingrained in me I didn’t even want to start to unlearn it. I learned about the Japanese and the Chinese, Korea, any number of European countries, Mexico, Native Americans, Rromani and many, many others.

And my characters began to reflect this. Outside of my self inserts, sometimes main characters, sometimes side characters, my stories became a mass of faces that in no way resembled my own. Mostly white, with a few other characters thrown in. A male, German/Italian journalist in 1920s NY and his Irish girlfriend, a French/Danish ice witch and her twin, Greek demons, German film directors. It wasn’t until later that I started to wonder. When I first started to see conversations about representation, often when it came to Disney, I started thinking, and I thought for a long time. Why were most of my characters white? Why couldn’t they be black, or anything else for that matter? Why was I so afraid to dive into something I’d lived my entire life? Was I obligated to change all of my characters? Some of them? What would it change if I did?

I went back and forth for a long time. Would my story not be as mainstream if I changed these characters? Would it isolate people? Would people not consider these characters appealing? I was actually scared. I was attached to these designs, not yet realizing I could keep quite a few of them. I was scared of using the description “black” in my writing–not to mention others. But I decided that in a way, I owed it to myself. Why couldn’t some of my princesses and witches look like me and other members of my family? Who cared what others thought? I deserved to see myself, too, and so did anyone else who might eventually read my stories. Why couldn’t my journalist and her girlfriend be black in a mythical 1920s NY? Why couldn’t my German director be in an interracial relationship? Why couldn’t my Asian mermaid have an Asian girlfriend? I started making changes, and slowly but surely, I realized how happy they made me, how little anything had to change and how amazing it felt to have myself right where I’ve wanted to be–in fantastic stories and fairy tales–for years. This was something I had to make for myself; the media surrounding us refused to do it for me. 

In 2009, The Princess and the Frog came to theaters. It was quite a bit before my revelation, but it helped me, and I like to think it’ll help other little girls who won’t have to go through not seeing themselves in one of their favorite franchises at all. To not having to worry about whether or not they can be princesses, too. Tiana might have saved me a little bit of heartache, and even though Disney has miles to go for children of color, with the dialogue happening now, I like to think that even if major corporations like Disney aren’t listening quite yet, the rest of us will be doing enough to make some difference.

“Because I’m a lesbian, there is no princess with which I can easily identify myself with. And wouldn’t it be nice to see a princess that isn’t ‘traditionally’ pretty? Let’s see buzzed heads and thick waists!

Disney has the power to teach not only children, but adults as well what 'normal’ and 'beauty’ can be! This is what a Disney princess could look like!”

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Interested in adding your voice?  Check out the photo challenge by clicking here.

Decided to submit to the photo contest, myself ;)

I’d definitely like to see a Latina princess, I feel like she’s way overdue.   I would also love it if the princesses were seen in merchandise being less passive than they normally are, even if it’s just with their stances- a princess can be an action hero! 

Interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

I’m not sure if this ones been submitted for the This is what a Disney Princess could look like but I feel like it’s a shame if it hasn’t.

This is Aida from Disney’s broadway play Aida. I know they have considered making it a movie before but they’ve never gone through with it and it’s really a damn shame.

Interested in submitting to the challenge? click here

White people annoy me with this "all" bullshit.

It wasn’t no “all” when anything else happen that you are highly represented in. We have a few things, Even then you guys get mad because we want to fucking love ourselves. Shit I was born in ‘97(that’s not a long time ago). My mom could only buy me Dora stuff because there were no black dolls that looked like me to play with. And when black dolls were on sale it was only a few. The shelves was filled up with white dolls. I didn’t grow up with a black Disney princess. Also the only person I looked up to on Disney channel was raven. So stop with the what about the 'all girls rock’. Or the 'all lives matter’. Because your ass is dead silent when they make a film set in Egypt and cast all WHITE characters. You don’t care about ALL. You care about WHITE. So stop with the bullshit. K?

Photo Challenge: This is What a Disney Princess Could Look Like

This challenge is open to everyone of every identification.   It is meant to be a challenge both for you to express yourself, and to Disney and its fandom to recognize your voice and your desire for representation and acceptance in the official Disney releases, but also within the Disney community- and from the world in general.   

No, the point isn’t that anyone expects Disney to come across these submissions and suddenly shout, “We’ve been ignoring these voices so long?!  We’ll get to that right away!!”   I’m aware this is somewhat unlikely.   It isn’t so much about prompting immediate, massive change as it is about challenging previous conventions and assumptions about the who’s and why’s of media representation.   We focus on Disney princesses because they are a very well recognized franchise, and yes, it is a great idea to create new media rather than just change old companies, but so long as massive amounts of children watch Disney, it is important to critique the powers that be.

