When I was 6 I was Ariel for Halloween. She was my favorite princess at the time. I had the long read wig, the bright green fin, and the “nude” bodysuit with purple shells. I say “nude” like that because it most definitely was not my shade of nude. Do you think I cared that that my belly was a completely different shade than the rest of my body? No. I was a mermaid, and I was rockin it.

My princess options were limited at the time, but slowly but surely Disney is expanding the lineup and I personally hope to see even more princesses of color for more children to love.

So let’s talk about this Moana costume controversy. One of my friends texted me a few days ago with a link to an article asking white moms to please not dress their daughters as Moana. My friend wanted to know my thoughts. As I read the article I was completely baffled by the author’s reasoning especially this gem:

Moana is a really special character to young girls of Polynesian descent who have never seen a Disney Princess who looks like them, just like how Tiana from The Princess and the Frog likely resonated with young Black women who had waited decades to see themselves represented. White girls have plenty of princesses to choose from — there’s Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty … you get the idea. If your Caucasian son or daughter doesn’t get to be exactly what they wanted for Halloween, encourage them to take a step back and realize that they’re awash in privileges that the real Moanas and Tianas of the world will likely never see, because the world is full of racist assholes.

As a “real Tiana of the world” let me say this… BE TIANA! LOVE TIANA, just as we do. Yes, she was a first for us, but she was a first for everyone to enjoy. Tiana is just as worthy to be desired and loved as any other Disney Princess. Saying she is only for little black girls is absolutely ridiculous and actually makes me angry, and sad. Are we only allowed to buy costumes of characters that already look like we do? Is there no room for imagination? Let little girls love Tiana like I loved Ariel, and don’t try to make them feel weird about it.

Now let’s go back to Moana. There’s a big difference between dressing up as a generic “Polynesian Islander” and a fictional character. Do you understand the difference? One is making light of someone’s actual ethnicity or culture, the other is embodying a specific person. Which in this case, is a powerful, inspiring young fictional woman from a Polynesian island.

That said, DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT under any circumstances, paint/tan/darken the skin color of your child in an attempt to embody any character. That’s called Blackface (which I could write a whole nother blog post on) and crossing the line.

Moana costume controversy

My daughter tromped around in her Moana costume for much of last year in anticipation for a princess that actually looks more like her than any of the white or black princesses. She anticipated seeing a movie of a heroine who looks a lot like her, but we left in love with Moana not just because of what she looks like, but who she is.

It’s great that kids of all backgrounds love Moana and Tiana, and want to be like them—and I think it’s actually exciting that an empowering princess of color is resonating with all kinds of families.

Let’s not take that joy from the world. And let’s not ruin the beauty of it by taking things too far. That my friends, would be a giant leap backwards.


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Ebony Ferguson says:

I couldn’t have said it any better!

“Is there no room for imagination”. Love. Kids will explore make believe and pretend play with characters because it’s innate to their brain development. I love seeing little girls of all color and culture see Moana and Tiana as strong, powerful, and beautiful. We are dancing right there with you girl!

Karen says:

I agree, it can be difficult to navigate the appropriation boundaries, especially when we ourselves are unclear about what is significant and sensitive to another, culturally speaking. I have noticed myself rolling my eyes at the confusing mix of Asian attire available for purchase as costumes recently. Having lived in Japan for almost a decade, I can now better appreciate how the bits and pieces of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean traditional dress all thrown together into one geisha/dragon lady/sexy ninja package could be considered degrading and insulting.

However, in my opinion, seeing an adult who is unmindful of the perception that *that* sort of dress-up creates is very different from a child wanting to wear the long hair and decorative attire of her silver screen heroine. Moana is a Disney princess, which catapults her and her likeness into the public domain, so to speak. I think if we can continue to have open and honest dialog about how we feel about what that means and why, it can be a positive event from which we can all continue to learn and grow.

Selena says:

Moana is a really special character to young girls of Polynesian descent who have never seen a Disney Princess who looks like them, just like how Tiana from The Princess and the Frog likely resonated with young Black women who had waited decades to see themselves represented. White girls have plenty of princesses to choose from — there’s Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty … you get the idea. If your Caucasian son or daughter doesn’t get to be exactly what they wanted for Halloween, encourage them to take a step back and realize that they’re awash in privileges that the real Moanas and Tianas of the world will likely never see, because the world is full of racist assholes.

I agree. I think it’s great that there are more diverse princesses nowadays and there’s more of a choice, but just let kids dress as their favourite. You can identify with characters in different ways, not just because of how they look. (Although of course it is good to see someone who looks like you in the public eye, on TV, as a Disney princess etc). 🙂

Candace says:

It’s awesome that the children are free within to chose who or what they will be. It’s sad that there are adults that still want to put restrictions on children, for whatever the reason except safety, that they should dress a certain way, or be a certain way based on who they are. Once we get passed the shade of flesh, it really won’t matter.

BTW, I love the Moana skirt. Wish I could look so cute/awesome in one.

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget



I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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