colorisim whitewashing Princess Tiana Disney

Colorism and Princess Tiana

The debate of “Colorism” has resurfaced again, but this time the instigator is not the Black community who have for years been guilty of the “light-skinned vs dark-skinned Debate” of who’s better, prettier and etc, but the finger is pointed at animators of Disney. They are are responsible for Princess Tiana’s new look, not the new fashion trends, I think, what about you?. There is a fixation in Black America surrounding the color of our skin. Colorism is a term defined as the discrimination and prejudice of people of darker skin amongst their own racial group. Darker skin women are rejected for their hair and skin color when they refused to follow societies beauty standards, while the light skin women are accepted by it.

The internet is ablaze with outrage after seeing our beloved New Orleans Princess Tiana’s new look. I thought hmmm Princess Tiana has fallen for the hype that light skin is better and had cosmetic skin bleaching as it seems to be the trend in with some of our black celebrities. Michael Jackson immediately comes to mind, but I’ll keep this a female related post.

Fans all over the world questioned why Princess Tiana seemed to be the only Disney Princess to receive such a radical makeover. Social media post went viral leading to animators to blame it on technology…but could we have helped them pick out the lighter shade of brown?

The whitewashing of Princess Tiana in the upcoming movie Ralph Breaks the Internet resulted in representatives from advocacy organization Color of Change and actress Anika Noni Rose voice of Princess Tiana, meeting with Disney studios to discuss the issues and the need to change the only African-American Disney Princess.

Here’s what Anika Noni Rose had to say:

[The Ralph Breaks the Internet animators] explained how CGI animation did different things to the characters’ color tones in different light compared to hand drawn original characters. And I was able to express how important it is to the little girls (and let’s face it, grown women) who felt represented by her that her skin tone stay as rich as it had been, and that her nose continue to be the little round nose that [The Princess and the Frog animator] Mark so beautifully rendered in the movie; the same nose on my very own face and on many other little brown faces around the world, that we so rarely get to see represented in fantasy.”

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I was hurt and this issue cut deep, being a dark-skinned kinky headed little girl once and being teased for being exactly those reasons as a child growing up in New Orleans and seeing the new Princess Tiana brought up old wounds.

Princess and the Frog came out in 2009 and I was at the movie theater with my best friend and business partner, no kids just two almost 40yr olds at the matinée show and let me add, it was a surprise and he gave me the Princess and the Frog cookbook as a gift at the time. Being that we both were born and raised in New Orleans, was cooking at the age of 6yrs old and owners of a New Orleans inspired restaurants “Nardie’s Cafe” located in St.Paul and Minneapolis. The movie was more than a cartoon, it was seeing our dreams on the big screen. We didn’t make it to own a fancy restaurant like Princess Tiana and Prince Neveen, but we came pretty close. Our St.Paul location was in the only black night club “Arnellia’s” in the whole state of Minnesota owned by a black woman, Ms. Arnellia. Ms. Arnellia passed away this past January and we gave up the restaurant a couple of years after the death of his brother, who was his original partner for 17yrs.

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Prior to my partnership in 2006, I held Sunday dinners in my home after my move from New Orleans and my family started spreading the word about my cooking which lead to me starting my own catering company “Queen’s Catering” a name given to the business by my pastor then. I became popular, known for bringing the flavor of New Orleans to St.Paul. Nardie invited me on his team, after I took quite a few of his big clients lol, but I’m happy he did. The kitchen bonded us and even though we no longer have a restaurant we have a lifetime friend contract, we are family actually.

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The day he took me to the movie we immediately related with the story line and when Princess Tiana said “The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.” If you know anything about cooking period, you know it’s hard work and you have to be passionate about it, just imagining owning and running a restaurant.. We worked long hours opening at 11am and closing at 2am, missing out on family time, because we had to work and we worked hard, but we loved it.