This prompt may remind you of the last challenge, Dear Disney.  So please, submit!!! :)

Edit: this is the second time I will be posting this challenge, so here are some examples from the first time.   There were a lot more but I think I only started tagging toward the end.   At any rate, this isn’t about being “original” so don’t worry if you’re repeating something- it’s just about having fun and exploring the limits of representation in media.

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What do you need to submit if you want to participate?

  • Picture of you holding sign that says “This is what a Disney Princess Could Look Like!” (or act like, etc., prince etc., depending on your take, it doesn’t have to be exactly the example!  And yes, for those not comfortable, drawings etc. are acceptable)
  • Then as text submitted with it, but probably not on the sign because it would be hard to read, give a brief explanation of how you (or someone not you, if you like!) is not represented by Disney.    It can be light-hearted, or heart-breaking, whatever feels right to you, for you.
  • Here is an example that does not have to be followed word for word or anything, it’s just a general example of one potential response (although you can follow the general wording if you’re stuck, it doesn’t matter to me!):
  • “What does a Disney Princess look like?    
Because I’m _"asexual”___ and _“Muslim”___, there is no princess I can easily identify with.   But I’d like to be represented, because _“Disney’s representation has the power to change what people perceive to be normal and beautiful”_____.

This is what a Disney Princess could look like!“
  • This is my submission page.   Submissions as Asks take more work for me to re-blog it while also linking it back to your name.   I would like that to be only used in the case of those who wish to submit anonymously and can’t use the submission page.

This is what a Disney princess QUEEN looks like.

It’s important that young girls and women learn that they can be leaders and just girls who wear pretty dresses and marry princesses.  I would love to see a young girl who stands up for her rights and the rights of people and becomes the leader that her people need and respect.

Being the bossy girl that I was growing up (I’ve upgraded to being a bossy woman), after a while I didn’t want to be just the princess.  I wanted to be the queen.

interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

“This is what a Disney Princess could look like”

This was interesting because when I first saw the challenge my thoughts were, “Oh, that’s a really nice idea but hey let’s face it- I’m not Disney princess material." 

Oh, wait I get it now.

That’s exactly what I’ve been led to believe after growing up and having zero Disney princesses/females that look/act like me. 

I want a multi-racial american queer princess who cut her hair short because she wanted to! I want a princess whose neck and head aren’t larger than her waist. Yeah, she can have big boobs but can’t the rest of her body match as well? Why not 130 lbs? Why not 180 lbs? She should have visible hair on her arms and she doesn’t mind!

She wears pants, shorts, skirts and dresses because she wants to. Just because she likes to wear dark colors doesn’t mean that she is supposed to be a bad character! She loves that she’s a woman but doesn’t have to adhere to the gender roles established by the time she lives in. :)

-regionsbeyond

This is a picture of my late sister at her high school prom. She passed away this year at the age of 19 and was a die-hard Disney princess fan.

When I think of all the princesses she looked up to I realised that she never lived to see the day that Disney created a princess, hell, a character like her.

My sister was a beautiful, confident, loving, and friendly person. Her qualities made her a princess in my life. I wanted to submit this picture because she is wearing a beautiful gown that we had to make for her because buying a prom dress off the rack was impossible. I wanted to submit this picture because if Disney made a princess who was in a wheelchair it would be more ‘normal’ to see a girl dancing the night away in her wheelchair. I submit this picture because maybe if Disney made a princess in a wheelchair she might not have been pitied, or ‘inspirational’ or sad or any of those things. She’d just be a normal girl living a normal life – on wheels.

Thanks for letting me share. 

interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

I understand that Meg is not considered a Disney Princess (though frankly, if they’re going to include Mulan in their lineup, I don’t see why they can’t include Meg as well). I’ve always looked up to Megara. She’s a strong woman who’s not afraid of telling people what she thinks. Sure, she’s guarded and jaded, but she’s been hurt in the past but someone she trusted, so it’s understandable. Remember, this is a woman who started out as an antagonist but stands up to the villain. Yes, Hades uses her against Hercules, but we still see her grow, we see her learn to love again and learn to trust again.

Meg has been such an inspiration to me. I have a hard time trusting people-men, especially-because I’ve been hurt in the past by them. She taught me that it’s okay to let people in, to trust them once they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. She taught me that it’s okay to be yourself, and that sometimes, people make stupid mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fix them and move on.

Meg is not a Disney Princess, but I think that she should still be marketed as a role model for women. 

