I’ve always believed that the easiest way to tell your story is through the things that you love. For me, that usually means through song and dance. But sometimes, it’s through style – Disney Style to be exact.
For Philippine Independence Day last year, I came up with a Disney Princess inspired lookbook called #DisneyPrinsesa. I used locally made fabrics to create modern day looks to represent the different Princesses.
It made me so incredibly proud and happy to be able to share who I am and where I come from through a platform that represents hope, kindness, and magic. And these posts were received with all three.
Disney and the community I’ve now come to love has allowed me to meet so many incredible people from across the globe, and it has inspired me to find more women willing to share their stories through a simple idea – that no matter where we’re from, we are all the same where it matters.
So I am truly honored to present you with these brave and beautiful real-life Princesses, who generously agreed to lend their voices and their hearts to this campaign:
“I relate to Mulan because she’s Chinese, like me! Growing up I never really saw Chinese women in American mainstream media. I’ve always been a Disney kid, so seeing myself in Mulan was a big deal! I decided to Disneybound as Mulan using a qipao, a traditional Chinese dress usually worn for special occasions, because I really wanted to incorporate a piece from my culture into the outfit. I’ve looked up to Mulan for many years and I’ve always appreciated her courage and selflessness to not only bring honor to her family, but to save all of China.”
“白雪媛 (Shiro Yuki Hime) [Snow White]
I am so humbled and excited that Katsie invited me to join her Bday post in order celebrate representation and inclusivity! Happy birthday lovely!
Kimono is such a beautiful garb and I adore wearing it when I get the chance! It’s unique because these days, the younger generation is taking that same traditional wear and mixing it with modern styles to create something so inherently new and fun! I suppose that is why I love it myself! I was raised in America so incorporating Western influences (like my white collared dress shirt and yellow Hufflepuff tie -despite being a Slytherin) lets you get really creative! Of course you have to understand the basic rules of putting it on, but once you’ve mastered that you can make something that expresses you!
Snow White was the first Disney full length animated film and it was a masterpiece of its time that continues to be such an integral part of storytelling today.
I was lucky to have this Kimono in my wardrobe (a gift) and did a bit of editing to bring this character to life!”
“ ‘I’m a girl who loves my island
I’m a girl who loves the sea
It calls me’
When I first heard Moana sing these words, chills spread over my whole body. I may not have been born in Barbados but my connection to my parents’ home country is so strong that it feels like my home as well. I love the sea, the music, the sayings and traditions, and especially the work hard to play harder vibe that everyone has (and that I seemed to inherit). Moana’s love for her island, her people, and the ocean deeply resonates with me. As much as I relate to Princess Tiana’s story, one of my biggest wishes is for Disney to create a story based on the Caribbean and the experiences of the African diaspora there. I don’t own a traditional Barbadian outfit, but here is my take on Moana’s Polynesian dress with some Afro-Caribbean flair.”
“ ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere’
So excited to be participating in Katsie’s #PrincessWhereItMatters campaign. She asked us to represent our favorite princess in a manner that signifies our own culture. This is my Filipino/Pacific Islander take on my favorite princess Belle. Belle is my favorite because her heart is kind and she knows kindness is power. I admire that Belle is loyal and caring in that she will do anything she can to protect her family and friends. And I like that she sees the world in her own way, regardless of what people think of her. She knows who she is and she is proud to be her own unique self.”
“Jasmine from Disney’s animated Aladdin has always been the Disney Princess I have identified most with. She is brave, outspoken, and looks most like me out of all the Princesses! I have loved how she defies society’s norms and sets out to find herself in her own adventure. I had a similar journey in life and look to her character for continual inspiration! The outfit I am dawning is from my Aladdin themed Indian wedding. Indian weddings have a few customs and can last a few days. This was the outfit I wore for my henna/sanchak-mendhi/sangeet ceremony (a celebration of love, color, and music!), which took place before my wedding reception day. I actually designed the outfit myself! This design is a new trend in India where Punjabi wide legged pants meet the Sufi long A line floor length tops that are adorned with elegant glitter brocade designs and accompanied by metallic solids. My shoes are from @needledust and are called “juttis” which are similar to the curly wurly shoes from Turkey/Arabia but women don’t wear the curls! Another way Jasmine defied societal norms! Also, I incorporated my observance of Islam with my “hijab” or head covering, but gave it the style that Jasmine wore in the market! The head jewelry is an ode-to Jasmine’s blue stoned head band and the necklace is the V shape of the bronze one that Jasmine also wears. Jasmine herself displayed the mix of Indian, Arabian, and American cultures and I hoped to embody those in this bound!”
