Disney Princesses Re-Imagined with Different Ethnicities

For years, we have hoped for more variation in ethnicity when it comes to Disney Princesses. Don’t get me wrong– we love the current Princesses, but who doesn’t want a Princess they can connect with on a cultural level?

This may be the reason that Tumblr artist lettherebedoodles created a series depicting famous Disney Princesses with different ethnicities.

“I honestly just did this for fun. No political agenda, no ulterior motives,” the artist, who goes by TT, explained. “I just love Disney and chose a few of my favorite characters to alter. I feel like there’s beauty in every racial background, and this is honestly nothing more then an exploration of different races from a technical and artistic standpoint.”

“Fairy tales are constantly being taken out of their cultural context. Most of the fairy tales that we know now were taken out of their original cultural context and altered,” TT continues. “Aladdin was originally set in China. The Frog Prince was Latin, and was altered over and over again in several countries. The stories have been and can be altered in many ways.”

TT also says that the race-bending art was created in hopes of seeing more diversity in our media. Of course, we whole-heartedly agree. Check out the thought-provoking art below:

 


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Audrey’s Women of Influence | Princess Soma Norodom

Story by Jody Hanson. Photo by Brad Callihoo/Billy Otter Productions. 

“It is all about education,” the gregarious Soma Norodom exclaims with infectious enthusiasm. “It is the only way out of poverty. Particularly for girls, so that is why the [Soma Norodom Foundation] is going to give scholarships to 10- to 16-year-old children from very disadvantaged circumstances, so they can study.”

Surely a noble mission, but how did the all-American Soma — homecoming princess, sports commissioner, commencement speaker of her graduating class of 1988 — end up starting a not-for-profit foundation in Cambodia?

The modern history of the Kingdom of Cambodia is best described as one of civil war and chaos. Tucked in between Vietnam and Thailand, the country was in constant danger of being swallowed by its neighbors. When the Norodom family succeeded to the throne in 1860, King Norodom I allowed the French to establish a protectorate. It wasn’t until 1953 that King Norodom Sihanouk declared independence. He was overthrown by a military coup in 1970, and this paved the way for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.

In 1975 — Soma was 5 at the time — Pol Pot invaded Phnom Penh and the Norodom family fled to the United States and settled in Long Beach. “I didn’t want a title, because in America it doesn’t matter,” remembers Soma. “Who cares if Sihamoni Norodom — the current king — is my cousin? None of my friends even knew about my family history or that I was a princess. I lead a normal sort of life. My hobbies are eating, playing sports and shopping. How American is that?”

Her situation changed in 2010, however, when her father, Prince Vatvani Norodom, decided he wanted to die in his home country. As the oldest daughter, Soma returned to Cambodia to be with him and provide family support until he passed in December 2012. “I really didn’t want to be part of the royal family,” she says. (The Cambodian monarchy was reinstated in the ’90s.) “They are constantly in the spotlight, and people expect a lot.”

Instead of hanging out in royal circles, Soma made it her project to study the language (she is now fluent in Khmer), learn about the history of her new home country and educate herself about social and cultural issues. “Honestly, I had no idea about anything when I first arrived,” she says. “But I threw myself into it. A steep learning curve for sure, but it was a good experience, and I bonded with Cambodia. I became a dual citizen in the total sense of the word.”

When Soma was outed as the “royal rebel” by the local press, she could no longer stay under the public radar, and she ended up a columnist for the Phnom Penh Post. Some of Soma’s articles annoyed the government, but she didn’t pull any punches, even though she was criticized.

“My platform has always been education, so I wrote a lot about it when I was working for the newspaper,” she says. “Every chance I got, I tried to put in a plug for education for the poor, particularly the girls.” In addition to writing, Soma volunteered her time for events like International Day of the Girl and served as ambassador for the Happy Tree Orphanage, an NGO that looks after children who are HIV positive. “We can learn a lot from these kids,” she says.

While being a royal in the Kingdom does have its downside, it also positioned Soma to meet the right people. So when she started her foundation, she was able to get key players for the board of directors. “They are all respected, well-connected people with backgrounds in education and business,” she says.

“Unable to afford to go to school in Cambodia, these illiterate kids have to scavenge through the garbage to find recyclable things to sell,” she continues. “With the scholarships from the foundation, they will have their school fees paid and have uniforms and books. It will give them a chance for a better life. Remember that in Cambodia there aren’t many social services. So if you are born into a poor family, chances are that is where you will stay if you don’t get an education.”

