Disney Introduces First BlackAfrican-American Princess

Princess Tiana Doll Unveiled

In the News

Disney Introduces First African-American Princess

Has it really taken this long?

-Julie Ryan Evans

Apparently it’s easier for an African-American to become president of the United States than it is to become a Disney princess. But this year, at last, marks the first for each.

Princess Tiana will make her debut in the upcoming Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog” set to hit the big screen during the latter part of this year. The pretty princess’s doll likeness was unveiled this week at the American International Toy Fair.

I’m not up on my Disney princess facts, but I was shocked there hasn’t been an African-American princess before now. I mean they are everywhere and on everything, have I really never seen an African-American one? Has it really taken this long for such a progressive company as Disney to introduce one?

To be fair, it’s also to be the first American princess at all – I had no idea how cosmopolitan those princesses were!

Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose will provide the voice for Princess Tiana in the film, which is set in 1920s New Orleans. Others lending their voices to the film’s characters will include Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard

Disney executives told USA Today they didn’t introduce Tiana to deliberately address diversity.

“It was much more about the storytelling,” says Kathy Franklin, vice president, global studio franchise development for Disney Consumer Products. “This was not about a conscious decision to say we need an African-American princess.”

Of course, the wildly popular First Family and demand for diversity in the marketplace won’t hurt …

Tiana could have hit the shelves before Obama hit the White House, but her earlier incarnation introduced in 2007 wasn’t met favorably. The film’s initial story line had her originating as a chambermaid named “Maddy”. There was an outcry that she started out in a role reminiscent of a slave, and apparently “Maddy” sounded too much like Mammy. So changes were made.

And at last, all little girls will be able to see themselves in the faces of the beautiful princesses peppered on every piece of merchandise imaginable.

“We did a lot of work internally to make sure that the product that we were developing would speak to a really broad range of moms,” Franklin said in an article in Black Enterprise. “We don’t see Princess Tiana product as being just for African American girls at all. But we want little girls who have not seen Disney Princesses who look like them to see Princess Tiana and be thrilled that they have a character in our franchise who speaks to them and how they see themselves as a princess.”

Of course then there’s the question of if little girls should be seeing themselves as princesses at all …

follow BettyConfidential on... Pinterest

Read More About...

0 thoughts on “Disney Introduces First BlackAfrican-American Princess

  1. What is SO INCREDIBLE is if President Obama were not in office, we would not NOW see so many African American faces on news television (have you noticed?)as commentators, etc. that we see today. It is disgusting that the WORLD is finally waking up that it is not all about the WHITE MAN!

  2. Regarding comment #1: Why do you say “African-American” but then at the end you say “white”? I think you need to say “European-American”. Or maybe just skip the racial designations altogether and become an AMERICAN.

  3. American’s really bother me sometimes. They’ve gotten so afraid of offending people that they split them into so many different groups. They just cause more diversity themselves. Like the way the British decided to ban calling Christmas lights “Fairy lights” incase of insulting gay people. I’d never even thought of it that way before they did that.
    Can’t we just treat everyone the same and stop treating different coloured people like they’re special?

  4. This article is gravely mistaken when it states that Tiana will “be the first American princess”: Pocahontas features in Disney’s official princess website, and thus she was the first. It’s interesting (and by interesting I mean ominous) that she is overlooked.

    Personally, I call BS on Disney claiming they didn’t choose an African-American princess to address diversity: all “princesses” in the last three movies are not European. And the story of “The Frog Prince” seems to have decidedly European origins. As far as I can tell, that would make this princess story the first one that departs significantly from its country of origin. Although, I have to admit: I’m a bit mystified as to why Disney is unwilling to openly say they wanted to reflect a more realistic and multicultural world with their franchise.

  5. @jallands:
    Pocahontas was not American. America did not exist during Pocahontas’ time. America is a nation, not just territory, and I think the reference to Tiana as the first American Disney princess was about ideas of national character, rather than land masses.