Interested in submitting to the challenge? click here

I think my mother is one of the most beautiful women in the world, with her crazy curls and nose and glasses and pink, pink face. She’s unbelievably smart and sharp and funny as they come, and I’d love to see a Disney princess like her.

I love Disney and I’m a total fan of the films, but I think it’s wise to point out their socio-cultural shortcomings. That’s how we get better, by realizing what we can do for the world. New kinds of princesses with compelling stories could fill out the Disney pantheon in a really fun, beautiful, satisfying way.

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Interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

(sorry for the blurry quality, my webcam is awful)

 I’m so tired of seeing skinny, blonde, white, able-bodied and sound-minded princesses. Disney has never done a plus-sized female character that wasn’t the villain, and they’ve never dealt with physical and mental illnesses. I’d like to see a princess who looks like me: she isn’t skinny, she isn’t traditionally pretty, she has to walk with a cane or use a wheelchair, and she battles invisible illnesses that few people know about, but she doesn’t let any of that stifle her. She doesn’t need a man to feel like she has any worth (indeed, she could very well be with a woman!), and she doesn’t need to “overcome” her disabilities by the end of the film.

I am a mentally unwell, disabled, pansexual fat woman, and I am what a Disney Princess could look like. 

interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

This is what a Disney Princess could look like, a Beautiful Black Woman.

As a kid I never had a black Disney Princess role model, so mine became Mulan and Jasmine, they were the closest I could get to my color. And when Disney finally came out with a black Princess I still wasn’t satisfied. I couldn’t really relate to her and it was just a little to late for my already fragile self esteem. You see in my world Black was never really seen as beautiful but merely tolerated next to the more beautiful acceptable White girl with her long flowing blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes. God I really wanted that long hair. But all around me the black women I considered role models were changing into that white girl too, like Beyonce’s light skin and flowing blonde hair. Everywhere my black skinned girls were being white washed and I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin. So I rejected all things black and tried to be just as white as them, until one day I realized how ridiculous I was being. My black skin was wonderful, beautiful, amazing and perfect how dare I try to change it. And I’m determined to help other young black girls see that truth too. And if I can’t get another Princess how about more representation in movies, historical accuracy my ass! 

This is what a Disney Princess could look like. Thank you for listening to my rant :)

interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

Lilo is one of my favorite Disney characters.  I love that she is completely herself despite the fact that her life is hard and people think she’s weird. She just keeps on doing her thing and taking care of her family and friends.  She also accepts people as they are, which is a rare trait in anyone.

I would like to see a Disney princess who is not only a person of color and happily a weirdo, but one that is age appropriate.  It is important little girls see someone their age as valued and important.  Taking my cue from Disney, I thought that when I hit 18, I would suddenly be important.  Little did I realize the impact I had on others when I was younger.  It would have nice to known that a little sooner.

interested in submitting to the photo challenge? click here

My submission for: “This is what a Disney Princess Could Look Like” It’s not ideal, as I am new at my Pen and Pad, but hope you like her!

Touching upon the issue of Disney never making non white European Fairy tales

This is Princess Sana.
 I imagined this Princess could be from the rather trippy story of:

“The daughter of Buk Ettemsuch”

A northern African Fairy Tale in which the youngest daughter of seven runs away from a witch that kills her sisters. She is adopted by a troll (Troll step dad, so wanna see that!). And there are talking animals and a prince she falls in love with but troll dad basically jinxs her into not talking to him so he goes on to marry other girls. She then proceeds to trick ever girl he wants to marry into either hurting or killing themselves, and eventually getting the prince in the end because he figured out she couldn’t talk unless he swore by the head of Buk Ettemsuch. The end.

Changing that brutal detail of Sana tricking girls into killing themselves (wouldn’t be unusual for Disney in their adaptations of fairy tales. I mean, I don’t recall Cinderella ordering her step family to dance themselves to death in hot iron shoes, in the Disney version.) add some songs about wanting a different life, one about having a wacky troll dad, a montage in which she runs across the planes of Sudan escaping the witch (I based her jewellery on pictures of  Sudanese women from the 1800s, so that is the setting) and tying the witch in with the ending, making her a more key character in the film (perhaps she is in fact responsible for Sana not talking, and troll dad is totes cool with them), give her a side kick animal a rushed romance and BOOM! DISNEYFIED!

Finding the fairytale, deciding on Sana’s looks and what country it takes place in took me about ten minutes, the Disneyfied plot I literally just made up as I wrote it just now. IT’S NOT THAT HARD DISNEY!

Interested in submitting to the challenge? click here