In addition to working with existing NGOs, such as A New Day Cambodia, Soma is going back to her American roots, specifically the California State University system, to help her foundation. A member of the Fresno State alumni, she is working with the university on a program to bring interns from America to Cambodia for three months to help with business plans and learn about the culture. “As well as helping poor kids get an education, we want to expose Westerners to what it is like in the developing world,” she says. “It will be a learning experience for many people at various levels.”

When asked what is going to make the Soma Norodom Foundation different from the thousands of other NGOs currently in Cambodia, Soma answers without a hint of hesitation: “I live here. The foundation will be a hands-on experience for me, and I’ll be able to see exactly where the money is going and what we are able to accomplish with it. Further, I will be able to monitor the value added.

“Too often people set up NGOs and then go home — or hide out in BKK1, the expat suburb of Phnom Penh — and forget about the original mission,” she continues. “I’ve become Cambodian and I care about what happens to the uneducated paupers. I’m not afraid to get down and dirty with the people from the Stung Meanchey garbage dump.”

The foundation may still be in its early days, but there are already expansion plans in the works. “We are going to start off with the 10- to 16-year-olds. As they get through secondary school, we would like to extend the program to include university education as well,” says Soma. “Cambodia is a developing country that desperately needs professional people: doctors, teachers, pilots. There really isn’t a middle class here — people are either rich or poor — and we need to create one. Once again, it all goes back to education.”

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here. 

Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Now On Broadway

Story by Taylor Weik. 

It’s finally time for everyone’s favorite thief to take his turn under the flashing bulbs of Broadway. Disney’s Aladdin, the musical adaption of the 1992 Walt Disney film, officially debuts at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20. The musical features an all-star creative team, including Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin.

Of the 34-member cast, the two leads are both Asian American. Playing the title role of Aladdin is Adam Jacobs, whose mother is Filipina (Jacobs portrayed Marius in the 2006 Broadway revival of Les Misérables), and biracial Thai American Courtney Reed, whose credits include In the Heights and Mamma Mia!, will play Princess Jasmine.

“It doesn’t feel real,” says Reed about the role. “She has always been my favorite Disney princess, and now I get to bring her to life. It’s a dream come true.”

The musical comedy promises a full score with brand new songs, though Disney fans can rest assured that five of them will be from the original film. “It may be cliché but ‘A Whole New World’ is just a classic,” says Reed. “The arrangement for the show is gorgeous, and I love singing with my co-star Adam.” The production will also introduce new characters, specifically Babkak, Kassim and Omar, Aladdin’s three sidekicks.

Even the classic Disney characters will have some new lines to work with. “In expanding the story for Broadway, we’ve been able to add a little more depth to [Jasmine], and she’s a bit more modern than you may remember her from the movie, so the audience will get a chance to see a more dimensional Jasmine,” says Reed. “I just have to trust myself and my director to stay true to the essence of the princess I watched on my screen every day growing up!”

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here. 

Disney Princesses As Sailor Moon Characters

Disney’s newest animated feature Frozen brought us not one, but two new Disney Princesses. With the success of the film, the popularity of Disney Princesses have once again shot up.

Social media sites have been covered with tests to “find out which Disney Princess you are.” People have begun closely analyzing Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa as well as the classics. More and more videos of Disney song covers are being uploaded to YouTube every minute.

At this point, is there anything that could make the Disney Princess craze even more successful? How about combining it with another popular franchise?

Well that’s exactly what artist Drachea Rannak has done. Since 2013, Drachea Rannak has taken popular Disney heroins and re-imagined them as Sailor Moon characters.

Popular manga and animated series Sailor Moon is one of Japan’s most successful franchises. The English adaptations of both the manga and anime series became the first successful shōjo title in the United States. The franchise has not only stolen the hearts of Japan and the US, Sailor Moon has gained popularity worldwide.

It only seems fitting that two powerhouses join together. Drachea Rannak recently added Anna and Elsa onto his list of “Sailor Princesses.” Check them out below.

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Image of The Day: Disney Princesses Dress Up For Halloween

Recently, Disney Princesses have been getting quite a bit of attention. Just the other day Mulan was revealed to be bisexual on Once Upon A Time and last month, we got a look at Disney princesses portrayed by Asian Americans.

