There’s no denying that early Disney princesses like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty did little to celebrate ethnic diversity. In more recent decades though, Disney has chosen to diversify its princess franchise with Asian Mulan, Middle-Eastern Jasmine, Native-American Pocahontas, and African-American Tiana. Now, the Latin community is getting its turn...kind of. Princess Sofia, the first Latin Disney princess, has arrived. But her debut has not exactly gone smoothly.
The TV movie, “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess,” airs on the Disney Channel November 18th. The movie, which will later become a series, is geared toward children ages 2-7. It features Sofia, a princess who goes from rags to riches, and takes place in the fictional kingdom of Enchancia. But with fair skin and blue eyes, it’s difficult to tell that Sofia is meant to be Latina.
Joe D’Ambrosia, VP of original programming for Disney Junior, stated that they never actually call out Sofia’s ethnicity in the movie. But then again, when do they ever announce a princess's race during the movie? In 2009, Disney heavily promoted the fact that Princess Tiana was of African-American descent. But with Princess Sofia, there have been mixed messages.
Sofia’s ethnicity was discussed at a recent press tour, when a blogger brought up controversial topic in regards to the new princess – complexion. They asked why Sofia’s mother had a darker complexion than the other characters. Executive Producer Jamie Mitchell said, “She is Latina,” confirming that the new princess is meant to be Hispanic. But it isn’t Sofia’s mother’s complexion that has people puzzled. It’s Sofia’s. If her mother is Latina, why does Sofia have fair skin and blue eyes? Turns out she is mixed-heritage. Craig Gerber, a coexecutive producer and writer on the show, says, “Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia."
Members of the Latin community have a variety of different complexions and skin colors, of course. However, some people are upset that, for the first Latina princess, Sofia doesn’t look Latina enough. Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, tried to defuse the controversy by saying, “What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures.”
Should Disney come out and definitively call her the first Latina princess? And if so, is she Latina enough for little Hispanic girls who may be watching? Leave a comment.