“For as long as I can remember, Mulan has been my favorite princess. From her amazing personality to her love for her family, she has always been someone that I relate to. When Katsie reached out to me to participate in her #PrincessWhereItMatters campaign, I was completely honored. I truly believe that each and every one of us is royal in our own right and our differences and cultures are what make us unique! For my outfit, I wanted to channel Mulan’s outfit from the upcoming live-action film while incorporating a bit of my Vietnamese culture. In this photo, I’m wearing the top from the Áo dài I wore for my wedding. The Áo dài is typically worn for special occasions, such as weddings and celebrating Tết. It’s so important to share your culture and be proud of who you are, no matter where you are from!”
“We were so excited when Katsie invited us to be a part of her campaign #PrincessWhereItMatters. She inspired us with her creativity and reminded us of our roots the moment we saw her take on the Disney princesses but with that Filipino flare!
We chose Mulan, Pocahontas, and Rapunzel because we related to their fearlessness, adventure, and belief in something more.
As for how we decided to reflect our Filipino heritage… of course, it’d have to be through dance! Our mom and our Lola (our grandmother) used to perform many traditional dances with a Philippine performing arts troupe, and when we were kids we would watch old videos on VHS tapes of them dancing.
We’d try to spot our mom out of all the dancers and then imitate all the dances because they looked so fun!
We took elements from costumes the Maria Clara folk dances and infused them into two of our favorite princesses: Mulan and Pocahontas. Rapunzel’s look was inspired by the dance called Pandanggo sa Ilaw (“Dance of Lights”).”
“Being a princess is much more than big ball gowns, tiaras, and happily ever after. As a kid, seeing many of the beautiful Disney Princesses having blonde hair, big eyes, and fair skin, I thought THAT was what a beautiful princess was. But the real part of being a princess is about being a leader, being there for your friends, learning from your mistakes…it’s far more important what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside. Princesses come is all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds! That’s why I’m so thankful for Mulan, Jasmine, Tiana, and Elena for showing all types of girls that they can be princesses too! I’m continually learning to love my small brown eyes and straight black Asian hair. I love my Japanese culture and sharing that with the world makes me so so happy! My favorite princess is Rapunzel, and even though I look nothing like her, I love that she’s an artist like me and her kindness and curiosity really inspires me. So I love disneybounding as her! I’m Rapunzel in my own way! I’m a princess where it MATTERS”
“Being of mixed descent (Mexican, Vietnamese, White), I didn’t grow up with any Princess that looked like me. Instead I got a couple that I adopted from Mulan to Moana. I chose Elena of Avalor because she’s the closest thing I have to a Latinx Princess. I chose to make her my own mixing modern and vintage, my grandma got me the embroidered top in Mexico and my earrings are handmade from a street vendor in Downtown Los Angeles. Elena inspires me to be proud of my cultures and family traditions. I hope to someday see a Princess from Mexico and beyond.”
“I started Disneybounding in 2014. At that time because it was such a small community I didn’t really know many other people who Disneybounded. Especially not ones that looked like me. In 2016 Tiffany Sutton asked me to be in my first group bound, the Muses from Hercules. I jumped at the chance. That day we unknowingly started a group that would blossom into a friendship and the #africanPRINTcess project. Fast forward to 2020. I called on as many black women as I could from the Disney community to join me in a vision I had back in 2017. I wanted to Disneybound as the Disney Princesses while using African print and fabrics. I was amazed and humbled that 14 women joined me! We want to show little black girls that look like us that they are beautiful. They can be princesses too.”
My Filipina Belle was inspired both by her live-action version, and by the paintings of one of the most important artists in Philippine history, Fernando Amorsolo.
Known best for his depiction of Philippine rural landscapes, culture, and customs, Amorsolo’s works were very important to the formation of Filipino national identity. That’s why I wanted to use his image of the Filipina woman to create my vision of what Belle would have looked like in our provinces. So I picked up elements from both – the layers of blue patterned fabric with hints of red, as well as the white cotton shirt. Can’t you just imagine her singing about adventure in these fields, and stopping in the middle of work to devour a book on the grass?
Like all the Disney Princesses we’ve come to love, each story is different. Each background is different. Each struggle is different. But it doesn’t matter that they’re from Agrabah, or China, or Arendelle. It’s their differences that actually make them the same. We all have stories, we all come from somewhere, and we all struggle. What bonds us together is how we choose to tell our stories, how we honor where we come from, and how we address those struggles – with a clear mind, a brave heart, and a kind soul. That’s all we strive for.
At the end of the day, it isn’t about the color of your skin, the clothes you wear, or the language you speak. It’s about that common belief in goodness, and in magic. That’s what makes you a Disney Princess.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this campaign. I am so proud to have been able to gather such strong and inspirational women through this project.
Our stories may be different, but our hearts are not. So my dream is to not let this salute to diversity and inclusivity end here. If you would like to incorporate your heritage into your Disney Style looks and Disneybounds, please do. Just use the #PrincessWhereItMatters. Let’s celebrate each other, shall we?
*FOR MORE DISNEY CONTENT AND CONVERSATIONS, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM @KATSIETHEGEEK