I don’t know about ya’ll but Asha’s racial background has been a debate in my social media comments section for a hot minute. Let me take you back to the beginning.
I was at D23 when Disney announced their special movie to be released in 2023, in honor of the Disney 100 celebration. A friend of mine sat beside me, hoping we’d be getting some news about a new Frozen movie (that would come later). But I was holding out hope for something new and original. I got my wish (pun intended). Jennifer Lee stood on stage and told us Disney wanted to go back to their roots and bring an original musical story with a new character. A movie all about wishes and dreams. Some real Disney magic stuff right?
This alone was enough to have me excited, but the moment I saw Asha’s first photo I screamed. YES! More diversity in the Disney “Princess” lineup (I use that term loosely cause I’m not sure yet if she officially qualifies for that title, but I’ll be using it throughout this post). “We’re getting another Black princess!” I shared on social media. And in the months that have followed, I’ve been defending that statement ever since.
Some people stay mad in the comments about Disney having too many “woke” characters and stories. And if non-white means woke then bring it on.
Honestly, I should have written this blog post seven months ago when I got the official press release about Wish saying Asha was from a mythical island called Rosas off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Instead I’ve been doing my discussions in comment sections on TikTok and Instagram. Making videos with maps and underlines trying to defend my point. Really? I’ve got this whole platform dedicated to family movies and my innermost thoughts. So let’s make it official here and break down my reasoning and why I am embracing it.
Is Disney’s Asha Black?
First of all we have to understand that not all Black people agree on what is Black. When some people say “Black” they specifically mean Black American or “African American.” But that leaves out a whoooole lot of people around the rest of the world. Disney further stated that Asha’s mother is North African. Yes, there is a vast difference in culture between Africans and Black Americans but when it comes to defining my Disney princesses, if you’ve got some African heritage in your blood and you look it, I’m calling you Black. You don’t have to agree with my reasoning, but I welcome all and will count them in my very small group of tallies.
Sure, Asha is no Tiana. They’re from completely different places and times. When Princess and the Frog came out I was excited that they weaved in the culture and feel of New Orleans and really embraced Tiana’s roots. Then they turned her into a frog for most of the movie. At the time I told someone that I was happy Disney didn’t just “put a black face on a generic princess and say ‘here you go.'” But listen folks, I have grown. And since then we’ve gotten Rapunzel, and the Frozen sisters and now I’ma just say, yes, put a brown face on some magical, dreamy, whimsical princesses cause that’s what everyone else gets and those movies are bangin.
Nobody was analyzing where exactly on the planet Snow White lived. We weren’t asking where in the world Aurora or Rapunzel were from. Culture absolutely has a place in movies and we saw that done well with Moana and Encanto, but not every movie has to be that deep. Would a full on blackitty black non-animal-turning princess from Sub-Saharan Africa or the US be nice? Sure. But I’m happy to see any new diverse princess of color at this point.
Is Disney’s Asha Latina?
So now that we’ve established why I’m calling Asha Black, let’s discuss the Latina part. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can be Latina AND Black. It’s not an either or thing. This was one of the main things that irked me when I initially posted about getting a new Black princess. Some people tried to correct me and say “She’s Latina, not black.” There are Afro-Latinas. Black is your race and Latina is your ethnicity.
I understand by calling her Black some people might think I was trying to “erase” Latina, or “put Black first” but the reason I did that is because I knew definitively that she was Black, but it wasn’t confirmed (at D23) if she was from Latin America, South America, or otherwise. We did know that Ariana DeBoise, the actress voicing her, is Afro-Latina, which I think is where a lot of the confusion (or not, if counting that is what you mean) came in. We now know Asha’s mother is from North Africa and her late father is Southern European.
Is Disney’s Asha Hispanic?
Similarly to my last point, you can be Hispanic AND Black. I’m not gonna pretend to be a race and ethnicity expert and let’s not get into the whack census info, but I know the basics from my Afro-Latino friends and casual research. I know that people from Spain or the Iberian Peninsula aren’t considered Latino, but rather Hispanic (Spanish speaking).
