When Princess Tiana made her big screen debut in 2009—in what was Disney’s first 2D animated film in 5 years, and is now their last 2D film to date—no one was prepared for the impact this new princess would have on little girls everywhere! Not only was Tiana Disney’s first African-American Princess, she was one of the first princesses who actually held a job and had a big dream for her future! Now, while Jasmine in “Aladdin”, or Belle in "Beauty and the Beast” both wanted freedom, and adventure, they didn’t really have any specific desires beyond that. Tiana on the other hand, had a dream to become a chef and owner of her own restaurant. As a child, both her parents were present in her life, unlike many Disney princesses, who had step-parents, or only one parent during their youth. She had both a mother and father who loved her, and supported her dreams, never telling her they were too big, or too far out of reach. They simply reminded her though, that wishing for something wasn’t enough. You have to work hard and actively pursue what you want in life!
When I first saw the film, I was worried that Tiana’s childhood friend Charlotte, was going to be mean, and treat Tiana badly when they grew up. Much to my delight, the two remained good friends! In my opinion, Tiana should be a role model for all girls, and not just because she brought a new cultural element to Disney. I know that because African-American girls were previously not represented in Disney Princess movies, that this was a huge milestone for Disney, and was a big confidence boost to girls of color everywhere! However, we should take care to remember that this is not about the color of our skin. Princess Tiana is so much more than her ethnicity. I know that little girls sometimes identify with a princess based on looks (I’m guilty of that myself), but they shouldn’t feel limited to only like the princess that looks the most like them. Rather, it should be about who they identify with on the grounds of their character and personality.
Tiana had an amazing personality! She showed us what it looks like to work hard, be resourceful, and save your earnings for a future endeavor. She showed us to be bold, and never let anyone stand in the way of your dreams, and she was in favor of equal treatment for all.
She didn’t automatically fall for Prince Naveen because he had a fancy title, nor did she dismiss him when he revealed he had no money. She saw him for who he was. When the story began, Prince Naveen was a spoiled, self-involved, playboy—basically everything an independent woman like Tiana would have no respect for. Although their journey was about getting transformed back into humans (after Tiana’s kiss went awry), the true transformation came with Naveen’s character. We were shown that while women should not expect to be able to change men, men are more than capable of taking responsibility for their own actions, and making positive changes of their own accord.
We were also shown a lot about Princess Tiana’s character! She wasn’t afraid to work two jobs (both in waitressing), and she wasn’t ashamed of her humble beginnings. She saw her jobs as a stepping stone to getting what she really wanted. She also learned by the end of the film, that having a fulfilling career is wonderful, but having someone special to share your dreams with, can be just as gratifying. There are many reasons to admire Tiana, including her spunk, and never-ending drive to attain personal success! She was not going to back down from what she wanted, and she remembered that while the going might get tough, the trick is to keep on going! She reminded us though, that it’s okay to try something new (dancing), and that there’s always room for a sassy sense of sarcastic humor! She showed us that it’s okay to be clumsy, and to allow yourself to be vulnerable around someone new. She taught us about love for your family, and respect for where you came from. Tiana was strong in spirit, optimistic, practical, supportive, and knew when to push people to expect more of themselves.
So whether you’re a culinary expert or not, there are lots of things to love and admire about Princess Tiana! So with that, I’m off to watch “The Princess and the Frog”!