Being the mom of a girly girl can be challenging for a tomboy mom like myself. But when it comes to princesses, I do have a soft, pinkish side. As a mom who is raising multicultural children, I love that we continue to see new diverse Disney princesses in which my daughter can see herself reflected not only as a girl of color, but also as a girl who can dream without limits about who she wants to grow up to be.
There are different reasons to love these diverse Disney princesses that go beyond their skin color and ethnicity, and I’m sure different families will relate to them in different ways. For us it is the combination of the depth of these characters with the fact that they show that you can be a black or brown girl who is beautiful and smart. With the inclusion of more diverse Disney princesses, we see the progress that has being made by Disney from the stereotypes of the past in which princesses had only white skin and blond hair, and also who only behaved as the “damsel in distress” waiting for a strong princess to come and save her.
These days, not only do we have beautiful diverse Disney princesses that come in different shades and are of different ethnicities, they also have different family settings and dynamics, strength and aspirations. In a nutshell, we see how Disney has evolved to show characters that more children can identify with as our country, and the world, continues to grow more diverse. That is not to say that the diverse Disney princesses we see today represent everyone as there are many untold stories that they haven’t explore, but I’m confident that we will continue to see more expansion and inclusiveness in their characters in the years to come.
Why We Love These Diverse Disney Princesses
I know each one of you have your favorites and reasons why, so I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here are the 7 diverse Disney princesses in order of favorite, the first being our total favorite and the last still being one of our favorite Disney princess in general.
Elena of Avalor. As you can assume, we are totally in love with Elena of Avalor as the first Latina princess created by Disney. Although I’m hoping we get to see her on the big screen soon, I truly love that they created a show in which kids can get to know the character more in depth, as through each episode they explain her background and show why she is so special. The fact that we met Elena last November as you can see in the picture, makes it even more special for us.
We love her because… She is confident, devoted to the wellbeing of others and has the heart and mind of a true leader. Elena likes keeping promises which is a trait I teach my children, and she is also a very good sister and really close to her family. Even though her parents are gone, she has those parental figures in her grandparents which she takes advice from.
Tiana. As an Afro-Latina mom, I’ve always loved Tiana because she provided an opportunity for me to show my daughter that black is beautiful. This was the first princess doll my daughter ever had and I used it to teach her about the similarities of Tiana with me, her great-grandma and herself. We had lots of fun over the years with Tiana, since my girl was just two years old and we went to an event at the Time Square Disney store and I got her the beautiful princess.
We love her because… Tiana is a great example of entrepreneurial spirit and a believer that not only you dream about something but also you have to work hard to achieve your dreams. The fact that she teaches the prince about working for what you want and that he teaches her about the importance of also having fun is also a great touch as we want to instill values to our kids but not make them think there’s nothing more in life.
Merida. When this princess came around my girl was still small, but I immediately fell in love with this redheaded rebellious character whose main beauty feature was long, indomitable, curly hair. I knew I wanted my girl to see a character like this, who is not a girl of color, but who has what many consider unconventional beauty. To me, as a diversity and inclusion expert, showing our children, especially our girls, how beauty comes in different forms, shapes, sizes and shades is golden.
We love her because… The focus of the relationship between Merida and her mother provides a great opportunity to initiate a conversation about times in which there is confrontation or misunderstanding. Merida shows the courage to defend her uniqueness and also to defend her mother when trouble arises. It is a great story of mother-daughter bonding and about being yourself even when that’s not conventional.
Moana. Being the newest of the diverse Disney princesses, Moana is one we are currently crazy about. As a Caribbean who feels a deep connection with the sea, the Polynesian princess shows much of that connection islanders have with the sea. Also, the fact that her figure is different from the usual skinny princess we often see, she has thicker legs and arms and looks more human-like than any other. That to me is a step in the right direction and hopefully it doesn’t stop with Moana. I like that I can show my kids about the island life, the fruits like coconuts, the palm trees and the connection to the water are priceless to me.
We love her because… She stands out from the crowd and has an adventurous spirit that leads her to face things without fear. Moana’s physical capabilities are match by her intelligence and intuition that help her fulfill her destiny. The underlying theme of facing your fears along with following your destiny and leaving home, even when you do love home, your parents and your community to search for your true self.
Pocahontas. I was already 18 years old when this princess came out in 1995 and I remember how I loved she had black hair and brown skin. I wasn’t a kid then, or a mom, but I’ve always been a lover of movies and as such I loved having another brown princess and one that is para of an indigenous tribe at that. Fast-forward to now, and having my daughter watch a character that can generate so many conversations about history, and also about the indigenous background of America is definitely a plus.
We love her because… She is free-spirited and wise with a deep love for nature and her people. Pocahontas is kind and respects and values the advice of elders, and trusts her intuition, even when it goes against what she has been told. Her ability to connect with nature, even though magical in the film, provides a beautiful message for kids about the world around us and how to love mother earth and all living things.
Mulan. Almost twenty years since she hit the screen, Mulan continues to entertain children all over, my kids included. The original tale from which Mulan was created “the ballad of Mulan”, a fifth-century Chinese poem, was a cry for gender equality and throughout the film you can see how she struggles with reassuring her worth and being dismissed in a society in which women were at a disadvantage. The theme that encourages not only the character to find the inner warrior is one that serves as teaching lesson for both girls and boys as they grow and explore their true self.
We love her because… Her journey was influenced by the love she has for her dad and even when she struggled, she was driven by a high sense of duty to save the honor of her family. Although she deals with self-doubt due to the pressure of the society she belongs to, she goes against sexism and injustice and in the end achieves great deeds by using her inner strength and intelligence. Despite the challenges, she grows confident and fierce, and through persistence she makes it to the top, eventually earning the respect and friendship of the men that surround her.
Jasmine. The first one of the diverse Disney princesses was an important step towards a new era within the world of Disney. Jasmine, as any other diverse pioneer, came at a time in which American audiences were not used to differences on the screen and companies were still unsure if venturing out of the usual will work and make sense financially. Jasmine proved that diversity can be very profitable besides being the right thing to do in a country where diversity was on the rise.
We love her because… She is a very independent and strong character who is not afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what’s right. Jasmine is also very compassionate towards others, especially Aladdin, her best friend. Of course, we love her because she was the first one of the diverse Disney princesses and marked a new era for Disney that has given us more diversity ever since.
Which ones are your favorite diverse Disney princesses?Let's embrace diversity and create social change! © Dania Santana ~ Embracing Diversity
Multiculturalism, Diversity & Inclusion Expert | Author | Speaker