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Seeing a black girl living in New Orleans, being raised by a poor black family with a hardworking Daddy and Mama in a what was once typical New Orleans neighborhood where everyone came together as a family over a meal, there’s nothing like a neighborhood seafood boil. I was able to relate the pain of losing her Daddy, working so hard to save for a restaurant, her dream, a dream she shared with her Daddy. It felt like I was literally on the screen, parts of me was in The Princess in The Frog to the point that Nardie started calling me Princess after he noticed it too, especially the bond with our Daddy’s. My Daddy died in 2004 and I broke my heart, he made me the entrepreneur I am too. Even though it was a cartoon it spoke to my heart and gave me hope and the courage to move back home. Seriously, I thought if Princess Tiana could do it, make it in New Orleans, then I knew a real life New Orleans Princess could do it too. And all it would take is hard work, a lil elbow grease. Plus, I had to come home years prior to his death my Daddy complained about me staying in Minnesota so long, he never understood why I was sent here, “You can make it in New Orleans, it doesn’t matter if you were a teen mom, I was here for you. You can make it here” my Daddy frequently told me that. I was a grown woman who related to a cartoon character, I can only imagine how it affect other black little girls. So, to see her other than what she represented hurt. They got it right the first time. The Princess and the Frog has New Orleans girls and women believing after surviving Katrina. Seeing our relatives work so hard on screen as cartoon characters meant people noticed our parents, grandparents, ancestors working hard all these years felt like recognition. Seeing that dreams do come true for black girls in a city such as our meant so much. It gave hope and not romantically, hope in knowing that one day our hard-work in the tourism industry, serving wealthy people day in and out, it gave hope that one day we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. To know that we work so hard for our tourist to enjoy the city of New Orleans is not in vain is rewrding in itself. A hardworking New Orleanian woman is deserving of happily ever after has me believing that dreams do come true.

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Is it because, she finally made it and now she needs to change, because she mingling with the rich and fabulous Disney Princesses in Hollywood??. As we all see with some black women celebrities they change after we fell in love with them for exactly who they are including what they look like. We can barely recognize Lil Kim or can we? She was so pretty, I can still envision her walking down the escalator in the video and thinking she’s the ish. Many before and certainly so many after her have altered their bodies and skin color. The days of just getting a nose job is over, women with money and status go under the knife and come out looking totally different. What’s so sexy with having a bumble-bee booty?? Why do we work so hard just to change our physical appearance? I do not believe we get long hair and big bootys for ourselves. I can honestly say I put on makeup and get dressed up to feel good around others, at come a bare face and Jersey cotton clothes is my comfort.

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But we talking skin color and Princess Tiana, right?? But could we be the reason the animators may have assumed we would be ok with it, because we do it to ourselves. Prior to the bleaching of Tiana’s skin we have been taught by each other that light skin and so-called “good hair” is better. We buy millions of dollars of weave and it’s not the afro kinky weave either, we go we the hair straight off the head of poor Asian, Indian and Brazilian women heads. We will Google and research before we buy these bundles too. So, what’s wrong with Princess Tiana having a weave done with Indian Remy Wet and Wavy Hair?? We do it everyday by choice…I change my hair weekly and sometimes more than that. To be honest when I sported my natural kinky hair my engagement went down and some even stated, “You look better with the short hair” and to please my audience I wear the short hair when I had events, but in my everyday life I walk around with a pick in my hair..

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If we were to think back on one of the greatest cinematic representation of the longstanding “light skin vs. dark skin” debate that has plagued the black community can be found in the 1988 Spike Lee film School Daze. The nearly seven minute musical sequence that finds the light-skin, straight-hair “Wannabes” squaring off with the dark skin, natural-hair “Jiggaboos” highlights one of the most controversial divisions among black people. Folks who are of African descent but are visibly more fair-skinned are assumed to have a superiority complex, due to their complexion being closer to white, reflecting the internalized notion of white supremacy. Inversely, those of a darker hue are looked down upon and ridiculed for possessing features that are more African in nature, again a product of white supremacy, suggesting that anything black is naturally inferior.

