I remember dying a thousand deaths the day my Mari came home and announced she wanted to be Snow White for Halloween. I mean, I understood that the kid wasn’t trying to make any grand political statement about her caramel skin and natural hair or anything. She was three. It was all about getting dressed up in the fancy gown.
Still, I shuddered when I got the mental image of my brown baby floating down the streets of New Jersey, telling all the neighbors and especially my African American mom friends that she was Snow White. After all, my friends and I had practically taken a blood oath on the playgrounds of South Orange, N.J., never to let our daughters get suckered by The Mouse into thinking they needed to stand around waiting for a boy to rescue them and then invite them to a hot party. Still, my parents, who’d fed Mari’s Snow White habit by keeping a VHS copy of the classic movie on repeat at their house, kept feeding their granddaughter’s princess habit.
The two of them were wrecking my anti-princess flow.
I was defenseless against Mari’s request to be the black Snow White.
Already a little queasy about the mission at hand, my gut tied into a million more knots when I stepped into the Disney store to buy her costume, and saw every last gown in the place had white faces plastered like a badge on the chest. I would have paid triple the price if just ONE of the gowns in that great big ol’ store featured a character that looked like my child.
Two daughters, one each of the Snow White, Tinkerbell, and Pocahontas costumes, and an aggressive Independent Brown Girls Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Princesses campaign later, the Walt Disney Company is finally coming correct. Earlier this week, it unveiled a toy line inspired by Princess Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. Tiana, voiced by Tony Award-winning actress and singer Anika Noni Rose (Lorell of Dreamgirls), makes her debut in Disney’s animated feature, The Princess and the Frog on Christmas Day, and she’s getting the full-court Disney princess treatment, beginning with this beautiful Princess Tiana doll, a line of toys, including play sets, role-play dresses and accessories, home decor, consumer electronics, school supplies and personal care products, and an assortment of story and activity books.
Come this fall, black moms and any mom who wants to add a little color to her daughter’s Disney Princess collection will be able to waltz into more than 220 Disney Stores in the United States and Canada to pick up a princess Halloween costume with a picture of a beautiful brown girl.
It’s a whole new world.
Even my Mari, who’s long been over the princess thing (part age, part Drop Squad-style indoctrination) got geeked when she saw these pictures. “She’s so pretty!” she exclaimed. A brown princess! Can we go see the movie?
That’s a date, Mari.
Here’s a sneak preview… enjoy!