  6. The name “Tiana” bothers me — it’s not an era-appropriate name. Even if “Maddy” offended someone, I’m sure another name from that decade would have worked. Tiana is very modern.

  7. As far as I know all the visual of the princess were respecting some of the looks of their original stories. Well, that’s not the case anymore. And that’s why i’m not gonna count this one as a real diney princess.
    It’s not about being racist or not, it’s about respecting the original plot. If you want an African american princess so use some North American or some African tale, like they did to Jasmine!

  8. I was psyched when Disney FINALLY decided to draw an African-American princess, and I knew about the changes Disney made to Tiana’s character(how stereotypical is a Black maid in the 20’s?). It’s about time Disney finally has drawn two Black characters(one was Tinkerbell’s fairy sidekick in her movie) and deserve to see a character that shows little girls that all women are princesses. It took a long time, but it does feel nice. For now, can we adults keep out hangups and gripes to ourselves and not shove politics and out own agendas onto a cartoon character, and be happy? Now if Disney had the stones to draw a plus sized Princess who is gorgeous, confident, and h

  9. I’m sorry, but Disney is absolutely not a progressive company. You don’t have to do much research to figure that out.
    Also, not ‘every girl’ will see herself represented among the Disney princesses. One more race may be added, but that makes–what–three? Light European, African-American, and Native American (I agree with your point, Vim). Please notice, too, how stereotypically European Tiana’s features are, and how relatively light her skin. This is still reinforcing a Euro-centric concept of beauty. And all the Disney princesses are drawn as hypersexualized young adults; do we want our little girls to see themselves in that? Their complete lack of figure diversity only further homogenizes the princess line-up. Let’s see a flat-chested princess, or one with a belly!
    Eve (from Wall-e) is the closest Disney has ever come to a positive female role model, and she’s a robot. That’s saying something.

  10. @madberry There’s also Mulan and Jasmine. 9 princesses total, 4 (including Tiana) aren’t white. That’s not too bad.

    Some images show Alice as a princess, she’s flat chested – though probably because Alice is younger than the other characters.

  11. A few things to get off my mind..

    Disney had Mulan, an Asian. Also Pocahontas, an American Indian..

    The whole thing about the character not being a chambermaid just because it seems to closely related to “slavery”? That’s dumb! Cinderella was considered a chambermaid to her stepsisters and Belle was a slave to the Beast.

    “African-American”? Might as well call me “European-American” because even though I wasn’t born in Europe, that’s where MY roots are from. Or better yet, “Canadian-American” because I was born in America, but that’s where my parents and grandparents were born.

    I certainly hope that since racial stereotypes are to be excluded as much as possible in this movie, that the whole sly-talking voices will be eliminated too. Remember the talking crows in Dumbo? That’s what kind of talk in writing about.

  12. @vim876

    Pocahontas was American. America is a continent, not only a nation, called by this name since 1507.

    Pocahontas was born around 1595; so even if her people used another demonym to call themselves, they were American.

  13. I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your opinions – I love seeing opposing viewpoints presented with facts. It’s fascinating to see such intelligent, strong woman on our site.

  14. I know this is a late response, but I’m just reading this article… but Disney is NOT a progressive company. The company actually still requires it’s female employees to wear pantyhose! I have worked with their marketing teams extensively, and it is an extremely conservative company that only ever includes any diversity in its products, commercials, and films simply to avoid being sued. Again, this is coming from first hand experience working with the marketing teams for the Disney Parks, Disney.com, and Disney Media.

  15. @glamourize I thought it was fairly common not to allow bare legs at work (since shorts aren’t business attire either). Bare legs seems extremely casual.

    Though I have heard Disney has pretty strict appearance rules

  16. What’s the big deal? All the famous fairytales came from Europe. Why should a company *have* to have a story from every nation? That makes no sense.

    They had to make up the story of The Princess and the Frog entirely, so there’s no way it’s going to be as good as an old Hans Christian Andersen story.

Leave a Reply

top of page jump to top