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.
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.