Pocahontas. Jasmine. Ariel. Belle. Snow White. Cinderella. Mulan.
These are all female cartoons created by Disney that have captivated the minds of many growing girls around the world. These leading ladies have inspired us to embrace the colors of the wind, follow our hearts and to be strong. Adding to this list is the newly unveiled Sofia from “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess,” Disney’s first Latina Princess.
As a Latina, upon hearing the news I was extremely excited. Finally, there would be a girl to represent my language, my experiences and my culture. However, when I got a glance of Princess Sofia, I was shocked—she has fair skin, blue eyes and light brown hair. Huh?
Apparently, I was not the only one to be confused by Sofia’s physical appearance. Controversy has emerged as a result of Sofia’s complexion and many activists and members of the Hispanic community are asking—why doesn’t she look more Latina?
Interesting question. What exactly does it mean to look like a Latina?
If we want to investigate how “Latina” this new princess is, then we must first define “Latina” itself. This is where things become tricky—to be a Latina is to be a woman from a Latin American country, to be a Hispanic women and this takes form in many different ways, including skin tone. Latin America has African, Indigenous and various European influences so there are Latinas who are dark-skinned with beautiful brown eyes and kinky, curly hair and there are also Latinas who are fair-skinned with light eyes.
The question at heart here is one that has been asked for a long time—is your ethnicity validated by the color of your skin?
It is not an easy question to answer. Although many people are upset about the Princess’ appearance, many are more disturbed by her story, which has nothing at all to do with her culture. Though for those involved with Disney claim that the emphasis isn’t on her ethnicity, which wasn’t the case for Disney’s first African-American Princess, Tiana from “Princess and the Frog” which had a deep tie to her heritage.
Lisa Navarette, the spokeswoman for La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization, thinks it doesn’t make sense not to use her cultural background as a story point, saying, “With Sofia, it’s like, ‘Oh, by the way, she’s Latina. That just doesn’t make any sense. It really bothers me.”
If you look at previous Disney Princesses, many have had ties to their culture—Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas and Tiana. Though their stories have not been dictated by where they’re from or their ethnicity, it has often played a major role. So why not Sofia?
What do you think? Should Disney have made Sofia look different or is she good the way she is? Is she “Latina” enough for you? Share your thoughts below, por favor.