Isabel Allen is our Illustrator of the Week!
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The issues with Disney princesses are well-known, from the unrealistic thin waists to the lack of diversity. The goal of the princess movies, besides making a profit, is to teach kids morals and help them feel empowered. This is difficult, however, when large groups of young people feel alienated because their ethnicity or culture is not represented. Personally, I have hoped to see a princess with a physical disability like myself so that girls and boys facing a similar obstacle could feel more accepted in the Disney narrative and within their communities.
I have always had problems with many princesses’ outfits, and have always wanted to see a wider range of princesses in Disney’s different medias. So, I decided to create my own princesses using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These girls would be truly relatable since they would face their individual struggles head-on, so that any young viewer could easily feel included and learn a life lesson. We may be too critical of Disney’s productions since they really can’t include everybody, but here are four major absences in the princess community that I have found.
Somaya lives in Istanbul around 1500, just after the city changed hands from Christian to Islamic power. She is an independent girl who is close with her family and has a growing obsession with chemistry. Although Disney’s Aladdin was an attempt to incorporate the Arabic community into their limited group of princesses, Jasmine’s character design does not reflect the majority of modern beliefs, nor does it accurately represent a girl of of her time period during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Juliet is a princess in the fantasy world of the forest and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to use her hands or legs due to a dark spell cast on her when she was born. She relies on the friendly animals of the forest to guide her and help her through life, often facing major barriers that she must overcome. Though a typical Disney ending might give Juliet the ability to walk, she instead learns to accept who she is and embrace the abilities that she already has.
Disney has also made an attempt at a Latina princess, but she plays second fiddle to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Sofia. That is why they should introduce a leading lady like Gabriela, a Mexican princess with thick brown hair and a Spanish accent. Young Latino girls and boys should be able to watch a Disney movie and see a range of characters familiar to them.
This girl might not enter the Disney scene for 25 years or more, but she could be extremely helpful to kids who are struggling to accept themselves, or perhaps, accept others. Miara lives in England during the bustling years when the Enlightenment spread north. The kind-hearted princess doesn’t have a Prince Charming; rather, she has a Princess Charming. Her family struggles to accept her, but she teaches them that all love is the same. She ends up getting married to her loving girlfriend, and of course, lives happily forever after. Unlikely for the time period, but a valuable story for today.
Isabel Allen loves learning languages and has a passion for hip hop music. She has been studying Spanish for almost ten years, Chinese for three, and Arabic for two. She is a junior in high school, but can’t wait for college.