Disney Debuts First Black Princess

Writer, journalist Danielle C. Belton is also the woman behind The Black Snob (blacksnob.com), a pop culture-meets-politics blog. She has appeared on NPR’s News & Note’s Blogger’s Roundtable and was the 2008 winner for “Best Writing In A Blog” and “Best Blog Post/Series” by the Black Blogger Awards.

She’s Black. She’s beautiful and she’s being backed by the “House of Mouse.”
Yes, Disney, after having Arabian, Chinese and Native American princesses of color before, now has a Black American princess (Yes, little Tanisha! BAPS are real!) for little girls and their mothers to fawn over.

Named Tiana and living in the New Orleans of the 1920s, the film is rendered in the style of a traditional two-dimensional musical, a la “Beauty & the Beast,” this time recycling the old fairytale “The Princess and the Frog.”

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The character is voiced by “Dreamgirls'” star Anika Noni Rose, features Oprah Winfrey as her mother and a biracial prince. (Start your “there’s a Black princess but no Black prince, but a biracial ‘prince’ is president” arguments now!)

In the 72 years between Disney’s “Snow White” and now, numerous symbols of Black female beauty have come and gone, but none were ever “plastic doll, tie-in princess-worthy” for the company. This film has set up a sprout of hope in the community, still flush from excitement over the intrinsic beauty of First Lady Michelle Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, all living in the White House.

If successful, “The Princess and the Frog” could take the latest Black beauty push —from Italian Vogue’s “Black Issue” to Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson’s solo Vogue covers to Naomi Campbell’s refusal to age like a normal human being—and turn a fad to trend.

Because if a Black cartoon princess is marketable, it’s hard to say a Black actress or any other Black woman isn’t. If the First Lady is selling J. Crew, Princess Tiana can push some tickets, proving once and for all Black isn’t just beautiful—it’s bankable.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Danielle C. Belton.