Where it gets confusing for me is people from Portugal, who I’d think would also be considered Hispanic but I’ve read conflicting results since they speak Portuguese, not Spanish, similarly to Brazilians who are apparently are Latino but not Hispanic? That all is above my pay grade, but keeping it in relation to Asha, based on what we know we know Asha is not Latina but she could be Hispanic based on where her father is from, and what language they speak. So if her father was Spanish for instance, or from a fictional land like Spain, Asha would be Afro-Hispanic.
I thought Asha was Disney’s first Latina princess?
Again, Asha’s voice actress IS Afro-Latina, and this is a first for our Disney Princesses. I think this is where the misconception started. When Disney stated that Ariana DeBose is voicing our new Disney heroine, many people (understandably) thought she was voicing an Afro-Latina character. I can get how some people would take that information and say that makes Asha the first Latina princess. But if we did that then we’d have to go back and re-classify many of the princesses from our past whose voices did not match how they looked on screen.
If you ask me (and it seems to be what a lot of people want) Disney should also make a clearly defined Latina princess. Yes, I know we just had Encanto with a big beautiful cast of diverse Latino characters. Mirabel is a bomb heroine, and so unique, but I get that it’s not the same as having a princess. Then we’ve also had Sofia, and Elena but neither got a full fledged theatrical movie. Coco, is great and I love it but it lacks a female heroine (not that it’s needed in every story). Even though as a society I know sometimes we harp on the old Disney films and there’s a group who wants us to move away from “princess movies.” Another group of us just want more of that magic.
It seems to me Disney is being ambiguous and trying to have their cake and eat it too by making Asha from a fictional land, with dark skin, braids and cornrows, a voice actress who is Afro-Latina, based in a land where she can be almost a little bit of everything.
Is Asha Biracial?
Yes, Asha is biracial. Half African and half Iberian. According to Director Chris Buck, and Disney’s casting call for Asha in the Disney Parks, and the artists responsible for Disney’s Wish storybook, Asha’s mother is North African and her late father was Southern European. So we could also call her biracial. Which is also a first for Disney Princesses (Ethan Clade in Strange World is biracial, but clearly not a princess). My kids are biracial, we call them biracial, we call them Black, both are correct.
Why do you care about Asha’s race and ethnicity?
I know some people like to ask “Why you gotta make everything about race?” But I promise you, it’s not that. Asha could be from the moon and personally? I’d be thrilled. If Disney came out and said Asha was from a fictional land off the coast of Chile or Perú, I’d be like sweet! Ok, we got an Afro-Latina Princess with a really cool hair style. Maybe I’d still probably call her Black but just because we don’t have a lot of Black characters in Disney animation. I mean I can count the number of main characters on one hand and both of them turned into animals.
I’m not trying to be a “know it all” I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. If people were saying Asha has dreads I’d be like “excuse me, those are braids!”. I joke that I don’t have many hills to die on but Disney Princess Trivia is one for me. It’s not about wanting her to be Black and only Black for me. It’s just wanting people to understand why I said what I said.
I get it, we all want to feel represented. If it were up to me Disney would make another 7 princesses. And every single one should have a different look than the last. And I dream of the day Disney’s character lineup is so diverse that we’re no longer counting and celebrating every little “first.”
Identifying with Characters
And finally, of course we can relate to these characters in more ways than just how they look or sound. Their stories are really what draw us in. In fact, when it comes to all of the princesses, I identify most with Rapunzel. When I set my sights on a big goal I’ve just gotta go for it and use whatever tools I have to get there. I also relate to Tiana in that way. But I think my demeanor is more on the whimsical, less practical side. According to the scientific results of the Oh My Disney “Which Disney Princess Are You?” quiz however, I’m most like Cinderella. Probably because I’m always cleaning up after my kids.