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Source: The Grio In the film the song “Good or Bad Hair” is performed by the two groups in a beauty salon scene. The lyrics read:

Talking bout good and bad hair

whether you’re dark or you’re fair

so you can go on and swear

see if I care good and bad hair…

Verse1a

Don’t you wish you had hair like this

Then the boys would give you a kiss

Talk about nothin’ but bliss

then you gonna see what you missed

Verse 1b

If a fly should land on your head

then i’m sure he’d break all his legs

cause you got so much grease up there

Dear, is that weave that you wear

Chorus:

Oooh you got cocka-bugs standing all over your head

Well you got sandy spurs rather have mind instead

You’re just a jiggaboo, try’na find somethin to do

Well you’re a wannabee – wanna be better than me

Verse 2a

That hair’s only good for one thing

if you get a lick back, it’ll spring

Angie don’t your hair stand on high

can’t you comb it, and don’t you try.

Verse 2b

Don’t you know my hair is so strong

it can break the teeth out the comb

I don’t have to put up at night

what you have to keep out of sight

Chorus:

Well you got cocka-bugs standing all over your head

Well you got sandy spurs rather have mind instead

You’re just a jiggaboo, try’na find somethin to do

Well you’re a wannabee – wanna be better than me

Verse 3a

You’re hair aint no longer than: *SNAPS HER FINGER*

So you’ll never fling it all back

You’re afraid to walk in the rain

Oh what a shame whose to blame?

Verse 3b

Don’t you ever worry ’bout that

Cause I don’t mind being black

Oh with your old mixed up head

I ain’t ever gonna be your friend

Chorus

Well you got nappy hair

Nappy’s alright with me

My hair is straight you see

Soul’s crooked as can be

Look what’s getting you today

Look any where you please

Not at that kitchen of yours

Mind now what you say

Outtro:

Talking bout good and bad hair

whether you’re dark or you’re fair

so you can go on and swear

see if I care good and bad hair…

Colorism has been an ongoing issue, one that we must as African American’s must address, take seriously before we can get upset with other races for doing exactly what we have been doing to each other forever. I can recall my Momo, who was a creole, light-skinned beautiful woman telling me stories about the issues she had in the 30s and the “brown paper bag test” and how she hated her skin color, because it made so many other girls not like her. The perception of the lighter the better has roots so deep and long, but we can stop the continual growth of the issue by addressing our own insecurties and seeing beauty in each other.

I come from a family like many other black families that are full of every color brown. Meleninated skim tones that range from caramel with hazel eyes to chocolate with brown eyes from skinny to plus size. We were raised equally, given compliments equally., I can’t remember a time when even the lightest, good hair child was told he or she was given a beauty compliment without the others being told. Beauty standards did not define us, but who was smarter however did come up.

My cousin, singer, Mykia Jovan, has a song titled “16 Shots” with deep lyrics touching on Colorism, “because the darker you are, the shorter the run.” The song is laced with issues, because of skin color… As you can see even though we share the same bloodline we are complete opposite, but if you know our heart and soul you will see we are family. I think she’s a beautiful woman and person. Please take the time to listen to the song if you can.

Growing up dark skinned with kinky hair in the South was hard, but it got better, but only because we became aware of what we were doing to each other. We realized that we fell for the hype of European beauty standards and we allowed it to divide us for years. As I stated it has resurfaced, brought to our attention through the big silver screen featuring our only Black Disney Princess, Princess Tiana.

-Light Skin wanna be dark…. Dark skin wanna be light. When will the ignorance stop. Direct the anger elsewhere…. it’s the “Western Mind” that created this complex for you in the first place. Know the back story as to why it’s even an issue.

-UBMAFT

Growing up dark-skinned with kinky hair in the South was hard, but it got better, but only because we became aware of what we were doing to each other. We realized that we fell for the hype of European beauty standards and we allowed it to divide us for years. As I stated it has resurfaced, brought to our attention through the big silver screen featuring our only Black Disney Princess, Princess Tiana.

Sisterhood Does Exist

-Light Skin wanna be dark…. Dark skin wanna be light. When will the ignorance stop. Direct the anger elsewhere…. it’s the “Western Mind” that created this complex for you in the first place. Know the back story as to why it’s even an issue.

-UBMAFT

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