Living Dolls: Raising a Little Black Girl in the Post-Princess Tiana Era

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by Amber Wright

Five years have passed since the world was first introduced to Tiana, Disney’s ninth and first Black princess. I grew up loving Ariel and Belle, but Tiana? This was different.

Black women all over the country lined up to fill movie theaters and claim her as our own. We wanted to see her. We needed to see her.

Despite the fact that Tiana spent about eighty percent (or more) of the film as a frog and not a princess, I exited the theater on a high. She was a breath of fresh air. She was smart, hardworking and beautiful.

When my now three year old daughter was born, I immediately bought the DVD. Whenever she was old enough to watch movies, I was adamant about “The Princess and the Frog” being the first one she’d ever see. I was so proud when we watched it together for the first time. “Finally,” I gently whispered to myself. I was happy to offer that moment to my baby girl; a moment many of us grew up without - where the beautiful princess on the screen looked like us.

As a mother, I am tasked with the responsibility to instill in my daughter a sense of pride and confidence that can only come from self love. I hope that the demonstration of love toward her from her father and I– a love that knows no bounds, will serve as a template for her to follow as she grows up and comes into her own.

Excerpts from a recent Mater Mea article featuring writer Jamilah Lemieux of, captures this sentiment beautifully. Of her infant daughter, Naima, Lemieux states:

“No matter whom she becomes friends with, no matter whom she gets in a relationship with, I just want her to have such an unbending, unwavering love for black people and for herself.”

She goes on to add:

“That’s why I gave my little black girl a black-girl name; I don’t make any apologies for that because her purpose in life is not to figure out how to be accepted or loved by other people, but to accept and love herself.”

My heart smiled when I read that, because I knew exactly what she meant. I want the same thing for my sweet little chocolate chip. Although I need not and should not look solely to mainstream media to craft her perception of what is beautiful, it surely helps when there’s something there to show. I gladly give these corporations my dollars for Tiana dolls, clothes, toys, water bottles, lamps, stickers, etc. The value in her image is worth it to me.

The same is true for another popular Disney character, Doc McStuffins.

A little Black girl with pigtails and aspirations to be a doctor? Yes, please.

I won’t even attempt to list the inventory of Doc McStuffins items that are in my home right now. When I look around my daughter’s room, she’s got dolls of a Black princess and a doctor to play with. I am happy about that.

I’d be remiss to not acknowledge, however, that here is still much work to be done to expand the marketplace with inclusion of more diverse images. It bothers me when I open the book of princess stories to read at bedtime and only one of the nineteen stories features Tiana. Each featured princess received three different stories in the collection, but our girl only got one. ONE.

That kind of subtle left-outed-ness feels so token-Black-girlish to me and it’s frustrating. Without question we have so much farther to go in this post-Tiana era.

Yet and still, there’s a new normal approaching. My daughter was born in a time when we have a Black First Lady in Michelle Obama and first daughters, Sasha and Malia.

We have Black ballerinas like Misty Copeland and Michaela DiPrince.

We have stunning Black actresses like Lupita Nyongo’o and Quevenzhane Wallis.

With Oprah, we have a one of the most powerful people in the world.

Aside from the fact that I am her first role model, it pleases me to know that when I look around, there are many beautiful Black living dolls for my daughter to admire. And to all of them I say (including anyone of you that may read this post): I see you. I applaud you. I thank you.


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Amber L. Wright, M.A.  is an adjunct professor, writer, communication coach and creator of Her personal mission is to teach you how to hear and be heard in every area of your life - from the boardroom to the bedroom. Wright’s areas of interest and expertise are in communication, relationships, marriage and popular culture.

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