With Halloween around the corner, we can only expect the hype around these Disney Princesses to get larger. Year after year, more young girls wish to put on a costume of their favorite princess and act out a Disney fairytale.

But what if the tables were turned? Artist  Isaiah K Stephens decided to show how some of our favorite princesses would look like if they dressed up as their favorite superhero or heroine for Halloween.

Some of our favorites include Rapunzel as Japanese manga heroine Sailor Moon, Tianna as Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Jasmine and Chun-Li from Street Fighter.

Check out more Disney Princesses dressed up and stay tuned for a second set which will include Alice, Kida, Megara, Jane Porter, Tinkerbell, Charlotte La boff,  Esmeralda, and Sally.

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Disney Princess MULAN Is Bisexual in “Once Upon A Time”

This past Sunday’s episode of Once Upon A Time was groundbreaking for both the show and for the history of television itself.

Once Upon A Time is an ABC drama series which takes actual characters from fairy tales and throws them into the “real world” after having lost their memories of their life in the fairy tale world. Who can forget our excitement when we discovered that Mulan would be a character on the popular show and that Audrey’s Fall 2012 covergirl Jamie Chung would be the actress to play her.

Recently, the show revealed some attention-grabbing news about our favorite Once Upon A Time character: the iconic Disney princess is bisexual.

[Spoiler Alert] In the show, Mulan is advised to tell the person she loves about her feelings before it is too late. She then rushes back to Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora. At this point, many viewers expected a confession of love for Prince Phillip. After all, in the previous season, she showed all signs of emotions for him. The show even toys with us and has Mulan ask for Phillip upon her arrival.

Feelings are finally revealed when Mulan admits that the person she wants to speak with is Aurora, not Phillip. Unfortunately, Mulan never does get to confess her love. Aurora reveals that she and Phillip are expecting a child which leads Mulan to decide on the spot that she will join Robin Hood’s band.

The internet is buzzing with reactions to this reveal in sexuality. Some are claiming that they were pushing for it all along and others claim it is not the right angle for a Disney princess. Entertainment Weekly applauded the plot twist and the tasteful way in which Once Upon A Time revealed her sexuality:

This makes Mulan’s attraction to Aurora a pretty huge milestone. Given both characters’ ultra-heteronormative histories — and a general lack of LGBT characters in Disney properties — this twist is an even bigger deal. Remember, too, that Aurora isn’t the first recipient of Mulan’s unrequited love; back in the beginning of season 2, the warrior maiden had a thing for Aurora’s own Twue Wuv, Prince Phillip. That means Mulan isn’t simply a lesbian — she’s bisexual, not to mention one of the few bisexual characters on TV whose orientation isn’t a ready-made punchline. (Looking at you, Glee.)
TL;DR: Mulan’s big moment was pretty awesome, and we should all be impressed with Jane Espenson for somehow managing to queer up a figure included in the Disney Princess lineup… without even making her sexuality into some giant, character-defining thing.

 

Watch the heartbreaking scene below:

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A Wish Come True: Asian American Disney Princesses

Many have grown up with Disney characters and movies, and there’s no doubt some of the more popular Disney characters are the princesses. Well, Filipina American photographer Kim Navoa and Donnie Chang have re-imagined some of those iconic princesses, including Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, in a way that would have made them way more relatable to us Asian Americans when we were growing up.

Navoa writes on her tumblr:

Despite how much we admired these princesses, it was difficult relating to them because they didn’t physically represent us. Take a look at any Disney princess product and you will see the preference towards the White princesses, white washing of princesses of color (skin color, facial features, etc.), and the shoving of these princesses to the side.

 

In the 76 years since Snow White was released, there have been 12 (soon to be 13) Disney princesses, only five of whom are women of color (Jasmine in 1992, Pocahontas in 1995, Mulan in 1998, Kida in 2001, and Tiana in 2009). It took 55 years to portray a woman of color as a princess, and these portrayals also came with problematic and inaccurate representations of their respective cultures & histories (not to mention Tiana was a frog more than half of the movie).

 

How are young APIA children supposed to believe in “happy endings” when we don’t see them happening to people who look like us?

 

Scroll down to see Navoa and Chang’s AA princesses.

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For more, check out all fifteen photographs here.